First of all I apologise if this is a bit long winded but if you consider your wedding photography as important to you it may be worth reading to the end.
There is a preconception by some brides is that in some way photographers are trying to rip you all off.
Let me start out by saying this: everybody should have a photographer at their wedding and because of this it’s great that there are a selection of prices, skills and talents in the marketplace to choose from. There is no strict rule about what you should budget for your wedding photography. You may have heard that you should spend at least the same on your photography as you did on your wedding dress! In reality, what I find is that people who have an interest in their wedding photography and want stunning photographs that they will treasure forever and have the budget want to spend more on it.
Like everything else in life, there are a variety of options out there for you to choose from. To put it into context, you could buy all of your clothes from regular high street shops but for a special occasion you may shop for that special outfit in an upmarket boutique. Well your wedding is that special occasion and just as you will spend time choosing “The Special Dress” for your day from a range of bridal boutiques in varying price categories you can also choose your photographer from a variety of pricing options.
What are you paying for with a more expensive photographer?
At the lower end of the price scale, the photographers are more likely to be either photography students, weekend opportunists, that is, they are not full time wedding photographers but they do photography for a bit of extra cash, or they may be new wedding photographers starting out. It is also more likely that what you will get is a disc of photos with minimal if any editing carried out. It is great that there are these low budget options available because everyone should have a wedding photographer and if you are not particularly interested in the final result then a low budget option may be perfect for you. However it can be a gamble and when you get your photos afterwards you may be disappointed.
You will all have heard horror stories about so called “wedding photographers” ranging from bad, out of focus, blurred photos or heads cut off, too bright, too dark, no detail in the dresses important guests left out, must have photos that were never taken etc. Or it could be that the couple either could not contact the photographer afterwards or were left waiting months for their photos.
Unfortunately you only get one chance at capturing your special wedding day in a memorable way, once its gone its gone forever. Maybe you think that you are getting a great bargain at the time but it could turn out to be the most expensive mistake of your wedding. You must decide how important your wedding photographs are to you and then decide what you feel you can afford for a wedding photographer.
I saw a horror story unfolding at a wedding at which I was a guest recently, the couple wanted me as a guest rather than working at their wedding which meant that I was able to relax and enjoy the day. Although I did suggest a few photographers to the couple they found one themselves. I watched the photographer, who was not really dressed appropriately for a wedding, as she photographed the ceremony she was constantly changing position much to the annoyance of the priest conducting the ceremony. By doing this she was also wandering into the videographers shots. The videographer was a professional who knew what he was doing although I could see he was getting really frustrated with her antics. At the reception venue the photographer posed the bride and groom and the bridal party with direct sunlight in their faces meaning that everyone was squinting in the photos. She did not have appropriate lenses for group and close up shots and from what I could see had no backup equipment in case of an emergency. Although she was supposed to capture the day until the first dance she was nowhere to be seen during the speeches (much to the delight of the videographer). Her one battery for her camera died before the first dance so that was missed also. That wedding was four months ago and the couple are still waiting to see their photos. As I said before, couples who value top class photography for their wedding will be prepared to pay for it, those who don’t won’t pay more than they feel they absolutely have to.
I’m telling you of this experience because I would not like anyone else to have the same experience. Every couple has an overall budget for their wedding and they decide how to divide it up. For some couples it’s all about the venue or the entertainment or extras such as chocolate fountains or exotic candy carts etc. and while this may impress your guests on the day it’s the photographs that you will have long afterwards and if you have any interest in having a selection of stunning photos you will want the best you can get without breaking the bank. If they are of poor quality or do not tell the real story of your magical day or capture all the details and you may come to regret your decision to go down the bargain basement road .
Owning a professional camera does not automatically make you a professional photographer. You also have to know how to use it properly and when and how to adjust the settings according to the conditions. You also need to have the eye to spot a good photograph, it may only involve moving a metre or two to change the angle to improve the shot dramatically, but if you do not have the eye to recognize this you will miss it and get what may be an acceptable rather than a stunning shot. Not all photographers are the same that is why you will see different styles of wedding photography. So why should you pay more to one photographer than another?
Firstly you should look at experience as it counts for a lot. The more experienced a photographer is, the more he or she normally charges. A wedding day can be very stressful for the inexperienced photographer, there is a lot more to it than turning up on the day and clicking the shutter. An experienced photographer will get to know the couple a little before the wedding day, the more you know about a couple the more you can capture their true nature and character.
As for technical issues on the day the lighting conditions change from bright outside the church/ venue to dark with a mix of lighting sources in the church. Sometimes flash is not allowed during the ceremony and if a photographer is not familiar with his or her camera and the various settings it can turn out to be a disaster.
An experienced photographer will know how to pose a couple without it looking stiff or un-natural too. Most couples say that they don’t want posed photos but they will show a photographer photos that they have seen in magazines or from other websites and although they look natural they are in fact subtly posed or for want of a better word, directed.
It is rare that a couple are the same height and if they are not directed into flattering positions that compliment each other everything can look stiff and un-natural. This is not easy and it can take a lot of weddings to get it right. If you get it wrong you can make a bride look larger than she actually is and not bring out her good points. With the groom you can also get it very wrong and make him feel very self conscious about how he looks. If a couple feel uncomfortable it will definitely show in the photographs.
The buzz words that couples use these days to describe the type of photography they want are reportage and storybook style photography. When I meet a couple for an initial chat about their preferences they may say they wanted reportage photography but the large display prints that I have showcased are not reportage, they are subtly directed images that look natural but that is what usually sells them on me when they see them. The definition of Reportage is documentary photography or photojournalism. That means the photographer stays in the background and doesn’t get involved but just goes with the flow during the day. While I do this for certain elements of the day there are also parts that I will direct so I offer a mix of styles.
