Almost every day, I have phone calls with couples starting the process of looking for the perfect photographer for their wedding. I get many questions regarding style, recommendations, and ultimately, price. Often, these couples are reaching out to me as the first photographer they've found, and are just getting to learn the ropes. All too often, the price they hear is higher than they were expecting, and the pricing conversation goes one of two ways:
"Oh, wow, I didn't realize photography was so expensive, we'll just see if my sister can do it for us for free" or,
"We realized hiring a photographer would be expensive, but we didn't really understand why."
Let's talk about it. I want each of my couples to understand what they're getting from hiring an expert photographer - not just hiring someone from my team (although I do prefer that route), but ANY professional wedding photographer.
You're hiring someone who understands lighting, posing, composition, locations, logistics, their own equipment, and the various aspects of the wedding day. If the lighting is too harsh to achieve the look you're going for, your photographer will tell you that - we want to get you the images you're dreaming about, not just something that's "okay". We want exceptional, and we want you to be delighted. We won't stand for subpar circumstances if we can help improve them without hardship on you, your wedding party, or your wedding day. It might be as simple as, "let's move 20 feet to your right to change the look a bit." We know what conditions to look for, how to modify and tweak small things that go along way, and we know when to change the plan to make sure the day goes smoothly. Some examples: planning for rain, wrangling large groups, posing in harsh lighting, choosing locations that jive with the look you're going for, among many others.
You're hiring trained and educated professionals. Photographers pay for and participate in ongoing training and education, and often apprentice with notable photographers in the region/industry, all with the aim of growing their expertise and provide more and more valuable services to their clients. Most photographers don't pick up a camera one day and shoot a wedding the next - it takes years of education, shadowing, and practice to have the skills to produce good work on a wedding day.
You're hiring high quality equipment. Yes, your niece may have an awesome digital camera she got for her 16th birthday, but what if that camera fails? What if the wedding party is really large and requires a wider angle lens? What if the battery dies mid-ceremony? You're not only hiring a professional who understands photography, they also come with some pretty pricey, high quality equipment that your wedding day gets to capitalize on. If you're a camera aficionado, ask the photographers you're looking at about their equipment. What type of lighting situations are they comfortable with? Do they have a macro lens for rings shots? Do they have an off camera flash for the reception? How many camera bodies do they have?
You're hiring someone you can rely on to be assertive if everything else is going wrong. The good professional photographers have been through plenty of weddings, many of them amazing and wonderful, and a handful of them that went a bit (or more than a bit) haywire. My team has been to weddings where we've had to call an ambulance, weddings with pouring rain, electricity outages, 100+ degree heat, wash wedding dresses, and sew clasps back together. We are able to do these things and still be on top of our regular photography responsibilities because we understand the importance of sticking to a timeline, making quick decisions, and recognizing when a situation is going sideways.
Finally, you're hiring someone who is passionate about weddings. Wedding photographers have chosen to specialize and invest in wedding photography training because we LOVE weddings: capturing the joy for you and your guests, shooting in new locations and situations, getting you blackmail shots of your guests eating cake and dancing after a few drinks. We love doing this under high-pressure conditions, and high quality expectations. We hold ourselves to the highest standard because we also love your big day, and getting to be a part of it. If we didn't love wedding photography, we'd become something different, like yearbook photographers.
On top of the variety of areas of expertise you're getting when you hire a professional wedding photographer, you are also getting some more visible and tangible deliverables:
Their time: when you book us (and most other wedding photographers), they're not going to do anything else the day of your wedding, in case you decide we need to arrive early, stay late, or something else comes up. But, because of that, we're also modifying our schedules and availability for other sessions. So, you're not only paying for the time you have one or more photographers on-site, you're also compensating them for being flexible and available for you and whatever your needs are, that day.
The pre and post support:we take pride in providing our couples with resources when they book us. My team and I are available to answer questions that may have nothing to do with photography. We get questions about attire, locations, recommendations on traveling, logistics, and the list goes on. We don't mind! We love the technical details and making sure we've thought everything through. That's a perk of hiring a professional photographer! You should consider that something that is also accounted for in the investment you make in us - are you hiring someone who blows you off once you pay your deposit, or someone who doesn't mind having a monthly planning phone call to answer any questions you have about how weddings work? If we end up having 4 x 1 hour phone calls, that's an additional 4-5 hours dedicated to helping you plan the wedding of your dreams outside of the time we've set aside for your actual wedding day.
The online gallery: you want to be able to share your beautiful photos with your guests, and we make that simple and easy for you to do with your own gallery. You don't have to wait for your USB of images to email them out to everyone. You don't have to download the files, image by image, to share on facebook. A shareable online gallery takes the pressure off you to find, download, and send individual guests copies of whatever photos they want to see.
The album: most photographers either offer albums in their packages, or as an add-on. We love to give you something tangible that you can revisit each time you notice the album sitting on your side table or mantle. The cool thing is, most photographers have to become members of the high quality printing websites, which only printers, photographers, and graphics artists have access to. Rather than spending the $70 to print an album through Shutterfly or Vistaprint, they use professional labs, like WHCC, Millers, Kiss, and others to deliver the highest quality albums for you and your family. These albums cost us hundreds of dollars to manufacture and design, and they're not an afterthought. When you purchase an album from a professional photographer, your purchasing their design skills, their membership with the printers, and their customer service in working with you to choose the best images to curate into the perfect album.
The second photographer: for our team, we encourage our clients to book a service with 2 photographers, especially for larger weddings. We show you the cost of hiring a second photographer up front, while other photographers may bake it into their package pricing. That cost goes toward bringing another creative professional to your big day. My team doesn't hire assistants to carry around bags and grab coffee. We come ready with two photographers who are trained to both photograph each of the day's events, and support one another as needed. I may hold a reflector for the second photographer, and she may help fluff dresses for some of my shots. It's a partnership of experts, all to make sure we provide as much coverage as possible for your big day. For example, while one photographer may be photographing the cake cutting, the second photographer may be capturing a different angle, or capturing the cheering coming from the guests.
Finally, there is one major benefit to hiring a photographer, and it is a major factor in understanding the value of a professional photographer: the editing.
Editing is this elusive, backstage wonder of a process that is critical for all photographers and their clients. Nowadays, there is some amount of post-production editing that must occur to make your images ready for public display. Whether we're performing basic lighting, straightening, or color enhancements, or spending time removing temporary skin imperfections, you have to consider the amount of time it takes to go through all of the photos, choose the ones we're deeming good enough to share with you, and then editing them to our standards. I like to tell my clients that for every hour 1 photographer spends photographing your event, they spend between 2-4 hours editing the photos afterwards.
A quick formula to cover editing time:
8 hour wedding x 2-4 hours of editing time per hour = 16-32 hours hours of editing time
1 hour engagement session x 2-4 hours of editing time per hour = 2-4 hours of editing time
Adding in the time from our planning sessions, traveling to and from locations, putting the album together, we're investing over 48 total hours to make sure you're delighted and love the photos.
Your investment is paying for A LOT of behind-the-scenes work. You're hiring experience and expertise, which doesn't necessarily come with an $800 wedding package provider. Where we might see each other for an hour or two for an engagement session, and then for 8 hours on your wedding day, over 4 times that amount of time is spent making memories for you to cherish forever.
We want you to be comfortable with and excited to hire us as your wedding photographers, and we'll work to show you our value. When we hop on an introductory call, it's helpful for us to understand your budget so we're able to find a package that works for both of us.
We look forward to working with you and making your day as perfect as possible.
For reading all that, you get a photo of a cat wearing a mini sombrero.