Why are Wedding Photographers so Expensive?

Memories get fuzzy over time, and that's why we love photography. So your choice of a photographer is not where you should skimp when you're setting your wedding budget. There are so many details you'll be fussing over: the colors, the flowers, the location, the family and friends, and the dress. But remember, you don't get to take all of those home with you and look at them every day. The way to immortalize these once-in-a-lifetime details is with the quality imagery a professional wedding photographer can provide.

So when considering hiring someone that you know is a photographer or has a great camera, be honest with yourself. Do you want them to shoot your wedding because you love their style and it fits the theme of your event, or are you thinking of asking them for a discount?

Essential Photography Skills - At a Wedding Pace

There are a thousand things in your wedding you don't want your photographer to forget. For weddings, you can't take much time to set up the perfect shot, can't do a re-shoot if something's not right, and when people are stressed, impatient, or uncomfortable, it will show on their faces, even through a “say cheese” smile. A photographer without specialized wedding knowledge will likely get in the way, miss opportunities, and cause delays.

Is the free or cheap photographer you're considering a professional, or is this a hobby? A hobbyist rarely has the best camera available, plus all the necessary lenses, lighting, and accessories. They've likely done shoots less often and don't have much experience even if they have equipment.

Even if you know commercial artists in Los Angeles, wedding photography is a unique set of skills and knowledge. Even event photographers, while able to work with people at a fast pace, might not know key shots and intimate scenes that make weddings special.

Before the Big Day

You wouldn't want a baker to show up at your wedding with a random wedding cake. And you don't want a cheap or free photographer making assumptions about what's best for your wedding.

A professional is there for you from the beginning to talk about the look and feel you want for your photos. You can talk about the themes you have in mind, and they can often be a guide and offer suggestions while you plan. Professional photographers will have a portfolio of their past work so you can see their style. Be sure they showcase candid shots with good lighting and focus, as well as still poses. For example: if you're having an outdoor wedding in Orange County, see if they've done this before.

If you hire a photographer with a day job and your wedding is just a side gig, they may not be available when you have questions, and their portfolio may be just a handful of images.

An amateur won't know to take the time to visit all your locations beforehand. Arriving on the scene with no pre-planning means they haven't checked the lighting conditions or anticipated camera angles.

If you're taking photos on location around Los Angeles and Orange County, there are restrictions on professional photography at some locations that may require a permit. A wedding professional from the area will know the procedure to get permission at your desired location.

Arriving Prepared

Even if a cheap photographer has equipment, they'll be wrangling their camera accessories, going back and forth from their car, for the first part of the day. If they don't arrive far enough in advance, they could miss catching the early preparation and anticipation on film.

A prepared wedding professional uses secondary cameras for different lenses, has all of their equipment close at hand, and knows when to swap between items.

Knowing the Camera

Where an amateur really falls short using an expensive camera is knowing the settings and readings and how to use them. While they're fiddling with settings and lenses during the ceremony, they're missing shots. The ceremony moves on without them, there is no catching up and no running through it again. Changing settings in two or three seconds and knowing how their camera handles light is required for a wedding photographer. They understand the readings are guides and there aren't strict rules, every wedding is subtly unique.

During the procession, the bridal party is walking down the aisle, not stopping for photo ops. Every shot could be blurry if the amateur doesn't know how to adjust for movement, or the shots could be flat, wide shots including the crowd, not focused in on the central figures. Advanced focusing techniques and highlighting details makes photos of the ceremony not only crisp and clear, but captures the mood of anticipation and joy.

Seamless Lighting Effects

When they're working in low light, the amateur bumps the settings to just take in more light. But this will create a grainy texture on large prints. When shooting black or dark-colored formal wear, they over-adjust and end up overexposing lighter areas like flowers or skin tones. The camera's automatic readings are looking for a light source, not bright smiles and a glowing bride.

Lighting equipment is necessary to enhance colors in flowers and accents, bridesmaids dresses, and that makeup and tan that you worked on for hours. Using a built-in flash can leave you washed out or with glare on your skin and eyes. Lighting a photo shoot is about balance, knowing how to use a combination of lights built in to the location and additional lighting techniques. With natural light, this is just as significant for outdoor shots as interiors.

