I have spoken to clients who shortly after beginning the conversation say something like “why do some photographers charge so much just because it’s a wedding”. That line was said by another photographer, not a wedding photographer but someone who specialises in capturing images of prototype cars and will obviously remain nameless.
This is a common view after all we turn up for a couple of hours and then go home so its easy money isn’t it. Well the time to actually take your photographs is just the tip of the iceberg albeit an important bit.
So let’s begin with the list of equipment needed. Check anywhere on the web and any professional wedding photographer will double up on their equipment or even triple it. For the sake of argument in this case lets just double up. So we need two digital SLR cameras. Lenses ranging from at least 24mm to 200mm and these will in all likelihood be fast and expensive lenses with a 2.8 aperture. Most will also have a wide angle lens in their too, two good flashes, memory cards, extra batteries and something to put it all in. That’s the bare minimum. Total cost = £4260 but don’t take my word for it go to any online camera dealer and add this stuff up for yourself and I was being conservative and not buying the main dealers own lenses. One camera alone can cost over £5000 check prices on the Canon EOS 1Ds Mk III.
We now need a computer to process all our images on with a decent monitor. We will also need a colour calibrator to ensure our monitor colour is correct. I can build myself a decent desktop computer for £400, an average monitor will be £300 and the hardware to calibrate my monitor screen will be £135 for the Eye One Display 2. So that’s another £835.
Great so we have our bare essential equipment for a wedding. Now we need to find some customers. So we need a website, web hosting, advertising etc as well but let’s not even think about the cost of that.
So, the day of the wedding arrives. You spent a couple of hours the night before checking and cleaning your equipment, charging batteries checking the route to the venue checking to see if there has been any last minute changes to the day and your ready. Let’s not think about the day but let’s say it’s a whole day’s coverage from 10.00 AM for the bridal preparation to 8.30 PM to capture the first dance. So 10.5 hours of your time plus the 2 hours prep last night total so far 12.5 hours.
Time to go home but your job isn’t over yet so straight on the computer at home to backup the 16 Gb of pictures you have taken and then burn them to 4 or 5 DVDs to make sure they are safe. Another 1.5 hours and then to bed for a good sleep and boy will you need it.
We need to get the wedding proofs to the happy couple and as you have taken all the pictures in RAW you will need to convert them to jpeg and reduce them in size. You’ll probably want to check exposure and white balance etc. So how long for this bit. With 1000 pictures, easily a couple of hours or more and then we need to burn the whole lot onto CD and get it to the couple. Cost off this depends if you post it or take it by hand. But it costs time and money.
Two weeks later the couple call you again to let you know what a wonderful job you have done and they have decided they want 56 of the photographs. Now at this point I can only talk about myself but I like to go through and process each picture as a separate project. I then look at each one and decide if it would look good in black and white or sepia. Add some digital effects, crop here, crop there so on and so forth. It takes me from 25 to 40+ hours to complete that work. I don’t like to rush but prefer to take my time.
So the happy couple get their final proofs and they love them. The wedding album is the next biggest cost for photographers. I am assuming the couple just want a nice traditional wedding album with their pictures mounted in it. If they wanted a Queensbury Album I would have to site down using different software and design the pages. How long this takes can very hugely. But in this case we just need to get the picture ready for printing. Where you have your picture printed depends on what you do to them next. I have to assign a specific custom profile, set the DPI correctly and finally sharpen them for printing. More time and then upload them to the printers ftp server. That takes 2 to 3 hours but I can leave the computer to do that.
Three days later and the prints arrive looking just perfect. I now just have to place 56 photographs into a wedding album. Measure each page etc and then finally mount the photograph in place, 56 times! That’s another 3 to 4 very long hours. Deliver to the bride and groom, job done, easy.
Total cost of equipment to do this wedding = £5095
Total time invested in wedding = 56 working hours
So how much is that worth? Remember to factor in the costs of printing, albums (quality albums are very costly but high quality), mounts, postal charges; fuel and insurance have to be factored in by the photographer. If the cost sounds too good to be true then it probably is.