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Wedding photographer explains the reasons behind 'unrealistic' prices

By dpreview staff on Jan 27, 2012 at 02:31 GMT

PetaPixel has published an excellent response from a photographer to a Seattle-area bride criticizing the pricing of wedding photographers. In a remarkably calm response, Nikki Wagner details the expenses connected to her wedding photography business, dismissing the idea that wedding photographers set their prices high simply because they can. After reading Wagner's response it's understandable why the bride is having so much trouble finding an 'exceptional, amazingly talented, fun photographer' that she also deems 'decently priced.' The post also acts as a reminder that there can be good reasons why there's a gap between what a product or service costs and how much you think it should be priced. (From PetaPixel)

The poster 'has yet to find a decently priced, exceptional, amazingly talented, fun photographer.'

Comments

Total comments: 784
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inevitable crafts studio
By inevitable crafts studio (Jan 27, 2012)

i just watched the portfolio of her
she is definitly a pro, you can see that on the blown-out sky in every photo

except one^^

3 upvotes
CanonPhotog
By CanonPhotog (Jan 27, 2012)

The rest of his rant I'm not going to bother with, since most of the rest is either reasonable in terms of the expense, or not worth pursuing in its outlandishness. Suffice it say, regardless of whether I or anyone else agrees or disagrees with this particular photographer's little rant, it goes without saying that sending such a response as this to any client (or potential client) is not only not very professional, but could eventually be fatal in that it ends up costing him clients in the long run.

Comment edited 30 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
graybalanced
By graybalanced (Jan 27, 2012)

If what is costing clients is their rate and their defense of their rate, a mid- to high-end photographer will simply not care about those losses. More than one wedding photographer has said that if a client or potential client is going to be such a cheapskate, that client is simply not worth the time. You almost want to filter out all the people who want something for nothing, they'll just suck you dry (the "Groupon" effect).

1 upvote
CanonPhotog
By CanonPhotog (Jan 27, 2012)

And I'm sorry, but counting your home rental (unless you would normally live in a cardboard box) as part of your wedding photography "expenses" simply because you're too cheap (or poor) to rent a separate space for your studio work is not exactly being very realistic (or honest) about the "true" costs of being a wedding photographer. Nobody cares what your personal expenses are - not your employer, and certainly not your client.

And what's that about high speed internet costs? $2500? Presumably per year? Well then, cut out the high speed internet throughout the rest of the year (8 months) when you aren't shooting weddings! That would save you over $1600/year.

3 upvotes
inevitable crafts studio
By inevitable crafts studio (Jan 27, 2012)

2500 for internet can only be a typo^^

1 upvote
kelpdiver
By kelpdiver (Jan 28, 2012)

no, that 2500 was for internet, office phone, and cellular. Perhaps a little high, but I pay 80 for my cell, 70 for my dsl2 bundled with a phone line.

0 upvotes
english_Wolf
By english_Wolf (Jan 28, 2012)

I pay $370.00 pr year for the hosting (unlimited storage, unlimited domains and so forth.
I pay 480 for vonage phone per year
I pay 600 for ISP connection
Mobile is 360 per year
Where are the missing 690? And I included the phone, so really where is the grand missing?

In any case... If you read the post... 15k tax on 7k income??? Man, this woman is paying the gvt to take pictures!!! (remember the tax is paid on gross profit!, not gross income)

0 upvotes
Dustinash
By Dustinash (Jan 30, 2012)

Im in canada and I pay $2000 a year for my mobile.

0 upvotes
CanonPhotog
By CanonPhotog (Jan 27, 2012)

Paying $400/month for a leased car, + $200 for insurance is his own fault for shelling out so much money for transportation. What does he drive - a Mercedes? And, $200/shoot for a second photographer? I say he needs to move a little more at the weddings he shoots at so he can get all those "more images and different angles" himself. And I'm sorry, we ALL pay our own taxes, so that's nothing special in his circumstance here, but his claim of paying $15000/year in taxes on an income of $50000/year? He pays 30% of his wedding income in taxes? Really?!?! He drives a $400/month car like a 1%'er, but he's apparently WAY, WAY overtaxed like the worst of the worst 99%'ers. Hmmm.

0 upvotes
mandm
By mandm (Jan 28, 2012)

A 1%'er would never be caught dead in a cheap $400.00/month car. I do drive a Mercedes for weddings, an SL500 and my wife is the second shooter and has been since 1975, she follows me in her Lincoln Navigator.
I'm not a 1%'er, but the bottom 50% of tax payers only paid 3% of all personal Federal income taxes paid in 2008 at a 2.6% tax rate! The top 10% paid 70% of all personal Federal income taxes at a 18.7% tax rate. The top 1% paid 38% of all Federal income taxes at a 23.3% tax rate. Total personal income tax collected in 2008 $1.081 Trillion US dollars. These are real stats, not misinformed made up numbers that sound good.
My source is a good one, www.irs.gov, check it out. 2008 is the most recent info from the IRS.

0 upvotes
dswcamera
By dswcamera (Jan 27, 2012)

This is funny, & personal.
I am an amateur photog, although I have had a few pro gigs, so I can appreciate the costs, risk, etc.

I am also the father of a bride ). I insisted on picking someone who knew what they were doing. I also wanted someone who I could get references on and who had an artists view of this precious event. My daughter wanted to go cheaper, because that's what a friend paid a few years earlier. I sent an email saying nicely, that I wanted her wedding to be perfect & our $$ contribution to its to be part of our blessing. She quickly understood.

The result was an excellent photographer, who drove up from S. CA (we live in the North!), did engagement photos, and put together a wonderful album.
His wife is his second shooter & his artistic consultant.

