Why is wedding photography so expensive?
I'd like to start with two points:
1) I have done a LOT of reading of other people's posts about why wedding photography is so expensive, and I'm not going to repeat a single thing any of them say.
2) My full day wedding photography package is often described as a 'bargain' or even 'the best money I spent on my wedding day' by clients who have used my services - this article is to address the perception that wedding photography is expensive, for people who are not yet married.
'How do photographers justify charging all that money?'
Usually when a wedding photographer tries to answer this question, they go to great depths about how much camera gear costs, how expensive computers are, all of the years they've spent 'mastering their trade,' how long it takes to edit a wedding and what they're earning per hour when you work it all out. I don't care for that as much as you don't care for it. Cameras are expensive. The end.
So lets look at things a different way. At the time of writing (Feb 2019) the average wedding in the UK costs £30,355 and the average price of a full day's wedding photography in Worcestershire (my home county) is £1,370 for the digital files. Interestingly, of all of the money spent on all wedding photographers in the country last year, this is a whole £2 above average. By far the biggest single spend on a wedding day is the venue hire and catering; Brides Magazine lists average wedding venue hire as £2,790, reception venue hire as £3,919 and the catering as £3,959. That means you're spending £10,668 on perhaps a few rooms in someone else's house, or a hotel and a bit of outdoor space for a drinks reception and photos, and food for your guests, all of which takes, or lasts on average, 12 hours. Before you have any entertainment, anyone to officiate your wedding, any music, anything to dress your venue (or yourselves for that matter) you're spending £889 an hour, for a piece of legally-binding paper, and a party.
Describing a wedding as a 'party' is like a red-rag-to-a-bull for most brides, and I chose the word carefully. Because a wedding reception is a party by traditional definitions, but we all know that a wedding reception is so, so much more than just that. I'm now going to jump into another point without fully answering this one - but I'll explain all in a little while.
How much is a single photo worth?
How much is a single photo worth? For the vast majority of photos that have ever been printed, the net worth of a photo is no more than the paper it's been printed on. It's 2019 and photos have become a throw-away commodity for most, for which we have smart-phones and in the wider scope of things, digital photography in general to blame.
Imagine for me though, right now, the most important photograph in your life. Is it of someone who has passed away perhaps? I know mine certainly is. Now imagine for a second that the photo you have in mind is the only example of that photo in existence. How angry would you be if I destroyed that image? I've asked this before many times and one person even said they'd kill me. It seems then, that certain photos have a lot of value. A priceless value, one perhaps worth killing for. There are moments in weddings, that will never, ever be repeated again. And because of the nature of weddings, with how it brings families and distant friends together, (and how there's usually a professional photographer lurking not too far from the action,) the likelihood of attaining such an image is a lot greater than it is in normal daily life.
How long do photos last?
Longer than memories, and that should be enough in itself. But if it's not, lets look at things again from a different perspective:
The average wedding spend on flowers is £638 and they might last 3 days in summer - I've seen some last for less than 8 hours on really hot days.
The average spend on a wedding dress is £1,378 and you'll wear it once.
That food you've spent £4,000 on lasts mere hours, and the money that goes into drinks means you might not even remember some parts of the biggest day of your life.
Your wedding photos will not only outlast every other part of your wedding day, they'll outlive you. They might even outlive your grand-kids. Aside from the flowers, wedding photography is actually one of the cheapest single items on your wedding day and it's the only thing that will not only add value to your experience, but as time passes and memories fade, (and people pass on) the worth of any single photo increases every day to the point of being priceless.
How to save money on your wedding day:
I'm not even going to try to tell you how to save money on your wedding day. It's not my job; making sure you remember it for the rest of your lives, is. I don't care how you save money on your wedding day if you have to, but please don't underestimate the value of good wedding photography. I can't imagine the pain people must feel, looking back on their wedding photos a week, month or half a century after their wedding and saying 'I wish we spent an extra £300 on a wedding photographer' which when you think about it, is only 1% of the average total wedding cost.
And now to finally answer my initial question:
Remember earlier we said that at an average wedding, to simply feed your guests and put a roof over them for 12 hours costs £889 an hour? A set of photos that you will cherish for the rest of your lives costs pennies per day by comparison. Why is wedding photography so expensive? It truly isn't. Wedding photography is the bargain of the century.