Splendid Details: Why wedding Photography is an Investment Worth Making

I found this blog today while doing my weekly search for new and inspiring wedding/business info and companies.This blog post by The Wedding Dish is a great eye opener for brides to understand a little bit more about wedding photography and the need for 7-10 hours of coverage and why the photos are not available the next day.
What Brides Should Know – Photography

I agree completely with her post. 90% of brides are new to this whole planning thing and definitely new to the wedding industry. And because of that, many see prices that seem inflated for no reason than because you mentioned a wedding. There might be companies out there that do take advantage of unwitting brides, but most do not. Weddings are expensive, that is very true! For many, this is the most expensive event of your lives… and it will be on the top 5 list of most memorable too  (I would say it is the #1 most memorable, but I hear that when you first child being born is the most magical… seeing that I don’t have any little ones of my own yet though, I can say that my wedding is the most memorable day of my life yet)!

That being said, brides don’t know what it is that makes so many things more expensive. Here is my insight; just like you, who has spent countless hours in the planning,  your wedding vendors spend countless hours preparing for your big day. We know how big of an event this is for our clients and that there is no excuse to not be fully prepared for EVERYTHING that might happen on your day. Most vendors spend their planning hours before the wedding. The caterer has bought and prepared the food before the wedding. The day of, they cook and serve the food, clean up and they are done. The wedding planner spends hours (and possibly even days) with you finding out exactly what it is that will make your day 100% you. They help with vendors, they help with decisions and they help (oh so much) making sure the day of your wedding is a beautiful, seamless affair. When they leave at the end of the cleanup, they are pretty much done. Same goes for your officiant, your baker, your DJ and your venue. Their jobs are all pre-wedding day, where the photographer and videographer are completely different stories. Half of our work is done on the wedding day and after. It is unique and why your photographer says images will be ready in 4-6 weeks. That may seem like a shocking wait time, I mean, everything is digital now right? Shouldn’t it be faster now that we don’t have to wait for the lab to process the film?

Sadly, it is completely different. Now, with digital, there is 2-3 times as much work for the photographer than there was in the film days. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, seeing that the kind of processing and styles that can be done to an image is vastly larger than what we could do in the film days. It’s actually really fun (for me at least) to see the ways you can process a file to make it that much more beautiful. And it lets us photographers process files in a particular way that helps define our own styles. This is all awesome! But it takes time… lots of it 🙂

So, I figured I would give you a glimpse of what a wedding photographer does from the moment you contact them wondering about their services to the moment we hand you your custom designed album showcasing the beauty of your wedding day…. and why it is that wedding photographers cost what they do:

First step: A prospective client fills out an inquiry form

I receive inquiry, check the date for availability, put together an email with the info they want and what my prices are. Ask if they want to meet and discuss their wedding

We email 2-5 times back and forth to figure out a time/place to meet.

About an hour before the meeting, I put together a pamphlet of info that you will be interested in, I grab the studio samples I have and get ready to meet clients.

Drive to the meeting and meet with clients. Usually 1-2 hours. We talk about important things like if they want to see eachother before the ceremony or not, etc…

2-10 more emails giving info and finding more out about what their needs/wants are.


Client books date, sign contract and pay deposit, I fill in my booking software and make sure I have all the info I need.

Usually 2-6 months pass with a few emails. In these emails we figure out a timeline for the day to be familiar with. We will finalize the timeline at our meeting a month from the wedding.

I book my second photographer and keep them in the loop as to what the couple and the wedding are like.

Contact client and talk about engagement session. We figure out a place that is special to them or a place I know we will get great shots if they don’t have a preference. Usually 2-5 emails/phone conversations

The day of the engagement session, I spend about 1-2 hours getting my gear ready (batteries charged, sensor cleaned, memory cards formatted, bag organized, etc), check the weather and the traffic

Get ready for the shoot, leave about an hour before the shoot to get there before my clients and to look around for good photo spots and inspiration.

Meet with clients. Sometimes we go to happy hour first if they are nervous about the shoot. Then we walk around and play (that’s what I like to call it at least) and get some great shots. This session is SO important to the fluidity of the big day because now you know what to expect. We run around “playing” for usually about 2 hours and usually grab food or drinks afterward to celebrate a fun time.

I get home, take all my gear inside, grab the memory cards and download into my computer. I convert, rename and backup ALL files before I do ANYTHING else (that includes giving my hubby a hello kiss usually). This usually takes about an hour

I go through and edit down the photos, find my favorite 10-20, process them and make a blog post about them (usually takes about 2 hours)

I contact the client (and they usually tell me  about how much easier the shoot was than they expected) and I let them know that my favorites are on my blog, and usually Facebook too.

