Imagine this (very likely) scenario: You are looking through Style Me Pretty or Green Wedding Shoes blog to get ideas for wedding dresses, floral décor, venue locations, and so much more. The photography on these blogs is simply spectacular so you click on one of these amazing photographers’ websites to check out their portfolio…after 5 minutes, you’ve fallen in LOVE with their style and all the moments they can capture. You quickly jump to the pricing page and your jaw drops in sheer shock…$4,200? $4,800? $6,500? You think to yourself, “how can taking a few pictures at a wedding cost so much?” That is a great question, and I hope to share with you the “behind-the-scenes” of wedding photography and what your hard-earned money is truly paying for. 

1. A Wedding Is 1 Day, But Takes a Week of Time

Remember the days of good old fashion film? You would take your film camera, snap 24 photos, and then send it to the local photo lab to get it processed, right? It would be so exciting when the wait was over and you could pick up your photos to view them for the first time! “Post processing” is basically the modern version of that local photo lab, and photographers “develop” all your imagery ourselves. We have professional software in which we can upload, backup, cull, edit, color correct, and export! It’s wonderful to have so much control with each image but having this responsibility simply takes TIME. I like to think of it as the “1/4 Rule”: for ever 1 hour I shoot, I spend 4 hours on post-shoot work. So, for an 8-hour wedding day, I will spend 32 hours ensuring every image is beautiful and worth printing. Plus, it is another 5 – 10 hours worth of emails, contracts, and basic timelines to plan accordingly. It totals to about 1 full week of work.

TIP: Each photographer handles their post processing in a unique way to deliver the style of photography they market. Delivery times may vary but be sure to ask their basic turn around times.

2. Professional Equipment & Storage Can Cost $20K+

There are so many amazing wedding photographers, and we believe in the highest quality service and product possible. We want and need to update our equipment on a regular basis to continue our promise of quality service. In order to maintain this service, we have to “spend money to make money” – and professional digital equipment is very expensive to purchase and maintain. Most professional cameras have a shelf life of 2 – 3 years (~150,000 – 300,000 shutter clicks), each camera costs $3,000 – $8,000, and lenses each cost $1,000 – $3,000. Most professionals use 2+ cameras as well as multiple lenses, and all the lighting equipment All in, the equipment can cost well over $20,000.

Storage for digital images is also expensive, but well worth it! It is important that your photographer has a way of backing up your imagery and maybe even a back-up for the back up! Make sure to understand your photographer’s back-up storage plan and you should back up your imagery in 2 separate hard drives as soon as you receive them. Be sure to look into cloud storage as well! And my ultimate fight against losing imagery is to make prints! Your photographer more than likely has a way to print all the images so you have a tangible version of your memories as well. Professional grade paper will last for decades!

TIP: Make sure your photographer has back-up equipment and storage capability, even for a limited time. If your photographer charges around $3,000 or more, then they probably offer both and you are in the safe zone. 

3. A Lighting Expert

One of my favorite things about wedding photography is that no two weddings are alike and each wedding is unique in its own way. Each wedding is a custom-created day that reflects the personalities of the Bride and Groom. A wedding photographer can photograph the same venue multiple times, but it can look drastically differ each time due to the change in light (either natural light or artificial light). 

For example, just simple lighting changes, such as adding up lighting (I love up-lighting), candlelit centerpieces (I love these too), or even the not-so-favorite scenario of a cloudy day or heavy rainstorm. It is very important that your photographer has experience with all sorts of lighting situations and the problem-solving skills to adjust quickly. Bottom line, your photographer should understand how light functions and basically be a lighting-solution guru. 

TIP: You can look through your photographer’s portfolio to see the variety of lighting situations they have photographed in. If you do not see exactly what you are looking for, feel free to email them and ask for some samples. Good photographers are always willing to share more work!  

4. Wedding Day Timeline Expert

It can be quite a puzzle (and a headache) to plan the logistics of the wedding day. Many couples hire a Wedding Planner for their event, which alleviates a lot of stress but many take on the responsibility themselves for a cost savings. Either way, it is important to run your wedding-day timeline by your photographer so that they can suggest the appropriate time needed for specific parts of your wedding day based on all your photography needs. If the timeline is crunched, they will have good solutions to how to squeeze in specific shots that are important to you. 

Example #1: A more detail-oriented Bride may LOVE to have all the details in her wedding photographed...her gown, her shoes, her invitation suite, the flowers, the reception room before anyone enters, etc. If so, her photographer will suggest possibly arriving earlier in the day to photograph a lot of the details before you even start the day’s events. This may add an hour to the contracted time, but it will also keep the photographer from missing moments unfolding during important times of the day, too. They may also suggest keeping guests in cocktail hour for an extra 10 minutes as they photograph the reception room untouched. 

Example #2: If the Bride and Groom both have large families, the photographer may suggest adding 20 minutes on to the formal photos after the ceremony. If the Bride and Groom want to get to cocktail hour instead, the photographer may suggest getting some of the shots of Uncle Joe and Aunt Sue at dinner or on the dance floor instead. 

Each wedding is a custom day and your photographer will help you develop your timeline to fit in as many of your desired photos as possible. 

TIP: Be sure to run your wedding timeline by your photographer at least 2 months in advance, even when you have a Wedding Planner. Be sure to communicate what kind of photos are higher priority for you and anything that must be photographed. Your photographer will be sure to set aside the appropriate amount of time within your day.

5. An Investment 

A good investment is something that you pay for now but it grows in value with time, and I believe that wedding photography is the definition of a great investment. You’re investing in memories that will increase with value over time for you as a couple, for your children and for your grandchildren! It is so absolutely worth the cost now so that you may love your wedding photos for a lifetime.

TIP: Be sure to invest in a photographer that you LOVE! Remember that your memories from this day are priceless and hiring someone who can capture it the way you would like is absolutely the best investment! 

Happy Planning,

Mary is a guest writer for Promise Financial.  You can check out more of her work at Mary Otanez Photography