There’s this little gem of a graphic floating around Facebook right now:

The typo notwithstanding (equiptment?), I appreciate this photographer’s breakdown of what the average photo shoot looks like. I thought I’d do an evaluation of what an 8 hour wedding looks like for me, and why I’m not just making $3000 for 8 hours of work. Ahem…

Actual Time Spent on the Average Wedding

  • 2+ hours of emails, consultations, phone calls, etc.
  • 6-10 hours shooting
  • 30+ hours on the computer afterwards doing:
    • proper color/exposure correction
    • special editing (black & white, composite, etc.)
    • cropping for proper aspects (because 8×10’s aren’t the same aspect as 4×6’s or 5×7’s)
    • designing wedding album (if the front cover is a photo spread, that alone can take an hour to create)
    • proofing prints
    • ordering prints and products
  • 5+ hours doing everything else
    • driving to and from the venue(s) several times – yes, I scout the place before I shoot there, and will usually hang out at the rehearsal the day before as well
    • inspecting and packaging products (I don’t think I’ll ever drop ship, no matter how much I love and trust my professional photo lab)
    • delivering – whether it’s to the post office or into your hands

If you were counting, that’s more than the average week’s work for “just 8 hours shooting.” And it’s not just about time. There’s also money that’s been invested into your wedding by me. I have invested thousands of dollars into the equipment that I use. I may rent an additional lens for your wedding, and I will have a backup camera body as well. My computer equipment (including external hard drives and DVDs to safely backup and archive your photos) and software programs that I use to edit your photos cost another couple thousand. The aforementioned professional photo lab I use isn’t Shutterfly (which, while a lovely place to buy “photobooks,” is not a lab for professionals), and the materials and processes my lab use to print and bind your album are not cheap. Neither am I buying 19¢ prints at Walgreens. My same photo lab offers a wide variety of photographic papers, canvases, and finishing processes to make your prints stand out and last. And all that driving around for your engagement session, the scoping of your venue, delivery? I’ve gotta figure gas and wear and tear costs on my car. And of course, Uncle Sam gets 35% of the profits before mama even gets to buy a new pair of PocketWizards.

So why, you ask, don’t I just give away a disk? Why go through all the trouble of making an album, and worrying about prints, and all that? Most of us are just going to load the photos onto the computer anyway, right? Right. And that’s why. You shouldn’t just throw the photos in your “My Pictures” folder, peruse them with your honey, then leave them to sit there and do nothing. I want you to enjoy your photos. I want you to be able to share them, not just gathered around a computer screen, but passing around a beautifully put-together album that was designed to match your wedding colors, design, and tone. I don’t want you to print your photos at Walgreens and think, “Huh, these are only okay.” I want you to see the amazing colors that only a professional lab using traditional processing techniques and high-quality papers can produce. I want guests in your home to say, “Wow,” to the canvas print that’s hanging above your couch. In short, I want you to love your wedding photos.

That’s why I don’t just give away a disk.

When I was getting married in 2009, one of the last vendors I hired was my photographer. Not because it wasn’t important to me, but because it was the most important, and I was such a control freak about it. I wanted someone great, and I wanted the disk of images so I could make my own album. And of course, I was on a budget (isn’t everyone?). I was so lucky to have found my photographer through family friend connections! In hindsight though, I wish I’d just hired someone who would take care of everything from engagement session (I didn’t have one) to wedding album (I made my own). I was still relatively fresh (one year in) to wedding photography, and I figured, “Hey, I can do this!”

Sure, I could do it…but it’s a lot of freakin’ work! And I wasn’t getting paid to make my own album. In fact, I was paying more money to do more work! You will never hear me say, “That’s too much money,” when we’re talking about photography. I don’t plan on marrying again (once was more than enough), but I hope to one day have children, and when I need photographs (and I will need photographs!), I know that what I pay for them will be money well-spent, because I will have done my research and picked my photographer based on value, and not on price.