The Wedding Photographer

Four and a half long years ago I wrote How not to hire a wedding photographer, an article that was a response to a Craigslist ad about someone who had very unrealistic goals about what they wanted.  In the article I broke down each and every absurd request the person had and gave reasonable answers.  I’m going to attempt to do the same thing with a recent Craigslist ad where a bride is flying off the chain at what she seems to think is a case of hanging out and shooting photos.

The original ad posted to the Seattle Craigslist:

Attn: Wedding Photographers 🙂 (Puget Sound)

WHY is finding an amazing wedding photographer so difficult? :/

I am a Bride who is getting married this summer and have yet to find a decently priced, exceptional, amazingly talented, fun photographer.

WHY because the word “WEDDING” is involved photographers think they can change you $ 3,000.00 for wedding photos? Oh, because no bride is going to go without so they are going to pay it, because they HAVE to. They are ripping people off for all they have! Why when you want to get married it costs you AT LEAST 15 grand after all is said-and-done? Its such CRAP!! I love all you $ 3,000.00 photographers out there but i think your prices are WACK. All your doing is hanging out at a wedding taking tons of photos and editing them.. and thats owrth 3 GRAND!!! You’re making so much money its crazy. I just wish people would be more realistic. I mean the “average” persons salary for 1 freaking month is somewhere around 3 grand. (Thats making 19$ an hour) So you’re going to take someones WHOLE MONTH paycheck for one flippen day of photos? Just because you CAN!!?????? So that maybe they will not be able to feed themselves or pay any other bills they have, right? It makes me SICK!

I know im speaking for more than just myself right now. Alot of brides out there think the same thing. & I bet all you fancy photographers wont even read this. oh-well.
Maybe there are cheaper photographers that will read this and LOVE to take my photos 🙂

Like last time, I’ll pick this apart and give some depth to her requests.

WHY is finding an amazing wedding photographer so difficult? :/ Truth be told, it’s not.  There are more options now than ever, magazines and websites like The Knot that specialize in city searches and the abundance and growth of Facebook alone in the last two-three years means it’s only a matter of updating your status with Looking for a wedding photographer, can someone please make a reccomdnation? If you’re like most users, you should have a dozen replies within the first thirty minutes.

I am a Bride who is getting married this summer and have yet to find a decently priced, exceptional, amazingly talented, fun photographer. Well the old saying is, you can have two but never three of the following: Cheap, Fast, Good.  Also, what is decently priced to you may be very affordable to someone else.

WHY because the word “WEDDING” is involved photographers think they can change you $ 3,000.00 for wedding photos? Oh, because no bride is going to go without so they are going to pay it, because they HAVE to. Actually, yes, it’s partly because the word wedding is involved, but you’re also not fully understanding the pricing structure for a wedding.  We’ll talk about that shortly since you’re going to continue going off into the deep end about it.  And photos are optional, just like a wedding is.  I’m no expert at law but I’m pretty sure most states in the USA only require some paperwork to be filled out at a county courthouse, the actual wedding ceremony, for the most part, is totally optional, along with the reception.

They are ripping people off for all they have! We are?  If all you have is $3,000 then you should probably put that towards your cost of living, student loans and the such, not towards a photographer. 

Why when you want to get married it costs you AT LEAST 15 grand after all is said-and-done? Its such CRAP!! As I’ve previously stated, it’s actually not $15,000.00, that’s the to hire people who will provide you with the setting and facility to celebrate your wedding.  If you want a professional chef to come to your house and make your dinner, you can expect to pay more for it than if you went to their establishment.

I love all you $ 3,000.00 photographers out there but i think your prices are WACK. All your doing is hanging out at a wedding taking tons of photos and editing them.. and thats owrth 3 GRAND!!! You’re making so much money its crazy. I just wish people would be more realistic. Thanks for the love, can never have enough of that.  Now, I’m not going to argue the $3,000.00 figure you keep because that’s somewhat dependent on where you live, you’d be lucky to find a photographer in New York City for that much and in Po-Dunk, Anywhere it might be three times the going rate, so for this we shall stick to it.  We don’t hang out.  We run a business.  A business that has overhead, such as insurance, gear upkeep and maintenance, transportation, advertising, web design and deployment, brochures, sample books, etc.  All at a cost.  While most wedding photographers don’t have the overhead of an actual storefront, they still incur costs in their home / home offices such as lines for fax machines, Internet, computers, etc.  Also, there is no W-2 form when you are a sole owner or LLC, this means you need to pay taxes in most states quarterly, most photographers off-load this to an accountant, an added cost.  There are no paid sick days, vacation days, personal or doctor days, those are luxuries not afforded to a wedding photographer.  Likewise, business hours are virtually every hour of every day.  There is no show up at 8am, take lunch from 12:30-1:30 and leave at 5pm, it’s in your best interest to answer phone calls at 8pm while you’re enjoying a movie with your family or reply to emails at 1am, so the client always feels their wedding is the most important in the world.