The amount paid, $3000, priceless..
So what's the tragic part. It's the ignorance, selfishness & almost entitlement mentality of this bridezilla. What's next, gov't wedding photogs tha the 1% have to pay for ;-)

3 upvotes
Doug
By Doug (Jan 27, 2012)

2 Alimony = $6000.00 worth of wedding photos attractively inexpensive. No problem.

0 upvotes
Ignat Solovey
By Ignat Solovey (Jan 27, 2012)

Hey, that's why most wedding (and not only wedding) photographers are either never get married, or if they do, their weddings are calm, quiet and dirt cheap ;)

0 upvotes
inevitable crafts studio
By inevitable crafts studio (Jan 27, 2012)

hmhmmm .. i dont know, i mean a guy works for 4month only, and he does 20 jobs ... a year^^

and he charges his customers, so that he can live on that money for a whole year ... i dont know ..

i mean i run one man company myself, with everything the guy explaned, but i live in europe, and to be honest, i have way more expenses and taxes and insurance to pay than this guy ... but you know what? i just work the whole year, not 20 jobs a year.

thats like i start to be a christmas photographer. what? 30grands for christmas photos? yeah, you know i have to live for a whole year, and you know, christmas is only once, but i just want to be christmas photographer ... otherwise i would have to take pictures of old people or portraits, you know ... i jsut dont like that ..

also he buys a car on loan and pays 600 per month?
i only buy what i can afford :)

she was too harsh, but when i read his answer i probably know why she was so pi**ed :)

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
5 upvotes
Lyle Aldridge
By Lyle Aldridge (Jan 28, 2012)

My thoughts exactly. Both are being self-centered in varying degrees, though the bride wins the contest handily. Her complaints defy reasoned or polite response.

But what Nikki glosses over is that she's grossing $50K for what she herself describes as a few days of work per week, four months out of the year. Then she sets forth how she applies that to expenses for the entire year. Maybe she's spending another 1600-1700 hours a year doing marketing or something else she hasn't said. But I haven't had three full weeks off work in over 45 years of working for a living. So forgive me, please, but it's really hard for me to muster up sympathy for someone evidently taking eight months of annual vacation.

1 upvote
Dustinash
By Dustinash (Jan 30, 2012)

Just like a doctor, a wedding photographer is being paid for their skill. You are not just paying for them working that day you are paying for the blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice of sanity it took to choose photography as a career in the first place... Its a skilled job and a business. I think her only mistake is not saying "I charge 3000 cause I like PROFIT" Instead of pretending like she is destitute.

0 upvotes
DPNick
By DPNick (Jan 27, 2012)

I wonder whether she was just as outraged over the cost of her diamond ring; surely at least a month's salary and without a doubt a completely manipulated market.

2 upvotes
DJNPhotog
By DJNPhotog (Jan 27, 2012)

she didn't have to pay for the ring... her sod of a fiance had to... poor dumb bast@rd.

0 upvotes
Ken Chin
By Ken Chin (Jan 27, 2012)

The bride ranted and so did Nikki. Both have valid arguments. To the professionals (i'm a hobbyist), I would keep it simple when educating the customer of the costs involved. $3000 while fair for pro work, is not within everyone's budget. Do your fellow photographers and the customer some good by referring lower priced jobs to someone else (your backup photographer, a student, etc.) but try to stay away from the insults of let your uncle do it.

0 upvotes
rogerstpierre
By rogerstpierre (Jan 27, 2012)

Well, on one hand the client has to understand the costs associated with the service provided, but on the other hand, to be credible, the photographer needs to be more careful with her calculations, attributing costs spent over12 months for an activity that lasts only 4 months (e.g. car rental) etc. If you actually apply the costs directly incurred in support of the business of wedding photography and pro-rate the yearly costs for items that are used on other purpuses than the wedding business, she makes an annual net revenue of approx. $34,000 after expenses from wedding photography (not including camera equipment costs which should be amortized over 5 years), i.e. about $1,700 per wedding. It ain't as bad as she makes it sound; it's pretty darn good actually.

Comment edited 14 minutes after posting
3 upvotes
jkokich
By jkokich (Jan 27, 2012)

You get what you pay for.

3 upvotes
brn68
By brn68 (Jan 27, 2012)

sometimes, that is.

3 upvotes
Drew Conway
By Drew Conway (Jan 27, 2012)

Wow, I thought $3000 was a good starting price for a wedding photographer.

2 upvotes
Annex
By Annex (Jan 27, 2012)

"Wedding season only last 4 months".
Those calculations are laughably missleading.

So what exactly is the photographer doing for the other 8 months of the year?

Scratching his/her ar*e?

Wedding photographers do charge $3k a wedding because they can. Its not something to be ashamed of. Its just because many of them are actually skilled (although a surprising amount most definitely arent) hence the skill is in demand.

Supply and demand, market economy. Pretty simple and tbh both the woman and the photographer have stupid arguements imo.

3 upvotes
walter marshall
By walter marshall (Jan 27, 2012)

I used to be wedding photographer in the 1950's/60's, I reckon we where the cheapest thing at the wedding in those day and I know that what they charge now is realistic, a good professional wedding photographer is a craftsman with specialised skills enabling him to produce fine results, I am a musician and have played at a lot of weddings over the years and more often than not the entourage are late and sometimes very late getting to the reception, the reason is always the photographer took ages to get his pictures, good on him or her I say, they are taking their time making sure they get good results and they will not be rushed, I'm sure this can be very stressful as guests get frustrated as they want to get off and enjoy themselves, and of course now we are digital some wedding photographers take hundreds of pictures meaning hours and hours in front of a monitor, $3.000+, that's OK.

1 upvote
Quantum3
By Quantum3 (Jan 27, 2012)

"If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys". I love that one.

4 upvotes
Quantum3
By Quantum3 (Jan 27, 2012)

The equation is easy: there is talented people and there is untalented people. Those who are untalented have to work 8 hours to earn what talented people earns in 1.

1 upvote
Ignat Solovey
By Ignat Solovey (Jan 27, 2012)

Bless those people who can do their wedding in one hour and be happy with that :) Actually I shot such wedding - no dress, no guests, no limo, no reception - and one hour. And that was the best wedding I ever shot :)

1 upvote
Najinsky
By Najinsky (Jan 27, 2012)

The bride is just having a rant on the net to let off some steam, and in doing so is putting her hightened ERJUT on display. (Emotional Resistance to Joined-Up Thinking).

I found the mix of comments here quite predictable because we have an abundance of ERJUT evident within our own forums.

