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Why it’s worth paying for a professional photographer for your wedding

February 15, 2020

Having a professional wedding photographer for your wedding can make all the difference. However there is one phrase I see over and over again which I want to talk about.

“Looking for a cheap photographer who can work with our budget”. 

It’s a phrase I see far too often in many Facebook Wedding groups.

However, time and time again, I meet couples who want to have an adventure portrait session with me. They love the idea of having one because they cut the most prominent corner on their wedding day and instead did wedding photography on the cheap.

But you know what? I can’t blame people who do try to get a cheap photographer.

I understand why people do it. See, it seems pretty easy to get photography of someone in today’s times. The new iPhone cameras are getting better and better, and with someone in the family who loves photography, getting snaps of your big day can be a breeze.

Thousands of dollars saved.

Right?

Well, not exactly.

ManRepeller.com did a great article which goes through some of the biggest regrets of brides, and surprise, surprise a common theme comes up:

“I regret paying for a budget photographer. The worst part was that they were seated at a table eating for most of the reception instead of taking pictures. I wish I would have spent the money on someone more professional instead of wasting money on a lower fee.”
-Brooke, 32

“I regret not paying more money on a photographer whom I loved and reflected my tastes. Instead, I settled for an okay photographer for a good price and for good photos, but she didn’t do a great job really capturing our essence.”
–Anonymous, 31

“I regret not hiring a professional photographer but accepting the offer of a friend’s dad to shoot our wedding. We didn’t get many shots of the party, or many shots that I just loved, and to this day I have yet to create a wedding photo album.”
-Erin 38

Time and time again, it’s an unfortunate reality and regrets that many people don’t understand or value the big difference of paying for a professional photographer.

The industry average cost of a wedding photographer in Australia in 2020, is roughly $3,000AUD. In this article, I want to explain precisely why a photographer is worth the investment, what you should expect from a professional photographer, and what you should expect from someone who charges below the industry average.

Characteristics of the cut-price photographer

The photographer who will be much cheaper than the industry average will usually be one of the following:

  • An amateur starting out
  • Someone who bought a DSLR camera for Christmas/Birthday and who now has heard that weddings can be a great side hustle for extra income
  • An experienced photographer who has captured photos of cars for 15 years, but who now wants to try and do weddings

Now I’m not saying that it’s wrong for people to start out. I started out with Weddings back in 2017 and was very clear to the couple who gave me a chance that I was new to this all.

However, the above examples of people will also:

  • Be learning how to use the equipment they have while on the job
  • Not be familiar with what common hurdles and challenges there can be with photographing a wedding
  • Most likely not have professional insurance due to the ‘side gig’ nature of their work
  • Not be familiar with the most flattering angles for couples
  • Not have the best grip on how to create a fun and comfortable atmosphere for couples
  • Not be doing this full time, so will most likely edit wedding photos over months, meaning you’ll be getting them back about 9 months late. Once you get the images again, chances are they will be stored in Dropbox or burnt onto a CD or USB stick, which makes viewing cumbersome 
  • Not be trained in how to create and design a wedding album, as they wouldn’t have access to the professional wedding album makers, such as Queensberry

The vast list of problems above isn’t commonly seen by people when they look to invest in a photographer. These problems, however, are always mentioned to me when I asked what their ‘family friend’ photographer was like.

The two most common problems people state are that the quality of the images was awful and that the photos took 10 months to get back.

So this option may be free, or budget. Something around the $1,000 – $,2,000 for a full day.

What you are paying for with a professional photographer

When you invest in a professional wedding photographer, you are paying for a trained and dedicated artist’s capture of one of the biggest days of your lives. 

This is personalised photography than cannot be manufactured in a factory in China, nor 3D printed. This is why, when you invest in a professional photographer, there will be a premium.

The characteristics of a professional wedding photographer

The professional wedding photographer who charges at least the industry standard will be:

  • Trained and experienced with many years of weddings under their belt
  • Packing a robust portfolio which clearly shows their level of skill and style
  • Equipped with top of the range gear, meaning more reliable equipment and higher fidelity images
  • Fully insured with professional and personal indemnity insurance, meaning that in the case of an accident, everyone is covered
  • Experienced at helping you design a timeline of your wedding, and pre-empting potential elements that can be improved upon to make your wedding day better and less stressful
  • Experienced at dealing with challenges which can arise on your wedding day, without causing needless stress to yourselves
  • Able to guarantee final image delivery by a specific date, no more than 2 months after your wedding day
  • Adept at designing and creating a wedding album that is made from archival materials, meaning it won’t fall apart in 2 years

Overall this will mean that you will:

  • Have an artist’s whose work you genuinely love and will want to be captured by
  • Be much less stressed with the design and timeline of your wedding
  • Be able to spend more time enjoying your wedding day and less time being worried about what the photographer needs to do next
  • Have a fun and enjoyable portrait experience rather than something clunky and awkward
  • Have confidence that if a problem did arise on your wedding day, that you’d have a professional who would be able to handle the challenge and ensure you still get fantastic final images
  • Have your wedding images in your hands within a specific time
  • Walk away with a real family heirloom that will last you generations and beyond

Now, this option may start at $3,000 or so.

