Why is wedding photography so expensive? It does seem expensive at first glance but is it really and where does your money really go? Those are two most common questions wedding photographers are asked. Though it's not an easy one, we'll try to give you an answer to those by comparing it to an average person living and working in the UK.
In the UK, for an employee, the minimum hours worked in each given week are 37.5. At £7.83/hr and with 52 weeks in a year this comes down to £15210 and includes annual leave and bank holidays. Any longer periods of time off work due to sickness are partially paid for as well. If both of you have full time jobs, this figure doubles.
2x (52 x £7.83 x 37.5) = £30537
Any wage rises, bonuses and optional overtime hours are on top of that.
Above figure would suggest that in the same 52-week time frame, a professional photographer needs to earn at least that much to earn their living. Running a wedding photography business means that not only do we have to attend weddings, but also need to find time to meet new couples, to exhibit at wedding fayres, to take care of the advertising and social media, to answer emails and of course to process your photos.
Due to the above and the fact at we want to work on your photos ourselves to ensure outstanding results, we're limited to 1 full day wedding a week, on average. That's at most 52 weddings per year, but just like everybody else, we need holiday and there are times when we're unlikely to get booked, i.e. winter season, or Easter. 3 weeks for holiday, 8 weeks from December to January and week for Easter leaves us with 40 weeks, or available wedding bookings.
52 - (3+8+1) = 40
That is 40 weeks with possible full day bookings (packages with no extras)
40 × £1200 = £48000
Unfortunately, nothing's free and the above figure is hardly what we would earn, even if fully booked.
Roughly £100 per wedding goes on all printed materials, including the photobook, the USB stick and fuel/car and would come down to £4000 if we're fully booked and it's just the tip of the iceberg.
Although camera's shutter may not show much signs of wearing off, each of our 3 cameras need servicing at least once a year and complete replacement with a newer model once every 3-4 years. A new camera will cost anything between £3000-£6000, then servicing of the remaining bodies another £200-£500 per each camera body. Similar applies to the lenses, which need regular cleaning, inspection and recalibration. Batteries get worn off and need replacing and so do memory cards and flash bulbs, though not that often. Altogether, that's nothing short of £5000/year.
The professional insurance is a must when working on private premises and with people and that's £700
Website is another £1500, including administration, SEO, artworks and so on.
The only way to reach couples is by advertising and exhibiting at wedding fayres and costs us around £2500/year
£48000 - (£4000+£5000+£700+£1500+£2500) = £34300
There are also other costs, such as pc hardware wear and tear, stationery, cloud/off-site backups, software licencing etc.
So in ideal world with 40 full day wedding photography bookings in a year, after deducting all the costs, we'd earn £34300 at most, to share between us, before NI contributions and tax, but this is far from real. Due to widespread availability of photo capturing devices, as well as couples saving money on anything they can, especially photographers and also due to lack of trust in this profession, the photography is now in a decline, which means that we're not always booked for a full day and we're not busy every weekend, despite that we do have advance bookings for 2 years ahead and in busy months we are busy indeed with 3-4 inquiries being received for busy dates. Of course, experience plays a significant part too and couples often choose photographers with 10+ years experience even if that meant spending a bit more, but the quality does not always come with a well established pro.
A photographer who's busy week-in week-out either does not process all the photos himself, or just simply applies one setting to all photos. It's just impossible to handle such amount of images in such a short time the way we do. On top of that, we have seen wedding photos shot exactly same with minimum, if any, composition; we have seen photos processed using one and same preset and those, where only certain photos have been subject to professional artistic photo processing, with the remainder simply shot and handed over in a pack of 600 generic images All of those came from under the hands of well established photographers with 10+ years of experience who charge, well over £1500 for a full day's photography coverage. What usually goes by unnoticed is the fact that sometimes such photographers charge additional money for a second shooter, a student with little experience, who in fact also pays the professional for being able to attend a wedding to gain experience.
So what are you paying for, really?
1. The comfort of having 2 professionals taking care of your wedding photography
2. The comfort of not having to worry about mishaps, such as camera failure - we have more than one camera at our disposal
3. The comfort of not having to spend countless hours trying to decide which of the two similar photos looks better
4. The comfort of not having to worry about losing your photos in the future - we have more than one copy of those
5. The preservation of your most cherished memories for the years to come. Stills and video are the only things you'll keep for lifetime
6. Free advice before and on the day. Should anything happen, we'll try and help you to best of our knowledge and skill
On top of all of the above, there is a good chance that somebody who does not photograph weddings on a regular basis will not perform at its best during the day. All the different camera settings, requests from the guests and couple, lighting setup for the evening reception... this all adds up and a lot could go by unnoticed by somebody not used to the typical pace of the wedding day.
There's also a chance for a non-professional not to turn up for the wedding or cancel at a very short notice, whereas a reputable photographers should never cancel once confirmed booking and in an emergency should provide a back-up plan which should be included within your agreement's terms and conditions. This could be either booking another photographer at own cost, or covering any costs you incurred to book somebody else in photographer's stead.
Amongst photographers goes the saying: it's not the camera that takes pictures, but the photographer. The gear however does help a ton and there is a huge difference between a professional Nikon D5 or D500 and a cheap entry-level Nikon D3300 or D550. We wouldn't opt for a better camera for no reason.
In the end, the money you will have invested in your wedding photography will prove a lifetime investment, if spent well but could turn out not so good of save in the years to come, otherwise.