I feel Nikkis response achieves very little. ERJUTs are not pre-desposed to take in condensed facts, and the condensed facts themselves present orgasmic fodder for the terminally pedantic. So she has simply made herself the target of a second group.

It's appears quite pointless trying to convince an ERJUT, and life's too short to engage a pedant.

Business is basically very simple:

1) Set prices
2) Sell
3) Assess
4) Repeat

If you get any of the first three wrong too many times, number four stops.

4 upvotes
walkelr
By walkelr (Jan 27, 2012)

Why not complain about catering or the prices of the venue? Does it really cost $1500 to feed 100 people? Should I get charged $2000 to get married in a room that would be empty otherwise? Dj's charge hundreds of bucks to play a pre-made list of mp3's. You have to pay to play!! If you don't like it, head on down to the justice of the peace and get married!

0 upvotes
ASD
By ASD (Jan 27, 2012)

If you look at Bride's or Wedding Magazines, you will notice that when they talk about photography (in editorials, in features, etc) the writers stress that photography is the one area where you can crunch your costs. I've never figured out why. Brides are reading these magazines and believing that good photography (which is really one of the only things you 'keep' after a wedding) is negotiable, and therefore, valueless.

0 upvotes
walkelr
By walkelr (Jan 27, 2012)

I tell them this..once all of this is over, all you have is each other and the pictures!

1 upvote
Peter K Burian
By Peter K Burian (Jan 28, 2012)

At our daughter's wedding, we paid $50 per plate at a Delta hotel banquest hall. I wish we could have fed 100 people for $1500. But maybe prices are higher in Southern Ontario, Canada than in the US.

0 upvotes
thedigitalsam
By thedigitalsam (Jan 27, 2012)

Why does Apple charge $499+ for an iPad? Why does a Audi or Lexus charge more than a VW or Toyota for comparable cars? Why does Disneyland charge $100+ for a one day entrance fee?

All answers are the same. Consumers are willing to pay the higher price for what they get and would rather pay the premium to get what they want in comparison to substitutes that are available in the marketplace. The market supports the pricing structure or the sellers and consumers as buyers can either take what's offered or go for substitutes that are in their price range that satisfies their needs.

For me, the bride showed a sense of entitlement. She believes she deserves a good product yet unwilling to pay the set price. Either negotiate or move on. Substitutes exists in the marketplace for that reason.

All that coming from someone who spent $5k+ on his wedding photos and thought it was a very expensive service.

1 upvote
Kenneth Margulies
By Kenneth Margulies (Jan 27, 2012)

The fact is that it is hard to be a professional photographer in today's world. Most people have relatives or friends who are pretty decent amateur photographers with semi-pro equipment. With photoshop and digital cameras allowing for unlimited shooting and editing, fewer people are willing to pay a high-priced professional. Even news photographers are suffering with the proliferation of iPhones, etc. News organizations used to send photographers to trouble spots, but now the pictures and videos come from iPhones. It's become a tough business, and many who enter may survive, but are unlikely to thrive.

4 upvotes
graybalanced
By graybalanced (Jan 27, 2012)

The tragedy is that amateur relatives are just good enough that they *think* they can cover a wedding, so the bride thinks it's a great way to save money.

The relative realizes they're in out of their depth, the bride is deeply disappointed, and a good photographer didn't get the job. Everybody loses.

2 upvotes
mgurantz2
By mgurantz2 (Jan 27, 2012)

Like so many people said it here, wedding photography is probably the purest form of free competition. The only barrier to entry is the cost of (1) photo equipment (camera, lenses, lights, computers, software, etc.), which can also be rented. (2) value of time (wedding time, processing time,presentation to clients). (3) in case you have to use it - the time of your assistants.
Craigs list is a great place to find a photographer, and you can't find someone for less than $3,000 that will do it, it means do it yourself or shut up.

0 upvotes
em_dee_aitch
By em_dee_aitch (Jan 27, 2012)

To your number 2 add sales, marketing, social media, webmastering, business administration, dealing with sales taxes and permits (where required), etc.

1 upvote
Poss
By Poss (Jan 28, 2012)

To which you might want to add: dealing with clients like the now famous Craigslist Bride

0 upvotes
Navmark77
By Navmark77 (Jan 27, 2012)

Emotions are running high here. Strip away the histrionics and she has a reasonable question: why does she have to pay what some people make in a month for a day of photography.

IMHO, instead of addressing the question on an annualized basis, it would have been best to keep it simple and say that it's actually more like 3-4 days' work plus expenses and list the prorated expenses.

Or, like a lot of people stated, point out that a free market seeks its own level, or range of levels.

2 upvotes
walkelr
By walkelr (Jan 27, 2012)

I think the problem is that she doesn't have to pay what some people make in a month. She has choices, If I want a car I don't have to but a Lexus or BMW, I can get a Kia. There are plenty of "uncle bobs" out there that would be happy to help her

1 upvote
inevitable crafts studio
By inevitable crafts studio (Jan 27, 2012)

no its easier, a normal person works 8hours, and a photographer on a wedding probably 18, and editing is also not 8h per day
,
i work in 3d animation, and when i say i worked 5 days on a project, it means i worked 5 complete days, and probably slept 8 hours during that period.
thats just the business, but the 112 hours i worked in this 5 days are worth 14 normal work days thats around 2.5 weeks mo-fr 8h a day.

and obviously, if i work without pause for days, you can be sure i wont charge you a normal price for that, but at least double the normal price. that live. you want i fast and perfect, then you have to pay ...

that the photographer that answered the bride only works 4 month and only has 20 jobs ~ 1-2 jobs a week is a different story ...

0 upvotes
Dustinash
By Dustinash (Jan 30, 2012)

Beacause the people who make that in a month are either grossyly undereducated or underskilled. She has to pay that because the photographer is a skilled artist. She is paying for expertise. Her argument is vapid.

1 upvote
Martin Datzinger
By Martin Datzinger (Jan 27, 2012)

Creative piece of accounting!

