What? How much? Just to click a button? How hard can it be?
You are paying a photographer mostly for the outcome you want… the beautiful, wonderfully caught moments that show the stories and relationships of your day, the essence of how stunning you and your venue looked, the joy of the children who will never again be as young, the details you spent so long deliberating over and preparing, the fleeting once-in-a-lifetime moments that you will cry at, laugh about and reminisce over for the rest of your life. These photos only ever increase in value as you show your children and their children the day you got married. They are the physical record of your memories, and possibly the only tangible and interactive element that remains after your wedding, long after the cake has been eaten, the band have finished playing and your dress has been dry-cleaned and packed away…
When you’re booking a wedding photographer, you just want them to turn up and take photos. That’s it, right? Well, actually it isn’t… read on to see what you are really paying your photographer to do:
- To attend your wedding, probably for the entire day unlike most other suppliers
- To spend their time after the wedding on editing the images and making sure you look as wonderful as you felt on the day and that the images are suitable for sharing and printing
- To take the time and expense to travel and meet with you prior to the wedding to help you feel more comfortable as you will be spending all day together on a very significant occasion in your life
- To professionally prepare for your wedding, spending time understanding your plans for the day and creating a customised service that ensures your special moments, family dynamics, and unique elements are not missed
- To have appropriate insurance which will help protect you in case of anything going wrong, including all sorts of possible scenarios such as what will happen if your photographer suddenly can’t attend, the photos are adversely affected or you cancel your wedding
- To draw up an agreement with you to determine expectations and to detail exactly what services you can expect and when
- To have a suitable range of professional, well-maintained equipment as well as backup equipment, including at least two cameras, memory cards, flashes, batteries and all manner of accessories to capture the best possible images of your big day
- To also have appropriate professional equipment with which to process and edit your photos after the wedding, including computer, software and backup equipment
- To apply their accumulative knowledge and skill through their continued education and experience which ensures they will confidently and competently capture your wedding in all its details and events
- To travel to and between your wedding locations on the day
- To provide you with the photos, probably on USB/DVD, securely posted to you
- To offer a subsequent period of time in which they keep all your photos just in case anything happens to your copies, which will involve storage costs as the average computer hard drive won’t have space for all a busy photographer’s work
- To be available to speak with you about your wedding during the period of initial enquiry through to the delivery of your photos
- It’s worth mentioning the relevance of website costs, domain fees and any marketing or networking costs and time that have ensured you have been able to find them in the first place and to feel a degree of confidence prior to booking.
- Then there are the running costs of any business which they necessarily incur in order to provide their services to you at all, including an internet connection, electricity, other insurances and so forth.
- You may also want a second shooter whose fee will also need to be factored in.
- If you would like any additional services such as an engagement/pre-wedding session or an album, these also involve time and costs which need to be factored in.
Why are some photographers so much more expensive than others though?
Well, it’s like most things – it’s down to factors such as experience and skill. Whilst it’s not always the case, a very low-priced photographer may either be new to photography or new to weddings or else they might be a hobbyist for whom photography is not their profession. Similarly, the price may be affected by location, where the photographer may encounter higher costs to provide their services to you.
However, it’s not always true, I hasten to add, that a photographer’s fee reflects their true value; some charge the earth for comparatively less skill and experience to others who undercharge for theirs. Art is always subjective, of course, but professionalism absolutely isn’t. There’s no point hiring a photographer who you feel has amazing artistic ability but who may not turn up!
There are ways to cut costs (see below) but there may need to be a compromise for you to achieve a lower price. Read on for some factors that could help you determine which photographer to pick.
This is a risky situation. A photographer without adequate insurance will not be able to reassure you that you have some level of protection in case anything should happen that affects whether or not you receive any photos at all. An informal arrangement with a photographer, whereby a written agreement has not been drawn up between you and/or their insurance is not in place, may lead to complicated situations and disappointment later on.
Their experience and skill?
How well do you trust that a friend or budget photographer can do the job? Everyone has to start somewhere (I am a big supporter of start-up photographers) and some new photographers do indeed have absolutely amazing talent and whilst these things should not be overlooked at all (you might strike gold!), you should also consider how their limited experience at weddings will impact on your day. Will they be able to effectively plan and manage the group shots? Do they know how to best to work with low light situations, such as in church where flash is frequently not permitted? Can they effectively anticipate fleeting moments that you’d be sad to miss from your photos?
