Thursday, August 11, 2011

Wedding Photography



It seems like everybody these days has a digital camera.  Which makes everyone, to some degree or another, a photographer, right?  I mean ... a photographer is simply someone who takes pictures with a camera.  And digital has made it so much easier to just jump right in.  The cost barrier for equipment is lower.  With instantaneous feedback, the learning curve is much flatter. Pressing the button doesn't cost much more than some "digital space" on your cheap memory card and ultimately on your low cost 1Terabyte hard drive.

SO WHY DOES WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY STILL COST SO MUCH?!?

I think the biggest disconnect in wedding photography is the realization of just how much time is involved.  Digital makes it seem so easy.  But is it really?

Here, let's break it down a bit.  First we'll look at time for a simple wedding (including engagements):
  • 1 hour 
    • pre-wedding (multiple conversations by phone, by emails, handling calendar, etc)
  • 12 hours (engagements)
    • 1 hour consultation (where to go, what to wear, things to do, what time to be there, arrangements with the location when necessary, etc)
    • 1 hour getting the gear ready (charging all of the batteries, cleaning the sensors, wiping the memory cards, making sure the bags are packed, packing the gear into the car) 
    • 2 hour engagement session, 
    • 1 hour for drive time (total, counting to and from the location)
    • 1 hour downloading the images, loading them into Lightroom, unpacking the car
    • 1 hour culling the images
    • 3 hours processing the images
    • 2 hours uploading, re-sizing, backing up, sending out email notifications, posting on Facebook, tagging, updating the accounting journal and mileage log, etc.
  • 3 hours invitations
    • 1 hour consultation 
    • 1 hour designing invitations 
    • 1 hour ordering, receiving, delivering
  • 4 hours prints
    • 1 hour consultation / handling the receiving of the print order
    • 2 hours editing, uploading / placing the print order
    • 1 hour receiving and delivering of the prints
  • 32 hours (wedding)
    • 1 hour getting the gear ready (more batteries to charge, cleaning the sensor, wiping all of the memory cards, testing the flashes, packing the studio lights if necessary, etc)
    • 1 hour drive time (total, to and from the location)
    • 8 hours wedding (arrive early, get detail pictures of the location, getting ready pictures, candids of guests arriving, wedding ceremony, family portraits, newlywed pictures, reception guests and activities, stay until the couple leaves, then clean up all the gear and pack it all back into the car)
    • 2 hours unpack the car, download the memory cards, load images into Lightroom, back everything up (and breath a sign of relief before heading to bed, usually around 1am)
    • 4 hours culling the images (that is finding the very best images of the 2000 or so images captured)
    • 12 hours processing the images
    • 4 hours categorizing, uploading, resizing, backing up, sending out email notifications, posting on Facebook, tagging, updating accounting journals for money received, mileage logged, etc.
  • 8 hours prints (much, much longer for albums)
    • 1 hour consultation / handling the receiving of the print order
    • 6 hours editing, uploading / placing the print order
    • 1 hour receiving and delivering of the prints

So all together we're already at a time investment of 55 hours (more than a full week's worth of 8 hour days)  just to handle a simple wedding with just engagement pictures, invitations, prints and no bridals or formals, no wedding slide show, no wedding CD and no wedding album.

What about time spent marketing so that you can get the wedding in the first place?

What about.... education (conferences, seminars, get togethers), time spent learning new techniques (photographic techniques, photoshop, Lightroom, etc), time spent networking with other professionals to learn what they do?  Have you factored that in to your overhead?

How about time spent doing taxes?  Remember sales tax is due quarterly.  You'll need time to prepare those taxes as well as the yearly crunch in April.

How much is your time worth?  Are you charging enough to cover your "time" costs for a wedding?

All of the above ignores the more obvious costs of equipment, such as:
  • $2500 - main camera
  • $2500 - backup camera (he who shoots a wedding with only 1 camera is bound for disaster)
  • $3000 - lenses (24-70, 70-200, macro, wide angle, etc)
  • $2000 - lights, light stands, umbrellas, remotes, sandbags, battery packs, batteries, etc
  • $3000 - computer, monitor, multiple disk drives (cameras have a voracious appetite for disk space)
The above ignores other money items like printers, studio lights, backdrops, desks, location costs (light, heating, rent), sales tax, income tax, social security tax, etc.  If you are more than a one-man-team then there is also the costs paying for assistants or employees.

It also ignores maintenance costs.  It seems like the more equipment you have, the more equipment you'll need to repair (ever drop a lens, a camera, a light, an umbrella?).  Mechanical parts wear out, the shutters are only good for about 150K pictures and if you're shooting 2K images per wedding, it won't take long to get there.

And all of this completely ignores what most people think are the "main" costs of a photography business... you know ... paying for a CD to put the images on, your up front costs for prints and albums and that nice boutique packaging you deliver them in, etc.

So what does it really cost to photograph a wedding?  Probably a lot more than you initially imagined.  And probably a lot more than what that low cost photographer is offering to shoot a wedding for (and he's probably only that low because he is still new and all of the above hasn't yet sunk in ... when it does, he will either raise his prices or quit).

Just remember ... you generally get what you pay for, and wedding photography is no exception.

5 comments:

Marcus said...

Do you have insurance for your business? If so, what kind and what are the costs like?

David Terry said...

Shoot, I totally forgot to mention insurance.

I used to use Hill & Usher. Currently looking for a new insurance company.

Mark B said...

Thanks David, you said a lot in this post, I think my last time estimates were a little low. By the way, get an insurance quote from Curt Ripplinger 801-921-0141, he had a good price and seems to know what he is doing and wrote my last policy.

Derico Photography said...

I may link this over from my blog or facebook just because you summed it up SO nicely.

Anonymous said...

Well said! What a perfectly explained post for the costs of wedding photography!