This is a question I have come across more times than I can count since I began my career in the wedding industry, and one I have wanted to try to answer for a while now. However I have never managed to find the right words when it comes to putting pen to paper.
It's important to start with a few points; I'm not here to justify what I charge my clients. Nor am I here to put down those photographers who will happily cover a wedding for a couple of hundred quid. If someone has a passion and they find they can make a little extra cash doing what they love at the weekends, then it's not my place to judge. Good on them! There is however, a huge divide between those people who 'do a little on the side', and those who make this their full time career. Why?
I guess, from an outsider's point of view, wedding photography is easy. It's fun. It's a great way to seemingly earn a lot of cash without doing much work. Well, yes, the process of pointing a camera at people and pressing the shutter button IS easy. These days, we ALL have cameras, whether it be a smartphone, a tablet, a point-and-shoot or full blown professional equipment. I see it at weddings - I take a look over my shoulder when I am photographing the bride and groom's cake cutting or their first dance. I don't see people; I see an ocean of faces obscured by the back of a phone or iPad.
Photography is everywhere.
So then, why not just get your best mate or your college friend or your Uncle Bob to take a few snaps at your wedding? How hard can it be right? Now I could go on to list the points that have been argued time and time again; the hours we invest, the cost of our training and equipment, the endless evenings we spend editing images. All very valid points, but for me, not the essence of why wedding photography - and to a point ALL commissioned photography - warrants a high price tag...
Photography is one of the most important things in life.
I can prove this to you simply. Ask yourself this; if your house was burning down and you had time to save very few things that were important to you, what would you grab? I guarantee somewhere in your list there would be a family photograph, an old wedding album, the snap of your baby's first smile...Then, think back to when you lost someone close to you (amazing if you never have you lucky people)...what was one of the first things you did? I'm going to take a guess that you looked through some photographs to feel closer to them. We all know the value of photography. So add one of the most important things in life to one of the most important days of your life - that's why wedding photography is - and in my mind should be - expensive. Because it is invaluable. It is priceless. It is your memories. It is your life.
When you're planning your wedding, you'll have all these ideas in your mind of the key moments you can't wait for. The moment your Dad sees you for the first time in your dress; the second you lock eyes with your husband or wife to be before you say your vows; the humour of your best man's speech (ok well maybe a few of you would prefer for this one not to happen!). Those moments deserve good photographs. Good photographs come from trained and experienced professionals. You want to be able to see the tears in your Dad's eyes, the emotion in the face of the one you love, the connection between the two of you when you think no one is watching...
Don't get me wrong, I'm not sat here thinking that everyone should go out and spend £2000, £3000, even £5000 on their photographer. Not everyone can afford that - spend what you can afford, but go for the top end of that. Don't get yourself into a load of debt over something that is, honestly, a luxury. Getting married is about getting married, about promising yourself to someone for the rest of your life. That's relatively cheap to do. The cost of a registry office or a church. Everything else about your wedding day is a luxury. The flowers, the dress, the cake, the band. You don't need those things to become husband and wife. Just like you done NEED photographs.
So why do you book all of those things? Because they make your day perfect right?
So then, a perfect day deserves perfect memories.
Don't do yourselves an injustice by paying out all that money on everything else to have it documented averagely. Find someone who can capture your day as you visualise it. Someone who gets you. Someone you trust to capture your memories. You're not just paying someone to turn up and press a few buttons. You're paying someone to capture your life. What's more important than that?
Wedding photographers aren't out there to rip you off. We care so much about what we do. Spend what you can afford, but ask yourselves how much you can really stretch to, and go all the way. Invest in your wedding day. Invest in your memories. Invest in you!