3 upvotes
eozdural
By eozdural (Jan 27, 2012)

this is exactly right, if you do the sums, the photographer has to live on below the poverty line... very sad really.. but what it really looks like is a cat fight

1 upvote
Carl Sanders
By Carl Sanders (Jan 28, 2012)

See no point in justifying charges there are others who would do it cheaper, it is not about costs it is what is brought to the picture by the photographer, that is priceless! : )

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
the great fiction
By the great fiction (Jan 27, 2012)

The Bride needs to read up on basic economics. If high quality wedding photographers were charging $3,000 just because they could and not because that's the fair market price for the service provided, then other photographers with equal skills would have an incentive to come along and offer the same service at a lower cost. I'm pretty sure there's not a wedding photography monopoly or cartel that's preventing photographers from offering lower prices for the full wedding service with all of the bells and whistles (i.e. top cameras, top lenses, second photographers, all day long, etc.)

You also have to consider that you're paying for assurance of quality at higher prices. It's not to say that there aren't wedding photographers who produce bad photos at $3,000, but I'm sure there's a much higher probability of ending up with a bad photographer at $500. Given that a wedding only happens once, there's a premium to be paid for the assurance that the photographer hired won't screw it up.

3 upvotes
REDred Photo
By REDred Photo (Jan 27, 2012)

It's interesting to note that $3000 is actually not a very high price for a "high quality" photographer. Based on Nikki Wagner's expense figures, I'd say she should be charging at least twice that if she were actually trying to make a profit.

0 upvotes
fmian
By fmian (Jan 28, 2012)

Except that she's not a very good photographer, and her best images (on her website) show examples of blown highlights in wedding dresses. This is completely inexcusable when you are shooting digital and smacks of someone who does not know the basics.
IMO she should not be charging more than $1000 for her sloppy amateur work.

0 upvotes
Dustinash
By Dustinash (Jan 30, 2012)

blowing highlights in a wedding dress is not always a bad shot. Maybe she wanted to do some high key fashion shots with the blown highlights to create that kind of shot. It also can create a sense of purity and dreaminess. Sure David Ziser says dont do it. But as an artist... sometimes.. I do it. But I always shoot RAW so if I didnt want to do it, I can undo it.

0 upvotes
fmian
By fmian (Jan 30, 2012)

Blowing highlights is technically incorrect in photography.
When they say that you can break rules in photography, blowing highlights is not one of those rules. It should always be adhered to.
For high key images one must still maintain correct exposure. You can come close to overexposure, and maybe have one small portion of the image over, as long as it's not distracting to the eye.
On top of that, would a bride really like the idea of paying heaps of money on a wedding dress, only to have all that fine lacework and detail lost in her only memory of the event?
Shame on photographers who do this and call themselves professionals.

0 upvotes
sands70
By sands70 (Jan 27, 2012)

We work quickly, qualitatively and inexpensively! Nikki, select any two of the three species! :)))

1 upvote
Francis Carver
By Francis Carver (Jan 27, 2012)

Sounds to me like a classic case of a BRIDE BEING LEFT AT THE ALTAR. The "lady bride" is now turning her anger against the pooh' photographer.

She should have asked her uncles to take the pix instead in the first place, duuuuh.

0 upvotes
Stan LS
By Stan LS (Jan 27, 2012)

He shoots 20 weddings a year and claim that he spends 28-35 hours on each one (8-10 hours shooting, 20-25 post processing). Come on! That's at the very most 35 hours. If we are to be generous and assume that he spends 35 hours on every single job, that means that he only works 700 hours a year. In terms of a 40 hour work week - that's 4 months and one week. Give me a break!

As for him listing his expenses as far as the equipment goes - it's not as if he's buying new camera bodies and lenses every year. 5DMII is what? 4-5 years old? Same goes for his workstation.

0 upvotes
JoshKline
By JoshKline (Jan 27, 2012)

"She" 28-35 hours is ridiculous I don't spend that much time on a $6000 client with a 50 page book. Again though the market decides the price it isn't arbitrary.

1 upvote
inevitable crafts studio
By inevitable crafts studio (Jan 27, 2012)

guys .. you are better then her .. if i have to heavily post process every photo its for sure lot of work

i would like a portfolio of this photographer btw

0 upvotes
onelegwest
By onelegwest (Jan 27, 2012)

For those that think 28-35 hrs is ridiculous than you have missed something. That time you need to prepare your gear the day before or the day of the wedding . The driving time to the wedding and after when you go home. The time to download the photos, back them up, etc... I've been doing weddings part-time for the past 12 years and there is a lot of time that is consumed when working in this industry that is indirectly related to the client's wedding.

0 upvotes
grusum
By grusum (Jan 28, 2012)

Wait until Bridezilla finds out how much her divorce attorney is going to charge her... Then $3k will be cheap!

0 upvotes
Wye Photography
By Wye Photography (Jan 27, 2012)

4 Months wedding season! Perhaps Nikki should move to where the season is longer! If she doesn't, well that's a life style choice. She is also single (if not, what the hell is hubby/partner doing?).

So, she manages to live a whole year on four months work. Hey! That sounds real good. I wish I could bloody well do that!

I know a few full time wedding photographers, I'm semi-pro my self and I know how much work goes into a wedding. A number of meetings with the couple, pre-wedding shoot, a couple of recce shoots at all venue locations, 10-12hr shoot, travel, downloading of data, sorting 600+ pix, editing, software, Mac etc. My charges are moderate compared to some (I have other sources of income). Even after all this, I still feel wedding photographers take the pi$$ when it comes to their charging.

I wish I could make my ends meet working four months of the year. Then you have those potential clients who don't want to pay more than £400, but that is another story.

0 upvotes
Ceesprof
By Ceesprof (Jan 27, 2012)

In Holland we regularly hear the the argument : "My uncle does it for nothing". My answer is: Let your uncle make it. Arguing about the price is nonsense. How many hours work it takes from photography to album making. How much per hour you need to make to get a sufficient income to pay for the bills, your taxes, your mortgage, your pension, depreciation of the equipment, insurances, saving for replacements, travel costs, decent clothing, to pay your assistant, and so on. And how many hours a day can you work effectively? Do you start getting the picture? $ 3000,- for and album including photography is just very reasonable. Working cheaper will lead to bankruptcy. Anything cheaper should be left to the uncle photographer.

