After many years as a wedding photographer I have gone through many a trial and error – all have taken me to where I have reached today, and I can tell you it has been a long road to not an easy one!
As a member of various Facebook Wedding Photography groups it candidly disheartens me when I see postings put up by hopeful clients who say “I need a wedding photographer and my budget is $350.” Amazingly, there are some that answer and say “I sent you a text” in reply. Only the inexperienced would answer in such a manner. One day I could not help but post myself saying, “I don’t know how anyone can manage to make a living on this budget.” Which in a sense prompted this blog post!
First, any job you take you are now 100% committed (if you are any good at what you do) caring beyond the boundaries of time. Time is exactly what you are putting into it (not to mention equipment, artistic merit, thought, preparation, meetings and post-work)!
To the inexperienced photographer who takes the job at $350 a wedding, this is what you are in for/my typical wedding day looks like this:
6 WEEKS IN ADVANCE
Preparation for the actual wedding day happens far in advance. Keeping in touch with your clients and staying in the loop of scheduling, updates and ‘surprises’ is vital. Letting them know in advance that you wish to keep updated is very helpful. I tend to send out a form about 6 weeks in advance of their wedding day asking for scheduling details, then helping the client revamp if necessary. For example, if they put down, ‘family formals at park location’ and they forget to account for travel time, etc., we will talk about it. More about this step here! On average I put about 4 hours per client in preparation.
THE DAY BEFORE THE WEDDING
I get all of my equipment ready, formatting my cards, cleaning all lenses, packing up, printing out itinerary, review of schedule and giving the client one last call, letting them know we are ready and excited to shoot the day. Before packing everything up I put out all equipment I am using/bringing on the floor/table (I.e. lenses, camera bodies, iPad, etc.) and take a photograph of my equipment. Why you may ask?
Two reasons. After one wedding I discovered I had left an item at a wedding reception and booted back the next day to find the equipment piece I had left behind. Thankfully it was still there! On another occasion I learned the hard way by leaving my vehicle with some equipment in it and some jerk broke into my car (can you tell I am still mad about it?). It was traumatizing and absolute hell trying to remember what I had with me for the insurance man. Even though it seems to be an extra step and something that takes too much time, it is necessary. I can’t tell you how helpful this step is! (About 4 hours prep time)
ON THE DAY OF THE WEDDING: I wake up bright and early for a lovely breakfast and a coffee, thinking about the day ahead. I put on my black leggings and jacket (comfortable but nice) clothing, and admittedly, my black converse with padded insoles (comfiest shoes possible as I will be on my feet all day) and I put together some granola bars and fruit, water and juice for the day (there is no way I will get time to stop and sit down to eat) and start to pack up my vehicle. I make sure everything is in order and ready to go – then the games begin!
I have 2 camera’s strapped to me all day, one for long shots (70-200mm) and usually my 85 mm for pretty portraiture opportunities. My second photographer has a 50-500 mm and a 50 mm) both with interchangeable lenses at our beck as different situations arise. All in, we have about $20 plus k worth of equipment on us all the time. We have 2 camera’s each as well, for back-up. If one card ever fails, we have back-ups for back-ups!
Photography of the bride getting ready, taking some time to capture details and some shots of the bride and her mother, together with her bridal party then head over to the ceremony (text my 2nd photographer to tell him I’m on my way), photography of the ceremony followed by images of bridal party and family images, then off to the reception to set up photo booth and shoot the details, photojournalistic shots of the night. (12 hours or more)
ON THE NIGHT OF THE WEDDING: Upon return to my home studio starting the download of all cards while I sleep. This usually takes all night as the images take some time to load.
THE FOLLOWING WEEK AFTER THE WEDDING: If I was perfectly honest, I would say I spend a little over 1 more week with my clients after the wedding. This includes going through the images, editing, creating artistic pieces, communication with the client, sending a couple of sneak-peek images, putting together a creative digital magazine-style book with a personalized look at their story, sending out a gift for print, USB personalization and then finally meeting with the client saying our final goodbyes. This time is extended if I put together an actual printed album. (8 days of post and finalization x 8 hours per day = 64 hours)
Further expenses that may not be accounted for in the client’s mind are the following:
Gas = $50 for 2 vehicles
Personalized gift, shipping and USB = $300
Pay second photographer =$500
Let’s say I charge $35/hour x 92 hours total = $3220
*Equipment wear (not counted)
So, what do I need to charge in order to make a living? $4070 a wedding. See what I mean? Now, let’s just say I took that $350 wedding job. I just paid the client $3,720.00 to shoot their wedding.
There is so much more to wedding photography than what happens on the actual day, and a typical day in the life of a wedding photographer has many aspects that are hidden from clients and even the inexperienced photographer. I know my time is worth so much more!
I love weddings but the personal touch of wedding photography is not lost with a true professional working with and for you.