“Weddings are expensive” is a pretty popular topic for articles on the internet, and now Consumer Reports is getting in on the action by “revealing” that wedding photography costs more than other kinds of photography. The premise of the article lies heavily on the fact that it’s simply a markup that gets applied as soon as the word “wedding” is uttered, but there’s more to it than that when it comes to photography, so let’s clear a few things up.
The first, and most obvious point to be made is that wedding photography is different than other types of photography. In the study, Consumer Reports queried several vendors with two different scenarios.
Here’s the example from the article: “Some photographers inflated their pricing when the affair was a wedding. For instance, photography for a Saturday night wedding in mid-October cost $300 per hour at [photographer’s name removed]. For a 50th anniversary party of the same size at the same time with an almost identical package of services, though, the charge was $150 per hour.”
It may seem fair to compare the two events because, hey, they’re happening on the same night and they last the same number of hours. But, the two are very different animals.
Weddings require work that happens before the big day, including scouting and helping the couple to plan the festivities to maximize time usage (something briefly mentioned in the article). Weddings typically require lots of gear to cover every aspect of an event, including formal portraits. Weddings have schedules that change on a dime, and tons of other logistics to figure out. And most importantly, weddings often require more people on the team to make everything happen. I like to work with a second shooter and sometimes even an assistant or two for weddings. And all of this often happens across several venues. And let’s not even get into the type of editing that wedding photos require.
An anniversary party, however, is typically much simpler. I can show up with a single camera and a couple flashes and make the whole thing work for basic formals and lots of great coverage. I certainly might bring an assistant, but wouldn’t likely need a second shooter unless a specific request called for it. And the editing is all pretty straight forward since it’s basically just one long wedding reception. This isn’t the case for all photographers, but it’s also probably not information that’s readily offered to random clients unless they specifically ask.
That’s not to say that there isn’t some wiggle room for people who want a great photographer but can’t afford the best possible packages. It can’t hurt to ask if there are any options for making things more affordable, unless the client is slinging offensive low-balls.
Don’t get me wrong, there is likely at least a little bit of a markup on wedding photography as a whole. But, even if you can’t link that markup to a specific line item on the invoice, it’s still worth considering that developing wedding photography skills is a very long and specialized process. Wedding photography is also typically more stressful than other types of photography, even if it is really, really fun.
You wouldn’t fault a mechanic for charging more to work on a Ferrari than on a cheap family sedan. The stakes are higher and the skills more specialized.
Ultimately, I think it’s unfair to imply that every photographer is simply trying to screw people as soon as they find out they’re in the market for a wedding. And anyone who gets the bright idea to try and book a photographer for a “party” that’s actually a wedding in order to save a few bucks should certainly reconsider.