Annoyed Thoughts From a Wiped-Out Photographer

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Okay, people, I am NOT the typical photographer.

Let me explain.

I have shot only two weddings for more than $1,000. Out of more than 20. My average price has been around $600.

I SHOULD be charging about $3500.00.

Sound outrageous?

It's not. It's actually extremely reasonable.

You see, most wedding photographers who are serious about photography use photography as their only source of income. They need to cover their taxes and business costs, as well as any costs incurred providing photography for your wedding. And they need an income that will last them through the dry times, when people are NOT getting married.

A photography budget of $600 or so doesn't even cover the cost of shooting time, let alone the hours they will spend processing digital images. And no good photographer is going to let you see their untouched images, unless they want to commit professional suicide.

A good photographer should be able to charge what he is worth for his services. Many of them have put money out for photography school and equipment that Aunt Josephine can't afford. They are simply not on the same par as your cousin Joey who has a digital camera and takes pictures.

The face of wedding photography is changing, too. If you go to a photojournalistic photographer like me with a list of formal portraits a mile long, you're barking up the wrong tree. I limit my formal portraiture to what can be completed in 20 minutes. If you want the formal portraits, hire a photographer who does them. Photojournalistic photographers hate them.

On the other hand, if you want a photographer to capture the story of your wedding day, you need to be prepared to pay him for his time and effort. Most people have no idea what it takes to capture magazine-like photographs at any given wedding. You put your entire self into it. I weep with the bride and feel nervous with the groom. I die over the rough family spots and lose myself in the dancing - all through the lens of my camera.

Then I go through it again as I process the photos.

The photographer you hire for your wedding lives your life for a day in order to capture your memories.

I know that the wedding market is outrageous right now. It is next to impossible to afford the wedding you always dreamed of. I tell my clients to pick one thing that really matters to them and put the money there. I'm guessing if you're budgeting less than $800.00 for photography, it's probably not what matters most to you.

But for goodness' sake, don't deride good photographers for charging what they need to charge to cover their costs.

I never have charged what I should. Which is why I can't afford to have someone process my photos for me. I love to take pictures. I love my clients. But I only charge costs for travel weddings, and I work with my clients' budgets so they can have the photography they want. I was a bride once. I couldn't afford a photographer. In a way, I think I've been shooting weddings for everyone else to make up for my own disappointment.

From a friendly photographer who understands the photography scene, don't be so contemptible to a wedding photographer that you go to them with an attitude that their prices are outrageous.

Their packages are not just for the six - eight hours you see them on your wedding day (if you see them that long). They charge for the use of their expensive equipment, for their skill and their eye, for their assistants (whom they have to pay) for their travel, for their prints, and for their time - both before and after the wedding.

Consider what you make every week at work, and then add time and a half for the overtime on a weekend.

I am at a point where I have to charge more to continue my photography. My time is worth more to me than it was when I was just doing photography on the side. My daughter needs me full time. I can't afford to pay anyone to babysit her, and I can't afford to have someone process my photos, simply because I don't charge enough to cover those expenses.

So when you go to hire a photographer for your wedding, remember that they have lives too, and they need to support themselves.

That's all for now. My daughter doesn't like me to blog any more than she wants me to edit. And I only get my own satisfaction out of that...

And yes, I know this is a vent.


Heidi said...

Go you! It's about time you put all that in print. I've been thinking for a long time you need to charge more of what you're worth. The wedding market IS outrageous, but the more I see what goes into good photography, the more I think that maybe it's the one area that is priced fairly. Which doesn't mean it's not expensive, but like you said - it's about spending the money on what you want and saving it elsewhere. If pictures are important to people, they need to save the $2-3 K that they are worth. Just my opinion. :-P

PaperYarnGirl said...

Totally agree with you. And after seeing your photography, you're worth every dollar, and then some.

Jessica said...

After seeing your work and what you charge, I'd say that's more than reasonable. When I was shopping photographers a bit, the cheapest was AT LEAST $1500... more like 2-3 grand usually (especially for the photojournalistic type). Which is one of the reasons why I had someone I know do it, because she cut me a good deal. Let's just say it was more than $600 and less than $1000, and I considered that a good deal from a friend.

Two Cats and a Horse said...

Hey Kel, from one photographer to another... you go girl! I wouldn't hesitate to spend $3000 for your level of photography, I'd probably feel good even with $4000. So you should definitely charge more for new clients when you get back into it.

nic said...

Sorry you're running into this. I am forever grateful for all you did for my wedding - because of you I got to have the wedding of my dreams!!!

Kelly Sauer said...

It's not just me - it's the way I hear people talking about it, period. I'm just trying to offer some perspective for people who are looking to hire a photographer.

KSolarisL said...

You and me both dear! I always undercharge for my sewing jobs. I tell them I can do it in 3 hours when it takes me 6. I tell them that I charge $12 or $15 an hour when I should be charging $20. Something I learned last year: Don't try to compete with Walmart. If somebody wants Walmart quality clothing (or pictures) then tell them to get it at Walmart. Simple as that. I'm preaching to myself here.

I think you should keep doing photography... but I suggest you put your prices up on your website. That way a potential client can see it and if they look at it and think "that's way over my budget," then they won't even bother calling you and you won't have to be faced with giving them a quote and hearing about why you should give it to them for less. Just a thought.

Kelly Sauer said...

They're there, dear... this post is a defense of all photographers who must make money.

Heather said...

But a well-deserved and eloquently put vent, nonetheless... :) (I get it...I really do. ;) :P *smile*) ~H

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