When you are first looking into booking a wedding photographer, you may think to yourself, “why are wedding photographers so expensive?” Isn’t it only a couple of hours of work? Should this really be such a large percentage of my wedding budget?
Well, the answer is, there is a lot more to being a wedding photographer than just photographing the wedding itself. While the photography itself is what you think of most, and it’s the only part your family and guests will see, it’s actually only a small portion of the work. Behind the scenes, there is a lot that photographers have to do before and after the wedding, and a lot photographers pay for.
There are a bunch of different factors that go into the price you see for a wedding photographer.
Let me preface this by saying, I write this blog as a full-time photographer and about full-time wedding photographers who need to make a true living. Part-time photographers, side-hustlers, and hobbyists can price themselves a little lower because their other personal expenses are most likely getting paid for by another source of income. And there’s no shame in it! In fact, that’s how most of us started! But it’s worth noting too that, not always but often, a full-time wedding photographer also has more experience and years under their belt, which of course, also impacts the price.
Now that that’s covered, why are wedding photographers so expensive? Let’s dive in.
There is a ton of work that goes into photographing a wedding that you don’t see. Before the wedding day even arrives, your photographer is going to be doing a lot of prep work to get ready for your big day. There’s email communication, an engagement session, planning your timeline, connecting with your other vendors, and more.
Then there is the actual wedding which can be anywhere from several of hours to the entire day that your photographer will be shooting. After the wedding, comes the editing.
As a reference, for every hour your photographer is shooting at your wedding, there are 3-6 more hours of work outside of the wedding. This includes things like downloading all of your photos, sorting and editing them, creating your galleries, and making any additional add-ons such as albums and prints, that may be included in your photography package.
You may only see the hours that they work on your wedding day, but there is a lot more work that goes into getting you your final pictures. The price you see when you are booking your wedding includes the time outside of your wedding that your photographer will be working.
Photography is not a cheap business to run.
First, there is obviously the equipment. Cameras are not cheap, especially when you are hiring a professional photographer. They also likely have multiple cameras (and backups), multiple lenses, lighting equipment, and more to shoot your wedding with. All of that equipment also requires equipment insurance, frequent maintenance, and repairs. In addition to equipment insurance, we also have to have business and general liability insurance to make sure everyone involved is protected.
Next, there’s a lot of software that we have to have. This includes things like the editing software used to take the raw photos from your wedding and turn them into the incredible photos you see at the end. There are also things like invoicing, accounting and marketing software and sites, professional memberships, and ongoing education costs. Not to mention general business costs like accounting services, invoicing software, website costs, marketing, and advertising, and of course, taxes.
Finally, there is also paying other people (like contractors or additional photographers) that we have to account for and the cost of printing any photos or albums that are included in your package.
So while you may only see the camera on the wedding day, there are a ton of additional expenses that need to be covered.
Shooting weddings is no easy task. When you think about it, photographers are with you all day, there to capture those early moments as you get dressed and those late night moments as you tear up the dance floor.
Most wedding days run between 8 and 10 hours of photography, and we spend all but about 30 minutes of that time (for dinner) on our feet carrying heavy cameras. This takes a toll on our bodies, especially during the busy season of the year. We do a lot to stay healthy, stay strong and take care of ourselves in order to show up as our best on your wedding day.
From a business standpoint, wedding photography is not a business that can be scaled much. To start, most weddings take place on weekends and there are only 52 weekends in a year. In many states, like Michigan, about a third of those 52 weekends are during cold months so fewer couples plan their weddings in the dead of winter.
Beyond a limited number of available “working” days, what we’re offering is a personalized and boutique service and odds are high that you are hiring your photographer for their photos but also because you like them, as a person! As one person, this limits our opportunities to scale even more. All this to say, there are a limited number of clients we can serve (and serve well) in one year.
This is something that we have to take into account when you are questioning why are wedding photographers so expensive.
As much as we all don’t like to admit it, weddings are a luxury event. They’re a privilege and involve a significant number of man hours and material costs all around. When you are thinking, why are wedding photographers so expensive, remember wedding photography is a niche field within the skill of photography. When you book a wedding photographer, you are not only paying for their services but you are also paying for their expertise and know-how when it comes to wedding days specifically.
Photographers are also creatives and artists. You’ll most likely notice that each photographer has their own style that they shoot and edit in and you’ll be more attracted to some styles over others It’s that creativity, artistry, and their so-called “eye” that you are paying for when you book a photographer.
Each photographer is also going to charge different amounts based on their experience and market area. Just like any other profession, the more experience a photographer has, the more their services are going to cost. However, that money is going to be well worth it with the quality of service that you are going to get.
Wedding photography is a super personal service. We don’t just show up to your wedding, shoot it, and then leave. We get invested in you and your partner.
The best way to capture your wedding is to understand your story and your personalities so that we know how to best shoot such an important day in your relationship. We genuinely care about you and your partner and making this monumental day as magical as possible. And on the back end of that, we sacrifice weekends and time with our own loved ones to ensure this day is one of the best days in your life.
I love traveling around and getting to capture couples’ weddings in all different places. However, there is a lot that goes into actually getting to and from a destination wedding or elopement.
This includes the obvious things like the flight, hotel, rental car, and food. But there’s also travel insurance for the trip and extra carry on baggage fees. We’re pretty paranoid about ensuring that all of our expensive equipment is with us at all times and doesn’t get lost by the airline so we can fulfill our commitments to you
Personally I always schedule a day out of travel just in case a flight is cancelled. We also have to pay for all of our meals and transportation throughout the trip.
As you probably know from your own planning, all of these expenses for the trip add up very quickly. We need to make sure that we are able to cover all of our expenses during the trip so that we don’t lose money by capturing your perfect day.
So why are wedding photographers so expensive? There is a ton of work and expense that goes into being a wedding photographer that you don’t see outside of your wedding. At the end of the day, photographers need to make sure that they are able to cover all of their expenses and make a living.
So, while you may think that a certain price is expensive for an 8 hour wedding, you are actually paying for so much more. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t finish off with the most important thing – other than your marriage, your wedding photos are the one thing that will live on past the wedding day. And those memories and moments? Captured? To have forever? That’s priceless.
Want to learn more about my services or how we can capture your dream wedding for you and your partner? Click here to connect with me and see how we can make that dream a reality!