That word that instills fear in the hearts of menfolk and is the one thing that little girls have been planning since they were 4......
I love weddings. As long as they aren't mine and I'm the photographer....
They are always beautiful, while stressful and a lot of hard work, they are absolutely a crucial day in a couple's life together as a couple will learn more about themselves and each other while planning one, than any other endeavour they will ever embark on.
They will have to endure endless interjections from well meaning family and friends, a stream of you should's from random strangers, never ending appointments/to-do lists/tasks, bridezillas, family feud disentangling, the chaos that is seating arrangements and don't forget the money thing......
But a crucial thing, that often gets pushed to the wayside, is photos.
A bride will organise her special day to the enth degree, but sometimes she misses out, or scrimps on the thing which to me, should be almost more important than anything - her photos.
People seem to forget, that while the day is so special, it's the photo's that will stand the test of time.
And something that took me by surprise the other day, was after quoting a bride, she decided to use someone who was going to be far cheaper for her. Which was fine with me and I wished her luck thinking I wouldn't hear from her again in regards to the wedding.
Until I got a surprise message which left me shocked to say the least - as I'm always surprised when people seem to have so little idea of what a photographer goes through, when we take on a wedding.
Because of that message I've decided to write this post, to try to give people an idea of the work, time and effort that a good photographer will put into each and every wedding client, to ensure their day goes smoothly and the photos are beautiful.
Her message, probably seemed innocuous enough to her, but was one that made me realise how undervalued and disrespected photographers are.
She asked me if I could help her put together a shot list to give to her wedding photographer.
Which shocked me that
1.) her photographer was already showing a lack of commitment and skill
2.) that she felt my work was good enough to want my ideas and skills, but not valuable enough that she would pay for them
Now, I know I'm not alone in my work process, as I know many wedding photographers who are just as thorough.
So I thought I would share how I work and how much time I put into my clients.
When a new client contacts me, I try to respond within a day with an initial email leading them to my website for packages, prices and most importantly images so that they can get a feel for my work and costs and decide if they would like to go further.
Next, I arrange to meet them. I take my portfolio book and enjoy a coffee with them, while we get to know each other a little and they can view my printed work and quality. While I'm there, I will spend a good half an hour taking notes and learning about them. Their personality, what they love and hate, how they feel about photos and their importance. If a booking is made, contracts will be signed and deposits arranged.
If they book with me, we arrange a second meeting, where (after the deposit has been paid) we will start to get into real detail. I will spend an hour or two going through all the details. Dresses, colours, locations, people, ideas. And the couple and I will start to put together a rough layout of the day working out what images they need, when we will be aiming to shoot them and timetabling. We also put together lists of ideas and props they would like to use.
At the third meeting, we will lock in the shot list, schedule of the day and nail down the final preparations.
So before the wedding, I've spent approximately 4 hours with my couples and I've probably spent another 8 hours researching.
Looking for inspiration, motivation, locating the props, scouting the venue and portrait locations and making sure we can get the shots they chose at those locations. Mapping out distances, travel times between the portrait spots and working out how long we would need to be at each spot. Creating a timetable and shot list for the day. Booking assistant and second shooter where needed. Making worksheets for the staff.
That's 12 hours work so far. Plus expenses.
The day before, I will be busy charging batteries, packing equipment and props up and ensuring cameras are charged, cleaned and in good working order. Cleaning lenses and checking them all for faults. Just in case, you know!
There's another 2 hours.
On the day, I will be up early to pack snacks and drink, load my car and drive to your prep location, and I'll start to shoot.
I will have had a meeting with my team before we started too, so that everyone has a brief for the day and they know where to be and when. They will have been given handouts with all the information they need.
Another 2 hours easily.
Only then will my day start. I will liase with the bride, send my second to meet the menfolk.
And I will shoot for anywhere between 3 and 12 hours depending on the chosen coverage.
In that time, I won't sit down, I will likely not eat (other than snacks) and I will have my camera in my hand. Because I belong to the couple for that day.
So add on average, 8 hours for a full wedding.
Then once I'm home, I've cards to unload, files to backup in case of emergency and then the processing phase begins.
Processing can take anywhere from 1-2 weeks. Roughly 20-40 hours of processing for a full wedding.
So by the time you see your beautiful images 2-3 weeks later, I will have spent 44-64 hours working on your wedding.
For a $3'000 package, that's $46 per hour before tax and without me having paid my assistant and second shooter.
Or around $37 per hour after I've paid my staff. And that $37 still has to have expenses come out of it, such as any hired equipment, travel/gas expenses, insurance and the like.
Doesn't leave much behind does it? Most of that will go straight back into maintaining and upgrading equipment......
But what it DOES leave behind, are the beautiful memories, that the couple will have to cherish forever.
Photos, that when they look through them, will remind them of that most important day in their journey. They will capture the tiny details that are so easily lost in the memory banks... remind them who shared their day with them and also the images will show the absolute love and adoration they have for each other in those special looks and touches that allow them to forever remember why they married in the first place.
Those images will be here in 100 years. 200 years. When the couple are long gone, but their children and grandchildren will be there to look through them and see how beautiful and in love they were.
Because memories fade much faster than a photograph.
So the next time you, or someone you love is planning a wedding and they want to go cheap on the photographer, ask them how important their day is and see whether they realize that a bad photographer could ruin their day and memories forever......