2 upvotes
Francis Carver
By Francis Carver (Jan 27, 2012)

Exactly. Americans just whine too much. The so-called "bride" should have asked her uncles or aunts to take the pix instead. Obviously, the last person anyone would for a customer is one who (A) does not have money to spend or (B) does not want to spend that money.

I'm guessing that the complaining bride's marriage was not "consummated" at the wedding night, and now she is attacking everyone involved with the charade with a dose of venom.

0 upvotes
beaglefish
By beaglefish (Jan 27, 2012)

Thanks for making this chick the spokesman for all Americans...

1 upvote
revaaron
By revaaron (Jan 27, 2012)

the bride exhibits why I mostly refuse to shoot weddings.

3 upvotes
Francis Carver
By Francis Carver (Jan 27, 2012)

Agreed! You've got it pegged to the 'tee.'

Funeral photography/videography makes a lot more sense. Less complaints from the subjects. Also, I think divorce party photography and videography is an up-and-coming specialty. Everyone is most joyous at those festivity.

0 upvotes
Jonathan Skrimshire
By Jonathan Skrimshire (Jan 27, 2012)

I notice that Nikki Wagner lists an expense of $200 for a second shooter. Maybe the disgruntled bride should just hire the second shooter. ;-)

3 upvotes
petrocan
By petrocan (Jan 27, 2012)

good one, I miss that :), better yet, paid two, that way you will for sure have all the images you need.

but seriously, I always wanted to do that, but I just lack the skill. Those second shooter are just there to snap picture that serve purpose as who came to the wedding.

0 upvotes
JoshKline
By JoshKline (Jan 27, 2012)

What a silly point, how about you just pay some factory worker in China for your computer why do you need Dell or Apple! A bike and a Rolls Royce may do the same thing getting you from point a to point b, but does that mean they are the same?

2 upvotes
Dustinash
By Dustinash (Jan 30, 2012)

moral of the story is the second shooter is the one who is really getting screw-ed

1 upvote
pp168
By pp168 (Jan 27, 2012)

Uhm... nice to read a lot of excuses right here, but all I can say is, that the bride is right! :D

C'mon... 3 grand for a wedding in the US?! It's almost three times more than you would pay for a really good wedding photographer right here in Germany...

I think I have to get a green card... :D

Cheers!

1 upvote
BMWX5
By BMWX5 (Jan 27, 2012)

Pretty obvious, you never run a business...

3 upvotes
JoshKline
By JoshKline (Jan 27, 2012)

She's not in Germany, what the market bears in Germany has no relation whatsoever to Seattle. Not to be harsh on Germans (you guys make some awesome stuff) but I don't see a lot of influential wedding photography from Germany. Maybe the German market prefers a more straightforward technical approach that flattens out the high end of the market.

0 upvotes
scottnyc
By scottnyc (Jan 27, 2012)

Nah.. just stay in Germany.

0 upvotes
Poss
By Poss (Jan 27, 2012)

I have pretty good pro wed photogs in Germany... The prices are pretty high there as well...

1 upvote
Francis Carver
By Francis Carver (Jan 27, 2012)

I am not quite sure about the quality of wedding photographers and videographers in Germany, but these days it's Asia that is calling the shots and setting the new world-class standards.

At one point in time, there were some good cameras and lenses coming out of East Germany and also out of West Germany, but since the so-called "unification," that had also emigrated over to the Far East.

0 upvotes
jmmgarza
By jmmgarza (Jan 27, 2012)

As President Bush once said, "It's hard work." In Riverside, a low-end wedding package is priced about $500. The closer you get to the coast (Newport Beach, etc.) the prices go up fast.

1 upvote
JoshKline
By JoshKline (Jan 27, 2012)

Nikki's points are valid- although I agree, overstated. I am a full time professional photographer. About 30-40% of my business is wedding photography, the remainder corporate and editorial. It is a myth that wedding photographers are overpaid. Many artist (myself included) underestimate our costs and time especially early on leading us to charge too little in the beginning. The other big disadvantage photographers have is that we don't build equity in our businesses, as most other business owners do.

My bigger concern is the lack of understanding of capitalism and market freedom in general. I think it is great that some wedding photographers can charge 10x what I do and others are 1/4th my pricing. This is the diversity of a free market and competition. It forces all of us to be our best and to solve problems. Free markets allow almost every bride to find a photographer for her budget and tastes. Two axioms hold true: You get what you pay for & There is not such thing as a free lunch

5 upvotes
AV Janus
By AV Janus (Jan 27, 2012)

And this is front page news because...?
What? I don't get it... Is this a girlfriend from one of the staff?

By this any forum rand will be up here. Look there are at least 20 active on this board at any given moment...

0 upvotes
Poss
By Poss (Jan 27, 2012)

It gives us something to bitch about in a cold Friday...

0 upvotes
wkay
By wkay (Jan 27, 2012)

I guess our hero never passed economics in high school, but last time I checked we live in a free competiition, supply and demand market. If photog A charges too much than find photog B. If photog A truly charges too much then they will be out of business. You always charge what the market will bear and if you are truly exceptional then the sky's the limit. How come BMW gets to charge more than KIA?

5 upvotes
Poss
By Poss (Jan 27, 2012)

Take the best Kia has to offer against what the best BMW has to offer on a few laps of the Nurburgring. Look at the best lap times. The big gap there reflects directly the big gap in pricing.
Take both for a long drive, as far as you can from home. See which one you'd like to drive on your way back...

0 upvotes
Francis Carver
By Francis Carver (Jan 27, 2012)

"How come BMW gets to charge more than KIA?"

I am not sure, but it seems to me that lately, KIA sells 10 cars for every one BMW is able to dump here in North America. But hey, if your aim is to max-out on prices, number of service visits, service center arrogance, repair and part costs, go right ahead and get the Bimmer.

0 upvotes
graybalanced
By graybalanced (Jan 27, 2012)

I am fine with the free market...as long as the playing field is level.

