Ask the Expert: Why Does Wedding Photography Cost So Much? | Wedding Photographer Kansas City
The cultural focus of modern American weddings has shifted dramatically, from planning a wedding around the mere beauty and theme of the ceremony, reception and decorations, to creating an overall wedding experience for the bride, groom, their families and guests. With this shift of focus, it only make sense that wedding vendors would adapt to accommodate what wedding couples desire most. This is most apparent when we examine what wedding vendors include in their packages - and their pricing.
How much does wedding photography cost in Kansas City?
Here in Kansas City, wedding photographers may charge anywhere from $1800 to over $8000, but the majority of professional, in-demand wedding photographers in Kansas City charge between $3000 and $6000 for full day wedding coverage.
Across the United States, the range is a bit more broad, with wedding photography costing between $2500 and $10000. The range may seem large because it is, with some photographers including albums and canvases, while others deliver digital images only. Each photographer has calculated their cost of doing business and their inclusions to determine the amount they will command for each wedding, and location plays a key component in the mix.
Today, I’m answering the admittedly loaded question we see floating around every wedding forum on social media, and the reason so many fresh-faced hobby photographers pop eagerly in to the wedding scene with gusto to advertise the “cheapest wedding rates” in town. Don’t get me wrong! We all start somewhere, and if a professional wedding photographer is not in your budget, then by all means, find the right fit for you! That being said, read on to make sure you fully understand why professionals charge more and what goes into professional wedding photography before you decide to hire a friend who is just starting out. Straight from your resident Kansas City Wedding Photographer expert:
Why Does Wedding Photography Cost So Much?
Let’s be honest: the answer to this question is multi-faceted. Aside from the obvious reason, which is the only items from your wedding which remain in ten, twenty or sixty years are the love you have for each other and your wedding images and films, there is truly much more to wedding photography than meets the eye. This list is far from exhaustive, but here are the 6 top reasons wedding photography costs what it does.
1. Professional wedding photographers spend far more time on your wedding than you might think.
Most professional Wedding photographers spend an average of 40-50 work hours on every single wedding, if not more.
While actual wedding day photography coverage may only last 8-10 hours, your wedding photographer will spend much, much more time on your wedding than you might expect. For every wedding, your photographer will spend an average of 6 hours of administrative work, which will include emails, phone calls, consultations, going over contracts and invoices, and more. Your wedding day photography package may include 8 hours of coverage from start to finish, but your photographer will also have travel time to and from your venue(s), as well as time preparing and cleaning their gear, preparing memory cards, back up cameras, flash equipment, and more. This time is high energy, engaging work, during which your photographer will literally be telling the story of your wedding day, documenting priceless memories with your loved ones and recording the way your love story begins.
If your photographer includes a second photographer, they will also spend time instructing their second photographer, emailing and meeting with them to discuss the wedding day plan and more. If your photographer includes Timeline Planning Assistance, they will also include the time spent to meet with you and talk through your wedding day, then put together your wedding day timeline for you. Many photographers include an engagement session with their wedding packages, which adds another hour of administrative work, travel time and session time, not to mention additional time for culling and editing.
After your wedding day, your photographer will spend a few hours culling your wedding photos to eliminate any photos with blinks, blurs or unflattering images. This takes time because your photographer will go through every single image snapped during your wedding day and determine which are the best of the best. Most photographers deliver approximately 35-40 images per hour of coverage, but in order to reach that number they will pare down the sheer volume of images during the culling process. If your wedding package included two photographers, the number of images to cull is even larger.
Once the images are culled, professional wedding photographers edit all images for white balance, density and color correction. On a select number of images, they may edit further in keeping with their personal style. Many photographers will edit beauty shots of the bride and groom for blemishes before delivery, as well. Once the images are edited, your photographer will finalize and render them into appropriately sized jpegs for delivery. The editing process typically takes between 15-20 solid hours of work, although depending on professional competency and style some photographers may spend less time and some may spend more time on this component.
2. Professional wedding photographers invest in professional grade equipment.
Professional Wedding Photographers use professional grade equipment and have invested thousands upon thousands of dollars to ensure every piece of equipment is capable of handling the rigorous exercise required of wedding photography.
Professional grade camera bodies, lenses, tripods, flash equipment, memory cards, computers, hard drive, and cloud storage are just a few of the basic requirements every wedding photographer needs to deliver quality images from your wedding day. Professional grade camera bodies run a minimum of $1800 per, and most professional wedding photographers choose more advanced camera bodies because they produce better images, which can run upwards of $3000 for a camera body alone. A professional grade lens can cost many hundreds, if not thousands of dollars as well, and most wedding photographers carry at least three or four lenses to every wedding. It is not uncommon for a professional photographer to spend over $10000 on lenses alone.
