Why choose a professional photographer.
I recently read a wedding magazine on how to save money on your wedding day and cringed when it revealed, “have a friend or relative take the photos”, so I thought I’d clarify perception of value and why you really need to seriously think about your photography as an investment.
I couldn’t count the amount of times I’m asked if I can ‘fix’ what their wedding photographer had done, after the bitter disappointment from a couple receiving their wedding photographs.
I was asked by a potential bride once, “I have a friend who has a keen eye and will do it for $500 so why are you so expensive?” All I could think of was– ‘if I was going into surgery and had the choice of a young doctor who had only done 1 or 2 operations, who had very little experience, no ability to solve problems on the day, no professional equipment, and knows EVERYTHING OR someone who has had years of experience & had done this operation hundreds of times with great success, I certainly wouldn’t go for the cheapest”. You can’t compare a Hyundai to a Mercedes & I certainly wouldn’t try to go to a Mercedes dealer and say “Can I have this $100,000 Mercedes for the same price as the $8000 second hand Hyundi down the road. They are both just cars & do exactly the same thing…”
I understand a life saving operation is in no comparison to a wedding, but your wedding day is the most important day of your life. After the food and drink are long gone, guests have returned to their homes, the only things left from your wedding are your memories and your photo’s.
How many of you have parents or grandparents that have a wedding photo still hanging on a wall or a priceless wedding album with the story of their day right at hand for generations to see?
Before I go any further, don’t get me wrong, there are certainly amazing photographers with cheaper packages and pricing and there is undoubtedly a market for all skill levels and prices, but what is value and what are you really paying for?
- A professional photographer has many years of experience in the industry. This means that we have had to learn from our failures and grow our strengths. We know our limits and can push our boundaries. We also know how to have an entire day run smoothly and stress free, because we’ve done this many times before. An inexperienced photographer may not know how a wedding can become chaotic at the drop of a hat & not know how to deal with the situation. A professional photographer will NEVER practice at a wedding. We just know what we’ve got to do.
- Many professional photographers are accredited with organizations such as AIPP (Australian Institute of Professional Photographers), which means they must adhere to strict criteria and have a minimum qualification to be able to be a member. Like myself, there are many who were members of such groups but are not anymore, but at least, your photographer should have the correct insurance including Public Liability, ABN or a registered business, quality equipment and processes that protect you precious images.
- Because of technology, better and cheaper cameras are becoming more accessible for the everyday consumer. I often see guests with a flash new camera and a very expensive lens, set on Auto and snapping away at everything that moves (we don’t do that by the way). I’m sure they have a ‘keen eye’ (don’t get me started on a keen eye) for photography and the auto functions of modern day digital camera’s give a high quality job, but there is a huge difference between what Uncle Bob does with his camera, to what I do with mine.
We also invest in the best equipment and back up equipment. My standard wedding ‘kit’ consists of 3 camera bodies, 2 prime lenses, 2 zoom lenses, 1 wide angle lens, 2 professional flash units, Ice Light, off shoe triggers, stands, tripods, monopods etc. I have this equipment so I can achieve a certain look that I want to show in my photography, so it doesn’t look like I’ve pointed my camera on Auto and shot it with my keen eye.
We also have to invest heavily in computer equipment, programs and have year’s expertise in using them effectively, plus time to keep up with changing trends and upgraded software.
- Products – Most of my products have phenomenal warranties & guarantees. Albums should last so long, that your great grand children would be able to re-live every tear and smile from your wedding day. Why print a cheap photo-book that will only last 6 months? My studio prints Fine Art pieces – Fine Art that lasts a lifetime. A cheap canvas print is great if you are on a tight budget and if you only want it looking its best for a few years, but Fine Art pieces will last for generations.
- Time investment. The day of your wedding is probably the least amount of time we spend on your day. Some weddings can take up to 60 hours to complete. Here’s a break down of a typical wedding shoot, some times more, some less:
- Pre wedding phone calls, appointments, emails, meetings, invoicing, MYOB, planning, banking
- Pre shoot – charging batteries (I am charging 20 different batteries before a shoot), card formatting and card cross checking, equipment strip and clean, calibrating, formatting
- wedding day shoot
- Card download & back up. I follow a strict protocol so as not to overlook cards or images.
- Basic ‘cull’ or any images where eyes are closed, test shots etc. A first ‘edit’ on all remaining images including colour balance, exposure, detail in highlights, detail in shadows, HDR, colour temperature, colour density, skin tones etc
- Image re-touch (the most time consuming part of a wedding)
- Album design: laying out your entire day with sequences from the day, key shots, story telling etc before an album plan. This can take YEARS to perfect
- Blog / social media
- Album plan
- Full re-touch of album images
- final album alignment and upload
- post wedding consults, emails, phone calls, couriers, postage etc
Now if you have 40 weddings running at once, you must also be an expert in time management.
Now take into consideration on a standard shoot, the cost of an album, GST, car expenses, Office expenses (phone, electricity, internet, stationery etc), camera equipment, lighting equipment, batteries, bags, computer and software expenses – you will probably find that a “standard” photography business does not have a ‘fantastic’ hourly rate, rather we do it as a passion. I know the last plumber who came to my house was on an hourly rate probably ten fold to mine.
Although Uncle Bob is keen to shoot your wedding, there isn’t the detail or the expertise put into your day like a professional.
- The big one!!! I was a landscape photographer before weddings. I knew EVERYTHING about photography (I was so wrong). The biggest difference between Uncle Bob and myself is how I see light, how I see an image before I take it, how I see you the best way my camera can show you – Posing and Light.
Just by placing your hand a little lower or higher can make the difference between a nice photograph and something that will blow you and others away. The way you lower your chin can add so much emotion to an image. It’s also finding that balance of having natural looking, emotional images taken with a little direction. Most of my couples say, “I don’t want to be posed – BUT I LOVE THAT SHOT, CAN YOU DO THAT FOR ME TOO???” A little direction goes a long way.
Lighting is by far the most important aspect in wedding photography. A professional photographer knows and respects this. In portraiture, it’s imperative you know about lighting techniques and the way light behaves. Rembrandt, paramount, side, rim lighting etc., is how we create our art.
Emotion will always trump perfection, which is why so many amateur photographers can capture wonderful candid moments on Auto settings, but there is so much more to wedding photography than point and shoot.
- I’m still learning and I’m still PASSIONATE to do better and be more creative. This is why we do photography. If I knew everything, I wouldn’t shoot weddings, I’d be bored. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t practice new ideas at a live wedding shoot as I’ve already practiced long before the shoot, but I love to be spontaneous & if I see something out of the ordinary & I’m ready to have fun with a new idea.
I started shooting weddings because a work colleague loved my landscape photos and thought I was a great photographer. My first few weddings were $250 but they probably weren’t even worth that much (they were awful). Lighting was terrible, no posing or direction and everything was moving so dam fast (unlike landscape photography where you could just relax and take your time). We develop a certain style over DECADES and become more and more confident throughout the years. In the photography industry, you must have resilience and longevity to survive. Some content you may not agree with and I may run my studio vastly different to others, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s great for competition and hopefully couples will have a better understanding of what they can expect.
Photography is ART and ART is in the eye of the beholder – BUT look for an artist with experience, knowledge, credentials and insurance – i.e. a local photography business.