Looking for a cheap wedding photographer???

Firstly, this post isn't a rant or a moan (really, it's not), it’s just an airing of my honest and open opinion towards the expectations some couples have when it comes to weddings - specifically the pricing that hard working vendors such as florists, cake makers, photographers, make-up artists, etc. place on their trade.

 I see it all too often:

  •  "looking for a cheap photographer"
  • "I'm on a tight budget, anyone recommend a good florist?"
  • "I need a make-up artist who doesn't ramp the price up when I mention the word wedding"
  • "in need of a basic cake maker"

Now, I do realise everyone has a budget to work within when arranging their wedding, but it should also be noted that getting married is relatively inexpensive (at its most basic it's registrar / church fees), yet having a wedding is quite another thing and can be as grand or low-key as you want it to be.

For starters, a wedding is often described as the most important day in a couples life (i.e. The Big Day), so why, why, why would you start your supplier search for this all important day with a mission to seek the cheapest out there? Surely you should be prioritising what's important to you and looking for the suppliers who provide the best value, identifying those areas you are willing to pay a little extra for and those where you can save some valuable wedding budget.

Admittedly, paying a lot of money isn't going to guarantee a high quality end product or service; however, the thing you have to consider is that all too often, when it comes to weddings the odds are you get what you pay for.

An example specific to photography: if having good quality images / memories of your wedding day is important to you, then before setting a budget, see what local photographers are offering, what price scales they span and how the quality and final product differ, then decide what value and budget you want to allocate to the photography element of your Special Day.

There’s no point setting a budget of £300 for wedding photography and expecting all day coverage, an album and a disc of licenced images – because if someone is offering that then the odds are that the quality of images they produce will be nowhere near someone charging £1000+. Think about it - if the quality was the same as the other £1000+ photographers, then surely they’d be charging £1000+ (why wouldn't they???).

Personally, when I see a posting from someone looking for a cheap photographer for their "Special Day" I tend not to pursue the lead, because in my experience the couples wanting to pay the least are the same ones that will demand the most and take up the most of my time. I'd rather have likeminded couples who like my work enough to pay what I’m asking and place nearly as much interest in their wedding photos as I do, not someone who just wants the cheapest out there for the minimum coverage - there's photographers out there that accommodate that, so I'm happy to let those opportunities pass.

In fact, when I've had couples haggle over pricing or asking me to price match (or out do) a competing photographer, from day one I’ve adopted a policy to refuse to lower my price because all that does is devalue my workand eat into my profit (I run a business at the end of the day, not a charity) as well as highlight to me what's important to the couple - they either like my work and are willing to pay my fee or they don't, it's as simple as that. However, on such occasions, what I do tend to offer couples is discounted extras such as parents’ albums, copyright release, additional coverage, etc as a kind of olive branch (rather than flat out refuse their request).

Looking specifically at my own photography pricing, I set my prices based on my experience, the quality of images I produce, the service I provide and the output I deliver (albums, DVDs, guest signing mounts, etc); additionally there is the cost I place on the time not only to take the photos but to edit them as well (which is time spent away from my family).

Furthermore, once photography reaches a certain price point above the market average, factors outside the hourly rate for taking and editing photos come into play; it enters the realm of artwork and at this point it boils down to what price a couple are will to pay for that photographers work.

Finally, why do photographers, florists, make-up artists charge so much when it comes to weddings? The simple answer is that expectation is so high on a wedding day, this most important day in a couple’s life, that extra effort, skill and pressure are placed upon suppliers to deliver (if not exceed) such expectations to make the couples day special and memorable for all the right reasons.

Florists charge more because it’s a wedding bouquet, not just a bunch of flowers; cake makers charge more because it’s often the wedding reception centrepiece that everyone will look over and remember, not just a sponge cake with some icing; and photographers charge what they do for a wedding because we’re not just getting a few lucky snaps (like Uncle Bob with his £300 “proper camera”), we’re expected to deliver 500-700 images of a consistent quality and look that document the whole day (often with no second chances and done in only one take).

