When I started getting quotes for photographers for my wedding, I nearly fell off my chair. I kept saying to myself, over 5 grand for 8 hours of work???? That’s CRAZY! Now that I have entered into the field of wedding photography myself, I now know, why it is so expensive. If you are in fact paying over $5,000 for a photographer with no references who is going to do nothing but hand you the digital files, without even color correcting them, get another quote. On the other hand, if you are getting a quote for a whole day of shooting, a lead photographer and an assistant, color corrected shots, the rights to the high resolution digital negatives, 4″x6″ proofs of all the shots as well as online proofing, an archival quality flush mounted album, and a photographer with over 5 years of experience, you are probably in the right ballpark, and here’s why…
Color Correction and Editing:
Each studio does varying degrees of post production work on your wedding photos. The absolute most basic is for the studio to just place all the files on a data disc for you. This takes very little time. The next level is to go through and get rid of any not-so-flattering photos of people (eyes closed, strange look on face, etc). Once that has been completed the photographer should color correct the images for you. You can do some of this at home on your computer’s imaging software, but you usually get better results using professional grade software. Photographers can apply batch processing across large groupings of photos, or they can color correct each one. The latter can take several hours when you have over 500 images to color correct.
For most providing the high resolution negatives, this is where post production stops. Others provide basic conversions to black and white or sepia toning. Some studios will also do some special treatments at this point as well, such as spot coloring, and blemish removal. Others will go the extra mile and remove distracting elements from images like exit signs. Some photographers include these in the basic package, while others provide these at an additional cost. The greater the number of changes to the images, the greater the time involved, and thus the greater the expense. In some studios the photographer who shot your wedding is the one to do the editing, while others hire graphic designers dedicated solely to post production.
In addition to color correction many studios also offer album design. This is another area that people often balk at the price associated with the product. I know I did! But now that I’ve designed one myself, I completely understand. The first thing is there are fixed costs associated with the creation of the album that the photographer has no control over. Depending on the type of album you choose (low quality photobook, up to archival flush mount album with gilded edges, leather bound, tooled and embossed) the cost of production can range from wildly from $50 to well over $1000. In addition to the cost of production, the time associated with designing the album is reflected in the price a photography studio charges for the album as well.
You can’t underestimate the value of an experienced wedding photographer. While they seem like the most heavily planned event of your life, inevitably, things don’t go according to plan that day. An experienced wedding photographer will know how to quickly change things up and still get the best photographs possible. Experience also allows the photographer to really develop a distinct style. The way they compose and light a shot will be very different than the way another pro would. They will have learned ways around the common pitfalls that beginner photographers often fall into, like using too much direct flash (resulting in shinny foreheads), over exposing a white dress so you lose all the beautiful details, underexpose shots that are back lit so people come out looking like silhouettes, or putting people in direct sunlight for group formals (resulting in shots where everyone is squinting, and the tops of their heads are all white). If you are the type of person that really admires beautiful photographic work, then you should be sure that your wedding photographer has a style that you like and that he or she has done more than their fair share of weddings. Individuals with this much experience are in high demand, so they can afford to charge higher prices, and frankly, their beautiful work really falls into the realm of fine art, and should be priced as such.