Monday, September 24, 2007

The Value of Photography

Let me start my latest post by acknowledging that it has been too long since my last update. I apologize for the delay. Life and work have been keeping me very busy. That said, work is precisely what motivated me to write some commentary in my blog.

Not too long ago I was approached by a potential client looking for a wedding photographer to capture their special day. This isn't an uncommon event for me ... I've photographed more than 100 weddings in just the last five years. The individual in question was looking for the typical wedding day coverage: eight to ten hours of photography before the ceremony, during the ceremony, after the ceremony, and at the reception. Basically, they wanted me to cover their entire wedding day.

The individual in question admitted that he hadn't looked at the pricing on my website nor did he have an opportunity to check with other wedding photographers. That said, he proceeded to tell me he was looking to spend no more than $100.

One ... hundred ... dollars.

I realize that we live in a modern digital age where everyone who buys a $500 digital camera thinks they are a "professional photographer." Likewise, I recognize that everyone (and I do mean everyone) deserves to have a skilled, experienced photographer at their wedding day. That said, let's stop and consider a few things.

First, the cost of an average American wedding is $16,000 to $20,000. Those are "conservative" numbers since most industry experts say the average total cost is closer to $30,000. While there are many couples who manage to spend much less for their entire wedding day and honeymoon combined, most weddings fall within this price range. The ceremony itself is generally only between $800 and $2,800. The largest expense is usually the reception hall and catering which usually falls in the $10,000 to $15,000 price range. Couples generally spend between $1,500 and $4,000 on flowers. Attire (NOT including the bride's dress) usually runs between $1,000 and $3,000. Photography and videography typically costs between $2,500 and $6,000.

The statistic that always amazes me is the fact that people typically spend almost as much on flowers as they do on their wedding photographer and video. Most of the wedding flowers will be dead before you get to your honeymoon, but most couples spend almost as much (or even more) on flowers as they do on their wedding photos and video. Your wedding photos and video are second only to your new spouse in terms of important things you get to keep from your wedding day. The rental tuxedos get returned, the food and cake are eaten, flowers die, bridesmaids burn their dresses in a ceremonial fire a week after the wedding, and after the wedding day the reception hall will kick you out.

Memories will fade, but the wedding photos and video will be the lasting keepsakes that the husband and wife have to remember all the details from their wedding day. How much is that worth to you and your family?

Which brings me back to $100. Eight to ten hours of photography on your wedding day for $100 broken down hourly comes to $12.50 to $10 per hour. The "average" employee working at Costco earns $17 per hour (ABC News) plus benefits. The "average" employee working at a Starbucks barista (making coffee) earns $18 per hour (Fortune magazine). No one working at Costco is responsible for photographing your one and only wedding day. Starbucks doesn't require employees to have a detailed working knowledge of photography, portrait posing, album design, or the experience to know when and where they need to be in order to capture that "once in a lifetime" photograph on your wedding day.

Ask yourself, How much are the memories of your wedding day worth?