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Why Is Wedding Photography So Expensive?

I wrote an article back in 2015 for Wedding Lovely about the cost of wedding photography.  I was thinking about it again recently and decided to do a quick rewrite on the subject. If you’d like to read the original article, click HERE.   Alas, here are 5 reasons why wedding photography is so expensive.

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Yes, quality of photography, but also of equipment. Full frame dslrs and computers don’t run cheap.  In addition, photographers need a variety of lenses to capture the various activities that happen on a wedding day.  Their overhead also includes, taxes and license fees, web hosting, client gifts, film, etc.

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For a seasoned wedding photographer, this isn’t their first rodeo. Photographers know what kinds of moments to look for, are able to anticipate those hugs, high fives, and tears. They understand how the day will unfold and all the special moments in between. They are also able to do this with a smile on their face and a calm voice all while shooting seamlessly in a wide variety of lighting conditions.

A photographer on a wedding day is really several photographers in one - documentarian, product photographer, portrait artist, landscape and architectural photographer as well as pet, child, and family photographer.

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There’s simply more liability on a wedding day.  It can’t be replicated.  If you schedule family photos and it rains, those photos can be rescheduled.  A wedding day typically cannot, so wedding photographers are ready and prepared no matter what the day brings.

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There are only so many weekend dates in a year and a wedding photographer can only be in one place at one time.  By shooting your wedding, they are foregoing other work, but also precious weekends that could be spent with friends and family who are off from work or traveling to see them. Instead, they choose to spend those days with you and your family helping you have the best wedding day experience possible.

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Simply put, photographers are people who have to pay rent, bills, insurance and taxes just like you.  Often times, their taxes are more because they are taxed on their business as well as individually.  That said, a photographer living in a large city most likely charges more than a photographer living in a rural area. 

If you have anything you think I should add to the list, I’d love to hear! Leave a comment for me below.

5 Questions to Ask a Wedding Photographer at a Consultation

Ok, so you're searching on line and there are LITERALLY (read like Chris Traeger) thousands of photographers. They come in every area, price point, and varying styles.  You may have also heard horror stories from some friend of a friend who read a blog about this girl who's photographer was horrible and you don't want that to be you.  You've finally decided to chat with a few of them, but you don't know what to ask.

Here are a few questions that will help you sort out hobbyists from professionals as well as help you feel comfortable and confident with your choice of the person to capture one of the most exciting days of your life.

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1. Do you have a business license*?

This is a yes or no questions and shouldn’t take long to ask.  It may even be in their FAQ page if they have one.  However, it will sort out the hobbyists from the professionals.  

2. Do you have insurance*?

Another simple yes or no question that will help you sort out professionalism of any vendor.  This is also a great question because many venues will require a photographer to have insurance.

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3. Is this your full time job? / How long have you been in business?

If the answer is no, that doesn’t mean they aren’t a good photographer or aren’t professional, but it does mean that their time may be limited and scheduling meetings or engagement sessions, and response time to emails may prove to be a little more difficult.  Asking how long they've been in business may also provide you with an opportunity to hear more of their story and how their business got started as well as giving you confidence that they've been through this process many times before.

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4. Can I see a full real wedding gallery?

I’ve seen many photographer’s websites that only contain images from styled shoots. While these images may show off what a photographer can do, a styled shoot is nothing like a real wedding day.  At a styled shoot, you have plenty of time to photograph every aspect of the shoot and shoot it multiple ways.  You may be using models who don’t need much direction.  There may even be a stylist who has arranged all the details for you and has created a table with far more detail than you might see on an actual wedding day.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love styled shoots, but if you’re a client, you need a realistic expectation of what your day might look like.  Most brides are not models, the details are often arranged by the photographer. Styled shoots also don’t offer you the ability to see what family photos or dancing at the reception might look like.  Many photographers may be like me who’s favorite photos are those with the bride and groom and so we over show those photos and forget to show the actual reception.  As a potential client, look through the gallery not at whether or not you like the details in the photos, but if you like how they are composed, the coloring, how their photos with flash look, etc.

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5. Lastly, ask any clarifying questions you may have and get to know you questions. 

This could be be anything from how do you do family portraits? What does a timeline look like? What does “retainer" mean?  Most likely you’ve never been married and this may all be brand new to you, but your photographer and other vendors have been a part of many wedding days and would be happy to make sure you feel comfortable.  It also may not hurt to ask some questions about them and how they got started or even what they do when they're not photographing weddings.  You will be spending a lot of time with this person on your wedding day so make sure you hire someone who you puts you at ease.

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*Note to Photographers: 

If you’re making money or intend to make money shooting weddings, you need to have a business license and insurance.  Weddings are a big liability and you need to protect yourself as well as your clients.  If you want to be a legitimate business this also means paying taxes. If you need any help to get pointed in the right direction, I’d love to meet with you. If you don’t have a full real wedding gallery because you’ve only been second shooting, that’s fine!  Be open and honest with your clients.  They may be able to get a great deal on their wedding photography because they are willing to take a risk with someone who is newer. I'm so thankful for those first clients of mine who took a risk and allowed me to prove myself.

If you're a photographer or vendor, I'd love to hear what other questions you'd suggest couples ask before hiring a wedding photographer.  Leave a comment below!