The cost of wedding photography... This is a hot topic and I know it's listed on my FAQs & Advice page, but I wanted to go into a little more detail to help give those planning a wedding more insight and understanding into why wedding photography costs what it does...
I've mentioned before that I didn't realize how much wedding photography cost until Andrew and I started planning our own wedding. I have always LOVED photography (obviously!), and wedding photos are important to me, so I knew I didn't want to skimp on that aspect of our wedding. And now that I'm a wedding photographer, boy do I understand why it costs "so much"!
When it comes to wedding planning, you should first talk with your significant other about each of your expectations, what each of you wants for your wedding and what your "must-haves" are, and what you can budget in the set amount of time you have to plan. Once you figure out how much you can save, then you can figure out how much to spend in each area (photography, catering, DJ, etc.).
I, of course, hope you'll decide to invest in your wedding day photos :-) Photography is often one of a couple's biggest "splurges" for their wedding, and with good reason -- photos are one of the only things you have (besides a spouse!) after the wedding is over. Some people think, "But why does it cost $3,000 for 'only' 8 hours of photography?!" I can assure you -- you are not paying for "only 8 hours of photography"!
Wedding photography service starts with the first email or phone call we receive from you, the client. We regularly spend numerous hours checking and responding to emails and phone calls, answering questions, addressing issues, meeting in person, visiting the venue, and discussing and planning a wedding day timeline with you... And that's all before a single photo is taken! Then we schedule and take engagement photos, and then we edit those engagement photos. Generally, for every 1 hour of photography, a photographer spends anywhere from 1 hour to 5 hours culling (narrowing down) and editing photos. That means if you had a 1 hour engagement session, the photographer is spending an additional 1-5 hours working on your photos and providing you service. Then, of course, there is the actual wedding day photography. Whether you hired your photographer for 2 hours or 10 hours, your photographer will likely show up an hour or two beforehand to scope out the venue the day-of and take some pre-wedding photos. During your wedding day, the photographer often serves as coordinator, to an extent. He or she has to keep the timeline as on schedule as possible (to ensure you get all the photos you requested), round up family and friends for photos, and coordinate with the venue coordinator or day-of coordinator and with the DJ. The photographer is often the person you spend the most time with on your wedding day; he or she is usually there before the wedding starts and often stays until the wedding is over. After the wedding is over, the photographer still has endless hours of work ahead of him or her culling and editing photos. As an example, I often spend about 40 hours editing an 8 hour wedding. I'm on the longer end of the editing timeframe, since the perfectionist in me wants to make the photos as absolutely perfect as possible for my clients! If you'll be viewing your photos for the first time with your photographer (to choose favorites for an album or order prints and products), your photographer will spend another few hours scheduling that and sitting down with you to go through your images. Additionally, if a client opted for a wedding album with his or her package, the photographer then spends another few hours creating and designing an album.
Woo! So that's the breakdown of the physical photography services and where the cost goes... But that's not all! Photographer's also have expenses to run their businesses. There are equipment expenses -- tens of thousand of dollars worth of professional equipment! That includes multiple cameras, lenses, flashes, memory cards, and more. There are also insurance expenses, both equipment insurance and liability insurance (many venues require vendors to have liability insurance, and it's definitely something you want your vendors to have). Additionally, there are often business registration and certificate expenses a photographer must pay to his or her state and/or city each year just to operate the business. Lastly, taxes. Everyone has to (and hates to) pay taxes, but most people are used to taxes coming directly out of their paychecks. Photographers have to set aside money to pay federal and state taxes at the end of each year, plus local taxes throughout the year. Approximately 30-40% of what you pay a photographer will disappear to taxes.
How about an example just to put all of that long explanation in perspective?... Let's say you hire a photographer and choose a package that has 8 hours of wedding day photography and 1 hour of engagement photography for $3,000. Let's say there is a total of about 4 hours spent emailing, calling, meeting in person, and checking out the venue together. Then let's estimate the photographer spends 4 hours culling and editing your engagement photos and 32 hours culling and editing your wedding photos. $3,000 / 49 hours of work = $61.22/hour. Taking away 40% of that for taxes leaves the photographer with an hourly "rate" of $36.73 (and that's before deducting business expenses).
I hope that realizing a photographer's "take-home pay" for an "8 hour day" plus 1 hour for an engagement session is closer to $330 takes the sticker shock out of seeing the initial $3,000 cost. If you focus mostly on price and look solely for a "cheap" photographer, the service and photos you receive will often reflect that. I've never heard a couple say they regret investing a lot in wedding photography, but, unfortunately, I see all too often that a couple regrets not investing more in wedding photography.
There is so much more that goes into photography services than just the hours during your wedding. A great photographer will put in the extra effort to provide superior customer service throughout the entire wedding planning process, to ensure you have the best and most memorable wedding experience possible! Beautiful wedding photos and lasting memories truly are priceless!