Another thing that you pay for as prices go up is the ability of the photographer to use different lighting sources and conditions and to know how to enhance the existing light with the equipment he or she should have with them. Natural light is great, but a lot of churches are dark and need flash. So if flash is allowed an experienced photographer will know how to get the best out of it . If someone says they are purely a natural light photographer, their skill-set may not be suited to shooting a winter wedding. Apart from Spring and Summer weddings flash is a great bonus to a photographer if used correctly and even in Spring and Summer on dull or dark days it can be a great bonus.
A lot of inexperienced photographers either never use flash or use it too much because they don’t understand it and then they just produce bland or flat looking photos. A good photographer will experiment with lighting equipment off the job and if they feel they need training they will get it.
Most people think that a wedding photographer works one or perhaps two days a week and that the photos appear as if by magic at the end of the day. The reality is a lot different. every wedding we photograph takes a lot of work. Before the wedding there is the initial meeting with a potential couple and when they confirm a booking probably at least one more meeting to sort out details, the pre-wedding planning, possibly an engagement or pre-wedding shoot. For me the typical wedding day involves 12-14 hours which is physically and mentally tiring, after the wedding there is typically 20 + hours of sorting and editing to give the photos the WOW Factor and then showing them to the couple, designing an album. It takes a lot of time and time is money. A typical wedding involves about 40 hours believe it or not.
And regarding time, more experienced photographers will charge more for their time. It’s like any profession, the more experienced you become at your job the more promotions and salary increases you will get and so the more experienced a photographer becomes surely they also deserve to earn more.
Photo editing is another skill that holds a lot of value in photography and most experienced photographers will do their own editing.
I know that in my case when I take a photo I have an image of the edited photo in my mind and it is not easy to explain that to someone else so I edit all my own work. A lot of brides (sometimes jokingly) ask if their photos will be retouched. My answer is that all photos taken will be checked and all will receive a certain degree of editing even if it only minor cropping or colour correction.
In the lower price ranges the disc of photos you get may not even have been viewed but simply burnt onto a disc and sent to you without any editing at all. Editing and retouching takes time, as I said earlier it is typically 20+ hours for each wedding which means it costs money. People who have heard of Photoshop think it is a magic system that can correct anything and there are indeed automatic settings within it that can be used to process all images taken at a wedding but this will not take into account different lighting conditions during the day
If a price sounds too good to be true it probably is.
What the package includes is another thing that can affect the price. This can be anything from the time spent shooting on the day to whether or not an album or parent albums or other extras are included. Not every photographer offers the same package and even if there is an album included in a package there are cheap and cheerful as well as high quality albums available to photographers. Always insist on seeing and feeling the albums offered to check the quality. With an album a photographer may offer only one image per page or may offer more creative options with multi image designs on individual pages and may also offer complimentary background images which are faded to highlight the main images. Good album design isn’t easy and you should view several albums to see which style you prefer. The more creative the design the more you may expect to pay.
Would you expect the same spec and comfort levels if you bought a budget car model compared to the more luxurious options in the range? Customer service is something else you may pay for as the price goes up. Customer service covers everything from the initial contact such as how the phone is answered or how quickly your emails are replied to when you get in touch to every contact you have with your photographer right through to delivery of your final album. There should be no excuse for bad customer service but at certain times of the year perhaps allow a day or two for replies to emails as your photographer may be particularly busy.
However I believe that a photographer should never take on more work than they can handle while keeping existing clients happy with their customer care service. It may sound impressive for a photographer to say they shoot 100 weddings a year but is that necessarily so? How much individual attention can they give to each couple and will they ever be able to offer top quality editing within a reasonable time period? They will be constantly under stress and will burn out and you do not want a tired, burnt out and over stressed photographer capturing your magical day.
Of course top quality professional photography equipment is expensive, at a wedding I have about €15,000 worth of equipment with me, including backup equipment. That equipment needs to be replaced and updated regularly too so there is a large investment involved.
Running a business means you have a lot of expenses such as the equipment mentioned already, transport, insurance, training, websites, broadband, phone, electricity, computer equipment, data backup, software programmes, marketing and display costs, advertising, and travel. Photographers have to live too and have all the costs that people with regular salaries also have such as income tax, mortgages, food, pensions, clothing, etc. Also training courses to keep skills up to date take time and money.
Remember that a wedding photographer will work hard at your wedding. They will charge what they feel they are worth because they feel that’s what their experience, creativity and customer care and costs are valued at.
Regardless of your wedding budget and the venue you choose, the size of your guest list and the extras you have booked for your wedding, all of which may put a strain on your budget, a top class, experienced photographer will put in a lot of effort and work in the lead up to the wedding, on the day and afterwards.
I am one of those photographers who is passionate about their work and I give 100%+ to every couple whose wedding I photograph. I offer stunning photography in whichever style a couple requests.
For the dedicated service that I provide to all my couples I currently charge €1000 for a digital package with album packages from €1400 with the option of evening coverage up to the first dance for an extra €200 and this year will shoot about 45-50 weddings. In order to provide a top class photography, post production editing and customer care service right through to album delivery including a delivery time of 4 weeks maximum from date of wedding for fully edited images I would not take on more than this number of weddings per year.
When I take into account all of the costs in running my business I do not think that I am ripping anyone off or making a fortune. In my calendar I already have 24 bookings for 2018 and 7 so far for 2019 so things are looking good as far as I am concerned.
My prices will be increasing at the end of this year for available dates in 2020 and onwards so if you like the sound of how I operate my business and may be interested in booking me for your wedding then check out some of my work here http://www.dmcphotography.ie
If you like what you see then get in touch.