This question will come down to another simple question: Do you want high quality photographs, professionally finished?
Hopefully the answer is Yes.
I will say early on in this article that there are hordes of photographers out there claiming to be ‘professional’ wedding photographers. Make sure to look at the portfolios on their websites and compare them to other photographers. 100% of the time you will clearly see the massive void in quality. Often images are blurry, noisy, out of focus, badly edited, no depth of field and often look very dated using sepia tones, black and white with selective colour and huge obnoxious white/black vignettes.
The cost of being a wedding photographer
So… Let’s get into the meat of the question. Many people think a wedding photographer turns up on the day and then leaves 10 hours later and that’s what you’re paying for. Contrary to this belief there is so much more involved with being a wedding photographer. Below is a list of what you’re paying for in terms of the photographers Time and Costs involved to do the job to a high standard. Every wedding I book is on average 30-40 hours of work!
- Booking Process
- Calls and e-mails
- Pre-wedding meeting
- Packing for the day
- Prepping equipment
- Formatting memory cards
- Charging batteries
- Plan the journey for the wedding day
- 10-12 hours on the day
- 5-10 Hours to cull down all images to a final set
- 10-15 Hours to edit the final set of images
- 1-2 Hours to export the final set
- 1-2 Hours to upload the final set ready for the client
- Delivering the upload to the client
- Album creation if needed
- £10,000-£15,000 of Pro Level Equipment
- Pro level camera, Pro level backup camera, Pro level lenses
- Flash units, Flash triggers
- High Capacity expensive Memory cards
- Tripods and Light stands
- Reflectors and Light modification equipment
- Batteries, Camera cases and bags
- High spec computer and pro level monitor
- Software licensing – Studio Management System, Editing software, Accountancy Software and more
- Multiple External Hard drive storage for backup
- Annual insurance for Public Liability, Professional Indemnity and Equipment cover
- Travel costs, car maintenance, tax, insurance
- 20% Tax to the tax man, National Insurance Contributions
- Marketing, Website design and maintenance
- Smart casual clothing for the wedding day
- Electricity and heating
- Hospitality costs such as buying coffee for couples during meetings
As you can see from the list above the true cost of being a wedding photographer is vast. A photographer who values what they provide will charge accordingly.
A wedding day is a once in a lifetime event (hopefully). Your wedding photographer needs to be fantastic. Sitting down with the grandchildren in 40 years times looking at blurry and out of focus images isn’t going to happen as they were probably thrown in the bin. Having high quality photography gives the grandchildren something to look at in years to come.
In the world of a wedding day everything is fleeting, flowers die, food and drink is consumed and you’re not going to wear the dress again. The wedding photography will stand the test of time as long as it’s captured by a great photographer.
Value your photography
Wedding photography prices vary from photographer to photographer. I always advocate looking for the value the photographer brings. I personally have won countless awards including the Newcomer Photographer of the year for the Yorkshire and North East region at The Wedding Industry Awards.
Winning awards on a monthly basis showcases my photography is continually professional and high quality. I currently charge £995 (2019) for a full day’s coverage. I have found several examples of photographers charging £900 and even more than £1000 and their photography is shocking and quite frankly they should not be allowed anywhere near a wedding.
I could charge £1400-£1600 for the quality of photography I provide however I keep my prices competitive. Always look at the photographer’s portfolio, don’t accept a website of just 20 best images, ask to see multiple weddings from start to finish in order to gain a broad picture of the photographer’s style, skill and competency.
The actual spend
Based on everything you have read above you should aim to spend 8-10% of your entire wedding budget on high quality Wedding Photography. I see couples paying £12,000-£15,000 on a venue and further expenses, they then pay a cheap photographer £500 to have rubbish photos or even a decent amount as in the paragraph above. Looking at the photographer’s portfolio is massively important to avoid paying too little or too much for rubbish photography. If your in doubt of the quality, again look at other photographers work especially award winning wedding photographers, the difference will be apparent.
Don’t always listen to your friends and family
Have you ever posted a blurry iPhone photo of your pet, child, event etc and your Facebook lights up with comments such as ‘Gorgeous photos’, ‘brilliant photos’, ‘such a lovely photo.’
I see this all the time on social media. This happens because the general public have no idea what they are looking for in terms of a quality photograph. I was tagged recently in a post for someone looking for a good wedding photographer, I looked at the other tags people had posted and just shook my head. People were tagging photographers and saying things like “I have booked them, they are AMAZING!”. I can tell you, they are not and quite frankly like I said above should not be allowed near a wedding.
A few things to look for in a professional high-quality photograph!
Exposure– The image should have good exposure meaning its not too dark or overly bright.
Composition– The image should have good composition utilising the rule of thirds, leading lines, foreground elements etc.
Sharpness– The image should be sharp especially the subjects in it. The eyes should be sharp.
Focus– The image should be in focus meaning the subject is sharp and the main focus of the image.
Colour/White Balance– Correct skin tones, No Sepia toned images or other dated editing techniques. The overall image should be colour graded and the subject’s skin be correct.
Noise– Low amount of noise in the photograph (read my article on ISO Noise to understand what this is)
Motion– The subjects should be frozen which in turn gives max sharpness, images should not be blurry.
Balance– The image should be balanced in terms of editing, it shouldn’t be over processed/edited.
Edited– it goes without saying the image should be edited. No Straight Out Of Camera JPEGs.
Aim to spend 8-10% of your budget on high end wedding photography, always check multiple photographers sites in order to find a style you like and to compare imagery. Lower end photography will always will be apparent when put up against high quality award winning photography. You wedding photographs are an Investment which will last your entire lifetime.