Wedding Photography Made Easy – Pricing

As a wedding photographer, occasionally I am asked why wedding photography costs so much. Why does Photographer A start at $1,000 and Photographer B at $3,000? And Photographer C starts at $8,000; how is that even possible?

To be clear, I’m in the business of selling you a valuable service. But even more importantly, I firmly believe I am in the business of serving the bride and groom, first and foremost; whether I end up working with you or not. I take a very low-pressure approach to sales and I always advocate that a couple work with the photographer that is truly the best fit for their needs.

So with that in mind, and in the interest of helping you to make a more informed decision, I’d like to help remove the mystery from the process. I hope you find this brief article to be helpful!

Before we get started, let’s make two assumptions together…

A. You have a relative or friend who likes photography, posts some cool stuff to her Flickr account and she would looove to shoot your wedding! You know that this is a bad idea because shooting a wedding requires a very significant and specialized set of skills. For this reason it is best suited to someone who has devoted significant amounts of time and practice to developing this skill set. Unless the above is true of your relative or friend; if it is, then what are you wasting your money for?

B. A “professional” photographer is someone who is paid for their services – no more, and no less. There is no governing body, no licensure process, no required certifications; a professional is simply and only a person who wants to sell you something. There are plenty of “amateur” photographers who do fantastic work and there are plenty of “professionals” that do awful work. So please understand that when I use the word “professional,” I am not selling you a “professional” photographer; I am selling you on the concept of a professional who clearly possesses the necessary skill sets to meet your needs.

Are we still on the same page? If not, reread and let those sink in. When you’re ready:

What Does Wedding Photography Cost… Your Photographer?

Depending on a photographer’s experience and expertise, he or she may utilize anywhere from $10,000 to $60,000+ in equipment on your wedding day. Consider briefly:

  • A professional camera body. $2,500-$5,000 (x2, even x3 – having a backup body is imperative in case one breaks or malfunctions.)
  • Professional lenses. My bread and butter lenses are the Nikkor 24-70 2.8 ($1,700) and the Nikkor 70-200 2.8 ($2,000, prices current at the time of this writing.) These offer fantastic optics and are excellent in low light… the kind that you’ll find in virtually any church in the world. Additionally, many photographers will carry more lenses for more specialized purposes. Some prefer primes to zooms.
  • Professional lighting. 2-5 flashes, stands, remote triggers and enough NiMh batteries to power them all through a night of dancing. Total cost – between $1,000 and $3,000.
  • Computing power to process it all. Computer, many CompactFlash cards, backup and redundancy storage (would hate to lose wedding photos) software, color calibration kits, and more… this can quickly add up to hundreds of dollars.

And there are many more expenses that we haven’t even touched on – transportation costs, unpaid consultation time, office/studio space lease, advertising, taxes etc. etc. And – oh yeah – drawing a salary from what’s left over.

I don’t say this to elicit pity for the pricey photographer – yes, good wedding photographers absolutely can make a comfortable living (and some do.) I mention it only because these are real costs that a professional must account for and factor into their prices.

I Know Photographers Have Expenses, But $6,000 a Wedding? Seriously?

Does Prada truly make a better purse than JCPenney’s bargain manufacturer? Is a 600 series Mercedez really so magnificently superior to a Honda Accord? While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it’s obvious that there are wedding photographers who charge a premium well in excess of their actual costs. Why?

Maybe they really are that in demand, and they can.

Maybe they really are that good.

Maybe they are neither that good nor that in demand… but are behind on their yacht payments?

To be serious, I’m sure you are well aware that photographers’ fees fall along a wide spectrum of prices. And the work doesn’t always appear to correlate to the price tag. I have looked at hundreds of portfolios and even I am occasionally amazed at how much I dislike the images of some very expensive photographers. Others charge less for what appears to be wonderful work.

So How Do I Know that the Cost Is Worth It?

The best advice I can give you:

Start with a list of photographers whose style you really like. Check out their portfolio, their blog. Meet them, talk about what you’re looking for, ask questions. There are plenty of resources that can get you started; check out the Knot, check out wedding magazines and websites. In short, try to get a good feel for their true body of work. It’s my opinion that any one can get lucky, with enough tries, and take twelve good shots to slap on their website slideshow. Dig deeper; try to be sure that they demonstrate consistency in the things you like about their work.

Try to figure out what your maximum budget is and then what you’re comfortable signing at. Eliminate the photographers who are simply out of your budget. If someone is a little out of reach, it never hurts to ask; photographers may lower their asking price for any number of reasons. Maybe you’re getting married in a spectacular venue, maybe your date is one they wouldn’t otherwise fill, maybe you are the coolest couple ever. However if your ceiling is $2,000, I’d avoid emailing the photographer who starts out at $5,000. Realistically, you probably won’t get an affirmative response.

I sincerely hope this helps! Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me via my website or find me on Twitter or Facebook! Do feel free to ask me if you have any questions or if there is anything I can do to help you out.

Congratulations to you and your fiance as you plan this exciting chapter of your lives together!

Satria Permadi

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