The free market has been distorted by photographers who are not attempting to earn a full time living from it. They are subsidized by their day jobs. This creates unfair competition with the full-time photographers because the subsidized photographers always low-ball with rates that cannot sustain a professional business. The market, distorted by the lowballs, begins to expect that the lowball rate is a fair rate, so fewer people want to pay true pro rates ...

A high school economics class is nice, ok, but at some point you have to step out of ivory tower academic theory and observe real world variables.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
nikos theodosiou
By nikos theodosiou (Jan 27, 2012)

Well done Nikki! As a pro wedding photographer of 12 years I hear this a lot!
Trouble is now days that digital cameras have devalued photography somewhat and because everyone thinks they are a photographer these days their perception is that is should be cheap! Wrong!
Professional wedding photography is a skilled art and if a bride wants everything that a pro comes with then she will have to pay for it!
If she wants a Weekend Warrior for $600 fine and good luck to her!
I get regular calls from bride saying I'm too expensive or how can I justify charging $1000 for the copy right disc, well for just the same reasons you stated in your reply.
I can usually tell now who is the amateur photographer as they always give away their copyrights within their package, why? because they hold little or no value to their work!
Professional photographers should charge more for what they do in my opinion.

3 upvotes
JoshKline
By JoshKline (Jan 27, 2012)

Nikos,

I have found it is best to just charge enough at the outset and grant the rights to the images always. It doesn't mean I don't value my work- I have charged for it from the very beginning. I see many 10K plus wedding photographers who now grant copyright inclusive. I doubt that you will be able to continue not doing so in the wedding market for much longer. Digital has changed the market and the way people share their images has changed. Charge what you need from the very beginning to deliver images that are ready to share and print.

3 upvotes
aleck
By aleck (Jan 27, 2012)

I was agreeing with the thread when it was talking about market economy and the price being the product of supply and demand. But it lost me when the pros started complaining about the art being "devalued" and the "amateurs" who don't charge enough. Then you start sounding like the bride in the Craigslist post. If you are for market economy, then embrace it all the way. Digital photography did not "devalue" the art, it just lowered the entry barrier. It is easier, cheaper and more people can learn and offer the services, therefore increasing supply and reducing the price. That's how free market works. Just because you charge $1000 for a CD, it does not make you a pro.

1 upvote
JoshKline
By JoshKline (Jan 27, 2012)

Very good point Aleck, you are right you can't have it both ways support free markets advocate for the value of your work and stop bitching about the competition!

0 upvotes
Ignat Solovey
By Ignat Solovey (Jan 27, 2012)

Free market is free market, right. This very free market will pull to the void the job itself. Camera makers do excellent job, but their achievements leave us jobless when they reach cellphones. The better quality can cameras deliver, the lower is the demand for quality, because customer is fine with the images his smartphone produces, and some people hire photographers just because it's tradition. Prepare for the huge funeral of photography as a profession. Lytro and Adobe will finish the job started by Sharp, which was first to put camera into cellphone.

0 upvotes
nikos theodosiou
By nikos theodosiou (Jan 27, 2012)

If Surgeons started popping up all over the place charging cheap prices and offering cheap quality where would be be then? The point is that Photography is unregulated so a bride does not know if a $600 photographer is any more reliable than a $3000 one.
Digital has devalued photography no question because now everyone takes pictures and "thinks" that are a photographer and when I mean everyone my own mother who used to think that the CD tray on her PC was a cup holder! Now if she can come over to see me with her iPhone pictures telling how good she is then that proves it!
At weddings everyone is snapping away! getting in the way too, following you about, old and young are all photographers. Notice there are no more Lord Lichfield's, David Baileys around photographers are not seen as special as everyone does it.

1 upvote
TimT999
By TimT999 (Jan 27, 2012)

Actually Nikki's numbers don't add up. She says she pays $15,000 a year in taxes. She also shows that after deducting all her business expenses (including the camera supplies) she is basically in the hole each year.

But if her business expenses take up all her profit, she would pay ZERO profits. That's all a write-off. So there may be a bit of exaggeration here.

1 upvote
fabieee
By fabieee (Jan 27, 2012)

If she is looking for someone hanging out at the wedding taking tons of photos, them $ 3,000.00 is too much, but if she wants a n exceptional, amanzingly talented, fun photographer, maybe $ 3,000.00 is a realy good price

2 upvotes
DJNPhotog
By DJNPhotog (Jan 27, 2012)

Two words, "Hazard Pay". I've seen women who are normally nice, mild mannered, sometimes even sweet people turn into absolute monsters when dealing with their wedding. I don't shoot weddings because of that fact. But the bottom line is that as a photographer and business person, I can charge what ever I want. If I decide my time is worth a certain dollar figure then that is my prerogative. The potential client can either hire me or not. That is their prerogative. I don't have to justify my choice to price my services a certain way. If you are curious as to why my service is "expensive" I will gladly explain what I do, how I do it and why I am the best at what I do. But don't expect that I will reduce my price because you think it's too high.

This craigslist ad is a classic example of a bridezilla who has gone all batsh*t crazy and instead of finding a different service provider she goes on a rant and says some really nasty things about an entire industry of people. Not right.

6 upvotes
JoshKline
By JoshKline (Jan 27, 2012)

Very well stated, imagine if the wedding photographer market model where applied to healthcare. It is free markets at their purest and best!

0 upvotes
Francis Carver
By Francis Carver (Jan 27, 2012)

Imagine having to spend not only a wedding night, but a LIFETIME with this hard complaining "bridezilla lady," ouch.

0 upvotes
Ignat Solovey
By Ignat Solovey (Jan 27, 2012)

Grooms worth their brides, right? ;)

0 upvotes
Dave Oddie
By Dave Oddie (Jan 27, 2012)

You can apply the logic used in the response to virtually anything you do and find you have run out of the resource you are using at each step.

I spend X minutes a day eating, washing, driving to work etc etc and suddenly I have used up all 24 hours with no time to relax.

It is just a variation on a very old anecdote. Not impressed at all.

The photographer apparently lives off $583 a month but yet with only that amount of net income buys 27 inch imacs and a shed load of pro gear.

Are these purchases liable for tax? Or is that claimed back/not required to be paid? Are business expenses tax deductible? Can equipment costs be offset against tax (depreciation)?

