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Wedding photography prices, how much should it cost?

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It’s the time of year when work quietens down and I get a chance to review my wedding photography prices and packages. I’m currently somewhere in the mid price range for weddings, a typical client might spend £1,200 to £1,500 for full coverage plus a nice album, between £500.00 and £850.00 without an album. I’m aware that some clients look at the prices and think b***** h***, he’s only here for six/eight hours, that’s £xxx.00 an hour! So I thought I’d write a quick explanation of how I calculate my charges and convince you how extremely reasonable they really are.

A decent photographer will spend a lot longer on a wedding than the time that’s been booked. There are initial meetings with the client, normally taking several hours, then phone calls and emails to confirm details, writing contracts, visits to the venue etc. I usually expect to have done a day’s work before I get to the wedding.
On the wedding day itself, normally a Saturday or Sunday, an eight hour booking will probably take ten to twelve hours by the time I have travelled to the venue and allowed plenty of extra time for safety. On returning home there will be another hour or so downloading the cards, then doing two backups to reduce the chances of losing any images if a hard drive fails.
After the wedding comes the post processing. Digital images don’t come out of the camera in a finished state and will always need some work done on them. These can be straightforward colour and density corrections or more time consuming retouching. Once the images are processed they need to be burnt to disc, then sent to printers and album manufacturers. This can take from a day for a fairly short and straightforward shoot, to three days or most of a week for a larger event and an album design.

Good equipment is vital, I need to have top quality camera bodies, lenses, flashguns, studio lights, computers, cases, cables and all of the many accessories to go with them. If you are a responsible professional wedding photographer you make very sure you carry backups as well, so for every item you use, you bring at least one spare, in case the first one packs up in the middle of a ceremony. Equipment also needs to be cleaned and serviced from time to time. This can all get very expensive, especially when you will be replacing most items within two years. I try to work this out as a weekly or monthly cost and spread it fairly between jobs.

It’s not just about having a nice big camera (though actually I do have a very big camera), the first thing that every client is looking for when they are booking a photographer is a style that they like, If you see a photographer who has a record of good work they will have been working long and hard to achieve that look. Good style has to be backed up by technical competence, which also takes time and study to perfect. Anyone who has worked to improve their skills will be looking for some sort of financial return for their effort. It’s hard to put a price on this, but my wedding photography charges have slowly crept up from low to mid range as I think I have more to offer, though I believe I’m still a bit of a bargain!

Album prices can make up a large part of the costs. My current range of albums comes from a top U.S manufacturer, there is a huge range, they look great and the quality is very good. They are not ridiculously expensive but, by the time I have paid for the album and done the design work, they aren’t cheap either. I don’t normally offer the cheaper albums for a couple of reasons: firstly, I give all my clients the digital images after the wedding, so, if they are looking to save some money they can go to Paperchase or somewhere similar and buy an album for £45.00, print their photos from disc and assemble it themselves, the second reason is that I don’t really like cheap albums and don’t think they will do my reputation any good in the long run.

I also take into account all the other expenses involved in running my business, dedicated office space, car, other transport, public liability insurance, accountant, web hosting, online galleries, SEO, advertising etc.

When I’m looking at my charges, I work out what I need to do to keep everything to a high standard and maintain a sustainable business at the same time. Currently, these prices seem about right for me, I won’t be retiring early but I’m making a living. In the ongoing recession I won’t be putting them up for a while, and will be very happy if I keep the same level of bookings that I’ve had this year.

You can always find a cheaper photographer and you can certainly pay a lot more, but I’m offering a level of coverage that I think gives a high standard of service and good value for money. So, if you are getting married and you like my style of photography, please get in touch.

More details of wedding and civil partnership photography here.

Anita Morrison - I read your pricing structure message. Very well done. It is difficult for clients to sometimes see the whole picture (so to speak) as sometimes they really do think it is just for the day. I have put a detailed account of the breakdown for my package on my site as well, hoping to encourage people to look at the whole photographic experience (pre-the day-and post event) rather than just the event of the day.

Plenty of times at a show I hear people tell me that ‘Uncle Joe’ will be taking our pictures, or another friend/relative. While I wish them well with their day, I always try to mention that even though it is a friend/relative taking the pictures – they should really sit down and talk with them beforehand – can’t tell you how many brides have come in to our store with wedding photos with no pictures taken to include below the knees (no full dress effect there) or no portraits (all full body shots) etc. Even though it is a friend/relative that person (even a good amateur) cannot read your mind and rarely covers all the aspects for a good photographic wedding story package.

Here’s hoping that our perseverance will prevail and more people will begin to see and value the whole process.

Best wishes for a great year in photography.

Anita.

DaveP - Thanks for your comment Anita,

I’m still struggling to get my message across, and I’m sure most other wedding photographers are doing the same. One obvious thing I would say to any couple, hoping to get their photos done on the cheap, is to look at a wide selection of the photographer’s work, very carefully. If you don’t really like what they are showing you it’s unlikely you’ll be thrilled with your own wedding photos, however cheap they are. Also if the photographer can’t show you a good portfolio of work, showing whole weddings not just one or two nice shots, then keep on looking. A good photographer has to make sure that coverage of every part of the day is up to a high standard, every time, you can’t go back and do it again.
As you mention, Uncle Joe/Bob/Norman is alive and well and out there with his D700. With more people having access to good photographic equipment at lower prices, there are a huge number of people trying their luck at wedding photography, and many friends and relatives that would love to have a go. Pre-planning and communication between the photographer and the couple before the event can certainly help, but it’s still not going to make up for lack of experience (and technical skill, and artistic talent, and reliability etc. etc.). Some enthusiasts may end up being fantastic photographers, but it’s not a good idea to let them do their training on your wedding day!

Good luck with your next year of photography too. Dave.

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