Wedding photographers who are worth their salt know the gravity of losing someone’s wedding day photos, and they go to great lengths to ensure that they are using the best equipment, and that they are caring for and maintaining their equipment to the best of their ability. This requires regular upkeep and that they send their cameras in to the manufacturer for maintenance every six to twelve months, depending on use. Editing is CPU-intensive work, so wedding photographers must invest in machines which are capable of handling such an intense workload. The Macbook Pro is widely lauded as the wedding photographer’s choice, and an adequately equipped Macbook can easily run over $3500, if not more.
Why share all the numbers? I’m glad you asked. Professional photographers work for themselves, so they are responsible for buying and maintaining all of their own equipment. There is no employer providing a desk and a computer, a phone, etc. Since photographers (and anyone else who is self employed) must eat these costs, they must charge enough to cover these costs, as well as fund the maintenance and inevitable replacement costs.
3. Professional wedding photographers have back-up gear.
A professional photographer knows there is nothing worse that losing photos from someone’s wedding.
One way they combat this incredibly real possibility is by using professional grade cameras which actually write photos onto two separate memory cards. That way, if one card does become corrupted or has an error, they have the backup photo on the second card. Additionally, professional wedding photographers purchase and use two or three cameras, and make sure they have at least one back-up camera (although many wedding photographers will insist on carrying two, just in case.)
Once your wedding day is over, your wedding photographer will immediately back up all of the images from the day. (I back up all my images to my external hard drive on site, as well as to my cloud storage.) Then, they will carefully place the original memory cards back into their cases and save them until they are certain all images have been transferred successfully. In addition, some photographers keep the images on the memory cards until after editing and delivery are completed.
4. Professional wedding photographers pay taxes, fees and expenses, and carry business insurance and professional liability insurance.
Remember: a wedding photographer is not a professional if they do not carry business insurance and are not a registered business which pays taxes.
That may sound harsh, but it’s the truth. There are many hobby and amateur photographers out there, and everyone has to start somewhere! That being said, remember that professional wedding photographers pay their taxes, fees and every other expense associated with running a reputable business. While their fee might seem large at first glance, remember that at least 30% of that is immediately paid to taxes, not to mention their basic business expenses like hourly pay for employees, website and hosting fees, internet, phone, childcare expenses, studio, marketing, advertising, and more.
If, heaven forbid, something were to happen and a camera fell on one of your wedding guests, or a card were corrupted and several hours of your wedding day images were simply gone, a professional wedding photographer would have business insurance in place to help take care of the loss. A hobby or amateur photographer who does not have anything in place would be at a complete personal loss.
5. Professional wedding photographers are ready for anything.
Professional wedding photographers have a plan in place if something were ever to go wrong.
They have been around the block enough times to know that grandma COULD fall and be rushed to the hospital moments before the ceremony is scheduled to begin. They know that the minister COULD have a flat tire en route to the wedding. They know that the bride COULD lose her bouquet, or that their camera COULD suddenly freeze mid-”I do,” or that the best man COULD lose the rings, or the bridesmaids COULD get a little too toasty over mimosas, or their camera strap COULD break, or that it COULD rain, or that the cake COULD fall. (I know, I know. I hear you gasping, “Bite your tongue!”)
But here’s the thing, Love: Every single one of those things has actually happened at a wedding. So, I now carry adequate lighting in case the wedding venue suddenly becomes Grandma’s hospital room. I have the numbers of several florists who could come through in a pinch, if necessary. I keep a back-up camera, as well as a back-up for my back-up. (Say that six times, fast!) Plus a whole host of other little preparations I could never fully list here.
Professional wedding photographers have a contingency plan in place so they are able to roll with whatever shape your big day takes without sacrificing your wedding memories. They have been in the business for many years, and the bottom line is that they have simply seen what can happen, and they plan accordingly. They don’t want any of those things to happen, of course, but experience has taught them that by being prepared, they will have peace of mind and will be able to do their job - preserving the memories of your wedding day - well. Not to mention, it serves their clients, because when the unexpected does happen, they are able to roll with it and help propose solutions to what might otherwise be perceived as disastrous.
6. Professional wedding photographers know exactly what is at stake when it comes to your wedding memories.
The single most important reason wedding photography costs so much is because wedding photographers are responsible for recording your memories, and they are literally documenting your legacy for your family.
At the end of the day, the delicious food will be eaten. The cake will be gone, and the music will fade. You will leave the venue, and the flowers will wilt. Your wedding dress will be boxed away and saved as a keepsake, and the only remnants of your wedding day will be your love for each other - and your memories. Wedding photography is the only tangible record of your wedding memories you can touch and see. Your wedding photos will be poured over by you, your children, your grandchildren, and their children after them. When the memories fade and become distant, shining moments, your wedding photos will remain.
Professional wedding photographers know this, and treat every aspect of their jobs with the highest level of integrity and dedication. They know what is at stake, and they do everything within their power to ensure your cherished memories are protected. They spare no expense or time to make sure they are ready, equipped and prepared to do their job so that you can focus on living your life and enjoying the moment.
With all of the above in mind, does wedding photography pricing make more sense to you now? Let me know in the comments below!