gwyneth colleen photography » portland, or wedding photographer

you get what you pay for

so, i was clickin’ around craigslist today. (woo, craigslist! found me the last few apartments i’ve lived in.)

i saw this ad for wedding photography, and i’m not going to lie…it lit quite a fire in my gut. i was so tempted to email him, but instead, i am going to post my rant here, because i’m sure some of you have had those exact same thoughts before. why does photography cost SO DANG MUCH? it’s just someone pointing a camera at me! anyone can do that. they certainly shouldn’t charge $xxx/hr for it.


1. NOT anyone can do it. it does take creativity, practice, and a certain inborn “quality” to be able to take striking photographs. i’m sure you’ve seen pictures that did absolutely nothing for you…the person behind the camera didn’t “see” the world as a photographer does, and it showed! (of course, that person may be an amazing guitar player, a wicked accountant who saves people money left and right, a savvy web programmer makin’ the internets hott…)

2. equipment. cameras cost money. lots of money. so do lenses, flashes, memory, software for processing photos, etc, etc…a responsible professional will have extras of important things so if a camera starts to malfunction…it’s ok! he/she’s got another one. you’ll likely never even know if something like that goes wrong if your photographer is a professional.

3. insurance. professionals also carry insurance. i do.

4. time. let me just type out a (paraphrased) dialogue had between my most favourite new clients ever nicki (who is a photographer!) and her intended, shane. (hi guys!) (he’s a marine fighter pilot…their wedding’s gonna be SO. AWESOME!)
shane: she charges $x,xxx. for 6 hours of work! you could do that! think of how much you could contribute to this household if you just started working one day a week!
nicki: you think she’s DONE after the wedding? SHANE–she’s going to go home and spend the ENTIRE WEEK working on those photos!

she’s right…when all’s said and done, i spend at least 40 hours on each wedding. there’s lots of prep work/customer service time, and for each hour i spend shooting, i spend at LEAST 3 in front of the computer.

5. education. professionals make sure they are investing in their craft…they spend time talking shop with other professionals, time shooting and trying out new techniques, time educating themselves whether in an actual classroom (check) or reading periodicals/articles on the internet/books (check).

6. advertising/infrastructure. specifically website and proofing platforms. it costs money to be able to provide that convenience to clients! but it is a definite requirement in doing business in today’s market.

7. it’s a business. a job. a hobbyist who pays his rent by working a 9-5 and then shoots weddings on the weekend may be able to afford suggesting that $700 for 4 hours is outrageous, but consider that as someone’s entire livelihood…a skilled worker who is spending an entire work-week’s worth of hours working for you! wouldn’t you be frustrated if someone didn’t value your work?

i’m sure you’ve also wondered, “why does it cost extra for the disc of images?” well…historically, photographers kept the negatives and earned most of their profit on the back end, from print sales. that model is shifting a bit, and there are so many other media options…specifically the internet. i understand that you want 1) the option of putting YOUR photos on facebook/myspace/your blog/emailing them to your grandmother in missouri/etc, 2) the peace of mind of knowing you HAVE those full-resolution files in your possession. that is why i make them available for you to purchase…i definitely think it’s a reasonable request. why aren’t they just included? because they have value! every single photo that clients see has been selected by me and received a little bit of TLC. (and, also…let’s face it…if someone purchases the disc, the likelihood that i’m going to sell any prints goes way down, so that loss has to be recouped somehow!)
if you have any questions at all about the way this stuff works, please don’t hesitate to ask. i used to have a lot of the same questions, and it’s amazing how much more clear everything seems to me now that i’m on the other side of the lens! 😀

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Sarah19 March 2008 - 14:14

Amen, sister.

Nicki (new favorite client)19 March 2008 - 17:25

I’m going to bookmark this response and read it everytime I get frustrated (which is everytime I watch an HBO series featuring another high school reject character that picks up a camera one day and is professionally shooting fashion by the next episode). They make it look to easy…any idiot can be a pro….arrrr (makes me shake)

gwyn19 March 2008 - 17:31

hahaha, totally, nicki!

jess19 March 2008 - 21:16

I wanted to add an “Amen sister” too! 🙂 You rock.

olivestar19 March 2008 - 22:44

I wish I could email this to all of my clients. Well put! You are my hero today 😀

Julia20 March 2008 - 10:44

I try to stay away from shooting weddings but the points you’ve made carry over to other disciplines of the business. Like any other field, photography is a business and there’s demand out there. We can’t live on 200/wedding. That’s a joke. I loved your breakdown blog and will definitely refer to it in the future.

Dorie24 March 2008 - 13:56

Right on! I hate when I see ads like this on Craigslist. As you look at these ads, 9 times out of 10 they do not have a website or any sort of proof of their photographic knowledge!

Ashley O'Dell24 March 2008 - 20:04

“$700 just for 4 hours and all you get is a cd from which to print all your own pictures from.” That’s a steal!

Thanks for posting this, we’re all there with ya.

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