Wedding photography is expensive. I get it. I’ve been there – and not too long ago! Really good wedding photography is usually even more expensive. So what is a couple on a budget to do? Here is my advice to a bargain-hunting, wedding planning pair.
Let’s begin with a few fake inquiries based on an amalgamation of real inquiries I’ve received over the years, so we can discuss what these couples are doing wrong:
The “I’m so boring you should give me a discount’’ couple:
I am looking for only 4 hours of coverage. Our wedding will have no guests, no portraits, no dress, no flowers, no wedding party, no outdoor photos, and nothing particularly interesting or beautiful that may inspire you as an artist. You don’t know me, or why my love story is special but please give me a discount.
– Boring Couple
The boring bride thinks she’s making her wedding seem like less work, therefore less investment. But really, she’s just making it seem as unenticing as possible. I’d so much rather work for 8 hours on a deeply emotional and beautiful wedding than for 4 hours on a completely sterile and impersonal one…
The “Best Buy” couple:
Thank you so much for sending your pricing info my way. Unfortunately you are not in our price range at all, but another photographer was offering us 10 hours of coverage, 2 photographers, a hi-res disk, a free engagement session, an album, and a baby unicorn-pegasus for half of your least expensive package. Can you match this?”
-Best Buy couple
The best buy couple makes a common mistake. They think that since there is money changing hands it must be a price matching electronics store, like Best Buy. They are wrong. Most wedding photographers think of ourselves as artists first and some can even get offended by ‘price match’ seekers. This is not likely to get the couple a discount. We photographers are all waiting for the couple who really ‘gets’ what we do-who considers their wedding photography a priority and doesn’t try to lump us all in together just because we all hold cameras. If price is the most important factor for you (above aesthetic quality,) we photographers can usually smell it from miles away and want to keep our distance.
Here are a couple of examples of couples who get it right. I’m not saying they would get a discount from every photographer they contact, but the point is that their correspondence makes me more likely to consider finding a way to shoot their wedding because they make me WANT to shoot their wedding:
The DIY dream couple:
I just love your w
ork. I love the look of film. I see the lovely, romantic quality of light you capture and it makes me dream of my own wedding day seen through your lens. Our wedding is a celebration of our love and our families and friends, and we will be reveling at my grandfather’s Alpaca ranch. We’re having a bluegrass band, flamenco dancers, and all of the flowers are handpicked from my cousin’s flower farm. I am obsessed with details, so, from the globe lights in the trees to the alpacas wearing flower garlands, it should prove a pretty visually arresting day!
Thank you so much,
-DIY dream couple.
I understand that most of us have full-time jobs and lives that keep us from spending days on end with wedding related tasks. My point isn’t that everything has to be ready for a feature on OnceWed, but you want to make your day sound like a beautiful and, most importantly, personal event. I don’t care how many burlap birdcage mason jars a wedding has – if those items aren’t personal then they aren’t meaningful. And it’s the meaningful and emotional beauty that make me want to run out and shoot a wedding, whether it be at a classic golf club or a circus.
The super sweet couple:
You shot my dear friend so-and-so’s wedding last season and ever since I have been obsessed with your work. I love the look of film, I also am obsessed with Victorian novels (Jane Eyre all the way!) and I think I should get paid year-end dividends a from Anthropologie, I spend so much money there! The time has come for my own big day and I have been secretly hoping, even before the proposal, to have you there for our celebration.
My fiancé and I have been together since high school, we are both graphic designers, and we just love all things design-y and visual. We are also obsessed with music and food so both of those should be particularly nice!
Our family and friends are a creative bunch we’ve known forever and it’s going to be a very personal and lovely day.
What the supersweet couple does so well is appeal to me as a person and as an artist. It’s nice to feel special and appreciated. It’s the opposite of the ‘best buy’ couple effect.
Now there are many wedding photographers who simply don’t give any discounts at all. And guys, that’s their prerogative. They have families to support and they have been burned before! So often when they’ve given a bit of something extra or taken a bit off their pricing they have then been asked for more ‘extras’ and felt devalued by that client.
It’s also important to remember that wedding photographers have a HUGE overhead (especially film shooters,) which includes thousands upon thousands of dollars in equipment, insurance, education, wholesale products, printing, film, development costs & time, and we don’t get paid when we don’t work. Those of us who have our act together have calculated exactly how much we need to make on each wedding in order to just make a living wage and cover our basic life expenses. This means it’s very unlikely that there is any wiggle room in those rates.
Many wedding planning blogs (I’m thinking of the Knot’s wedding budget calculator,) have budgeting tools. The problem with these is that they don’t take into consideration what is important to you, personally. When we got married in 2009 we had a very tiny wedding (60 guests,) and a relatively small budget to match. I knew that the photography was an important part of the way I wanted to remember our big day and thus almost 20% of our wedding budget went to photography. The knot’s calculator only suggests 10%… which would have put us in a totally different class of photographer. I found other places to squeeze a bit of extra money (press printed save-the-dates, invites, and thank-you notes, from 123print.com, as opposed to letterpress, a less expensive gown and veil, having a friend who had worked in food service cut the cake in order to avoid the ‘cake cutting surcharge of $2.50/guest’ that many caterers require, choosing in-season and locally sourced flowers, etc…). I also chose a much smaller photography package (4 hours – and it was enough! She didn’t miss anything!) and went without an album for the first year. Hours of getting ready photography and hours of drunk guests dancing at the other end of the night were simply not a good use of our stretched wedding funds. Just remember, as with most things in life you do get what you pay for and a photography deal that seems too good to be true (a zillion hours, multiple photographers, lots of product, at an unbelievably low rate) usually means you are getting an inexperienced photographer without important things like the very best equipment, training, and insurance.
I hope that this (insanely long) blog post helps a few couples out there with their wedding planning search. Just remember, if you are going to try to ask for a discount make sure you are respecting the vendor you are reaching out to and if you are lucky enough to actually get a little extra don’t take it for granted and expect more at every pass. Good luck, all!