I continue editing the images and processing. For most engagement sessions, I begin with about 300 images that I edit down to 50 or so. Processing usually takes 2-3 hours and then I upload to my client gallery. I organize the images there (another hour) and then release them to my clients.

I send out an email to let them know all images are available for viewing, and I get started designing their custom guest book. This takes 2-3 hours then I send out a PDF example to show the clients and give them veto power over some of the design and image choices. They have two chances to make changes and then we finalize the book and it goes to the book maker.

We wait for the guest book to come back and we either meet to exchange it, or I keep hold of it until our next meeting that comes a month out of the big day.

Usually another month or two pass with small emails about timeline and other details

Usually 6 weeks out from the wedding, I email the client again and we talk about a good time for our “30 days out” meeting.

Day of the “30 days out” meeting, I go through all our correspondence and make sure I have all the most recent decisions/emails printed out and with me. Usually 30-45 minutes of prep

Meet with client. Usually 1-2 hours. We go over all the details that should by now be solid. We finalize the timeline and go over the final shot list (primarily the important family shots), any special/different things that are planned, and all other important details that I should know to keep the day as fun and fluid as possible)

The week before the wedding, I meet/talk with my second photographer or assistant and make sure they are fully up to date with what this specific wedding is about.

If the wedding is local and I haven’t shot there before, I go and scout the venue so that I am familiar with it before the day of. Usually an hour or two of time.

The day before the wedding, I print out the shot list, names list and timeline. I make sure the bride, groom and another designated person (the friend that knows all the plans or the wedding coordinator) numbers are in my phone. I call the bride to check in and make sure everything is going as planned and that I’ll be seeing her tomorrow.

I clean my cameras, lenses and organize my bags. I format my cards and ensure all batteries are fully charged. I make sure my backup equipment is in fully functioning order also. I make sure my clothes are ready and  I make sure to get a good night sleep.


I wake up, get dressed and ready. I make sure to have a good healthy breakfast, as I won’t have another moment to eat until dinner usually.

I double check my camera, cards, batteries and all other equipment. I grab my laptop and card reader to go with me also.

If the wedding is in the area, I have my second shooter meet me at my house an hour before the package starts. We pack up the gear, and head to the wedding.

We arrive 30 minutes prior to the package starting time to look around and get inspiration, then we go up to the bride’s room and say hi. We have a couple of minutes to hang out and talk about the big day before the package starts. I meet all the bridesmaids and the mother of the bride and chit chat for a couple minutes.

Wedding package starts and the day starts to roll along. (YAY!!! We are here!!!!!!!)

Most packages are 7-9 hours long where I am shooting the whole time. I am always looking at everything I see and trying to figure out the most creative way of capturing every part of it. Being a wedding photographer isn’t just photographing people. We are people/product/landscape/architectural/event photographers for the whole time. We also must be able to work under the stress of the timeline and the knowledge that there are no redos…. luckily I like working under stress. This is why some photographers really dislike photographing weddings… and why others love it. I fall into the love it part!

We are constantly moving and shooting and telling a story through the day. When the bride and groom sit down to eat their dinner is the only 10 minutes of down time during most weddings. The rest of the time we are ON.

The package ends and everything is photographed, we say goodbye to the bride and groom and congratulate them on an awesome and beautiful day and union, and we head home.

We get back to my office,take all my gear inside and download the second photographers cards… and usually have a beer to celebrate a great shoot. This usually takes about 30-45 minutes before the other photographer can pack up and go home. I convert, rename and backup ALL files before I do ANYTHING else This usually takes about another  hour after the second photographer has gone home. Usually I am curious and glance through the files to see the day again.

By the end of the day, I have usually worked about 10-14 hours and have added anywhere from 30-40 GIGS of photos to my computer.


In the week after the wedding, I go through and find my favorite 20-30 images that I will put on my blog. I have to cull through usually 1500-2500 images to find those fave 20 and usually takes an hour or two to find them.

I process the images for the blog and make sure they look great which takes another hour or two.

I post the images on my blog along with a little bit about the couple and the day. I also find all the web presences of the other vendors and give links to their services on my blog.

I usually email the client to let them know that there are a couple highlights of their day on my blog. They are usually still on their honeymoon at this point, so I leave it simple and tell them that they can check it out when they get back.