I think this is what is known as over stating the case otherwise Nikki Wagner lives close to the poverty line and I bet she does not.

1 upvote
Eyes
By Eyes (Jan 27, 2012)

I agree that most wedding photographers are abusing this special moment with an expensive price tag. Sure they want to use or have the best equipment they can use. Having 2 FX bodies and two zoom lens cost nearly $10.000, no car no flash.
But they will have a big competitor soon.
In Europe Chinese Photographers 3 person will do a complete Wedding reportage including Albums and a video Disk for €1200,-
And it looks Professional ! and they come all the way from China!
Don't ask me how? That's the price tag and product delivered in 2 weeks time.

1 upvote
Ignat Solovey
By Ignat Solovey (Jan 27, 2012)

Did you ever think about WHY do we want the best equipment, expensive lenses and stuff? Not to put fancy taglines on forums, not to scare the security guys with our "cannons" and show off at the events. We need this to deliver the BEST results to our customers, and so that hardware won't jeopardize that day. Ask manufacturers why do they setting "wack" price tags, but as far as I know, Canon spends 8 freakin' BILLION bucks a year only on lens R&D, and they do not only cameras and lenses. Here in Russia $3000 is almost the top price for wedding. Many people freak out when we charge more that the cost of WEDDING CAKE, which is $200. And they demand at least 700 pictures. Albums and even prints are omitted since one nice album costs like two wedding cakes, in case I do the design myself. People think that if there is no film then our work is nothing, and equipment and experience are granted. And being photojournalist rather than wedding shooter, I'd say that in press it even more dreadful

1 upvote
JoshKline
By JoshKline (Jan 27, 2012)

If you identify a market that you think is "abused" by overpricing then you have a tremendous opportunity to offer a service at a better price and profit. This is why capitalism (true capitalism) really works. Scarce resources are allocated by supply and demand. If you think we are overcharging then take some classes and come take us on!

3 upvotes
ispress
By ispress (Jan 27, 2012)

If wedding photographers were regularly ripping people off, you would see a flood of entrants into the market. Despite some fairly pricey equipment, photography has an extremely low cost of entry. No special credentials and minimal capital investment. It's ludicrous to say that photographers are ripping people off. There are tons of options and no one is forced to choose a particular photographer. Don't like the price? Don't pay it!

1 upvote
Poss
By Poss (Jan 27, 2012)

Maloy, I would like to see your face after someone spills beer on your camera. It happens more often than you think. If you have a pro sealed body and lens you wipe it off, smile, apologize to the guest (who most likely had a few more before and now thinks the world owes him something) and continue shooting. If you have an entry level kit you go home and hope your insurance will fix it... Oh! You DO have insurance, right?

0 upvotes
SBoudreault
By SBoudreault (Jan 27, 2012)

"Canon spends 8 freakin' BILLION bucks a year only on lens R&D" is the most stupid thing I've read in a while...
I've registered to this forum, just to reply !
(Hopefully I'll have more interesting contributions in a near future!)

Canon revenues are "only" 3,5 Billions; a good part of it is from low profitability gear and Canon does a lot more R&D than just lenses... I don't know how much they spend on R&D, but it not anywhere even near "billions"...

S.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
JoshKline
By JoshKline (Jan 27, 2012)

The it isn't the camera argument is extremely valid yet not a black and white matter. Of course a given photographer can produce better work with better equipment. The point is that the tools are merely tools and the value really lies in the eye of the artist not the gear. Put more simply: a good photographer with a point and shoot can get better shots overall than a bad one with all the best gear.

0 upvotes
Ignat Solovey
By Ignat Solovey (Jan 27, 2012)

Maloy, sorry for going personal, but you're the poor reader, sticking to the first sentence and omitting the second one.

SBoutreault - that number is what I was told by CPS rep yesterday when I played with pre-production sample of EOS-1DX (and I'm on NDA on everything else about that, so can't tell anyone, though I know much more).

JoshKline - A nuke in monkey's hands can do the apocalypse. Heavy SLR in a newbie hands can be worse than P&S. But I can't afford missing moments because of clumsy shutter, slow and faulty AF, weak batteries and dark lenses - I had enough of that before. I don't need a camera which thinks for me, I need camera which is responsive enough to extend my eyes, brain and hands. And I think fast.
Don't you think that cheap chainsaw is a good tool for lumberjack? Are cheap tyres good for commercial bus? Is weak walkie-talkie good for ER and police? Same with cameras here. And doing news and weddings are dangerous enough to demand reliable tools and nice $ for that

0 upvotes
REDred Photo
By REDred Photo (Jan 27, 2012)

I agree with the previous poster... If you feel photographers charge too much, "take some classes" and compete in the market. By the way, you'll need to spend money on those classes... and buy some decent equipment... and you'll need to spend many many hours honing your skills by working for free before anyone will be willing to pay you. If you don't want to shoot your own wedding, get your nephew to do it... but first buy him a nice camera and send him to some classes.

It's sad that so many people don't value the time, energy, and money that must be invested into developing professional skills in photography. No one seems to complain about the prices doctors and lawyers charge for their services... because they pay $100k+ for school and spend 10 years learning before they even begin earning an income. A "skilled, talented photographer" has to invest in developing those skills... that's what you're paying for. By the way, I'm a pro photographer and I refuse to shoot weddings.

0 upvotes
SBoudreault
By SBoudreault (Jan 29, 2012)

"that number is what I was told by CPS rep yesterday when I played with pre-production sample of EOS-1DX (and I'm on NDA on everything else about that, so can't tell anyone, though I know much more)."
Market capitalization and earnings are publicly available, and from what I can see, Canon is worth less than half that what your contact claims to be spending in R&D "on lenses only" !.

Then again, that reality vs marketing ratio is consistent with their ISO performance claims on many of their high end models :)
Regards,
S.