Working outdoors can get more light into a shot, but the photographer shouldn't just depend on the daylight. Turning people so that there is a beautiful view behind them seems ideal, but the amateur doesn't take into account whether they're back-lit and all the people will be cast in shadow. If they place the family in bright sunlight, it's too easy to overexpose half of the faces and leave the other half with mask-like shadows. A camera is only a machine that can't adjust to change a shot from factual to beautiful.

With outdoor weddings and formal sessions, professionals know how to avoid under- or overexposing shots while still creating a few stylistic effects like silhouettes and sunbeams where appropriate.

Understanding Weddings - Not Just Taking Pictures
Building a Rapport

This person will be close to you throughout your special day, so find someone you trust. They'll need to adapt, listen and communicate well. You'll be exchanging instructions with them before and after the date, so a pro will be available online, by phone, and in person so you can get to know each other. An excellent wedding professional forms a connection with you so you can be immersed in your ceremony, and this will show in the intimate moments they catch on film.

Knowing Where to Focus

There is so much happening on the day of a wedding that the average person doesn't even think about. A free photographer might only show up at the ceremony a little before the guests do, while a professional can come in for shots of the bridal party doing hair and makeup, tying ties and pinning corsages. The amateur could also forget to get a variety of shots showing your friends and family because they're only thinking of the bride and groom.

Experience has taught a wedding photographer to know where and when to look for fleeting moments like the first kiss. A professional knows how to be quick and discreet, so they're less distracting during the service.

Successful Formals

任何人都可以用相机召集一群people and snap a picture. If your artistic friend is a little shy giving people directions, then the group could end up randomly bunched together. Someone who's not getting paid could start barking directions and make an already stressed out bridal party more nervous. And then they only snap a few different group shots, and in half of them, people aren't ready, their eyes are closed, or the lighting is off.

Personable, tactful professionals know how to be upbeat, communicate clearly, and keep up the pace when guiding and directing a group for formals. Taking multiple extra shots of crucial pictures to avoid blinking, awkward expressions, or missing key poses is essential for every formal photographer.

The Celebration

After the ceremony, the amateur photographer has now worked ten hours, and they're getting tired. This is where the friend or family member that you “hired” feels entitled to relax and take only few shots for the rest of the evening because they're doing you a favor.

If your cheap photographer is a stranger, they may assume their work is done after the ceremony. If you did contract for the reception, what does that entail? More formal shots against a blank wall for whatever guests volunteer? Flat, flash photos of people in a dark room?

Wedding photography takes energy. Most weddings and receptions will be 12-18 hours of work without breaks. Many professionals have a team with one to two additional people.

Some of the best shots at a wedding can be the candid shots of people dancing and laughing at the reception. To avoid blurry, barely recognizable faces, you can trust a pro.

Post Production Isn't Just Fixing Mistakes

A photographer's work doesn't end after your wedding day. The shots are uploaded to a computer and edited with professional software.

In the case of the hobbyist, it's possible they don't have editing software at home or may only know a few basics. Having already spent an entire day on this, if they're not going to edit them, they probably won't go through the 2,000 raw shots to find the good ones either. You'll end up sorting through blurry and dark images looking for something that looks nice.

This, again, is something you discussed with the photographer before the wedding, and now they're bringing out the style and mood you requested. Wedding photo styles can range from candid photojournalism with a de-saturated, vintage look to artistic portraits with a light, airy glow. A professional photographer uses both camera effects and computer after-effects to achieve your desired look and feel on the best shots.

Money Makes a Difference

A payment in exchange for services makes this a serious business. A free photographer is not going to be held to a standard of quality work. They also have no motivation to deliver final results in a timely manner. It could be months before they get around to sending your photo files.

A casual photographer probably won't have a contract or any kind of assurance so that you know exactly what they're going to do and what you're going to get. Professional photographers have contractual obligations and goals that both of you agreed upon. If you get a free photographer or only pay them a little, they don't have much reason to take your wedding day seriously.

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