Welcome Chapter 3 of the Comprehensive Guide to Finding Your San Antonio Wedding Photographer. At the end of this series you'll have all the information you could ever need to make sure you're hiring the right wedding photographer for you. We started this series in Chapter 1 with the different types of wedding photographers you're going to come across, and then moved on to what you need to look for in a wedding photographer in Chapter 2. I strongly suggest reading those two chapters before diving into this one so you have a solid understanding of what to expect from your wedding photographer. In this chapter we're covering the all important bottom line - the cost, and value, of hiring a professional wedding photographer. While I'm based out of San Antonio, TX, this information applies to virtually all weddings in the United States.
What should you expect to pay when you are looking for a wedding photographer?
In San Antonio, you can hire a semi-experienced wedding photographer for 6 to 8 hours for about as low as $2,000, and the more experienced, and sought-after wedding photographers here locally can charge $4,000 or more. The highest end wedding photographers (around the country) often charge $10,000 or more for their services. Okay - before you start crying and close your web browser, lets look at what all goes into professional wedding photography, and why most couples still choose to hire a professional wedding photographer - despite the price tag.
Why are weddings so expensive?!
Weddings are usually even more expensive than other events because they are so very specific and there is no room for error. Your florist can't just substitute any kind of flowers into your bouquet if their flower delivery is late, they have to get the flowers you requested there, no matter what. In order to absolutely insure that they deliver exactly what you've ordered they have to take extra precautions, as business owners, that they wouldn't have to with other clients. These extra precautions may include paying higher shipping costs for last-minute deliveries if there is an issue with their regular delivery, etc. While wedding photography is very different from the job of a florist, this is a great example of why everything "wedding related" may seem to be a little more expensive.
When it comes to wedding photography, it's a similar situation. Wedding photography is more expensive than regular event photography. When I photograph events for non-profits or commercial clients it's a very different kind of job then photographing a wedding. I'm using all the same equipment, but there are huge differences in the type and amount of work I'm doing. At a non-wedding event I'm going to spend a lot less time and energy on the project than I would with a similar length wedding. I spend way less time prior to the event discussing the plans with the client, there just isn't as much to cover. I typically have a lot more time to capture each item on my "to photograph" list, and I typically have a lot less images to capture in total. If the event starts late, or a key person doesn't show up, it's absolutely none of my concern - and whomever is organizing the event will solve the problem as they see fit. After the event, I have far fewer images to edit, little to no detailed retouching, no product design time, little to no time spent promoting the images on social media, etc.
Photographing a wedding, on the other hand, is a completely different situation. For my clients this is typically the first wedding they've planned, and it'll likely be the only one they ever have. The stakes are high, and they don't have any experience with event planning, or photography. This is why I spend so much time writing these blog posts to educate my clients, and will not book a client until we've met and had a consultation to discuss their wedding. I refuse to let my clients down, and that means knowing ahead of time what they want and going over how their wedding is planned and scheduled with them to insure that at the end of the day I've captured everything that is special and important to them. Certain things take specific amounts of time to photograph, and depending on the location and time of day certain types of images are not possible. During consultations with my clients, we go over all the specifics of what they are looking for and discuss what we need to do to make it happen.
On the wedding day, I have to keep an eye on the timeline (even with an amazing wedding planner, I'll never leave it to chance), because I'm not willing to risk not capturing part of the couple's wedding day. When hair and makeup runs late, or the officiant is late, or we have less than than we originally thought for anything I have to be ready with a Plan B to still capture all the initial images somehow. Literally no matter what happens - I have to leave at the end of that day having created beautiful images for the couple to remember their wedding day by. If the lighting is horrible and we can't do portraits at any other time I have to figure out a way to make it work, we can't just re-do the wedding at a different time.
That being said - I spend an average of 45 hours of time on each wedding client. At the end of the day the cost of wedding photography comes down to total number of hours worked (not just the hours spent at your wedding), equipment, software and other overhead costs, and final product costs. That includes the time spent photographing them on their wedding day, multiple consultations, phone calls, e-mails, engagement and/or bridal portrait sessions, preparation time on my end before the wedding, and all of the time spent editing, retouching, and working with my clients to create the perfect artwork for them - be it wall art, or a storybook album. Besides equipment costs, there are all the easy to forget costs that are necessary for me to provide my services: album design software, image editing and retouching software, film costs, film development and scanning costs, shipping costs, the cost of my internet, the cost of my website and the hosting of their gallery, the cost of gas to drive to their wedding, taxes, etc.
the value of professional wedding photography
Yes, weddings are expensive. And yes, wedding photography is expensive - so why do so many couples pay thousands of dollars to hire a professional wedding photographer?
It's worth it.
With a professional wedding photographer you're getting so much more than a person pressing a button on a camera. This is your wedding day - it can't be done over. There is no margin for error when it comes to your wedding day photography.
Reliability & Trust
There is no substitution for the reliability and trust you need to have in a photographer you're booking months (sometimes years) in advance. You need someone you can rely on to show up. You need a photographer that is as obsessed with weddings as you were when you started planning yours. Someone that knows what they need to capture amazing images, and educates you on what is, and isn't, possible within the plans of your wedding day. You need someone that takes the time to get to know you, that understands the significance of different parts of your wedding and is committed to preserving the memories for you.
Talent & skill
Weddings are one of the most challenging fields of photography. Not only does a photographer have to master many different lighting situations, they're also doing fashion photography, portraiture, event photography, lifestyle and product photography all during your wedding. Oh, and there is the crushing pressure that this is a one time event, there are no do-overs with a wedding day. It takes a lot of experience and skill to be able to photograph a wedding without missing anything important, and that is even before we start talking about how talented a photographer is - the style and overall beauty of their images.
Besides the talent and skill to create stunning images in a high-pressure situation, you're hiring someone who is passionate about artwork and weddings. Professional wedding photographers aren't just focused on creating artwork, we're invested in your wedding. Our goal is to work together seamlessly with your other vendors to create an amazing wedding day experience for you - but it doesn't just stop there. The experience of hiring a professional wedding photographer starts at the consultation, and ends after you've gotten your artwork. It includes getting to know each other, education, planning, pre-wedding portrait sessions, reminder emails so you never forget a step, easy and professional communication, and most importantly it instills confidence in you. We take our jobs seriously, and we're passionate about our clients.
At the end of it all - couples hire professional photographers because of the artwork that can be created by reliable, trustworthy, talented and skilled professionals. I'm not talking about pretty pictures to put on Facebook, I'm talking about custom, one-of-a-kind pieces of home decor. Digital files are great for sharing with friends and family, but they don't make you feel the same surge of emotion as seeing your wedding portrait hanging on the wall.
The value of the wedding photography is in the images that transport you back in time to your wedding day - and everything that goes into making sure those images are captured. When you look at that photo of your father walking you down the aisle in 20 years it's not just about how beautiful you looked in that moment, it's about what you were feeling in that moment, and professional wedding photography is a gateway back in time to those same emotions.