Being a wedding photographer at a cocktail party can be pretty fun, because you get asked such interesting questions. Here are some of the more useful ones I've been asked.
What's the worst thing that's happened to you on a wedding day?
I've had equipment fall in the ocean. I've fallen flat on my rear in the middle of the portraits, while pregnant. I've watched one of my lights fall crashing twelve feet into a stone floor because someone fell backwards into it (thankfully, no one was hurt, and the lights kept working!).
But you know what, in all honesty my photography life is pretty boring, even though I always have an emergency backup plan in place (which is one of the questions you should ask your wedding photographer). Wedding day horror stories are fun to tell, but most of the time nothing's caught fire, and nobody's been seriously injured. I'm thankful, saying my prayers, and knocking on wood for the future!
Why is wedding photography so expensive?
This is not another sob story justifying my work as an artist and how I should get paid for my time and expertise.
Instead, I'll shake things up and tell you that when I started out, I was the $500 Craigslist wedding photographer with my brand new digital SLR that all the pro photographers loved to hate. I was a fine art student fresh out of college--inexperienced (and I knew it), so I charged accordingly.
I can tell you for certain that I'm a different photographer now than I was starting out. I have way more experience under my belt, more professional equipment, pay my sales tax and have a business license, along with tons of other things that make me way more legit than I used to be.
So the secret is that most photographers charge according to their costs and experience. I've been on both sides of the spectrum, and regardless of where a photographer falls on the range of pricing, there's usually a boring spreadsheet involved.
Why does photographer X charge more for the same package as photographer Y?
Package contents may look the same on the outside, but be wildly different on the inside. And every photographer's hourly rate is (ideally) calculated based on their level of experience, what they need to cover their business expenses, upkeep of their equipment, and more. Those numbers are very different if you have a studio full of associates versus a lone shooter.
Example: Photographer A charges $1250 for a 12x12 album, and Photographer B charges $725 for a 12x12 album. There could be many reasons for this, such as
- the albums are two different levels of quality
- one album may have a larger maximum page count than the other
- Photographer A creates a custom design, and Photographer B uses a simple template
The key here is to dig deeper so you have a clear picture of what you're getting in your package. Knowing the details of what you're being offered will help you make a fair, informed comparison between photographers. (Here's a list of topics to talk about with your prospective wedding photographer.)
Why can't I have the rights to the images?
Without the rights to their images, a photographer can't show their past work and gain new clients by proving their skills. In order to use your digital negatives, you don't need the rights to the images, you need a simple personal license. You can find the detailed explanation of how image rights apply to your wedding day here.
Why do I have to pay in advance?
The legal answer is that putting down a deposit gives your contract "teeth," if you will, and keeps things ethical. It clarifies and solidifies what you've agreed upon, establishing trust that yes, the photographer will show up on my wedding day and deliver XYZ after the wedding. It also makes sure that there's an emergency plan in place, because even though it's sad to talk about disaster happening on your big day, it can and does happen.
(This is why I tell the super-tight-budget-couples who are thinking about hiring a friend to make sure they get something in writing to make sure that a friendship doesn't turn sour because of unresolved expectations.)
But aside from that, photographers ask to be paid in advance because they often incur costs before your wedding day even arrives--travel, equipment, meetings, phone calls, coordinating with your other vendors, and ordering supplies, for example.
And many photographers try to paid in full in advance of the wedding day because it makes sense for their workflow and customer service--they can start processing your images and making your album right away. Neither on of you has to wait!