In the next 3-4 weeks I work on processing the rest of the images to get them to the client. Why does it take 3-4 weeks you ask? Because I photograph up to 25 weddings a year, and I am at a different phase in this process with ALL of my weddings. So, usually there are weddings to be processed before I can get to this one.

When I finally get to the images for this wedding, I edit from 2500 images to somewhere around 700-800. Why so many? Because I shoot a couple images of everything I shoot to ensure I get the best focus/expression/exposure possible. After editing down, I have 700 images to go through and process EACH INDIVIDUALLY. Between the editing down and the processing, it usually takes 8-12 hours in total. Basically, for every hour of shooting, there is AT LEAST one hour behind the computer. For the portraits of the bride and groom, it usually takes even longer to process because of the attention to detail.

When I have processed every file, and made sure it looks as good as possible, then I process them to JPGs and upload them to an online gallery. I also burn the DVD of digital negatives for the bride and groom. Then, Iprint out the literature that goes with the digital negatives and I package up the DVD and set it aside for when I meet with the clients again. I  make an Image Proof Book with thumbnails of their whole wedding so that they don’t have to look through the DVD when they want to print their pictures (this is better for the eyes for sure!). After the Image Proof Book is made, I send it to the lab.

When the images are all uploaded to the web gallery, I go through and ensure that they are all in the correct categories. I divide all the images into galleries to make it easier for people to find the images they want. This usually takes around an hour.

I contact the couple and we talk about their honeymoon and how life is going, then I let them know that their images are online and they can see them, and that we should schedule a time to meet for me to give them their Digital Negatives.

We meet sometime in the next week after I get the Image Proof Book from the lab  and they recieve their digital negatives and proof book. We go over archiving their images, how/where to print, and any other questions they have. We also start talking about albums and the process of ordering one.

When they decide on what album they decide they want,  I start designing. The couple chooses a handful of their favorite images, and I put together the story of their day in the design of the album. Album design usually takes about 5-7 hours initially. Then the client gets two vetoes over design images before we send the book to print (just like the guest book). Usually the entire album process takes 8-12 hours depending.

We wait for the album to come back in the mail from the lab (anywhere from 2-5 weeks depending on the manufacturer).

When the album gets shipped to me, I look over it and make sure that it passes my quality standards, then we set up a meeting with the client and they recieve their beautifully designed album showcasing the beauty of their day.

When we part ways, that is when my job is done!

So, you ask why wedding photographers cost so much? That (really really really) long list is why. That list had 50 steps in it, and I didn’t even count the steps inside the steps!

There is usually 20-30 hours of work before the wedding, then the 10-14 hours of work on the wedding day, and finally 30-40 hours of work post wedding day. That is roughly 80 hours of work to ensure that your day is beautifully captured in the way that you want it to be. And, so you can relax knowing that the memories of your wedding are in very capable hands.

You can’t get that for $500, and that isn’t something that a friend with a nice camera can usually provide either, so this is why a good wedding photographer charges what they charge!

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The comments +

  1. rophoto@comcast.net

    October 9th, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    well said. 🙂

  2. rophoto@comcast.net

    October 9th, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    well said. 🙂

  3. silverlyte@earthlink.net

    October 9th, 2009 at 11:39 pm

    thanks for spellin’ it out. i broke down my production time a while back and came really close to what you wrote here. knowing this, i have no problem justifying my prices. i worked for every dollar 🙂

  4. silverlyte@earthlink.net

    October 9th, 2009 at 11:39 pm

    thanks for spellin’ it out. i broke down my production time a while back and came really close to what you wrote here. knowing this, i have no problem justifying my prices. i worked for every dollar 🙂

  5. Anonymous

    August 6th, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    […] Generally speaking, it doesn’t turn out as fabulously as you think it will. There is a reason why good wedding photographers cost what they do. Gear, talent and time they inves… […]

  6. Anonymous

    August 6th, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    […] Generally speaking, it doesn’t turn out as fabulously as you think it will. There is a reason why good wedding photographers cost what they do. Gear, talent and time they inves… […]

  7. jen@thisisluminous.com

    November 21st, 2010 at 2:06 am

    Well put, Rebecca! I posted this on my Facebook page for clients and friends to see too. 🙂

  8. jen@thisisluminous.com

    November 21st, 2010 at 2:06 am

    Well put, Rebecca! I posted this on my Facebook page for clients and friends to see too. 🙂

  9. Anonymous

    May 10th, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    […] • Why does wedding photography cost so much? […]

  10. Anonymous

    May 10th, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    […] • Why does wedding photography cost so much? […]

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