With more than 700 weddings under my belt, I have seen a lot! I NEVER say I’ve seen it all because then someone shocks me with something (lol)! But I know the industry very well having shot professional for over 12 years and actually far enough back that YES, I SHOT WEDDINGS WITH FILM!! You HAD to know what you were doing when you shot film!
The industry has changed. Unfortunately not for the better. I’ve heard and read some very heartbreaking experiences from couples who’s “Once In A Lifetime” wedding day memories have been ruined by bad experiences with photographers. I get really upset when I hear about it. I, for one, would not be able to live with myself I didn’t live up to everything I promised and my couples expected from me. I work SO hard to exceed everyone’s expectations from the first phone call, through the wedding day, the album design and delivery and right into their new family portraits and the arrival of their babies! I don’t understand how so-called-professionals can do anything less! It’s a soapbox I’ll hop on in a heartbeat and shout to the mountains from, so we’ll move on . . .
So, here’s some things that you should find out before you hire a wedding photographer:
1. How many weddings will the photographer be photographing on your wedding day? Or on your wedding weekend? An exhausted photographer is NOT a creative photographer. Wedding are physically and mentally exhausting. The photographer is on her feet, carrying heavy equipment for 8-10 hours typically, without a break. A good and experienced photographer knows the flow of the day and will absolutely set the tone for the day. If your photographer is in a state of exhaustion, confusion or is chaotic with their equipment, everything will follow suit and the apathy that the photographer feels for you and your wedding day experience will show through in your images. But if your photographer is in control and confident and willing to be a leader, your day will flow smooth as silk! Mentally she is (or should be) anticipating your next move, constantly checking the surroundings for unplanned happenings, and constantly picking up on the details and emotions of the day as they happen. Shooting 2 and 3 weddings in one weekend will guarantee the 2nd and 3rd couples lesser creativity and coverage than the first couple, because after all, photographers are human beings too.
2. If you are on a budget you need to know that you absolutely get what you pay for in this industry! You need to be very choosey about who you are hiring. If you decide to go for “affordable photography” or “budget photography” or a student or a beginner in the industry, you will definitely pay less, but you will also receive exactly what you pay for.
Perhaps you have a quote for a full day of coverage (10 hours) and a DVD of the high resolution files . . this is commonly known as “shoot and burn” and is generally the lowest level of coverage offered . . . and that quote has come to you for $1500. You think YAY! I’m getting the same thing as the better photographers, but for less!! I’m here to tell you NOT SO! 10 hours of wedding coverage means $150 per hour and you think that’s a reasonable amount. Well, before the wedding, if the photographer is caring and professional, they will have already spent 3 hours in email exchanges/phone calls with you, spent money on the brochures and websites that attracted your attention, or bought space in a wedding show at a VERY expensive rate (typically $800-$1200 per show). On the wedding day, it takes me 2 hours to prepare, clean and check my equipment before I leave for the wedding. Travel time, gas, oil, tires, wear and tear on the engine to get to the wedding, which we arrive at AT LEAST 1/2 hour early to set up and become comfortable with the flow of the day. Then 10 hours of shooting. After the wedding, 1/2 hour to disassemble and pack up our extensive wedding equipment. The drive home with time, gas, oil, tires, wear and tear on the engine to get home. Then 2 hours of breaking down equipment and putting things on chargers, THEN downloading the images from the day and backing them up to 3 separate hard drives for security. Typically a 2-12 wedding means I’m “working” from 11am until 3am assuming it’s a LOCAL wedding and the drive time is minimal. That is a 16 hour day. Add to that the post processing, which is still done on shoot and burns (at least we still do it, not all photographers do) which will take easily 8 more hours, if not more. That is 24 hours. Purchasing and burning your DVD of files, will take one of our preprinted DVD’s and about 30 minutes from start to finish, including sending the disc off to you. That makes 24.5 hours and there is no album work or proofing work to be done, so this is an absolute minimum amount of time for a full day wedding. Now divide $1500 by 24.5 and the hour fee is now just under $61.25 per hour. Take from that the 2 other photographers that have to be paid for our team coverage on all of our 10 hour weddings. Now each photographers makes considerably less per hour. You still that sounds like a lot of money? Well we have a studio with rent and utilities to pay. We carry $1,000,000 in liability insurance, we have employees in the studio. We attend high level workshops nation-wide to continue to learn and grow and remain fresh with our skills and approach to wedding photography. Continuing education is essential and it’s expensive. It’s worth it thoughWe have marketing costs to keep attracting new clients, we have marketing costs in the freebie’s we have to give to the venues, we have equipment purchase and repair costs. We have top of the line professional equipment, and we have multiple back up equipment for everything from our sync cords to our flashes, radio transmitters and camera bodies. There is a LARGE investment in equipment that needs to be made to properly call yourself a professional photographer. And weddings are not easy on the equipment. Things drop, things break, things get hit by guests, things get stolen. Shutters have a life expectancy and when you photograph weddings, you quickly reach the life cycle of a shutter. Replacing the shutter is expensive. VERY expensive. A “repair fund” is necessary to save for. By this point you are taking a loss on a $1500 shoot and burn wedding. At $3000 for the same wedding, you’re just starting to break even. Many photographers are not business people and do not for the life of them understand what I just explained. They are not priced to stay in business over the long term and as a result their business will die even if they do a fantastic job of photographing weddings, which “budget” photographers do not. In fact it is WHY they are “budget photographers”!
The moral of this story . . do not pull a number out of the air for your wedding photography budget. This happens all the time. I often ask brides and their Moms where the budget number came from, and often they tell me they just made up any number, or based it on what Mom paid 20-something years ago. That just won’t get you good coverage by a good photographer! Instead, contact several long term successful photographers who’s work speaks to your heart, and find out what they charge BEFORE you set a budget. Our clients have cut appetizers, scaled back on guests, the wedding dress and the bridal party in order to have us and the kind of wedding coverage we provide. There are options and it comes down to this . . how important is photography to you? If it’s not important, than by all means find a budget photographer, but if the documenting of your “once-in-a-lifetime” wedding day is important to you, it should be documented with sensitivity and feeling by a qualified Professional Photographer, and for that you will have to pay more. Once your wedding day is over, the pictures are all you have left. The pictures will become the heirloom that will pass through generations of your family. The pictures are important. Hiring a qualified Professional Photographer is equally as important.