"AFTER THE CAKE IS EATEN, AND THE FLOWERS HAVE DIED, YOUR WEDDING PHOTOS WILL LAST A LIFETIME" - Author Unknown
Most couples set out on their journey to find a photographer and often feel a sense of anxiety when considering their overall wedding budget. I know that the biggest struggle I had (before entering the world of professional photography) was comprehending why my wedding photos seemed so expensive! Most couples I've worked with haven't directly asked me "Hey, why is it so expensive!?" but are genuinely interested in the discussion whenever it's come up. This is where I can relate to my clients, after all I've been married twice and both of them were before I ever went pro, much less shot a single wedding! So now having been on the photographer's side of things I just know more than I used to. I'm happy to share my knowledge too! Disclaimer - I can't speak for all photographers, but I know enough to know that for most of us these things ring true! Are you ready? There are many, many factors that determine pricing, but the two biggest ones are: TIME & PROFESSIONALISM. Within these two categories there are several smaller subcategories, but overall it's those two things! The time it takes, and the professionalism. Professionalism is everything from the peace of mind you feel going into your big day, to the type of quality equipment that gets used! Here is a bit of a better breakdown of time and professionalism as it relates to you day before, during and after. What once seemed expensive is suddenly reasonably priced, given the value of a true professional.
"BEFORE" - PREP TIME - A wedding day and the work that is to be done, is a huge commitment. I personally spend an average of 13 hours preparing my couples for their day! The first meeting is a face-to-face in which we have a sit-down consultation to review the contract. This is typically an hour, but sometimes two depending on the couple. This allows me to explain the contract line-for-line so that couples don't feel like I've held back information, or hidden any parts of the contract. I'm 100% committed to this type of transparency! Next, I spend an average of 4 hours creating a timeline and shot-list for your day. This is where we meet again (either in person or on a virtual call) to discuss who you want photographed for formal groupings, as well as come up with a timeline for your day. Then, add 4 hours for the engagement session by factoring in a planning session which includes wardrobe consultation, the engagement shoot itself, followed by the editing of the gallery. Next, I'll spend 3 hours the night before the event going over my gear to be sure it's all in perfect working order. I'll pack up my vehicle for your wedding, double check the address and time for travel. I'll make sure I have 3x as many charged batteries as I think I'll use, my lenses, formatting and labeling my memory cards, as well as reach out to touch base with my clients and any vendors before the big day. These are just the average number of hours spent preparing for a wedding. That's 13 hours and it doesn't include any emails, text messaging or phone calls in-between; it's just the points mentioned above.
"DURING" - THE BIG DAY - The day of the event is what most couples think they're hiring for, and while it's the most important portion of the contract, it equates to a little less than 1/3 of the overall work. It's the biggest piece of the professional commitment, aside from delivering the actual images, because it's my one chance at professionally capturing your day. When I show up to capture your big day, I already know I can't reshoot it. I better have 3x as many batteries as I think I'll need, extra memory cards just in case, a back-up camera for my back-up camera, as well as all of the other pieces of specialty equipment including off-camera light stands, flashes and triggers to operate it all seamlessly. Professional equipment comes at a cost. To put it into perspective, last year I invested $20,000 in upgrading equipment alone, and no, that's not an exaggeration! When I began as a family photographer I easily managed without a dual-card camera, and didn't need any of the additional lighting which weddings tend to require. For a few years I used a camera with one memory card slot, but as a wedding photographer TWO SLOTS is a basic necessity. After all, what if one fails? I have to provide your day with professional equipment to help ensure I don't fail you. Imagine booking a photographer who isn't equipped properly, and something goes wrong at your wedding? You'll never get those memories back and if you don't believe me, take a look at my blog and learn about the 4 wedding "redo" couples who came to me because they had catastrophic failures of various reasons on their big day! You are hiring me because I am a professional. In addition to being properly equipped, I'm fully insured which is usually a venue requirement, and I don't operate without a contract. This contract protects us both legally which is the point of a contract. Ideally a contract is nothing more than a document that spells out expectations for both sides, but the absence of a contract can be stressful for couples as they're often in the dark about what to expect. I'd never want my couples to feel left in the dark. I strive to represent my business professionally, and I hope that my commitment to your day is apparent in the value of my services; Value shouldn't be quantified by photos alone. Along with business insurance, I'm also a tax-paying business in good standing with the State of Maryland. The stakes are high, and your day is full of pressure, so please don't forget to factor professionalism into your costs when choosing your photographer, even if it doesn't end up being me!
"AFTER" - EDITING - Once I've photographed your big day, the real work begins. I'm a true artist, so I analyze and agonize over every image I deliver! While many photographers charge for "extra" editing, I include it in my pricing. I know that one rogue pimple on an otherwise beautiful photo can be extremely disheartening and downright stressful. For this reason I consider it a standard part of my package to do my best to remove any distractions from your photos BEFORE you receive them. I also do not apply "filters" to my work. I click on each and every photo and adjust the coloring and levels individually. I also include black and white copies of every photo as a standard part of my wedding work. I firmly believe color photos allow you to see the story, but black and white photos allow you to feel the emotion behind the story. This process takes time! I spend roughly 40 hours editing a wedding gallery. It's important to realize that these 40 hours are not always consecutive work-week hours, as I'm still tasked with running my entire business as a whole, this is the reason the editing process can take up to 8 weeks. In addition to the editing, I also back-up all of your photos. I do this for each client. My files are maintained on a NAS (Network Attached Storage), in addition to all of my files being maintained on a cloud. I'll keep these files as long as I possibly can and won't ever delete them, even if I retire! Your memories are too important to me to be careless with them! This storage comes at a cost to me but is hands down peace of mind for you!
Overall your big day has way more moving parts and pieces than you might have realized, and all of those parts play their role in the cost of services. One last myth I would I absolutely must to dispel is the assumption that a smaller wedding = a smaller cost. Smaller, intimate weddings are captured differently, but the effort is the same. I often capture just as many photos as larger weddings, but a smaller scale usually allows for more intimacy. Sometimes this translates to more time for creative photo opportunities, but moreover it gives me the unique opportunity to capture the intimate moments between your loved ones, in a way that is hard to accomplish with a large guest-list. Ultimately, whether your guest list is intimate or large, it's the same preparation, the same professional gear, the same contract, the same business insurance and most of all the same professionalism to capture your day. Your intimate wedding is just as important as a larger event, and I intend to treat it as such.