 

Afterword: If any phrases, analogies or comments in this blog are similar to others posted elsewhere it's purely incidental and most likely from blog posts I've read over the years which have resonated with myself and are not meant to be acts of plagiarism

Rant Warning: "Photoshopping" Images

Disclaimer: Ok, before I start, I’ll get the small print out of the way: this blog relates only to professional photographers, not selfie obsessed self-promoters who canvas social media with what’s going on in their lives, posting burry photos only Big Foot hunters would be proud of (that’s a blog for a whole other day). Also, I totally understand everyone has their own style and post-production workflow, and good on them – I’m all for that, in fact, the variety in styles and client needs is what keeps so many of us professional photographers in business.

Now that’s out of the way. In my opinion, there’s only one thing worse than a bad photo…a poorly edited image which has been butchered in Photoshop. I’m sure you’ve seen what I’m referring to:

- images where the colours are way over the top – skins more orange than a fruit;
- teeth or eyes which glow unnaturally;
- over sharpening or increasing the contrast way too high;
- overly heavy vignettes / darkening around the edge of the frame;
- using the latest Photoshop gimmick such as putting a dinosaur in the background, using selective colour in black & white images or superimposing the couple into the bouquet;
- destroying the beauty of a black & white image with blue or orange tones;
- or (my pet hate) they’ve applied the digital equivalent of “smearing Vaseline over the lens” to soften the image and smooth the skin to add “beauty” to the bride!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of these purists who only believe the minimal amount of editing should be applied to an image, with the intent being to produce a true-to life portrait of the subject (warts and all).

In fact, I believe the post-processing of an image is just as important as the taking of the image itself; for me the real work starts when I’ve got home and uploaded the images to Lightroom for my post-shoot workflow.

When I digitally edit an image I’m making it the best it can be, while maintaining the integrity of the original image I captured; this includes cropping, straightening, correcting white balance, removing blemishes (while leaving permanent features alone), adding / removing light and shadow where appropriate. Sometimes I'll remove distracting objects from the foreground or background that I either didn't notice while taking the shot or couldn't avoid.

Most of this is done in Lightroom, with a custom set of actions ready to be ran in Photoshop once I’ve got the image how I like it. It’s nothing over the top, slight vignette to frame the image to better focus the eye, delicate warming of the scene and a reduction of any image noise.

I’m not going to name any photographers who overwork Photoshop, that wouldn’t be right, but I can show my approach to processing an image by showing you a before and after screenshot.

The other month, Jared Polin over at FroKnowsPhoto (check it out if you’re into photography in any way) posted a raw image file from one of his studio portrait sessions for people to download, giving them the challenge of processing it in their style. The image he uploaded was hi res, well lit and a classically composed studio headshot.

Below on the left is the raw unedited out-of-camera image file and to the right is my edit to that image. I’ve removed blemishes, balanced the colour, increased the contrast a little to make the image “pop”, applied a very slight crop to tighten the image and added a vignette to better focus the eye. Nothing I wouldn’t normally do to a client image, or my own home photos for that matter, and it only took 5 minutes.

As I stated earlier – my intention is to make the subject in the image appear the best they can be, while maintaining a natural look.

First blog posting….so please be gentle

I guess this is where I outline what to expect from future blogs.

While most of it will be aimed towards a wedding audience, there will be something for everyone really…

  • some will be relevant for other photographers

    • such as which kit I use and why

    • techniques I’ve picked up over the years

    • my review of any new gear I use

  • there’ll be preview images from recent weddings and other photo-shoots

  • announcements, such as when I’m not available or whether I’m running any special offers

  • some will promote local suppliers I’ve dealt with (kind of an endorsement thing)

 

The wedding-related stuff will cover all sorts, from latest trends, to advice on planning a wedding and how make the day go as smoothly as possible, and more.

Hopefully you find the blogs interesting and feel free to get in touch if you have any queries or want me to cover something specific you are interested in.