I get this question quite a lot, and I believe it is important to explain the value of good wedding photography, as well as the reason it costs what it does. I’m talking about the average price for wedding photography here, which in the UK is between £800-1400 for mid range weddings. So I’m going to talk about the value of wedding photography first and then go into the costs. It should be noted that compared to the US, where wedding photographers charge $5000 routinely for mid range weddings in some areas, the UK is actually not that expensive for wedding photography.
It’s a family thing
Your wedding photography is not just for you. Think about your parent’s wedding photos, or your grandparent’s wedding photos, and the value they hold. They are priceless, especially when the people in them are gone. I don’t want to be morbid about this, but there have been numerous occasions when wedding clients have said to me, sometimes years after their wedding, that I captured some of their favourite photos of people who are no longer around. For your children and grandchildren, these photos may mean even more than they do to you, so yeah, wedding photography is important. Your wedding is one of the few occasions in your life when almost all your nearest and dearest, both friends and family, are in one place, and its important to capture those moments when everyone is together and ( hopefully ) having a great time.
Think about what will last….
After the big day, the flowers will eventually wilt, and the food will have been eaten, the drink will almost certainly have all been drunk! All you will have left is each other, the rings, and the memories of one of the best days of your life. Good wedding photography will transport you back to that day, and really good wedding photography will show you moments you may have missed because you were so busy being, well, married.
It’s not as easy as it looks
Good wedding photography is not always easy. The pros will make it look easy, but it really isn’t. Sure, you may get lucky and have beautiful weather, well behaved guests who love being in group photos, and a spectacular venue. However, that doesn’t always work out the way you think it will and it can be very challenging to get decent photos on the day. A pro will get the photos no matter what happens. An amateur on the other hand, or your best mate who happens to have a DSLR, will need a good slice of luck to come out the other side with some decent shots.
You are not just paying for the 12-14 hours I am there on your wedding day. You are paying for the thousands of hours work I’ve put in to get to the level of experience I’m at now. If I can use a football analogy, a world class goalkeeper makes the saves look easy, but they are anything but. That goalkeeper has trained for years to make things look that easy.
Let your nearest and dearest enjoy the day and leave the camera at home
So why not get your niece or uncle with the nice camera to take your wedding photos? That may work out if they are skilled and have done a wedding before, but don’t you want them to enjoy the day? If they are doing wedding photography properly on the day they will be working all day, with barely time to eat, so no, they won’t be enjoying the day in the same way as a guest. It’s a lot to ask, and there are numerous stories out there of friends or relatives who felt pressured to photograph a wedding and as a result had a horrible time, or at best just didn’t get to be a proper guest and enjoy the day. I’d never ask one of my friends or relatives to do it, when the time comes for my kids to get married ( a long way off just yet! ) I’ll be budgeting for a pro to photograph it ( they’d better be awesome if they are going to make me look good!).
So why is wedding photography so expensive?
It’s not really that expensive when you think about what you are getting and all that goes into it. An average wedding takes about 30 hours of the photographer’s time. It’s not a case of rocking up on the day and taking a few snapshots. There are timelines to plan, wedding contracts to send out, pre-wedding meetings to attend with the couple and then there is the editing , which can take as long as the wedding day. For an average wedding I will have between 3500 and 5000 photos to go through. Then they will need cropping, colour grading, and delivering to the client. After which there will probably be an album to design.
Practice makes perfect
There is a lot of training to go through to become a good wedding photographer. Your wedding photographer will have spent hundreds of hours learning their trade, including things you may not even see them do on the day, such as using flashes or other lighting equipment when the natural light is not good enough. Before I was the main shooter for my first wedding I’d second shot at 10 other weddings to make sure I knew what I knew what I was doing.
It’s not about the gear..except when it is
Wedding photography gear is expensive, I mean really expensive. An entry level camera and lens just will not cut it, unless conditions are close to perfect ( lots of lovely natural light, no rain, bright venues ). Your gear needs to be able to operate in all kinds of conditions and enable you to get the shot when the light is terrible, it’s raining, and there are awful LED lights from the venue making everyone look like Shrek. And for each bit of expensive equipment you will need a backup, because on the day you can’t afford for your camera to go wrong and not have a backup handy. You then need insurance for all that expensive equipment and that is not cheap. You also need public liability insurance to operate in most venues. As a result photographers operating at the cheaper end of the market may well cut corners on some of these things. Can you afford for them to do that if it means they can’t get the photos you want?
The recommended amount to spend on wedding photography is around 10% of your budget, though of course if you want a particular photographer you may need to spend a lot more than that. While every wedding vendor adds a tremendous amount of value to your day, it’s important to be able to capture the memories of all those things, so don’t cheap out on your wedding photography, you will regret it if you do!