Have you ever wondered why wedding photography costs so much? You’re not alone. Read on for an explanation of the amount of work a photographer has to do for a wedding. Spoiler alert: The wedding day isn’t even half of it.
Weddings can be so expensive, with the venue, the food, the clothes, the decorations, the DJ or band; the list goes on and on and on. Add the cost of the photographer on top of the list, and it can feel overwhelming, and it will make you wonder why wedding photography costs so much. We’re here to break it down from a photographer’s perspective so you can understand all the work that goes on behind the scenes.
The amount of time a wedding photographer spends on a wedding factors into why wedding photography costs so much. The time spent can be broken down into four categories: client meetings, pre-wedding day preparation, the wedding day, and the editing.
The client meeting is more than just the initial interview between the couple and the photographer to see if they’re a fit for one another. There will be subsequent meetings to update the photographer on the planning process and to discuss the wedding day timeline. A good wedding photographer will periodically check in with their couple to see if everything is going well and if they have any questions. Sometimes these meetings can be done via video chat, but sometimes they require the photographer to travel away from their home to meet with the couple. This process takes a few hours.
Pre-Wedding Day Preparation
The pre-wedding day preparation also factors into why wedding photography costs so much. If the wedding package includes an engagement shoot, a photographer has to account for traveling time, photographing the couple, and editing the photos. There is often location scouting involved to find the best spot for the bridal party photos on the day of the wedding, especially if the venue is a new one for the photographer. There may be a dress rehearsal for the photographer to attend. Your photographer might even be looking online for inspiration via new angles to try shooting from or for a new take on a photo they’ve shot dozens of times. They need to prepare and pack their gear, and they need to mentally run through the shots they plan on taking. This will take your photographer another 7-10 hours depending on the length of the engagement shoot.
The wedding day is likely 7-10 hours long, plus the drive time for the photographer too and from home. Some weddings may require the photographer to travel long distances. It is not uncommon for photographers to travel 2-3 hours one way from their hometown to cover a wedding. Sometimes photographers will fly across the country or even overseas for a wedding, in which case the photographer uses about two days of their time to get to and photograph the wedding. Travel time has to be incorporated into a photographer’s cost of doing business. If there is a second photographer involved, that person has to be paid as well. You’re suddenly getting the equivalent of 16 hours of work when your 8-hour wedding package includes two photographers.
Finally, editing is probably the most time-consuming aspect of a wedding. Editing is one of the reasons why wedding photography costs so much. Your photographer could take dozens of photos seconds apart to avoid missing a particular moment or they might be much more selective with each shot they take. So a wedding photographer can choose anywhere between 50-300 photos per hour. For an 8 hour wedding that could be approximately 2400 photos. Now your photographer needs to cull these photos: separate the best photos from the average or sub-par ones. The time varies depending on the photographer, but it would probably take 3-4 hours to cull the images for an 8-hour wedding.
The actual editing process takes much longer and is an even more significant factor in why wedding photography cost so much. The photographer can sometimes apply a specific editor preset to multiple photos at once, but then they will go through each picture individually to manually adjust these presets to give the photo the perfect final look. Expect this process to take another 8-24 hours. Plus your photographer will probably leave your photos for some days before coming back with fresh eyes to correct any overlooked imperfections before sending you your photos.
If we’re counting hours, at the very minimum, your photographer has spent 24 hours of their time on the various aspects of one wedding. This doesn’t even include the time needed to create a wedding album. Now you might be wondering why your photographer takes so many weeks to send you the photos after your wedding. Remember your photographer has other weddings to photograph, they may also have different types of photo shoots to attend, more client meetings, other client photos to edit, and their own family life.
Phew – that last section was super detailed, I promise this one will be much more succinct. Your wedding photographer’s gear is probably the second biggest reason why wedding photography costs so much.
A wedding photographer has at least two camera bodies to work with. This is to reduce the amount of time they have to spend switching between lenses – especially at crucial moments like the first kiss. This is also, so they have a backup camera if the worst case scenario happens and the camera stops working. They will have an absolute minimum of 3 lenses in their camera bag for various looks and aesthetics. One lens to take photos from far away, one lens for super close up detail shots, and one lens for more general photos. The more experienced your photographer is, the more lenses they will have for specific situations throughout your wedding day.
Your wedding photographer will also have flashes, spare batteries and memory cards, and lens filters to protect their lenses. The cost of all these items together run into tens of thousands of dollars.
I would argue that this is the number one reason wedding photography costs so much. You hire a wedding photographer based on the look of and the quality of work they produce. It takes so much time for a photographer to develop their shooting technique, to find their perfect editing style, to find the best way to interact with each to bring out the best reactions and expressions for photos. This takes both natural talent and high dedication to practice until they reach the ever elusive perfection. A good photographer is always researching new poses to try and better methods to get the results they’re looking for. They will keep an eye on which gear is the best to give you the ultimate level of quality.
You are paying for talent and experience. This is a day that you can’t recreate if something goes wrong. You want to pay for the assurance that the person photographing your big day knows how to handle any sort of lighting, any setbacks or time delays, and knows how to smoothly handle prominent personalities and reluctant subjects.
Finally, your photographer has their own set of business expenses that also factor into why wedding photography costs so much. There will be photographer’s insurance, accountants or accounting software, client management software to keep everything organized, and online gallery services to name a few. Any physical product photographers offer couples is another expense. A computer and photo editing software is essential for a photography business, but it doesn’t grow on trees.
Photography is Expensive
There are quite a few smaller expenses I have failed to mention to limit the length of this article. Hopefully, you have a better appreciation for why wedding photography costs so much. Often wedding photographers are swallowing some of these costs when starting their business to draw in more clients. They deserve a chance to earn those investments into their business back. They also deserve a chance to earn enough to support their family AND to save for retirement.
Finally, remember that most weddings are going to fall on the weekend. This means wedding photographers are more limited than other photographers in the number of clients they accept. Rest assured, photographers that charge a lot of money are incredibly talented and wholly dedicated to their craft.