weddings 101

What You Really Pay For When You Hire A Professional Wedding Photographer

Did you know that there is far more to wedding photography than what comes in the neatly laid-out wedding package you purchased? Here are 7 things you didn’t know you were paying your wedding photographer for, but will be glad that you did!

1. Experience. Anyone can buy a camera and take a picture, so what makes a “professional” photographer so special? Understanding weddings and the expectations that couples have only comes with experience. Besides grabbing shots of those emotional first looks, and your mother’s tear rolling down her cheek after you say “I do,” your photographer has a lot more on their mind. Behind the scenes, they are making sure your timeline stays on track, putting out emotional fires between your MOH and your BFF, and liaising with your other vendors to make sure things go as smoothly as possible.

A photographer with experience will know how to prepare for any lighting or weather condition, and know that exact moment to grab you during the reception for that incredible sunset shot!

2. Time. The time you’re paying your photographer for is not just the number of hours they’re at your wedding. It’s their correspondence, booking, prep, engagement session, travel, in-person viewings, importing, editing, exporting and ordering photos, designing samples, creating products, delivery and shipping. The average wedding for us takes 80 hours of work from the first point of correspondence to its completion. Not to mention that being a small business owner entails many time-consuming tasks that we creative types are not huge fans of (yay, accounting!).

3. Creative Brainstorming. Any photographer worth their salt will take time to get to know your style, personalities, and relationship in order to create moments that will portray you in the best way possible. This includes helping you find locations, making wardrobe suggestions, and helping you pick just the right product to fit that empty wall in your hallway.

4. Continuing Education. Photographers work in a field that is constantly changing. We have to keep up to date on the latest technology, techniques, and trends. This includes participating in workshops and online forums, reading educational books on business and photography, and studying our target market.

5. Gear & Upgrades. Pro-level digital cameras run from $3,000 to $7,000, and the average pro-level lens costs around $2,000. Now, imagine needing at least two camera bodies, three to six great lenses… it adds up quickly! That’s not taking into consideration computers, editing software, off-camera flashes, radio transmitters, camera bags, diffusers, etc… And then when new and better gear comes out, we buy more.

6. Insurance. Your photographer should be insured to protect themselves against stolen, lost, or broken gear, as well as liability insurance in case a guest trips over a camera bag and breaks their arm.

7. Redundancy From Start to Finish. What happens when things go wrong? A professional needs to be prepared for the worst-case scenario. Your photographer should have multiples of everything! A backup camera, several lenses, multiple flashes. Modern pro-level DSLRs shoot to multiple memory cards at once, allowing photos to be backed up from the moment they’re taken. And speaking of backing up files, after the wedding your images are backed up multiple times for safekeeping. We actually keep a copy in a fireproof safe!

This quote from photographer Nikki Wagner is a solid reminder of the reasons why hiring a professional wedding photographer is a meaningful investment: “Yes, it seems like a lot of money for one day, but one day isn’t all we spend on your photographs or on our business. You will spend thousands of dollars on a wedding dress or flowers or a venue or on catering, which you are going to have for only one day, but your photographs will be the only thing you have to remember that one day for the rest of your lives.”

Image by Manifesto Photography