Most people that have no interest in photography would think that a wedding photographer is someone with a semi-decent camera, who attends a wedding, takes a few snaps, then goes home put it on a disc, job done.

The reality of being a wedding photographer is far from it. What we do is far more important than just showing up at the wedding!

As with everything in life, when paying for something we want to know what we are getting. Are we paying more for quality? Since I always find it a bit weird trying to explain the entire situation to clients if the question of “why I charge what I do” arise. I always try to educate and let them know exactly what they are paying for and what they can expect.

What really goes down?

Not counting the years of study, research, practice, and spending astronomical amounts on equipment & editing programs, website & portfolio samples, it goes a little something like this:

On the day

  • Equipment checked, batteries charged and memory cards formatted. (Here is a list of the equipment I use at weddings)
  • Meet up with the bride and the day starts.
  • 8+ hours of coverage follows in which you always need to be creative, acutely aware of your clients and their guests, almost watching them like a hawk, ready to get that one in a million shot.
  • A wedding photographer can sometimes lead to more than just taking photos. Sometimes you need to give emotional support, fix something that broke, or assist with emergencies.
  • About the technical side of being a wedding photographer I can write essay’s about, but the short of it would be that you need to be constantly monitoring your light & settings, while you effortlessly guide your clients into posing for “natural looking” photographs, keeping them relaxed, while watching the clock to stay on schedule, as well as constantly be on the look out for a good spot that you can use, while you keep the small talk alive. {Sounds easy right}
  • Being a wedding photographer also means that you will need to anticipate things that will happen either a few minutes or sometimes seconds before they do. This is when you get those WOW shots, the un-posed and the images that everyone raves about.

After the wedding

  • Back-up of images is essential. (Most photographers will have quite a few hard drives)
  • Editing of each photograph takes a lot of time, effort and skill. It is not a one-day job, and definitely requires state of the art software, editing tools and knowledge about how to showcase each photograph at its best.
  • If designing of albums are part of the package, a lot of time and skill goes into the layout & planning of the album.
  • Since most photographers don’t do just one wedding a month, this process keeps on repeating itself on a weekly basis, with new wedding adding to the editing and processing pile.
  • Photographers blog their weddings. This process sometimes takes a couple of hours to prepare.

The fact is, some photographers put extensive research and funding into perfecting their skill, style and editing. As artists photographers really are not only competing with other photographers, but true to this industry you are only as good as you’re last wedding, which leads to photographers constantly on the lookout for ways to improve their skill and style.

Next time you see a professional photographer at a wedding, take a second to admire someone that spends more on their equipment than some people will on their car, {Yes, we do that even before we are successful and can afford it}, have the courage to sometimes quit their full time job to pursue a hobby that only after years of photographing people for a minimal fee, start to cover some bills. Someone that puts their heart and soul into the photographs produced, has incredible people skills and is highly trained in reading light, anticipating moments, deal with emotions, weather conditions and the occasional emergency.

When you start planning your wedding, and start getting quotes from photographers, you will realize that the skill of the photographer, research, years of investment of not only time but money will come at a fee that is about 15 – 20% of your wedding budget. By selecting & booking a professional photographer that puts everything they have towards a skill and the equipment they use, will be to your benefit. Believe me, this will be the best investment you will make towards your wedding!

As a general guide in South Africa you can expect to pay around R8000 – R20 000+ for the services of a professional photographer.

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