Just because you know someone who takes award-winning wildlife photos, for example, doesn’t mean that this will translate to weddings which definitely demand a different skill set. Think about it in these terms – you’d rather entrust that heart operation to a cardiac surgeon than a plastic surgeon, right?!
However, don’t be fooled into thinking that someone with 30 years of experience is automatically ‘better’. It’s time to turn to the photographer’s style… are the photographer’s photos of other weddings reflective of the kind of photos you’d be happy to have of yours? Do they match the style of your wedding? Do they flatter the people in them? Have they been able to capture the spirit of someone’s day? Do they know how to retouch sensitively or at all? How will you feel if you have a sudden spot on the day and it’s there in all your photos forever? Do they demonstrate the communication skills necessary to work with and around different groups of people?
Are you prepared to take a chance on a budget photographer who has only one camera? What if it breaks or malfunctions during your wedding? Do they have enough memory cards to ensure they can capture your entire day? How will they reassure you that their equipment can cope in tight spaces, bad weather or low light?
Sensible ways to save costs on your wedding photography:
Reducing the length of coverage:
Would you rather have coverage for your entire day from a photographer whose photos cover more but are perhaps less beautiful to you than those a more expensive photographer could offer from a smaller section of your day? Does it matter to you that your wedding photos reflect how amazing the day looked and felt to you? Or would you rather have a record of everything that happened? What do you intend to do with the photos?
I would recommend opting for the best photographer you can for the most important section of your day to you. Believe me, you will likely feel happier to see a few totally stunning shots than a lot of average photos. The wow factor can’t be underestimated and you’ll probably want to display at least a few photos around your house or online, so make them totally amazing! You could look to find a compromise, and hire a budget photographer for the remainder of the day, for example, secure in the knowledge that you’ve already likely got those stunners in the bag. You may have a disjointed wedding album when it comes to viewing different photographers’ work side by side, but it’s an option if you can comfortably manage the balancing act. Just be aware that some photographers may not agree to work alongside another, so do ask around if this is something you are considering.
Using a professional photographer with less experience:
Possibly. However – you should never compromise on professionalism. Your photographer must, at least be insured and have suitable equipment (even on hire) to effectively capture your day. However, a newer photographer will have less experience. This may mean that they do not yet have the expertise of knowing exactly how to handle all aspects of the day (in planning and managing, for example), but if they demonstrate professionalism in other areas, you may feel comfortable in trusting that they will do their very best in finding out what they don’t know. You can assign a confident member of your bridal party to be on hand at times as someone to support them in rallying people for group shots. Sit down with them and give them the finer details of your intended itinerary for the day so that you have prepared the day together and set the expectations in motion. Make a shot list together. Make sure they know who is important to you and of any key elements to capture. The key is in the preparation. If you have the time and feel confident to work very closely with a new photographer to try to anticipate issues that someone with less experience may encounter, this could be an option for you.
Does your dream photographer have a payment plan you could take advantage of? Paying a smaller amount monthly might help you manage your budget.
Allocating your budget differently:
Who is your wedding for? Can you cut back in other areas to determine what is most important to you? This may mean that you don’t have a Photo Booth for example, but perhaps your photographer can still provide hilarious photos if you provide the props? Which services do you feel will be the most critical?
What should I do now?
Now, having said all this, if you still want to call upon that ‘friend with the nice camera’, that’s totally fine and completely cool but be very clear with your expectations and encourage them to be equally clear about what they can realistically offer. You may/may not get the photos you’ve seen on Pinterest but if you’re ok with that, then that’s just fine and dandy. You’ll still enjoy going through the photos, even if just from your guests.
On the other hand, if you want to hire a pro, make sure you ask questions, love their style, trust their professionalism and feel comfortable around them. You may not have to choose between coverage and quality, as you might find a photographer that fits your bill (quite literally!) perfectly but I hope this blog post does at least highlight good reasons for your photographer’s fee.
Photographs are a wonderful way to relive your wedding and, whatever you decide to do, I hope you’ll love these little memories of your big day forever!