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Does Wedding Photography Seem Expensive to You?

By Claire
Does wedding photography seem expensive to you?

Photo credit: Fiona Camp­bell Lon­don

Under­stand­ing wed­ding pho­tog­ra­phy prices

Let me start at the begin­ning. I was intrigued by a blog com­ment about wed­ding pho­tog­ra­phy pric­ing from the lovely Fiona Camp­bell. Fiona Camp­bell is a respected Lon­don wed­ding pho­tog­ra­pher whose work has fea­tured in Vogue and across top wed­ding blogs. Fiona shoots wed­dings in the UK and Europe, and her 2012 prices start from £1750 for wed­ding pho­tog­ra­phy. Fiona com­mented that many brides and grooms expect to find a top wed­ding pho­tog­ra­pher for £1000 — but that often they’re sur­prised by prices closer to £2000.

Is £2000 expen­sive for wed­ding photography?

Fiona’s blog com­ment made some inter­est­ing points:

  • A wed­ding photographer’s work has to be 100% right every sin­gle time
  • We can­not have an off day, because our off day is some­one else’s big day”
  • Wed­ding pho­tog­ra­phers work week­ends and have high overheads

On Fiona’s web­site she also explains that “a large vol­ume of back­room work goes on behind the scenes and this is reflected in the price” for her wed­ding pho­tog­ra­phy. And this is the part I think cou­ples often need help to really appreciate.

Fiona believes that wed­ding plan­ners could play an impor­tant role in rais­ing aware­ness of wed­ding pho­tog­ra­phy pric­ing — and in edu­cat­ing cou­ples “in how to get what is right for them, what to expect and how much they should expect to pay for it. I think it is only by strength­en­ing the role of the plan­ners that you will strengthen the indus­try.… a plan­ner knows who they like to work with and who will do a good job, and they know what is reason­able to pay them.

wedding photograph

Photo credit: Fiona Camp­bell Lon­don

Rais­ing aware­ness of wed­ding pho­tog­ra­phy pricing

It makes sense: a wed­ding plan­ner will have worked with dif­fer­ent pho­tog­ra­phers and under­stand the prices and options avail­able to brides and grooms. I also appre­ci­ate that many wed­ding pho­tog­ra­phers aren’t com­fort­able sell­ing or hav­ing to jus­tify their prices — and that’s fair enough. If you’re cre­ative, you’re prob­a­bly not a born sales­man or woman!

I asked my friend Julie from The Wed­ding Genie her thoughts on wed­ding plan­ners ‘edu­cat­ing’ cou­ples about the price of wed­ding pho­tog­ra­phy. Julie’s response was to focus on the bride and groom: in a nut­shell, the wed­ding plan­ner’s role is to help source the best sup­pli­ers, at the best prices, for each couple’s budget.

wedding photo

Wed­ding photo credit: Jo Hast­ings (wed­ding planned by The Wed­ding Genie)

The role of the wed­ding planner

When I emailed Julie — my Wed­ding Genie! (seri­ously — I love her!) — she’d just met with a recently-engaged cou­ple. She told me, “One of the first things I asked them was what were their pri­or­i­ties for their plan­ning. What do they cat­e­gor­i­cally have to have to make their wed­ding day as won­der­ful as they imag­ine it to be?

Pho­tog­ra­phy was high on their list but they had been talk­ing to recently mar­ried friends and could not believe the cost involved. In their heads they thought about £500 –600. They started to look and found noth­ing really in that cat­e­gory. They don’t like the very arty con­tem­po­rary shots but wanted some­one to cap­ture their day and their per­son­al­ity and have lovely images. They loved the idea of reportage; they did not want to spend hours being posed or spend hours with for­mal shots.

A wed­ding planner’s respon­si­bil­ity to couples

My role I think here was to explain why a pho­tog­ra­pher costs this much and what they do for their money. In reply to Fiona’s com­ment, I agree it’s up to us to edu­cate our clients. BUT even for me there is a cer­tain ceil­ing that I think every­day cou­ples can pay for their pho­tog­ra­pher. I am employed to make sure that this lovely cou­ple spend their money on the right peo­ple, and get the right pack­age that suits them. All cou­ples are dif­fer­ent: some are not that inter­ested in pho­tog­ra­phy so it’s my role to help them bud­get for their own pri­or­i­ties. We have sin­gled pho­tog­ra­phy out here but it could just be the case for edu­ca­tion in other areas such as flow­ers etc.

The real value of wed­ding sup­pli­ers: a per­sonal thing

I don’t meet cou­ples on a daily basis who have £15-20k to spend on a wed­ding. When cou­ples are sur­prised by wed­ding sup­plier prices it’s part of my role to explain the value of great sup­pli­ers and why they are this much. For exam­ple I was asked to look for a par­tic­u­lar group the cou­ple had seen at a func­tion and they were bril­liant, the price was £900: to me an excel­lent price for the cal­i­bre of enter­tain­ment. My clients’ first reac­tion was, “oh my god that’s £300 for a cou­ple of hours work”. I then had to advise them that yes, 2 x 45 minute ses­sions was what they were deliv­er­ing but they have to travel to the venue and per­haps set up two or three hours before the gig and then take an hour to pack at the end. I also showed a sim­i­lar group for £550 and the cou­ple came back straight away say­ing “ah yes I can see what I am pay­ing for”.

