I'm sure you have noticed that there hundreds of photographers out there, and the price difference between them can be enormous. So you may be asking yourself – why are some of them so expensive?
Let me start by saying that in the UK, the average price for a wedding photographer is £1560. So with that in mind, the question you probably should be asking yourself is actually – why are some of them so cheap??
The answer to this is quite simple... most of the 'cheap' photographers are terrible.
They are usually someone who managed to take a few lucky snaps with their phone, went out and bought an entry level DSLR and decided that they are now suddenly a pro. Off they go, with almost no experience, selling full day weddings for a few hundred pounds – making a bit of extra cash on the side... I am genuinely shocked by the quality of some photographers I see out there. Their pictures are low quality, usually out of focus and almost always poorly edited.
To get an idea of how different a professional photographer can be compared to a cheap amateur – take a look at the most expensive photographer you can find and then compare them to the cheapest one you can find. You will see that the difference is absolutely HUGE.
While I understand that sometimes people have tight budgets, I always urge couples to pick a photographer based on their pictures – and then on price. It is becoming increasingly common for people to contact a photographer and say that "they are just getting quotes" – often before they have even looked at the photographer's portfolio. Unfortunately, taking this approach will probably end up with you having a short list of awful photographers... and you will essentially be picking the 'best' from a list of the worst.
Look at it this way – if you were looking to get a family portrait painted, would you shop around for the cheapest artist? Or would you shop around for the artist who paints family portraits the way you like?
In order to fully understand why professional photographers charge what they do, here are 3 key points:
1 – Photographers are artists.
There is a misconception that anyone can be a photographer... you just point the camera at something and press a button – right? What makes photography a bit strange compared to other art forms, is that it's totally possible to capture a lucky picture on your phone – but you cant just luckily paint a masterpiece.
This shouldnt make you think that photography isn't art though – it absolutely is. A professional photographer will expect every one of their images to be of the highest possible standard... the best photographers are also their own harshest critics.
Every photographer is different; they have different styles and different approaches to photography. Professional photographers generally spend a lot of time editing images – this is one of the main factors that go into why professional photographers can be seemingly expensive. Basically, you aren't just paying photographers to take pictures at your wedding, but also to spend many hours afterwards, carefully editing each image.
2 – Professional camera gear is really, REALLY expensive!
Let me start by saying that no matter how good camera phones may get - they will never come even close to the quality of a professional camera used with professional lighting. The same goes for cheap entry level DSLR cameras... Its always such a shame when you see a post on Facebook where someone has managed to capture a beautiful moment at someone's wedding, but the picture is just really poor quality.
It's not unusual for a professional camera and lens to cost in excess of £5000 – and no professional should turn up at a wedding without at least two cameras!
So, ask yourself this: how can someone charging £300 for a full day wedding, afford to spend that kind of money on equipment? The simple answer is – they can't.
3 – It takes years of practice.
Weddings are complex and highly pressurised days – and if your photographer misses something, then there are no second chances.
What really bothers me more than anything, is photographers charging for weddings, but having little to no experience.
To be completely blunt about this: a person should not advertising as a professional photographer without the experience and skills required to do the job properly. In my opinion, this is completely inexcusable behaviour and is essentially fraud.
All too often I see someone advertising their services as wedding photographer with amateurish pictures, showcasing only one or two weddings... It's no different than someone buying a spanner, having no real experience with plumbing, but still offering their services as a professional plumber.
To help you sift through the 'amateurs' and try and find a genuine professional photographer, here is a quick check list that you should ask any photographer that you are considering:
Is this you only job?
If this is not the photographers only source of income, then this is usually why they charge only a few hundred pounds. As a rule, photographers practice their craft while they are still working – and when they are ready, they move on to do photography full time. It also means that the photographer will not usually take the same amount of time editing images as a full time professional. I get several enquiries each year from couples who were let down last minute by a part time photographer.How many weddings have you done?
As a rule of thumb, it is expected in the trade that a photographer should shoot about 10 weddings as a 'second photographer' before moving on to do a wedding as a primary photographer. If your photographer has done less than 10 weddings, then understand that this person is still practicing – and they really shouldn't be advertising as a professional wedding photographer. Most professionals charging between about £800 – £1500 will have completed over 100 weddings.
What model camera do you use?
Take the model and google it – if it is not worth at least £1000 then this photographer does not properly invest in their gear. A typical professional camera will cost about £3000 for the body only (i.e. with no lens). If the camera is worth about £500 then this photographer is basiclly a hobbyist and you should expect similar quality pictures from some of your guests.
How many cameras and lenses do you have?
If the photographer has just one camera then avoid them at all costs. This is completely inexcusable and runs a serious risk that something can go wrong and they will not be able to capture your day. Cameras do breakdown during weddings – I know – It's happened to me! (and luckily I had a spare so I was able to immediately carry on shooting). If the photographer has 2 or more cameras, ask if they are all the same model (i.e. ensure they don't have one good camera and a cheap backup. Ideally, they would all be the same model camera). Your photographer should also have backup lenses – so if they have less than 4 lenses, this is also something to worry about.
Do you use off camera flash?
Whenever you see dramatic images with detailed skies (particulary sunsets) and a 3D look where couples 'pop' and dont look flat, this is down to off camera flash. It generally is what separates an experienced professional from even a reasonable professional. Some photographers will use the term 'natural light photographer' – which essentially means that they do not use flash. This is very often because they cannot use it properly. Photography is basically split into two halves – taking the pictures and lighting the pictures. Photographers who do not use off camera flash really only using half of their trade. It is entirely possible to get beautiful images without flash, but it is an extremely limiting factor if the photographer doesn't use or know how to use it.
Are you insured?
This is something that is essential, and it can often be something a cheap or part time photographer doesn't have. Venues can ask to see a photographer's insurance and quite simply, they will not allow the photographer onto their grounds if they don't – whether you have paid them or not!
Hoping a professional photographer will reduce their price because you been given cheaper quotes, is like going into a BMW showroom and trying to buy their top of the range car for £500, because someone down the road is selling a banger for £500... Now, this isn't to say that a photographer wont budge on their price – but you do run the risk of alienating yourself from the best photographers if you expect them to price match with the worst.
Like most things in life, you usually get what you pay for, and photography can be a perfect example of this. Trying to find the cheapest photographer is probably going to end in disaster – because its too late when your wedding is over and you receive poor quality wedding pictures.
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