You’re searching for a wedding photographer. Well, let’s talk about the elephant in the room – money.
We all wish we didn’t have to think about it. But here we are.
It’s inevitable that you’ll regularly hyperventilate over how low your stash is getting throughout the wedding planning process. There’s the venue, the food, the cake, the dress, and then comes the photographer!
You go into the meeting with such high hopes until they quote a price. You may be all “Uh, huh. Great,” on the outside, but inside, you’re rage screaming. You just can’t get over that price tag!
So, why are wedding photographers so dang expensive?
It all comes down to figuring out your priorities to answer that question. How much you should spend on a photographer and why you should even invest in a photographer at all, depends on your aspirations for the day.
And to figure that out, you need to know what you’re buying…
What You May Think You’re Buying
“I just need photos to document the day. How hard could that be?”
You may think you’re just purchasing photos. You just need someone to show up, click that button, throw some pictures down on the table, and skedaddle…
“But the photos should look nice. And there shouldn’t be any weird angles. And also, could you photoshop that pimple off my face? Do you know when we should take which photos? Where is the lighting best at our location? Also, I feel super awkward in front of the camera; could you help with that? Wait, what family photos did I want again?”
If a literal documentation of the day is truly all you require, you could get some throw-away cameras and have your guests take the photos, or why not hire a cheap photographer? People do this, and some are very happy with the simplicity.
But you know what? These are the people who are also fine if most of the photos of the bride are blurry, have subpar lighting, or are weirdly focused on Uncle Rod’s double chin. Are you these people?
If not, and you’re looking for something more than a collection of iPhone photos and a whole lot of guest selfies, then let’s talk about what you’re actually buying…
What You’re Actually Paying for…
You’re buying that look in his eye, the way the light hit her flowers as she was walking down the aisle, or how he couldn’t hold it together anymore once he saw you.
You’re buying that dance with your dad, and the moment he started to cry. That perfect shot of you holding hands with your mom, and the absolute joy bursting from your best friend’s face.
Honestly, you’re not buying pictures. You’re investing in life.
These aren’t just photos to be kept in a box somewhere, never to be looked at again. They are a story – your story.
They’re not just some posed shots of gatherings of relatives. No, you’re paying to have the most beautiful moments of your life captured authentically. You’re counting on someone to pick up on all of the little things that make your day special.
The glance you gave your partner will look genuine because it was. The way you two were holding hands will look natural because that’s how the moment played out.
When you open your wedding album, years from now, your kids will be peering over your shoulder, looking at all of those special moments, and they won’t see awkward smiles and uncomfortable poses. They won’t be distracted by poor lighting and inferior framing. They’ll be whisked away in the story of your wedding day.
When you look back on these photos, you’ll see life. Real, whole, messy, beautiful life, and nothing less.
If this is what you want, you’re not just buying pictures now are you?
Need Vs. Want
Now, let’s reiterate that you don’t need professional shots. You don’t need any of it. All you need to get married is a signed piece of paper and a trip to the courthouse.
But if you WANT a wedding, you’re choosing to spend money on a big event. If you want the cake, the aisle, the dress, and all your friends and family surrounding you, then you want to mark this day with a bang.
So, if you’re investing so much into one day, you might want to consider the value of the images that will forever capture it.
Memories are not accurate. Our recollection of even the most critical moments in our lives change, morph, and fade. Our ability to recount the way we felt and why often falls short.
But with story-driven images, like those of your dream photographer, all of that is communicated for you. You are gifted the magical ability to bring the past into the present and share that joy well into the future.
Again, none of this is necessary. You don’t need any of it. But if you want it, well, you’re going to have to pay for it.
Understanding the Invaluable
Once you understand the value of a professional wedding photographer, you’re probably backing away from your initial question by now.
Now you know, you’re not really buying photos or a photographer’s time. You’re buying their ability to tell your story, and that talent is not cultivated overnight!
Years of trial and error, proactive learning, and digging deep into their own style brought them to this moment. The very moment you discovered their website and immediately got that knot in your stomach telling you that you have to have them shoot your wedding.
Maybe you didn’t know why you felt that way, but now you do. You want your story communicated in their style. That’s it.
But money is real, and you have to be smart about it. Ugh, adulting.
The Question You Should Be Asking
So let’s land here. Now that you know why you want a wedding photographer and why they are so valuable, ask yourself how much you can feasibly set aside for their talent.
Like all financial decisions, this should take some real thought, unless money is not an issue for you of course.
You may have to comb through your entire wedding budget while you’re working through this question. Weigh everything against your desire to get photos that genuinely capture your love story.
Maybe you shave off a few dollars here, cut a few items there, or perhaps it will lead you to ultimately question how you’re planning your big day in the first place!
There are plenty of people who opt-out of the big white wedding to afford the photographer that they love. In an ideal world, you’d get everything and anything your heart could want but reality demands compromise.
You may have to forgo inviting that friend of your work-friend (what’s their name again?). Perhaps you’ll have to serve the chicken instead of the lobster or skip the Save the Dates.
You may even consider an elopement or more intimate nuptials to allow you the freedom to allocate more money toward your wedding photography.
Listen, it’s not for everyone, and not every couple wants the same things from their photographs or their wedding day.
After spending some time here, maybe you’ll decide that photography is not that important to you. Or maybe it’s become the most important thing.
So, now you know why a professional photographer is so expensive.
It’s not about the 10+ hours of additional time put in after your 8-hour wedding for editing. It’s not about the insurance they need to have to shoot on location or the additional insurance they need on their equipment.
Oh yeah, and it’s not the tens of thousands of dollars worth of gear they’ve invested in so they can deliver the best photos to you. Nor is it really about all the classes, workshops, and education they’ve pursued to set up their business.
Forget the 25% income tax and memory cards and backup memory cards. Forget, the weight of carrying all of your important memories.
No, it’s not the emailing, advertising, social media marketing, and the hours upon hours that it takes to run your own business.
Ok, maybe all of that does contribute to that extortionate quote in the meeting we mentioned earlier…
But now you know the truth.
Photographers are so expensive because they are storytellers. They have the magical ability to stop time and simultaneously extend it into forever. They are healers, connecting you with those you’ve lost through moments captured in time.
If all we have in this life is time, time with the people we love, then photographers should be worth far more than they’re asking you to pay. They’re offering you the ability to extend that time, to hold it in your hand, and to pass it on to others.
So when someone asks you why you’re spending so much on your wedding photography, let them know it’s a bargain considering the priceless magic you’re getting in return!