FAQ: Why are photographers so expensive?

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QUESTION: Why are photographers so expensive? I’ve seen ads on Craigs list where photographers will photograph my entire wedding for $500.00 ANSWER: This question has been discussed on numerous forums and blogs for years. Over the last 5 or 6 years, the cost of digital cameras has gone down significantly; nowadays virtually everyone can afford an entry level digital SLR. While most people who step up from a point-and-shoot to an SLR use their cameras to enjoy and explore photography, there are some who decide to use their new toys to make extra money on weekends. Unfortunately, most of these weekend warriors think that weddings are the easiest way to make money. Corporate and advertizing photography jobs are difficult to come by without the right contacts, experience and an extensive portfolio. Brides and grooms, on the other hand, make a much easier target. More often than not they are so dazzled by the bargain price tag that they don’t even bother to check the 500-dollar-photographer’s portfolio and references. They don’t bother to ask about experience and equipment; $500 vs, $3,000 – $5,000 that established photographers charge is alas enough for brides and grooms to trust their wedding to a total stranger. Every year I get three or four clients who trusted their wedding to a 500-dollar-photographer. This June a woman called me in tears – she met with me a year ago but decided to go with a friend’s brother who offered to photograph her wedding for $300.00. We met and she showed me the photographs and asked me if there was anything else I could do to make them better. As I started looking through the files in Adobe Bridge I realized that the entire wedding was photographed with a Nikon D40. The pop-up flash was on in all indoor shots and the camera never left the AUTO mode. I did the best I could with the photos, but there is only so much on can do with Photoshop. In the end, she put on her wedding dress, her husband rented a tuxedo and we spent a couple of hours restaging some of the scenes that should have been recorded on her special day. Does this happen to everyone who hires a 500-dollar photographer from Craigs List or asks a relative or a friend to photograph their wedding? Probably not. I’ve met plenty of amateur photographers who take amazing photographs with the most basic of equipment. But photographers like that are few and far between; most of the time you really get what you pay for. Mary of BirchTree Photography wrote an excellent primer on wedding photography prices – it is well worth the read.

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