Technology is a wonderful thing. More powerful, cheaper, better… it’s a neverending upgrade cycle. Today many people have more computing power in their mobile phone than they did in their first desktop computer. In the same way, digital cameras are getting better all the time, and prices that were once astronomical (a six million pixel Kodak DCS660 would have set you back £18, 000 in 2000) are falling to levels that us mere mortals can afford without having to remortgage the family home.
This also means that barriers to entry to wedding photography are falling all the time. Back in the 1980s you needed sound technical knowledge to take a well exposed, in focus picture. By the early 1990s a camera could do that fairly reliably. In the early 2000s as already mentioned you needed significant outlay to get a decent digital camera, but today you can pick up a decent DSLR and lens (that would produce better quality than a camera from the early 2000s) for under £1, 000.
As a result there are a flood of photographers chancing their arm and turning professional. And frequently these people are happy to compete on price, with little to distinguish themselves on quality. There are plenty of photographers that offer all inclusive packages for well under £1, 000; indeed all day wedding photography for £495 is not unheard of.
The question is, why shouldn’t you as a potential client have to fork out over £1, 000 for your wedding photography, particularly if bridal magazines are increasingly telling people to pay no more than three figures for it, and demand copyright in the process. Not to mention, someone else can do it for £495!
The answer is quite straightforward – I simply couldn’t afford to do a wedding for less than £1, 000. Anyone who can charge £495 for a full day’s wedding photography is only interested in quantity and certainly not quality. Let me explain.
At a full day wedding I will typically capture about a thousand images, of which I will usually present about 300 – 400 to the client. I edit each of these individually, cropping, tweaking exposure, making other little adjustments, and optimising them for screen viewing, and for the web. Allowing a very reasonable five minutes per image (doesn’t sound like a lot does it?), it will take me 30 hours to edit 360 images. That’s three very long days spent camped in front of the computer editing the images. It takes another day or two to design the album, and don’t forget the original day of photography itself.
That means that what sounded like an expensive £1, 000 for a day’s photography, is actually paying for about five to six days of work. I’ll also probably have met the couple at least once and frequently twice outside of that as an initial meeting and then to discuss album options. Then I also have to factor in tax and national insurance, public liability insurance, professional indemnity insurance, purchasing, maintaining and updating high end equipment and insuring that equipment… along with other business expenses such as running a website, hosting client galleries, advertising, sample albums…
Suddenly it shouldn’t sound like a ridiculous figure. And hopefully you’ll be asking yourself how someone who charges £495 manages to do so?
Many just put everything on a disc without editing it, which is a sure sign of a profit over quality mentality. I would love nothing more than to do the same – editing is the worst part of the job without a doubt – but I wouldn’t be caught dead letting shoddy work into the clients’ hands.
Some won’t be insured, which is cost cutting with potentially disastrous consequences. Insurance is not there because you need it, but in case you need it. I’d like to think that I’m professional enough not to need it, but should the worst happen then it’s the least I can do to protect my client (and myself).
Some have very simple equipment, which could be limiting. All other things being equal, would you rather hire someone with equipment that just about does the job, or someone whose equipment more than did the job? Although it has gotten more affordable, high end photographic equipment is still not cheap. A professional grade camera still costs about £3, 500 and is succeeded by a new model every couple of years.
And at the end of the day, regardless of what I’ve set out above, you should be choosing your photographer based on the quality of his or her photography. As I’ve said before, don’t have a minimum photographic standard that you’ll accept and then go shopping for the cheapest. Have a maximum budget you can spend and then go shopping for the best. Which might not even be the most expensive!
If you’re about to tie the knot, congratulations and good luck with the planning. And you can do a lot worse than having a look at Essence of the Moment if you’re still looking for a photographer!