I hear that a lot. More than a lot. More than a ton. More than 10 million tons. I’m talking about the title of this post, “The RIDICULOUS price of photography”. And I have to tell you that I thought the same, dang thing when I was a bride. I got married in New Orleans, LA on Canal Street. Had a huge Cajun/Creole feast, complete with a famous jazz band, and the floral designer who did Emeril Lagasse’s wedding. AND I had a wedding planner. AND I had a cello player. AND lastly, I had an expensive photographer. And who cost the most? You guessed it. The DANG photographer. Looking back, I was way ahead of the game. I knew what I wanted, and I didn’t want them to look like creepy “you stand here with your hand on his shoulder and gaze into his eyes” creepiness. Now I will admit that the photographer missed a ton of stuff- me getting ready is one of them. But, given the situation that the makeup artist made me look like Audrey Hepburn as a streetwalker, it’s probably a good thing that I didn’t have anyone taking pics of me. I ordered everyone to leave. Even my mama and my best friend. He also missed my food. To this day my stepson and I fight over whether we had gator at our wedding. I say no, he says yes, and we have no way to prove it. BUT….I do have proof that I was married on October 20, 2001 in New Orleans, LA on Canal Street to Robert Hughes. And that’s more than enough.
So why is is that photographers cost so much? Well, minus the obvious spill that most photographers give: “After your wedding is over, the food is gone, the flowers will wilt, but your photographs will be the only thing that remains. That’s why photography is so important.” Yea. It’s true. But you don’t have to tell everybody that. They should already know it. But that’s not why photographers cost so much. That’s why you get a good photographer. Here’s why your wedding photos cost so much…I’m gonna break it down for ya’.
For example, our wedding package begins at $3000 and includes 8 hours of coverage, an engagement or bridal session within 15 miles of Prattville, a disc of 600-800 photos, and an online proofing site to view your photos.
We’re gonna start with the obvious:
1. Equipment cost
There are a ton of cameras and lenses out there. Tons. And, yes, they all do the same thing to a certain point. But once you pass that point, there’s a fine line between a mell of a hess and getting by. We use Canon 5D Mark II’s. Two of them. And our backup of another Canon camera, a 30D crop sensor to extend shooting range to 1.6 times closer. Each Canon 5D Mark II’s cost (body only) $2200 plus tax. Then there are your lenses. Same with the cameras. There is only so much that you can do with the kit lenses, or the lenses that come with the cameras if you purchase the whole package (which I never recommend, by the way). To capture a wedding, here’s what you need, in my opinion. And opinions differ greatly depending on shooting style ie) fixed lenses or zoom lenses. We use a combination of those two. We use (all Canon) 2x 70-200 2.8 IS $2300, 2 x 50mm 1.2 $1400 EACH, 1 85mm L 1.2 $1969, 24-70 2.8 $1300, flashes- 2 x 580 EX $424 EACH, 2x 430EX $250, pocketwizards $169 x 4, 100mm macro $600, not to mention the cords, batteries, lighting setups (approx $2500), reflectors, etc. The IPad that we use for our portfolio was $600. Internet access is $60/month. And then there are the office supplies. Oh…almost forgot….our CF cards, which are the memory cards- probably looking at about $2000-3000 per year. There’s wayyyyy more, but this is just the highlight.
That’s just the equipment FOR SHOOTING. Now, we’re gonna cover the computer equipment. We use Mac computers ($2700) to edit. We edit with Photoshop cs5 ($900) and Lightroom ($300). We also have sitting right here..about 20 external drives that we use for backup (at $85-$200 each), and cd’s for backup as well. And then you have your printer, your internet access fees, etc.
So how did you find us? Yep. Internet. We don’t advertise. We used to use The Knot, but we don’t now. Everything that we are made of has come from word of mouth. SO, internet hosting fees cost about $25/month. Also, our online proofing site adds $40/month and our online business tool which is where we receive your emails. It is $40/month too.