I mean the “average” persons salary for 1 freaking month is somewhere around 3 grand. (Thats making 19$ an hour) So you’re going to take someones WHOLE MONTH paycheck for one flippen day of photos? Just because you CAN!!?????? This is the part in the story where I honestly hope you are good at math.  I’m going to break down for you very simply what an average wedding consists of, time wise.

  • 20 minutes: Initial in-bound inquirer from potential client via email or phone call + response
  • 10 minutes: Follow up to schedule a meeting
  • 60 minutes: Initial meeting, this is usually in a home office or a coffee shop of some sorts
  • 30 minutes: Time it will take to draw up contracts, review discussions during initial meeting, send to you for review
  • 10 minutes: Email reminding you that the first deposit needs to be sent to positively reserve your date
  • 10 minutes: Email reminding you the remainder of the deposit needs to be paid in full 1 week prior to the wedding
  • 60 minutes: Driving time to and from the wedding and between the wedding and reception.
  • 10 hours: Provided you are getting married at 4pm and reception starts at 6pm and ends at 10pm, figure being at the Bride’s house by noon for the getting ready photos, the Groom’s shots, pre-bridal party posed shots, shots between the wedding and reception.  Basically starting at noon and ending at 10pm.
  • 60 minutes: To import all digital photos and start the work-flow of editing, backing up originals and preparing for final images.
  • 5 hours: Time spent editing photos.  This number varies for everyone, I’ve generally found in my experience that for every hour I’m shooting I can expect to spend one-half hour in the chair editing.  This is also weeding out bad photos and getting the final selection ready.
  • 60 minutes: Time to export fully edited photos, catalog them and burn to DVD
  • 30 minutes: To back up the edited photos and keep copies safe via external hard drive or more DVDs.

At this point we’re now at 21 hours.  This time has several variables in it and does not include sending files to a printer for photo prints, books, etc, plus picking them up, assembly of them or delivery to you, the client.  Rough math says that’s equal to about $142.86 per hour worked.  That is gross profit per hour.  Let’s factor in 15% taxes, that chops $450 off the top right there, factor in another $25.00 per month for insurance and a solid $150.00 per month for an accountant.  Then of course there is the cost of running a website, Facebook and Google paid ad campaigns, attending wedding expo’s, printing promo material, print advertisement in The Knot and similar magazines / websites.  Gas, car insurance and wear and tear on automobiles traveling to and from meetings and events.  All of this and I still haven’t said one word about the cost of actual camera equipment.  A wedding photographer who is charging $3,000 is probably doing so because they don’t want to undercut their competition but also because they’ve been doing it for a while and understand what it is to run a full business.  That said, they are probably bringing between $4,000 and $20,000 worth of camera gear with them to shoot your wedding.  This stuff is all wear and tear items that routinely need to be sent out for repair and replaced over time.  Let us not forget that this is for a paying client, not everyone who emails / calls will be a paying client due to schedule conflicts, priced too far above (or below, yes I’ve heard of clients saying photographer is too cheap for them), or other various reasons.  Same goes with the initial meeting, you don’t get up to bat and always hit a home run.  All that time is unpaid time spent working.

So that maybe they will not be able to feed themselves or pay any other bills they have, right? It makes me SICK!  It’s interesting you bring this up, as mentioned before this is a luxury, you actually don’t need any of this to get married.  I think what’s also worth mentioning here is that it’s customary here in the USA to expect an engagement ring equal to roughly three month’s salary of the groom-to-be.  By your numbers of the average salary, you’re expecting a $9,000 ring?  That’s a really nice used car.  Moreover, it’s worth probably about $1,500 if you try to actually sell it because the only thing of real value is the gold or platinum in the band, the diamond for all intense purposes is a thing of value only to initial purchaser, there is no publicly traded diamonds out there in the same fashion as precious metals.  It’s a number made up by those in control of the mines, that however is a whole other article.

I know im speaking for more than just myself right now. Alot of brides out there think the same thing. & I bet all you fancy photographers wont even read this. oh-well.  Well this photographer did read it and I’ll be sharing it with other ones for sure. 

Maybe there are cheaper photographers that will read this and LOVE to take my photos 🙂 Pull your nose out of the clouds, photographers love to photograph, it’s one of those service oriented jobs where most who do it chose to do it, and they truly love their craft.  They also love to get paid for it, and if you aren’t willing to pay for their experience, talent, skill and professionalism, then you have missed a great opportunity.  There are plenty of new shooters who bottom-feed and try to start at $500 a wedding, your photographs are going to look like they were shot by a $500 wedding photographer.

You complained a lot about a wedding costing you $15,000, if the photographer is going to make up roughly one-fifth of your total investment.  That means that four-fifths of your budget is going to be spent on consumable, forgettable items.  I’m sorry, on your one-year anniversary no one is going to post on your Facebook wall about how much they loved the duck breast and mashed squash they had for dinner or how great the DJ was.  They are going to leave comments on the photographs, that’s how people will remember and more importantly, relive and rejoice at your special day.  For your guests, it’s just a day they had to get dressed up, eat some marginally OK food, listen to music they probably don’t like and give you a gift that you probably don’t need or money that will be used to re-coupe the cost of this whole event.