‘Value’ and Wedding Photography

I follow a number of groups for engaged couples, and one of the common questions is ‘I was quoted $xyz for photography, is that a good deal?’ I thought this was an interesting subject, as photography is such a subjective field, and it is difficult to comparison shop the same way you might for other big ticket purchases.

First, there are a few general points to note about photographer pricing:

  1. Prices Vary by Region.
    Where you are getting married will have a large effect on the market rates. Photographers in a market like New York or LA, with a high cost of living, are generally going to cost more than in more rural locations.
  2. Supply and Demand is a Factor.
    An individual photographer can only physically be at one wedding a day. So their supply is naturally limited. Summer Saturdays are also limited, so booking an in demand photographer for a Saturday in July is going to cost more than a less well known photographer for a Wednesday in April.
  3. If It’s Too Good to be True, It Probably Is.
    There are a ton of news stories of couples screwed over by unscrupulous vendors that either took their money and skipped town, or just provided horrible service. If the average photographer in your area is charging $3,000, and somebody offers a ‘deal’ for $500, you are right to be skeptical.

Okay, now on to the much more complicated question of value. My primary point on value is pretty simple:

Getting an album, second photographer and lots of extras is not a good deal if you don’t like the photos.

To me, value means getting a product or service you like at a good price. A restaurant that provides a giant plate of food isn’t a good value if I don’t care to eat that food. By the same token, getting an album, a second photographer and a video is not a good deal if that album is filled with photos you don’t like, the video is shaky, and the second photographer turns out to be somebody that was just handed a camera.

I know just about everyone that isn’t a Kardashian or a Trump has a budget to consider, so my advice for choosing a photographer is simple.

Compare the photographers with a package that falls in your price range, and disregard what that package includes.

If your budget is say, $3,000, some photographers will offer 6 hours and no extras, others will offer 10 hours, a second photographer, video, albums, and everything else. Comparing just the photos without knowing what each includes allows you to determine which photographer has the work you like the best.

Pinterest is a good tool for doing this, you can pin photos from the websites of photographers you like, and see which photographers you pin the most photographs from. The great value of this approach is that the pricing is divorced (bad pun intended) from the photographs. This allows you to choose the photographer whose work you like the most, without worrying about if you are getting the best ‘deal.’ Because, repeat after me:

A great deal is a bad deal if you hate your photographs.