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Why Is Wedding Photography So Expensive

Why Is Wedding Photography Expensive

By Jeffrey House Photography



How many times a year do  you think we hear the question - "Why is wedding photography so expensive?"  Does anyone offer great, but affordable wedding photography?

This is just about the time most photographers write a blog defending themselves and justifying their photography prices - Hell, I've been guilty of this myself!  As professional photographers we put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into our work, and our businesses.  Contrary to what many believe, wedding photographers are not swimming in money and living lavish lifestyles.  

I could very easily outline exactly how many hours a photographer spends on an 8 hour wedding from start to finish (it's about 70 hours on average by the way).  I could even detail all the expenses associated with being a photographer including the costs of being a small business owner.

But then it hit me - does anyone really care?  

In 2012 a woman posted on Craigslist that she was getting married in the summer and was in search of a "decently priced, exceptional, amazingly talented, fun photographer."  Then she went to say that $3,000 is too expensive and why does wedding photography have to be so expensive?  Well, even though she didn't agree with paying $3,000 for her wedding photography, doesn't mean it's not a decent price.  

A photographer based out of Florida, by the name if Nikki Wagner, wrote a blog in response to the woman from Craigslist.  I highly recommend taking the 3 minutes it will take to read the article because Nikki really does provide great insight into the life of a photographer.  Nikki's response really made an impact online and was shared all over the web.  Nikki's explanation was ground breaking at the time, but now anytime the prices of wedding photography is questioned, a photographer writes a blog very similar to Nikki's.  Even though it's insightful information, it's so overdone it's falling on deaf ears.  

Does Anyone Really Care?

So, back to my original thought.  If I took the time to spell it all out, would anyone really care?  Like Nikki Wagner, I could break everything out into a beautiful report that would probably make an accountant jealous.  I do believe in my heart that if people took the time to read it, it would really help to understand why wedding photography is so expensive.  Besides the fact it's not cheap being a wedding photographer, there are a lot of false perceptions out there.  

For instance, many believe that a photographer makes a lot of money because most charge at least $3,000 for an 8 hour wedding.  That appears to be a lot of money for 8 hours worth of work, right?  But the truth is, the average photographer is really going to spend about 70 hours on a an 8 hour wedding.  In fact, most photographers will spend around 40 hours just editing the pictures from an 8 hour wedding.  

Then It Hit Me

As a society we often confuse marriages with weddings.  However, the real difference between the two is that a marriage is a privilege and weddings are a luxury.  It's kind of like the picture below.  It's a privilege to own a car, it's a luxury to have a Mercedes Benz.  

The woman from Craigslist wanting a "decently priced, exceptional, amazingly talented, fun photographer,"  really wanted the Mercedes Benz, but only wanted to pay for the Honda Civic - not realistic.  I would also love the Mercedes Benz, but it too is a luxury that I can't afford.  What do you think the salesperson would say to me if I asked them to sell me the Mercedes for the same price as the Honda, because that in my opinion, would be a decent price?  I'm pretty sure they would laugh me out of the showroom.    

We are all consumers and when it comes to buying quality products or services we need to understand this very simple rule - "Exceptional talent doesn't come cheap, and cheap talent isn't exceptional!"  The Mercedes is exceptional, it's not cheap.  The Honda is cheap, but it's not exceptional.  

Does that mean just because I can't afford the Mercedes I'm going to buy the Honda?  Absolutely not!  

The same holds true for wedding photography.  You can probably hire a world famous wedding photographer and pay 25,000, if not more, to have them photograph your 8 hour wedding - Or -  you can hire a "cheap" photographer and spend around $1,000.  I will personally guarantee you the $1,000 photographer's products and services will be cheap, but they will NOT be exceptional, amazing or special.  

We Get What We Pay For

It's very true we get what we pay for.  That doesn't mean we should over extend ourselves on everything we buy - that's not a realistic approach to life.  However, it also doesn't mean we should buy all the cheapest products or services either.  How many times have you purchased the "cheapest" product?  In the end, it wound up costing you more because you had to constantly sink money into repairing it or even replacing it (sometimes multiple times).

I've seen lots of people do this with cars.  They don't want to buy a new car and don't even want to invest money into a better used car, so they keep fixing the one they got.  But by the time they get new tires, replace the brakes, etc., they wind up sinking more money than if they had just gotten a better used car.  

I've even seen this happen to couples with wedding photography.  A couple hired a cheap photographer to save money.  They agreed to pay their photographer $1,500 for the photography of their wedding and the edited digital files.  In the end, the photographer held their pictures hostage until they paid him an additional $2,500 for the edited images.  I'm sure the couple thought they were getting a "great deal," but is this really the kind of person you want to do business with?  What else are they going to do because clearly they are not a credible or ethical person.    

Weddings Are Luxuries & Specialized

Anything that is considered a luxury and/or specialized, typically comes with a higher price tag.  Even though we live in a world where practically everyone has a cell phone with a camera, and considers themselves to be a "photographer" - they're not.  Just like our blog "6 Reasons Why You MUST Hire A Professional Photographer," I point out the following:

"I cook dinner almost every night, but I'm not a chef."

"I cut my grass and plant flowers, but I'm not a landscaper."

That's not to say you can't take nice pictures just because you're not a photographer.  But it is saying you're not a photographer just because you take pictures.  

Using our car example above, if both cars break down which one will cost more to fix?  Obviously, the Mercedes.  It's a luxury car with more bells and whistles; therefore, it inherently costs more to repair.  Also, because it's more technologically advanced compared to the Honda, the mechanic is far more specialized resulting in increased labor costs.

Again, the same holds true with wedding photography.  You can certainly find a cheap wedding photographer.  Generally, these "photographers" have "consumer grade equipment, they have less training, they are less skilled, and are far less specialized.  

Take a look at the pictures below - can you tell which one was taken by an amateur and which one was taken by a professional? 

It should be pretty obvious the picture on top was taken by an amateur.  Typical of amateur pictures, the composition of the image is lacking.  The subject is too close to being directly in the center of the frame.  You will also notice the subject was placed in really bad lighting. Her eyes appear to be squinting a little and she has harsh shadows from the sunlight across her face.

The bottom image is completely different.  Even though the subject is almost centered (which is not generally preferred), the photograph uses the fence and background elements to still create a visually interesting image.  Unlike the sample above, the lighting is way better and the subject is perfectly lit.    

Wedding Photography Is NOT Expensive

Wait a minute, this whole time we have been talking about how wedding photography is a specialized luxury service that is expensive.  Most people consider spending thousands of dollars expensive.  I thought it was expensive when I spent over $20,000 on photography equipment, computers, editing software, etc.  But it's more than an expense, it's an investment.  Similar to your wedding photography.

Most married couples I know consider their wedding day to be one of the most significant and meaningful days in their life.  It's usually viewed as the most substantial event following the birth of a child.  The pictures from your wedding day will be the keepsakes that honor this momentous day.  This pivotal moment where you declare your love and commitment to another person for the rest of your life.  Couples are going to invest a few thousand dollars to capture and document this amazing day.  But you can't overlook or ignore this incredibly unique aspect of your wedding pictures - you will have them forever!

Why is wedding photography so expensive?  What else do we buy in life for a few thousand dollars, that has so much meaning and value, and lasts forever?