Pricing Truths from Maryland Wedding Photographer, Kimberly Dean
Once upon a time, I was a $500 wedding photographer just starting out. That first check felt like winning the lottery (if I can imagine what that feels like).
I remember showing up with just one mid frame Canon Rebel and an on-camera flash with no light modifier. Luckily, I invested in a prime 50 mm lens... (but my God, how did I ever shoot anything without my 85mm?!).
The point is, although I didn't miss any key moments, and I technically shot everything, the work was sub-par. Inconsistent. Grainy. Lacked sharp focus. Lacked thoughtful composition. Lacked any nice depth of field... among many other elements. I cringe at that work now. I also realize how close I came to compromising memories of perhaps one of THEE most important days of their lives. Thank goodness I didn't drop the camera... (I had no backup). Thank goodness my flash didn't quit.... (Yep, you guessed it, no backup). Oh, and my editing skills severely stunk.
But, the couple knew I was cheap BECAUSE I had no experience. Basically, they were willing to risk it. Knowing what I know now, I would advise anyone who cares about their wedding memories to run for the hills from anybody who has no or very little experience. You are risking a great deal going cheap on photography. I did NOT realize as the photographer that day back in 2015 just how easily I came to missing a key moment, having an equipment failure, SD card failure, or totally blowing out the images (or underexposing them).
So, here's my two cents about why couples should absolutely prioritize their wedding budgets for a solid, experienced, and "expensive" photographer. I put that term in quotations because we all know that term means something different to everyone; but, generally, I mean photographers charging $3,000 and above for wedding coverage...
Reasons to Splurge on a Wedding Photographer
- PREPAREDNESS. They'll bring full frame cameras, and more than one in case one drops or breaks. Same with lenses. Same with lights. Same with batteries. Same with flashes. Same with USB cards. Get my point? They've invested in the gear and backup gear to cover your day (and their ass)!
- INSURANCE. This is great news. If you trip over their light stand, and hurt yourself, they have liability coverage (think drunk dance floor guests and light stands)...
- CONSISTENTCY When scrolling through your wedding gallery, the pictures will LOOK and feel like the same person took them from beginning to end. Not five different people with five different styles. Instead, a cohesive mood and feel translates throughout your entire wedding gallery. That's a true sign of a professional.
- VALUE. I'm not talking about just by taking beautiful photos... but an organized and keen wedding photographer helps your day move smoothly, keeps things happening on time, and always goes about and beyond for their couples adding great value to the entire experience.
- CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE. Developing a photography timeline, shot lists and family shot lists, and strategizing engagement sessions, along with helping brides and grooms select other trusted vendors, etc., are all part of the customer experience. After the wedding, the communication with the couple continues on regarding their sneak peeks and final imagery and chosen print materials.
Remember the saying, "you get what you pay for." Majority of the time it is TRUE, especially in the wedding photography world. I recommend asking any photographer the following questions to vet them:
- How long have you been shooting?
- How many weddings have you shot? (That answer should be more than 20)...
- How many camera bodies to you bring with you?
- How many lenses do you use that day?
- Do you shoot in RAW format? (This answer should be yes)
- Are you using Off Camera Flash? (This answer doesn't have to be a yes, but for those who are skilled using OCF, the image quality and variety graduates to a new level).
- Do you bring an assistant or second shooter?
- Are you insured?
- May I see a sample contract?
- How many edited images can we expect from our wedding day?
Again, when deciding to either splurge or skimp on certain wedding day vendors, I highly advise the vendor responsible for your memories isn't the one you SKIMP on! So, do your research, ask the above questions, and realize that pricing will range across the board depending on the hours of coverage, hours of using a second shooter, hours involved with engagement sessions (some couples want two), and tangibles like prints, etc.
Thanks for reading! Till next time...
Kimberly Dean, Maryland Wedding Photographer and Portrait Photographer