Julie’s advice opened my eyes to lots of things. A wed­ding plan­ner can cer­tainly help cou­ples to under­stand prices for sup­pli­ers — and an expe­ri­enced plan­ner can guide you to choose the best wed­ding ven­dors within your bud­get. If there are ser­vices such as pho­tog­ra­phy which seem expen­sive, then a plan­ner can help to show you why, and talk through pri­or­i­ties with you to aid you in mak­ing the right deci­sion for you.

Julie added, “It is not a wed­ding planner’s role to sell indi­vid­ual pho­tog­ra­phers: it’s up to them to por­tray to my client why they are charg­ing that price. As long as my clients go and see them with enough infor­ma­tion I feel I’ve helped them to make an informed deci­sion. Every­one I send my cou­ples to is a superb pro­fes­sional with prices that I think are fair, good value and worth their ser­vice. Most expen­sive is in my opin­ion is not the best nor is the cheap­est, it is what is right for them. I rec­om­mend peo­ple who will pro­duce what they say they will and make the wed­ding jour­ney a really good one. I teach my clients that it is all about this and work­ing with car­ing, tal­ented peo­ple who will make their day spe­cial. You do have to pay for that level of ser­vice.”

I love Julie’s per­spec­tive. A wed­ding plan­ner can share their own insight into pho­tog­ra­phers’ pric­ing, but ulti­mately it’s up to the wed­ding pho­tog­ra­pher to por­tray why they’re charg­ing a cer­tain amount. 

And that’s what it all boils down to. Wed­ding pho­tog­ra­phers charge dif­fer­ent prices across the coun­try, for dif­fer­ent styles and expe­ri­ence lev­els. I could try to break down the basic price of wed­ding pho­tog­ra­phy and jus­tify it (I may even do so with the help of a cou­ple of pho­tog­ra­phers… you never know!) but it’s not about that.

In my mind I was mulling over the price of Tesco’s finest vs designer t-shirts. It’s a sim­i­lar story with huge vari­a­tions in price for a bit of mate­r­ial, print, stitch­ing, pack­ag­ing and mar­ket­ing. The cost price to the man­u­fac­tur­ers will be sim­i­lar for the two t-shirts. But the value of each one is down to per­cep­tion: your perception.

future of vintage bridal shoot

Photo credit: Jonny Draper

If wed­ding pho­tog­ra­phy seems expen­sive to you, read this

I asked Man­ches­ter wed­ding pho­tog­ra­pher Jonny Draper for his thoughts on the price of wed­ding pho­tog­ra­phy. When he emailed them to me, I replied, “You beauty. Thanks Jonny — a bril­liantly writ­ten response that cov­ers every­thing swish­ing around in my head… it’s com­mon sense but beau­ti­fully argued.” See what you think!

Do cou­ples need wed­ding pho­tog­ra­phy prices explain­ing to them? Are pho­tog­ra­phers’ prices really com­pli­cated to understand?

Jonny Draper — “I don’t actu­ally think I’ve got the defin­i­tive answer for you — because I don’t think it actu­ally exists! I think the prob­lem is that as with any­thing cre­ative, every­thing around pho­tog­ra­phy is so subjective.

What is the ‘per­fect’ photograph?

And if it is the ‘per­fect’ pho­to­graph is it worth 100 times more than any other pho­to­graph that’s ever been taken?

groom in crisp white shirt

Photo credit: Jonny Draper Pho­tog­ra­phy

The answers to those two ques­tions are:

1) There’s no such thing. It’s only per­fect to the peo­ple that it needs to be per­fect to. Whether that’s the pho­tog­ra­pher real­is­ing a vision or a bride and groom ecsta­tic as this par­tic­u­lar pho­to­graph cap­tures every­thing about their amaz­ing day.

2) Prob­a­bly not. No mat­ter how much the bride and groom love this par­tic­u­lar pho­to­graph, they are unlikely to pay a pre­mium for it. No mat­ter how much the pho­tog­ra­pher thinks it’s the best pho­to­graph in the world, he’s unlikely to be able to demand 100 times the price that he would nor­mally charge.

(Please under­stand that I’m mak­ing a cou­ple of very sweep­ing and gen­er­alised state­ments that are in no way meant to spark argu­ments about tech­ni­cal aspects of per­fect pho­tog­ra­phy, etc.)

We’re all dif­fer­ent so we value wed­ding pho­tog­ra­phy differently

So where does this leave us? I think it leaves us with the same old prob­lem. Dif­fer­ent peo­ple attach dif­fer­ent val­ues to dif­fer­ent things. In life, not just in wed­dings! Some peo­ple like to drive round in expen­sive cars. Oth­ers see cars as an ‘It gets me from A to B’ type thing, so why would they spend a for­tune on the car itself, the tax, the insur­ance, the fuel, etc. when they can run some­thing for a quar­ter of the price.

