Let’s face it, weddings are expensive affairs. From the venue, flowers, makeup artist, cake, dress, shoes, buttonholes, details, food, drink…it all adds up very very quickly.
To add insult to injury, wedding photography is perceived to be yet another dent in the wedding budget, when all us photographers are doing is pressing a button (how dare you!) 😉
So I’d like to dispel a few myths, and explain why wedding photography can be a sizable investment (and is worth every penny!)
The whole process of booking clients, photographing weddings and processing photos takes a lot of time. It may look like we’re only spending 8-12 hours working at your wedding, but that’s just the beginning. To explain it more clearly, here’s a list of tasks the average wedding photographer undertakes for each wedding:
- Marketing my business to attract couples (ongoing)
- Meeting the couple (2 hours) or speaking on the phone (15 – 30 minutes)
- Photographing the wedding (8-12 hours)
- Downloading, backing up, culling and editing the photos (between 12 – 36 hours)
- Designing and ordering the album (2 – 4 hours)
- Ordering USB box and prints (30 minutes)
- Popping to the Post Office to send the album / USB box (between 30 minutes and 1.5 hours, depending on the queue!)
A wedding is a dynamic, constantly changing event, and the best photographers don’t just capture what’s happening; they use their creative eye to elevate a simple moment into something much more beautiful. They observe the light, and ensure you and your guests are captured in the most flattering way possible. They pay heed to (and sometimes break) the rules of composition. They’re always on the lookout for great light, reflections, shapes, lines, shadows and highlights.
Anyone can capture a photograph, but it takes years of watching and learning the craft of photography to take a photograph that captures the imagination. Not just once, but throughout the entire duration of your wedding day.
Getting “the shot”
Us wedding photographers have to wear many hats (not literally of course – I avoid wearing any type of headgear because when I do, I look like someone with an IQ struggling to reach double figures). What I mean is we have to be masters of a wide variety of photography disciplines.
For example, we have to be able to capture a beautiful portrait. A fleeting moment. A landscape or architecture photo. A first kiss. A tear from the father of the bride. A child’s laughter. These are moments we have to be alert for and can’t be recreated.
We also have to do all of this whilst putting up with the British weather. And bad light. And dark churches and wedding venues. And be able to use a flash. And harness natural light. And we have to make sure that all the fabulous moments that happen at every wedding are photographed. All of this takes skill and experience.
I’m not going to lie – weddings can be stressful affairs. They don’t always run on time. A key member of the wedding party will disappear (usually at the bar) during the group photos. Emotions will run high (usually from spending too much time at the bar). As a wedding photographer, not only do I have to capture all the amazing moments in a creative way, I also have to manage around 100 people at various times during the day.
Every single moment at every single wedding only occurs once. That means that if I miss the photo of you walking down the aisle, that moment has gone forever. If I miss the first kiss, I can’t ask you to recreate it (well I can, but I’m sure you’ll tell me where to go). Over the years I’ve learned to love the melting-pot pressure of weddings, and I thrive under those conditions.
Speaking about pressure, I have a confession. I’m actually quite shy and introverted, so spending a large amount of time being sociable with a group of people I barely know can be extremely tiring. Don’t get me wrong – I love meeting people, photographing them and having a laugh with them, but I’m happier once all the photos are in the bag and I’m back home with a drink in my hand.
When it comes to weddings, what would I consider as “must-haves”? Well, after much deliberation, here’s my answer:
- A couple who love each other and want to spend the rest of their lives together
- A building / gazebo / pavilion / arbour / some sort of structure to get married under (this applies if you’re getting married in England or Wales)
- Someone who can legally marry said couple
- Er, that’s it!
Notice I didn’t mention a huge dress? Or a massive bouquet of flowers? Or a ring you can see your reflection in? Or a Michelin star three course meal? Or…a photographer?? (gasp!)
As much as I’d like to consider what I do essential, let’s face it, it isn’t. Breathing is essential. As is eating. Drinking too. Having warmth and shelter is also recommended, along with some sort of social network (no, I’m not talking about Facebook, duh).
Wedding photography, as desirable as it is, is a luxury. You don’t need wedding photographs to get married. You’ll have your memories of the day, after all?
A luxury is defined as something you really want but don’t actually need. I really want an Aston Martin so I can visit friends and family in style. I don’t need one, and my twelve year old Astra will have to do for now.
My point is this – good wedding photography is a luxury. Knowing you’ll receive beautiful photos of your wedding, no matter what the weather conditions are on the day, is a luxury. And it’s a luxury I believe is very much worth paying for.
Solving a problem
My brother has worked in car sales for a while now, and something he said a few years back resonated deeply with me. He said, “Sales isn’t tricking somebody into buying something. It’s finding out what their problem is and then solving it.”
That’s always been my approach to my wedding photography business. For example, one problem a lot of couples have is they detest having their photo taken (as do most people, myself included). To solve that problem, I reassure them by showing them photos of other couples who also thought they hated having their photo taken, but were absolutely thrilled with their wedding photos.
Or I mention how I like to have an engagement / pre-wedding session with some couples, which helps them relax in front of the camera before the big day.
Or I talk about how most couples forget I’m even at their wedding, because I’m very discreet and merge into the background. This means people can relax and be themselves, which results in brilliant photos.
Gear is expensive
Of all the reasons I’ve talked about here, this is possibly (in my eyes) the least valid. Why? Because you shouldn’t have to foot the bill to compensate for my spending habits.
To photograph a wedding successfully, you obviously need to know what you’re doing. You also need equipment that’s up to the task of what you’re trying to achieve. The equipment I use, for example, isn’t brand new. It’s not the latest kit. It certainly isn’t top of the range. However, it’s professional quality, I know how to use it with my eyes closed and I can capture some brilliant photos with it.
I could upgrade to Hasselblad or Phase one cameras for £50k+ each, and then increase my prices tenfold. Would the photos be ten times better? Of course they wouldn’t!
Professional gear is essential, for a myriad of reasons – resolution, low light capability, durability…I could go on, and that’s another subject for another time. However, even though all this kit needs to be paid for, I don’t believe my clients should cough up for my gear choices.
Possibly the most important reason of all. I’ve no idea who originally uttered the following, but this quote perhaps sums up the thrust of this article best of all:
Photos are the only part of your wedding that INCREASE in value over time
A while ago I was looking through some of my Mum and Dad’s wedding photos, and it struck me how many people in those photos are no longer with us. My Dad’s parents. My Mum’s parents. My Dad’s sister-in-law and brother, who sadly passed away recently. These very special people have been preserved in time by the wedding photographer.
I mean – who could put a price on that?