The recent glut of wedding photographers either offering huge “discounts” or Groupon style deals led me to investigate a little into why they might feel the need to be giving their services away.
When you choose and hire your Wedding photographer you are usually looking at elements of style, personality and price. If not then you need to rethink your process of finding the right photographer for the biggest day of your life. You also need to get everything in a written contract signed by both parties that describes what you will get and what will happen if either party is unable to fulfill their obligations.
Let’s look first at style. The only way you can successfully do this is by looking at a range of a photographer’s work and see if you believe they can meet your personal expectation for your big day. There’s no point in choosing a great photojournalist style photographer if you want a lot of formal and family group shots as it’s simply not the way they work. Likewise if you want mostly candid and informal photos from your Wedding there’s no point in choosing someone whose sample albums are full of nothing but formal groups. Discuss in detail what you want from your Wedding day to capture the emotion, fun and memories in a style that you will treasure, be happy to show to family and friends and pass down to future generations.
The second consideration is personality. It’s absolutely essential that you meet with your potential Wedding photographer before booking them. Other than your new Spouse you photographer is the one person you will spend most time with on your Wedding day so it’s vital that you believe you can get along with them on one of the most stressful days of your lives. If you have the slightest doubt then it’s best to find out early and move on to find someone whose personality and temperament gel with your own.
The third element was price. The average cost of a Wedding in the UK today is in the region of £17,500. A simple guide is to allocate at least 15% of your total budget for photography, including albums and parent books. A reputable full time professional Wedding photographer is dependent on shooting Weddings to pay the bills and put food on the table. It means they devote their working life to nothing else other than this. There is a great misconception that a Wedding photographer only spends around the eight hours time attending your Wedding. Think of the time spent meeting with you to discuss your plans for the big day, perhaps an engagement shoot, attending the rehearsal if it’s a church ceremony then there’s the Wedding day itself. Assuming your photographer travels to your home to shoot your Bridal preparations, goes to the church, and then on to the venue. The average length of such a day is in the region of ten to twelve hours. Then take into account that there was most likely a second photographer present from the Grooms arrival at the church or venue until the start of the Wedding breakfast – another six or seven hours. Up to this point the total time is in the region of twenty two to twenty five hours.
Then when he or she gets home they have to back up all the memory cards they’ve used. Next working day they’ll start going through all the images and deleting those that didn’t work for some reason and any duplicates of group shots. The real work of editing starts after this and if there is no album involved you can easily spend another ten hours on this alone. At this point we’ve counted up around thirty four hours (a working week for most people).
When you consider that every Wedding has to make a contribution to the expensive professional equipment used, cameras, lenses, flashguns, memory cards, batteries, computers, storage space, web site, marketing, travel, insurance, phones, vehicle running costs and taxes there isn’t a lot of profit in a £600 deal which, after tax, delivers less than £270 profit to pay the bills and put food on the table. Work it out an hourly basis and it’s just above the minimum wage of £6.19.
I spoke with a Bride to be recently who had booked a Groupon style offer for two photographers to cover her Wedding in June of this year (2013) for £299 for eight hours attendance (sixteen hours total). Add travel time alone to that and you’re already at 20 hours before any post Wedding day work like editing and burning to disc. After tax that gives them less than £195 profit split between two people, out of which they have to fund all the other business expenses I mentioned above. If they shoot 35 Weddings a year at that price the total after tax is less than £6,900 for two people to share. I can’t think of anyone who can live on that, and they still need to deduct all the other business expenses. This type of activity often smacks of desperation and the road to a bankrupt business.
There have been too many stories of businesses making these offers going out of business and leaving people out of pocket. Not something to risk for the biggest day of your life! If it sounds too good to be true it usually is.