Lately, as more and more of my friends have been getting those beautiful engagement rings, I've found myself answering one of the most frequent questions I encounter: "Why is wedding photography so expensive!?" I'm sure I'm not the first to try and tackle the subject, but as it seems to be a consistent question, I thought I would give some insights into what drives photography prices so high when it comes to a wedding.
One of the most pressing aspects of pricing comes from the basic essential; the cost of equipment. To be a good photographer (as in, well-prepared with a backup body should something dreadful happen to your primary camera), the minimum amount of equipment ranges between $3,000-$10,000, depending on the level of quality you want to achieve. And that isn't a one-time fixed cost; a photographer has to continually upgrade their camera body every few years to keep up with the competition of other wedding photographers, as well as replace damaged/broken equipment (because trust me, accidents happen, batteries corrode metal contact plates, and lenses get dropped). Then there's the cost of bags, batteries, memory cards; you know, all the "inexpensive" stuff!
When you couple this base cost with the expenses associated with running a business, the high cost of wedding photography (as well as photography in general) becomes much more transparent to those outside of the photographic business bubble. Photographers (again, people who don't just buy a DSLR camera and think that makes them a photographer) have to invest in photo editing programs (such as Photoshop, $500; Lightroom, $100; CaptureOne, $150; and/or Aperture, $80), which also have to be upgraded every few years to accommodate new file formats on new camera bodies. This also is not including the cost of storage, both in terms of additional hard drives and cloud storage, which range in costs depending on brand/provider, but are also not easy on a budget. And this is all in addition to the cost of an actual computer with which to use all of this equipment on. But this is only one portion of the business expenses.
Unfortunately, hosting a professional-grade website also costs a fair bit of money, both for the domain as well as the hosting, and can range from $50-$300, depending on how professional you choose to go. Add to this business cards, advertising, a studio or workspace, transportation, equipment insurance, and liability insurance, and it becomes quite apparent why there is such a price tag when it comes to running a photography business. And we still haven't gotten to actually paying the photographer for both their time and expertise!
On average, a wedding is a 10-14 hr day, and an additional 1-2 weeks of editing time (because let me tell you, editing the images is 80% of the work when it comes to producing the beautiful images you want at the end of the day), and most photographers have a second shooter or an assistant that they also need to pay for the day of (which typically is anywhere from $100-400, depending on their experience/rate). Wedding photography is also seasonal, where the bulk of work occurs from Apr.-Oct., so a photographer needs to be sure they will make enough in those months to sustain themselves for the whole year. Even if a wedding photographer is booked for every single weekend, all year round, that only totals 104 days of the 365-day year, and typically there are very few, if any wedding bookings from Nov.-Mar., so pricing appropriately is essential to survive the slow season of winter.
So, if you're looking at a photographer that is charging what seems to be a fantastic deal, chances are they don't run a professional business, or have the proper equipment to deliver the quality of imagery you deserve to have on your big day. While you may save some money in the short run, chances are if you're booking something for $500-$1000 on craigslist, you're going to have sub-par pictures. In this particular industry, you really get what you pay for, and unfortunately, once your wedding day is over, the photos will be all you have left. So, my personal bias aside, if ever there was an aspect of your wedding to skimp on, the photography should not be it. And hopefully after reading this, you'll understand the high price tag of wedding photography, and perhaps even respect it!