With wed­dings, some peo­ple find the venue the most impor­tant thing. That’s where the major­ity of the bud­get goes and what­ever they’re left with gets divided up between the other things they need. Other peo­ple love flow­ers, some love live music and for some it’s pho­tog­ra­phy. Some brides and grooms are lucky enough that they can afford all the things that they want, but I sus­pect for the pur­poses of this con­ver­sa­tion we’re not look­ing at brides and grooms that have an end­less budget…

The deci­sion to spend on your wed­ding pho­tog­ra­phy is all yours

So what if pho­tog­ra­phy isn’t the most impor­tant thing to a bride and groom? How do you make them realize just how impor­tant it is? Sadly, in an unreg­u­lated indus­try, I don’t think you can. You can try to ‘edu­cate’ brides and grooms when they come to see you about poten­tially shoot­ing their wed­ding, but for me per­son­ally, when I meet peo­ple, I don’t want to scare­mon­ger them into book­ing me. I want them to book me because they want to book me. And if I’m out of their bud­get, then I try to intro­duce them to some­one who I know is a great pho­tog­ra­pher, but is within their budget.

The real value of a wed­ding photographer

I’m very lucky in that all my brides and grooms value what they’re pay­ing me for. But I think that comes down to a whole dif­fer­ent thing.

It’s about who you’re work­ing with, other great sup­pli­ers whose work is amaz­ing and is highly val­ued (I’m not talk­ing nec­es­sar­ily about high-end, expen­sive sup­pli­ers, I’m talk­ing about excit­ing, inspi­ra­tional sup­pli­ers who get their brides and grooms excited about all aspects of their day and not just the part that they’re being paid for).

Lis­ten to advice from your friends and family

Once you break into a cir­cle of friends or fam­ily and do a few wed­dings for the same sets of peo­ple, it’s amaz­ing the sto­ries you hear. “Wow. My sister’s wed­ding last year was a night­mare because of the pho­tog­ra­pher, etc. I wish we’d found you for theirs as well — let me intro­duce you to my friends who are get­ting married…”

If you do a great job for dis­cern­ing peo­ple (and again, by dis­cern­ing I don’t mean dis­cern­ing in a big spend­ing kind of way, dis­cern­ing in an ‘everything’s impor­tant to us’ kind of way) then they will do the edu­cat­ing of their friends and fam­ily for you.

A break­down of wed­ding pho­tog­ra­phy prices?

I could do the break­down thing for you, why I charge £2k as a start­ing point, what that cov­ers (expenses, edit­ing time, what my images actu­ally cost per pho­to­graph once you divide my fee between the num­ber of images I take, etc.) but I have to be hon­est — it’s because I think what I do for my clients is worth it. Sim­ple as.

Does wedding photography seem expensive to you?

I had a phone call recently from a bride enquir­ing as to my avail­abil­ity for a date. The next ques­tion from her was obvi­ously about money and she was very sur­prised when I told her the basic fig­ures. She asked me why I’m so expen­sive. I told her I didn’t think I was expen­sive for the time, level of ser­vice my brides and grooms receive, the qual­ity and cre­ativ­ity of the work I shoot for them.

I had a meet­ing with a bride and groom last night who told me that they didn’t have a bud­get for wed­ding pho­tog­ra­phy. It was very impor­tant to them, so they weren’t cloud­ing their head with num­bers, they just wanted to see great work, find some­body that they got on with and they were pre­pared to pay appro­pri­ately to get that. Two very dif­fer­ent con­ver­sa­tions with two peo­ple who had two very dif­fer­ent out­looks on things.

Which is why I don’t think you can edu­cate peo­ple across the board. Yep, you’ll always hear the ‘I wish we’d used more of our bud­get on the pho­tog­ra­phy as we’re so dis­ap­pointed with what we got’ sto­ries, but at the time of those brides and grooms mak­ing their deci­sion and pay­ing out money before their wed­ding there’s no way you’ll be able to change their mind! What hope­fully hap­pens as a result of that, is that their friends and fam­ily learn from their mis­takes and don’t go down that route themselves.”

My huge thanks to Jonny Draper — for shar­ing his (very elo­quent!) thoughts for this blog post. Thanks also to Fiona Camp­bell for spark­ing a great lit­tle thought process for me! And to Julie Daw­son aka The Wed­ding Genie for shar­ing her thoughts from a planner’s perspective.

To every­one read­ing this blog post: I’d love to know your thoughts on the price and value of wed­ding pho­tog­ra­phy. Do you agree with Fiona, Julie and Jonny?

And what about my com­par­i­son to designer clothes? Do you wear George, Ware­house or Gucci? And does your wed­ding pho­tog­ra­pher match your t-shirt?

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