I don’t normally post about business practices especially pricing since it can be the most fickle and sensitive of topics. With the exponential growth of the digital movement, I’ve observed that the common folk perceive the photographic process as inexpensive and easy as long as you have a “good” camera.
Fortunately my client base is comprised mostly of businesses that have either an established art/creative department who understand that photography is not just point-and-shoot job. However, I have had a few instances where I had to deal with people who are not educated about the photographic process. There is a lot involved and frankly speaking I did not really have the time or the idea how to explain things until I was approached by my roommate.
So my roommate is getting married next year and they are in the planning stages of the wedding. He of course asked me if I know much going rates are (attaboy he knows I don’t do weddings haha) for an “okay” wedding photographer. I told him that “okay” is a subjective thing and that I’m not familiar with wedding photography rates though it seems to be around mid $1,000 to about $3,000 from what I’ve seen so far.
He was flabbergasted at the figure and couldn’t fathom why it would cost $1,500 to photograph a wedding. I told him that it’s actually inexpensive and that I’ve seen figures up to $8,000 or even $20,000+. Apparently they were just looking for someone to take snapshots and he jokingly (I think) suggested that he would just get a dSLR and assign someone the photo taking responsibility. I told him that though it may seem to be a clever solution, he should know that the person who he “assigns” that responsibility to ceases to be a guest. Point made. He does not need a professional. That said, how much would it cost to have someone take snapshots at a wedding?
One of my first significant experiences with photography and pricing was when I went to get some passport photos. I went to a local camera/photo store. The person behind the counter told me to stand by this large white piece of paper taped to the front window (it turns out to be the back of a poster ad). She got a Canon Rebel with a kit lens ($800 setup) from the display, inserted an SD card, and walked over to where I was. She raised the pop-up flash and told me to “look at the camera” and took about six shots. She then went back to her station, processed the pics (probably with a Kodak kiosk software or similar), and handed me 6 passport-sized prints. The whole process took about five minutes and I paid $12. Mileage may vary but the prices and procedure are pretty much the same across the board. I’m not going to say that is pricey or cheap. Let’s leave it at that – $12 for 5 minutes of snapshots and 6 2×2 (or whatever) prints.
What do we get when we book a “decent” wedding photographer?
- Meetings and consultations (time and/or gas)
- 8 or so hours of shooting (assume 3 for prep, 2 for the ceremony, and 3 at the reception)
- Shooting at different places requires moving around and lugging gear
- Speaking of gear, I’d assume a mid-grade dSLR worth $1700, a couple of lenses with a combined worth $3750, and maybe a flash worth $500
- Composing shots with a significant amount of artistic input – composition, lighting, doing that whole blurry background thing, etc.
- Dealing with several people of with a multitude of personalities from uncooperative kids to bridezillas.
- Tremendous need to engage the subjects so they don’t do the whole deer in headlights look (oh and don’t forget the jumping shots)
- Low light photography knowledge and technique (priest says you can’t use flash in the church).
- A gazillion different lighting scenarios and having to change settings on the fly (think of the couple doing the first dance under the spotlight and then the crying grandma by the unlit tables).
- The stress of knowing that there’s only one and one chance alone to do the job right
- A considerable amount of artistic input in editing the pics (getting the colors right, black and white conversion, not to mention sifting through thousands of shots to pick out the ones that look right)
Now what do we get from the passport photo place?
- Short exchange of pleasantries (hello, thank you come again)
- 2-3 minutes of shooting
- Shooting from one spot
- $800 camera and lens combo
- Composing shots with minimal artistic input (centered in the frame, within eye level, straight flash)
- Dealing with one and only one person who came specifically to get their pictures taken.
- Minimal interaction with the subject (1,2,3 cheese)
- Minimal technical knowledge in photography – one light from the flash
- Shooting with one setting (probably auto or portrait mode)
- Stress in getting the shot right? What stress? Mugshot?
- Minimal artistic input in editing the photos (there are only 5-6 shots to choose from and there’s probably a software to automate the cropping process)
- 6 or so 2×2 (or whatever size) prints
Expect to pay $12 for 5 minutes.
How much for an hour?
60 minutes in an hour divided by 5 = 12 (sets of 5 minutes in an hour)
$12 x 12 = $144
$144 per hour to do snapshots
How much to take “snapshots” at an 8-hour wedding?
$144 x 8 = $1,152