I used to not charge for this. BIG mistake. Time is a huge piece of a photographer’s life. I’ll break it down: You contact us, we email you back, or call you back. 10-20 minutes. We meet with you- 1-2 hours. If y’all choose us, then there’s the engagement session or bridal session- that’s about 2 hours. Plus whatever driving time. Then there is the organization time for you wedding, which in essence our plan for your big day- that’s takes anywhere from 30-45 minutes and includes either emails or phone calls from you. THEN the wedding day. Lots of our weddings are in Mobile and Birmingham- so right off of the bat, you’re looking at travel times of 2-4 hours one way. The wedding takes anywhere from 6-12 hours. Then we go home. Then we upload your wedding from our cards to THREE backup hard drives. Three? Yep. Hard drives are notorious for breaking down. In one year, we had close to $15000 in hard drive repairs. Yea…3 zeroes. $15000. Insurance (another topic) paid for most, but there is still the $500 deductible PER incident. When we load your photos on to our backups, we begin editing. At a typical 8 hour wedding, we shoot probably about 2000-2500 photos. Sometimes more, sometimes less. From those photos, we will narrow down the shots to the best of the best. This is the process that takes the longest because I’m a little bit of a freak about it. Probably about 4 to 6 to 8 hours. And this is not all in one day. From MY standpoint (another photog may tell you something else), I have to walk away after about 2 hours because after that point, I feel like my eyes/brain become too tired to differentiate the good from the best. So, then those “fave” images are backed up once again. From there we begin to edit. We divide the images into different categories, and go at it. Editing for light, for Aunt Ethel’s beehive, for the beer can right next to the bride’s head….takes about 8 hours. We like to shoot so that we do not have to do any photoshop editing. We’re very mindful of surroundings, so essentially, it’s better to take longer to shoot than to take longer to edit. We also convert from our shooting format (RAW) to (JPEG) which is the format that you will be able to print from. Again, this isn’t done all in one day either. OK. So now they’re done. What do we do next? Yep. We back up the FINAL images. We then resize those to the correct resolution and size, and load them up to the disc. We load them up to our proofing site, which takes about 8 hours depending on number of photos. AND FINALLY…we send them out to you. Album design? That’s about 10 hours worth. So how much time is that when you combine everything? A TON. Just ask my children. They’ll tell ya’! I’ll add it up at the end. OH….you might ask, “well, why does it take me a month to see my pics?” The reason is because somebody probably got married a week or two before you. So, while we’re doing your wedding, we’ll also be working on another bride’s wedding as well.
Facebook/Blog- Even these take more time than you’d think. Probably about 2 hours per week. But this is so important because it’s our connection to you.
4. Insurance/Professional Associations/Memberships/License fees
I swear that I will never do anything without insurance. We carry a policy that costs us about $700-900 per year. Our PPA membership costs $25/month but is also another form of insurance, not to mention tons of learning and networking. Chamber of Commerce fees are $50/month. And business license fees are $150/year.
I have had a total of 4 studios. And now I don’t. But will soon. Why so many? Well, I’ll tell ya why. The first was just a shamble of a mess as far as the building itself. It was $600 per month. The next was haunted. No kidding. My 2 year old daughter saw it. I couldn’t stay. $800 per month. We moved across the way, and the landlords couldn’t decide what the rent was going to be- started at $600, then went to $800 (after they LOST the first signed contract), then went to $750 for 6 months, then to $900 per month. Yea. Sick of it. So I left. Nice folks, just pushed me over the edge. AND the last- well, I was just never there. With 3 kids, there is not a great way to operate a business if it doesn’t become part of who you are and where you are. It shouldn’t be that way. In a perfect world, I would work 9-5 at a non-home location and bring nothing home. But RIGHT NOW, it’s just not a precedent for me. I get more work done both with my photography and with my family, by making my home office my work office too. This will probably change soon as I have some things up my sleeve that won’t allow me to work from home. SO…I’ll round it off and say $700 per month. Not including electricity, water, and other stuff.
I’ve already said that we don’t advertise. And we don’t. But we do like to produce albums for our vendors that we work with. And albums ain’t cheap.
So, there’s why in a nutshell. A huge honkin’ largest nut in the world nutshell. Does this mean that if your photographer has all of this that you’ll be guaranteed good pics? No ma’am. No sir. It doesn’t. Remember the years of education that it took to get to the better than average point. And then think of the years spent getting better than the best. And that’s priceless.