Recently I was speaking to a lovely couple and they asked me a question that is asked on occasion and is something I know others are curious about as well.
Why is photography so expensive?
What exactly goes in to the final result? Like above this gorgeous bride at the Rothschild Villa in Saint Jean Cap Ferrat, on the French Riviera. Isn’t she gorgeous by the way!
Without getting into the debate of what is expensive, as this is subjective, and what is expensive to one is not to another, we’re going on the basis that the cost is more than expected and more than the average every day expense for the sake of this blog post. Shoes are a good example, I have friends that cringe at the cost of a new pair of Saint Laurent heels and others that snap them up every chance they can, a topic for another day.
There are countless blog posts around on the subject on how photography is a luxury item, a true investment; but instead of directing my clients to these I thought it best to explain, in my own words.
There are two sides to this discussion, first let’s touch on the actual costs aspect.
As I am sure you can imagine, there are only so many Saturdays in the year. The winter is not a popular time of year for weddings and many couples choose spring and fall with summer being less popular due to the heat and holidays. So for wedding photography there are about 24-30 Saturdays max. Sometimes couples choose a Friday, Sunday or midweek option but it’s really hard with destination weddings to be in one city on a Friday and another city on the Saturday.
I limit the number of weddings and events I take on so that I can give my full attention to my couples. It’s hard to provide a true luxury service if I take on too much. (not just weddings but personal trips as well I have to consider wisely so I can have the time to edit photographs and service my couples while also being a mother to 2 kids)
The majority of the events I photograph are destination weddings, pre-weddings and celebrations with couples coming from abroad and all in different parts of France, Monaco and Switzerland. And as you can imagine, the way it goes it’s usually that they fall in such a way they are not next to each other. So the majority of my work requires travel, which takes a little more time and the expense for train/flights/hotel.
So for weddings the dates are very limited. Before the wedding or celebration many hours go into the planning and preparing. I love to get to know my clients, what makes them tick, what they love, what they don’t like. By doing this I am able to capture their authentic selves on the day. It’s less awkward and more relaxed. This does take time though. We go through the whole plan for the day to make sure it’s realistic and to fix any times where we may run out of time. I have to often book travel, research venues, check out sun direction and sunset times (I have fancy apps for this!). It isn’t something that only takes a few minutes.
When a bride and groom are not working with a planner I take on much of the role of the planner and we work on timelines together and other planning. When possible it’s great to have a walk through for new locations to make sure the ceremony is the best location on the grounds for light. We do not always have the chance to do this but as you can see it all does take some extra time.
On the day itself time care is taken to be sure all of my equipment is cleaned, working and ready to create art. After the event is over the first thing I do is begin to back up your memories to multiple hard drives. I know that until they are backed up multiple times on and off site and to the cloud as well, that your memories could be lost. Not all photographers are serious about backing up your memories and it is a huge worry when you read about others who have deleted or lost a card full of someone’s wedding memories! (and it happens far too often, lost film as well I hear about way too often)
After the wedding or other celebration the next task, one of the largest ones in the process, is the retouching. I hand edit every single image I take. Sometimes it’s just a little adjusting, other times it’s extensive retouching which can take an hour for just 1 image. Now of course there are differences of opinions on the topic of retouching. I believe it is a critical step in the process and is the same process as with film, art doesn’t come out of the camera perfect (usually!). I have images I am in love with that are true photographic creations; a mixture of more than one image that combined is just perfect. Does this take time? Yes it sure does! Is it stressful at times? Yes it can be! Is it worth it? Absolutely! Do some of my fellow photographer friends think I’m crazy? Yes they do!
I can promise you when a couple tells me they love their photographs, that they can see the time and the love I have put into the editing process, it’s just totally worth it. Applying a batch action to images would save time, but it’s not my style and does not give the results that I desire as an artist.
I believe Fine Art Wedding Photography is a process, and retouching is part of the process.
Then we get to the boring bits. Social media, marketing, advertising, website updates, contracts, insurance etc. Sadly only a small part of the year is actually WITH couples photographing them! I guess it’s like this with many professions but sometimes it’s forgotten. Continuing education, blogging and networking is a bit less boring but also part of the job.
Take note I mentioned insurance, not all photographers have insurance! (scary isn’t?) I also have full professional equipment and full back up incase anything goes wrong on the day. (knock wood it hasn’t happened yet!)
Now we get to the other side of the value in photography, what makes it all worth it for both of us! The memories. The aspect you can not even put a price on!
I asked someone recently at a wedding to take her photograph. She said uhhh I’m not keen on photographs. I asked her how many photographs she had of herself? Oh not many she replied. I asked if she had a photograph of her mother, grandmother she treasured. She did! Her grandmother. There are 3 photographs of her grandmother left, 1 with her, 1 with her dad and 1 with her brother. I asked if I could buy this photograph for $10, she laughed, and said to me “are you crazy? It’s priceless!”. I asked again, how about $10,000? “I wouldn’t give this to you for a million!” was her reply. My reply was, “your family will feel the same about you, and your photograph in so many years, if you give them the chance to have those photographs to treasure!”
Right there and then she got it, the light bulb moment. I did have the pleasure of photographing her, she is treasuring the photograph and she has promised to exist in photographs for future generations.
Professional photography is a luxury product but it is worth the investment.
The time and care that goes into the ability to press the shutter button at that right moment and the process before and after is something difficult to divide into an hourly rate.
Hopefully this post helps to understand why the investment may sound high, but when broken down, well I can promise you it is not the best line of work to recommend from a financial standpoint, it has to be something you truly love to do, because there are few who have found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!