When a newly engaged couple looks online at pricing and packages for a wedding, it’s no wonder there can be so much confusion about what to pay vs. what they are getting. The common price range for most wedding photo packages is from $1200-3500, but can often range from $500-7500 for customized needs. (Granted, most people understand wedding photo packages often include things like a tip for the photographer, photobook albums, photo CD’s, prints, online galleries, and other add-on benefits so I will not address those here as they are usually itemized for the client). So, to clarify the rest, and to help manage costs, let’s look at a few commonly misunderstood pricing and photo package expenses…
Your main cost with wedding photography is, of course, the labor itself. What is not always understood is that this is not just the labor for the wedding day itself, but also the many, many hours in editing the photos (or video) after the big day. For example, a premium wedding photography service that utilized two or more shooters at the wedding and reception, which yielded thousands of photos, and meticulously edits each usable photo to magazine quality, it may take as much as two weeks or more to complete the editing. A more standard wedding photo package, for example, a single shooter, and one thousand photos, it may take a week or more. This type of labor must be considered in the pricing as it is, by far, the photographers largest expense in both time and money.
Most wedding couples understand there are expenses to the photographer for travel costs to the wedding venue/s but it’s always worth mentioning, especially for a wedding that may have multiple locations for the pre-ceremony events, the ceremony itself, and the reception or afterparty. If this includes booking flights or ferries, you can be sure there is a fee for protecting valuable photo gear and production equipment during transportation from impact damage, inclement weather, and even theft. These can be devastating expenses to a photography business if not covered.
Another often overlooked cost is the booking and prep work the photographer incurs even before the big day arrives. Cleaning cameras, lenses, filters, charging batteries, readjusting camera packs for a select set of lenses and camera bodies, calendar updates and scheduling that usually opens that entire day for the wedding, (which means holding off other business for that day), and of course answering the myriad of important questions needed to customize the photo package.
There is also the expense of hiring a second shooter and managing their work, and working closely with the wedding director to set the times and locations of the photo shoots, or for specific angles the couple desires.
Often, there is also time spent in looking over the wedding venue for power outlets, window lighting, and even taking into consideration the inside color of the location. For example, if the location is a church with a light colored paint on the walls and ceiling, you often can simply use a single flash or use natural ambient lighting. However, if the inside is a dark wood grain that has very low reflectivity, you will almost certainly need extra lighting or strategically placed lights to capture the almost constant movement without blurred image results.
As an experienced wedding photographer and videographer, I often incur a considerable amount of time spent engaging the location owner, host, or manager on specific ‘house rules’ or needs. For example, many Catholic churches do not allow people to be inside the altar area during a service. As disappointing as that news usually is, it means we must tell the wedding couple I cannot provide photos from that angle. Photographers may even be told that they must only use certain isles or, GULP, back-of-the-room locations only. Under these conditions, the photographer will certainly have to adjust what lenses, lighting, and cameras they use to overcome these limitations. Another common example is, in certain outdoor venues, there are rules about running power cords, and even leaving equipment cases in the open, and a crucial time schedule in which the participants must be out before the next event arrives the same day. These type of time and equipment management can take hours, if not days, of time and expense to organize and prepare.
Other expenses include liability insurance, suit or tuxedo rentals, production assistants for moving equipment cases, running projection screens or backing up photo cards. All of these expenses must be considered long before the photoshoot begins. So how can the wedding client save money on buying photo packages? Here are a few key tips…
1. If you want video as well as photos for the wedding, ask about combining a photo + video package from the same service. This can often save the newlyweds $1K on separate services alone.
2. Always make sure you are getting an online proof gallery to pick your choice prints. There you are able to see and choose which exact photos you want printed, mounted and/or framed without paying extra for photos you really do not need.
3. Make sure the wedding venue has good lighting for those crucial photos. Formal photos and ceremony shots require good lighting to keep them sharp without motion blur. There is nothing worse than having to pay for blurred images simply because the venue’s lights were turned down, or not up, during the ceremony. A simple mention to the venue’s host or manager can save the entire photoshoot from disaster, and lower costs to the couple because they do not have to pay for unnecessary extra lighting.
4. Put your wedding director into action! It’s a surefire way to cause a wedding day glitch by not coordinating the wedding director and the photographer. Most are experienced enough to do this collaboration by default, but I have seen this occur more than once. It usually results in the venue manager hounding the director or wedding couple they are running behind schedule and may need to make changes on the fly, or even forgo a late event.
5. Beware of Bridezilla! We’ve all seen them. The bride or mother that blows up at the friends and family helping, the venue staff, vendors, over things that sometimes just can’t be helped. It’s not always their fault. It’s a stressful event, cold feet, financial fears, and a year’s worth of time and effort can thin the nerves of even the most steely-eyed person. But this can really cause what ultimately is a case of shooting oneself in the foot by not letting the director do their job, or having a good friend or close family member close by to act as emotional support for the bride. This can cause huge lapses in time well spent preparing or getting people in the right places at the right time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this cause missed shots and skipped events that were scheduled near the end of the reception or immediately after the ceremony. Always remember, venues may charge for ‘overtime’ if the director can’t keep the wedding on schedule. Photographers also have to charge for that extra hour on location.
So, while there are plenty of costs that lead to the price of a professional photo package for your wedding, these are some of the most common ones that are not always apparent to the wedding client. If you’re a wedding photographer or newly engaged couple with questions about ‘what to expect’ in preparation for your wedding, please feel free to contact Star Path Images Photo & Video, as we are always happy to help!