Comment edited 44 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
kenyee
By kenyee (Jan 27, 2012)

Paying $500 for a wedding photographer off craigslist is generally a stupid move. They should interview folks who did that and had really terrible photos shot w/ the kit lens on a DSLR and then gone into photography forums to ask for help in fixing them (seen that so many times in the past few years, it's not funny). You'll get lucky sometimes, but it's more the rarity if you do.
Cost generally is an indicator of quality/professionalism/work. It's not a direct correlation, but you get a higher probability of good work for higher cost up to a point.
Photography is still an art form as well. It's not pure mechanical point and shooting. So the cost of a photography includes "talent" which no one seems to recognize/value nowadays because it's so "easy"...

2 upvotes
Burbclaver
By Burbclaver (Jan 27, 2012)

Free enterprise and market forces will prevail as usual. Digital photography has demystified photography in the eyes of the public resulting in a devaluation of its perceived worth. In the recent recession, one of the biggest segment of new business startups was wedding photography, as recently laid-off workers turned to their hobby to try and make a business of it. While there are photogs prepared to do the job for $300, however badly, I can't see the overall wedding photography market getting firmer any time soon.

0 upvotes
ljstudio
By ljstudio (Jan 27, 2012)

I photographed weddings for 30 years. The last one I photographed (using film) was in 2004. Kodak came out with a statistic many years ago that the average wedding photographer (again, back in the film days) would spend 28 to 35 hours on every wedding they would photograph. The bulk of the work is done after the wedding & reception- editing, ordering albums, dealing with all of the orders, etc.
We would charge $1500 for a starter wedding package until we bought Successware, a studio software & financial program which, in my opinion, is the best available. After punching all of our costs, hours we spent on each wedding, etc., Successware informed us that our starter package should be $2900 instead of $1500. We ran the numbers 3 times just to be sure. Weddings are hard work & most photographers earn their money.

3 upvotes
Poss
By Poss (Jan 27, 2012)

Just don't bring Kodak into this business discussion OK? :-)

0 upvotes
Vidau
By Vidau (Jan 27, 2012)

why not?

0 upvotes
Poss
By Poss (Jan 28, 2012)

If one uses kodak and business in the same sentence, bankrupcy needs alo to be included as well.
It's called irony , I think... :-)

Comment edited 56 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
njkdo
By njkdo (Jan 27, 2012)

I am from est europe, I have a degree in photography, I did sometime wedding photos for about 250 $ big price here, but for 3000$ I will came in USA to make wedding photos, driving wedding car, catering, church man and bridesmaid wedding.

3 upvotes
Ignat Solovey
By Ignat Solovey (Jan 27, 2012)

And you'll ruin the market of the last country on the planet where our work costs at least something.
Dude, better come to Russia, here at least you'll do only pictures and editing, digital only (no prints and stuff, plus you'll be fed at the wedding dinner and driven around in bride's limo for $400-500... 25 times a year at most, since there are flocks of young girls with cheapo DSLR kits and no knowledge, who are wetting themselves just with the idea of wedding photography, even for free. Make your living for $1000/month (including rent, transportation and equipment), and many things here are more expensive than in the US, although you don't need to be a business item and tax inspection isn't interested in you - photographers are considered too poor to be taxed here. Although since you're foreigner, that won't be that easy on you...

1 upvote
qwertyasdf
By qwertyasdf (Jan 27, 2012)

I support the bride.
Somehow, over generalizing is a fallacy.
There are so many photogs out there, I am sure many will charge $3000+ and produce invaluable memories for the newly married

BUT........

I am sure that even more photogs are charging $3000+ and produce pictures that don't even worth $3...or maybe a value of negative $3000...why? Because ones biggest lifetime event will be trashed...

And applying high school statistics, extreme outliers will skew the mean significantly...probably the mean value produced by photogs are way south of $3000

0 upvotes
Joe Federer
By Joe Federer (Jan 27, 2012)

Way 'north'... as in 'more', I suspect.

I charge considerably more than 3k, work more than 2000 hours a year, and don't come home with much profit at the end of the year. Certainly less than if I simply worked a $10 hour job for some other company.

Not to mention, the value in what I bring to the wedding has nothing to do with the cost of my gear. The value I bring to my clients is my vision, creativity, eye, experience, etc... not something that can be 'bought' or valued like a commodity.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 5 minutes after posting
3 upvotes
JoshKline
By JoshKline (Jan 27, 2012)

This is a silly argument. First of all $3000 is a number pulled out of this air and not the true mean. There are photographers charging 100K and some charging $300, this is an incredibly subjectively priced market. Photographers that don't deliver get weeded out pretty quick unless they are truly scraping the bottom of the market in which case you get what you pay for. There are review sites and word online travels very quick if you suck you will not compete very long if at all there is just too many great alternatives.

0 upvotes
waxwaine
By waxwaine (Jan 27, 2012)

So you work 4 months of 12 a year. I want that job.

1 upvote
asphotographymk
By asphotographymk (Jan 27, 2012)

My i wish i only worked 4 months a year. The wedding season is however about 4 months a year. In that time it is impossible to make enough profit to live. As a photographer the rest of the year is spent just as busy on several things. The first is of course booking weddings, going to wedding shows, meeting brides, marketing. Then we also need to make money so events, portraits, corporate. If i was to shoot weddings alone i simply would not be able to live.

0 upvotes
JoshKline
By JoshKline (Jan 27, 2012)

Very few of us work 4 months a year. Those that do have very likely worked very hard to get to the pinnacle of the market first.
That is the great thing about our market- you want "that" job? Ok what is stopping you? The argument presupposes that somehow those folks won some random career lottery.

0 upvotes
Navmark77
By Navmark77 (Jan 27, 2012)

Not true that the wedding season is 4 months a year. Maybe somewhere it is, but not everywhere. My daughter works in floral design and does multiple weddings every week, year round.

0 upvotes
Simon_rooster
By Simon_rooster (Jan 27, 2012)

the strange thing is that the co-shooter is only paid 200$ :-)

1 upvote
Steven Blackwood
By Steven Blackwood (Jan 27, 2012)

But shooting is generally the ONLY thing he or she does. When the Wedding is over, the job is done.

1 upvote
asphotographymk
By asphotographymk (Jan 27, 2012)

As already said they do not have the extra work or costs. For me i my second shooter turns up, uses my equipment and then goes home job well done.

1 upvote
Total comments: 784
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