When comparing this to the cut-price photographer who will do it for free, the choice can be very black and white.

However, what’s the big difference when we get to a photographer who is charging $2,000 vs $3,000? The difference in these amounts can make a big difference.

Why you should hire a photographer who does this for a living

Without a doubt, this may be the most significant factor which can help you in deciding whether or not a photographer is worth their salt.

So why does this matter?

Let’s crunch some numbers

You may be an office worker with 35 hours a week in your job under your belt. You may have been to University or at least been in a vocational training position to get you up to scratch to be employed in this position.

Let’s assume you are paid $50,000AUD, which is a very modest sum.

However, with this amount, you are dedicated to doing what you do. For 35 hours each week, month in, month out.

With 35 hours a week, you are continually working on your skills and the business of the person you’re working for. The changes and contributions you may make daily may not be massive, but over time they add up, and when you look back, you see how far you’ve come.

You’ve ascended from completing one project to completing six. Your skills have improved, and you’re now ready for a promotion. You got here because you worked hard, and for all of that time. You honed your skills because of the hours you put in.

Now, I want to pull you back into the example of the full-time photographer.

Someone who can dedicate 35 hours into a photography business will be:

  • Continually improving systems for their clients
  • Taking the time to develop their own artistic vision
  • Taking the time to improve their technical skills and prowess
  • Able to dedicate the time to location scouting for venues

However, to be a full-time photographer, does require a liveable salary. Let’s also match this to the very modest sum of $50,000.

To achieve this, using some basic and modest money splitting of revenue, let’s say that a total of $100,000AUD in income is needed, with:

  • 10% of income going to corporation tax (deduct $10,000 – leaving a working amount of $90,000)
  • 40% of this $90,000 goes to cost of goods, such as camera equipment, production of wedding albums, insurance, and maintenance (deduct $36,000 – leaving $54,000)
  • 60% of this $90,000 goes to paying the photographer, with a modest sum of $54,000

However, while there is an extra $4,000 in the bank here, SuperAnnuation isn’t accounted for, so let’s deduct that further:

  • 15% of the $54,000 taken off now leaves the photographer with $45,900.

So with a revenue of $100,000AUD, this leaves the full-time photographer with $45,900 in their pocket.

Now that we’ve worked out how much a professional photographer has to earn let’s see how achievable that is.

A typical wedding photographer can be booked for 35 weddings throughout the year. At an investment of $3,000AUD for each wedding, this would lead a revenue of $105,000AUD to come in. This is just shy of our original $100,000AUD estimate.

However, a wedding photographer charging $2,000 would only be making $70,000AUD. A 30% drop in revenue and salary, leading the photographer to have a liveable income of $32,130. While this income is survivable, this photographer who is starting out will most likely not be booked for the full 35 weddings a year. This ultimately means that they will not reap the entire $70,000 in revenue, adding more pressure.

What all of these numbers mean

A professional photographer must be able to provide this level of quality and care to couples. For them to dedicate time to their craft, a liveable wage where they can dedicate 35 hours a week, must be achieved.

Why investing in a professional photographer is worth the extra investment

It’s easy to see what the direct impact of many vendors will have on your wedding day. Cakes can be designed before the day, dresses and suits can be seen, and venues can be explored on foot.

What can’t be assessed is the quality and viscerally of the memories that will be captured. The experience you will have on the day is one that cannot be quantified with predictive models or plans drawn up.

Emotions will run wild. Big moments from nowhere will appear. Unscripted events will blow your mind.

An experienced photographer will be able to capture these impactful events and translate them into physical artefacts that you’ll be able to enjoy and relive for the rest of your lives.

It’s a gamble when it comes to photography, as you never can truly appreciate the outcome until it happens. That’s the gamble with investing in an artist vs a guaranteed tool designed to do a fixed job.

However, you can reduce the odds of a bad roll on this gamble by choosing a professional photographer and artist who wants to understand you, and who knows the everyday challenges of the day. This means you’ll be able to look back at your final images in 20 years and relive those big moments.

When the dust has settled, and the memories have faded, that extra couple of thousand dollars will seem like absolutely nothing when you have the images of your dreams. Or it could seem like all the difference when you didn’t get the photos you truly wanted.

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