Wedding Photography: What are you paying for?
Let's be serious, wedding photography is expensive. I totally get that. And let's be specific while we're at it: good wedding photography is expensive. People ask me all the time why wedding photography costs so much, and you know what, I think that is such a legitimate question. If I wasn't doing it for a living, I would also beg the question of cost/value in this industry. Over time, I've had enough people inquire about this that I thought I would just write this blog post to put it all out there and share my thoughts on the matter. : )
It's true that brides can find an inexpensive solution to their photography needs, but that doesn't always mean they aren't paying a high price. Considering that photographs are the only thing that last after the wedding day (besides the marriage itself), these photos are with you for a lifetime.
If you hire an amateur photographer, then you will be living the rest of your life with amateur wedding photos.
For some people that's not a huge deal, in which case, I think it's a great option to go with a non professional photographer. But to other couples, they just haven't really thought about it that way before - lifetime images instead of a one day investment.
If you want photos you will be proud of in 5, 10, 25 years - you are paying a high price by hiring an amateur photographer or family friend.
I fully believe that professional and yes - expensive, photographers are one of the most important investments a couple can make for their wedding day, and here's a few reasons why.
1. Everyone's a photographer, but not everyone's an artist.
You can pay your friend or Uncle Bob or whoever to shoot your photos, but don't underestimate or undervalue the work of an artist's eye.
Look at this image above - there are 5 wedding guests taking photos of the same portrait I (the child-sized one in the picture) am taking. But of these 6+ photographers, which portraits do you think will stand the test of time? Which photos will be the ones the bride & groom are proud of?
Even the wedding guests who have expensive cameras (which is a whole other blog post to itself) - these people have decent equipment but that doesn't mean they have the talent or experience to document your day well.
Don't confuse gear with talent. Don't confuse inexpensive for a bargain. Again, everyone is a "photographer" these days, but that doesn't necessarily mean you should hire them.
2. You want a photographer you connect with. Part of being a good wedding photographer is being relatable, communicative, encouraging, and evocative. You want someone who helps you feel at ease, someone who gives you direction but also lets you be authentic.
90% of photography is seeing, and 10% technical stuff.
You want someone who is gifted at seeing people - really seeing people, noticing their nuances, their quirks, the things that make a couple who they are together. Someone who notices if you are quiet together or if you are silly together. Someone who notices the way you nestle into your groom's arms because to you - he is home. Someone who appreciates love, and all the unique shapes and forms it takes on.
You want someone who is so passionate about your passion, so swept away in the moments and the story of you two, that they can't help but capture it and share it and retell your story over and over again. You want someone who's heart is involved in the art of your day. Someone who knows what it's like to love and to be loved, and who appreciates the victory of a wedding day and the beauty of a marriage.
You want someone who gets love. Someone who gets you. Someone who gets storytelling. This, too, is priceless.
3. Experience is priceless. You are paying for years and years of experience and wisdom when you hire a professional photographer.
I have shot so many weddings that sometimes I think back on it and it makes my head spin. So many couples, so many stories, so many families, so many places I've traveled. I have seen so many wedding day hiccups - dress disasters, hurricanes, lost rings, missing groomsmen, fainting brides, quarreling families. I have navigated those situations with a manner of professionalism and grace that I accredit to God, because looking back I wonder sometimes how I never lost my cool. But now when I encounter similar wedding crises - I take a deep breath and move forward. Because I've been there before.
When you hire a professional photographer, you are paying for the years of experiences we've had, the collection of wisdom we've acquired, and the professionalism and calm it takes to keep your day going smoothly no matter what happens. These characteristics are invaluable on a wedding day.
4. Good gear is expensive! And maintaining and backing it up is even more expensive. This is the most literal reason photography can be pricey.
Professional wedding photographers do not come to your wedding with one camera, one lens, one memory card, and one battery. No. We come with literally 3 time what we could reasonably need for the day.
I have 3 cameras on me at a wedding. Expensive, top of the line cameras. Three of them. One of them never even leaves my car - completely a back up in case something were to happen to my camera during the day. I have so many memory cards I have to put them in little baggies to keep track. 2 flashes. Loads of batteries - all fully charged. I've got lenses for nearly every situation. This doesn't even take into account the computers and hard drives that pro's have at home to ensure the safety of your photos. We're talking about a 15 - 25,000 dollars worth of gear, easily.
5. You want someone who wants to be there. At the end of the day, we wedding pros love our jobs. It's our joy and highest honor to be a part of such an important day. And we come ready to serve.
We've made our lives about celebrating the lives of others. We're built for this. And we do this every weekend because we are good at it, too.
We specialize in the crazy, unpredictable, and hyper emotional events of a wedding day. We want to be at your wedding, we want to spend 8+ hours on our feet doing our best by you. I sometimes wonder if family friend and amateur photogs know what they are getting into when they sign up to do a wedding. The pros know, and we can't wait. We do this for a living because we love it. Nothing beats knowing your vendors want to be there with you.
The bottom line is this: When you hire a friend, or an amateur photographer, you are paying less to have less.
Literally. Less back up = less security for your lifetime photos. Less experience = less wisdom and know-how in tough fast paced situations. Less artistry and talent = less art.
Again, I think it's totally acceptable to hire an amateur / friend photographer. Sometimes it's the only option available to a couple. This post is just to explain to anyone who is iffy on hiring a pro photographer, to help make sure each couple has all the available information and understanding necessary to make an informed decision.
Also, special thanks to Josie & Jesse who have second shot with me and captured all these fun behind the scenes photos. You girls are swell. : )