… said the wedding blogger as she tipped the worms out of her tin. But no, I’m not trying to rattle any cages or have a big discussion today. A little while ago I read a really thought-provoking comment on my wedding industry blog post and it really got me thinking. This is a question I was asking myself – and with the help of some great friends I like to think we’ve answered it for you.
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.”
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.
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.
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?
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 realise 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.
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?