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Why Hiring A Cheap Photographer Will Cost You More

You know when they say “If you think hiring a Professional Wedding Photographer is Expensive….Wait until you hire a Cheap One!” ?

It is true and I’ve discovered that through my own experience when I got married before being a wedding photographer. I met my wife online and few months later when I met her in person for the first time I decided to ask her the big question. From that moment, we only had two weeks to prepare the wedding and the wheels started to spin really fast. Luckily for us, where we got married preparing a whole year for a wedding is not a tradition yet, so we were able to find most of the vendors and people to help us out pull off the wedding. And when we didn’t find the vendors available or the ones that fit our budget we got a lot of help from family and friends. And one of those vendors was, you guessed it – the professional photographer. With the budget almost maxed out, we decided to ask my brother in law to take the pictures for us and we can save that money. After all, the camera he was given was a brand new camera and was taking nice, clear and in focus pictures. All he had to do, was making sure we were in the middle of the back screen and push the button. It was the wrong assumption…he did what he could but he never noticed the focus was not on us most of the time, the lights were changing from indoor to outdoor and camera had to be adjusted, the composition was not right, there were lots of distractions around us like people waking or showing victory signs from the windows of their cars, etc….As much as he wanted to help I can’t blame him for the bad pictures. It’s me. I’m the only one to blame for not seeing who would’ve been one the most important vendor that we should’ve had at the wedding. He was not a professional, he didn’t know how to check the exposure, he didn’t even had the training and artistic eye to eliminate the distractions, etc. Just because he was able to take pictures of his kids with his own camera and download them to the computer or print them using a cheap printer I assumed he would be right for the job.

BUT I WAS WRONG and I REGRET IT SO MUCH. Knowing what I know now, I wish I could go back in time, unfortunately I can’t.

Why did I tell you my personal story? Because now I know the value of a professional wedding photographer. I see the happy expression and sparkles of joy in the eyes of every bride when she sees the images on the computer when I present them for the first time after the wedding. And I see that same expression of happiness again when I deliver them the wedding album and they open it for the first time. It’s those moments that keep me going and wanting to do more….I want to make more couples happy. The reward and joy that feels my heart in those moments are much bigger that all the work and effort that went in creating those memories for them. I know I made a difference and made someone happy and that’s the best feeling in the world.

So, Why Hiring A Cheap Photographer Will Cost You More?

The number one thing most couples complain about after receiving their wedding photographs is …. “We wish we had hired a professional wedding photographer and spent more than we did. We thought it wasn’t that important at the time, but we regret that now.” Well, the internet is full of Brides feeling sorry after the wedding for not hiring a Professional Wedding Photographer and you can do a search on Google and read some very scary stories on the topic. But in my statement above, I purposely highlighted the words Professional Wedding Photographer for a very good reason and here are some important factors that will differentiate a Wedding Photographer from other Professional Photographers. As photographers we specialized in different areas of photography that we enjoy and are more attracted to. A wedding photographer is one of the hardest, toughest and most demanding of all the specialities. Not everyone can be a wedding photographer which is why a lot of people when they first try and go out to shoot couple of wedding they soon realize it’s a lot more work and hack of a lot harder than it seems. By comparison to other photographers, a wedding photographer is:

- Able to adapt to any situation that will arise during a wedding day regardless of its nature
- Agile and very quick thinker – weddings are very fast events and time to react is extremely short
- Able to identify a problem on the spot and resolve it
- Can predict what’s happening next and is ready for it – and that comes with experience
- Able to work under constant pressure
- Able to handle extreme situations that arise during a wedding
- Able to create the story without interfering with the subject - Knows, anticipates and is ready for the key moments that come – for example can anticipate when the bride will cry as she walks down the aisle with her dad and is at the end of that aisle and ready to catch that precious and unique moment resulting in a more authentic photograph
- Constantly looking for candid moments that tell stories such as couple of tears on parents eyes as daughter gets ready to leave the house

How do you differentiate a Cheap Photographer vs. a Professional Wedding Photographer?

Not to generalize, but a typical cheap photographer will:

- Have a full time day job and do photography in their spare time for little extra money
- Doesn’t have a business meaning no business license, no accountant, no lawyer to write the contracts, no contract, no business insurance, etc.
- Have no experience photographing weddings
- Have a minimalist amount of equipment and no backup – mostly non-professional equipment
- Not specialized equipment to handle the different lighting situations
- Have little or no experience to handle the many situations and problems that happens (and WILL happen) on your wedding day
 - Not be prepared to handle things like rain, poor light, tight dark spaces, making decision and taking charge of a situation, etc.
- Not have another professional wedding photographer to back them up should something happen to them and can’t make it to your wedding, so they will cancel on you at the last moment or even worst – on the morning of your wedding (it happens more often that you think)
- Have very little to no formal education
- Have no proper editing software and high performance computer equipment with calibrated and expensive monitors to properly adjust the exposure and color for your images
- Have little or no knowledge on how to use editing software and advanced techniques to enhance your images
- Most of times they just take the images out of the camera and directly burn them on to the disk and give it to you, without any kind of editing
- Do not belong to professional organizations
 - Do not attend workshops and seminars because they can be costly
- Do not have enough portfolio to show you full weddings but rather scattered images of brides from weddings they attended or paid models for practice.

A professional wedding photographer on the other hand will:

- Have the education and experience to conduct the business
- Have a business license, business insurance and contracts
- Adhere to the highest standards from your first contact until the delivery of last image
- Always have a contract in place for you to read and sign. He/she then is bound by the conditions on the contract to respect everything in it and will give you everything and more
- Have good education and lots of experience
- Regularly attends workshops and seminars to learn the trends and what is new - Have a number of professional grade equipment available on your wedding day
 - Be ready for the unexpected and be very quick in decision making
- Be proactive and anticipate what is happening next
 - Be in contact with you all the time and be available for consultations, phone calls, planning sessions, paperwork, on site meetings and other things leading to the wedding day
 - Help you be more relaxed on your wedding day so you look at your best and get genuine photos
- Always dress appropriately at your wedding maintaining the professional look
- Will come at the wedding usually caring anywhere between $10,000 - $20,000 camera equipment, lots of batteries, memory cards, lenses for every situation and backups, etc.
- Will have a Plan B in case something unexpected happens – rain, traffic jam, etc.
- After the wedding they will start the bulk of their work…culling images to select the best ones, editing and enhancing your images using advanced editing techniques so that you are proud to show images to your family and friends
- Will deliver your images on time as per your contract
- Will have contracts with professional printing labs (most of them award winners) to print for you an award winning wedding album that will show the true colors and last for many, many years without damage
- Will have a number of complete weddings in their portfolio to show you their style

The above lists can certainly be longer than what I have listed here but the bottom line is a Cheap Photographer is Cheap for a reason. In the end you have to think how important is your wedding day and the memories that you want to create and preserve.

Do yourself a favor and answer these simple questions before hiring your photographer:

- Is it worth risking and gambling by hiring a Cheap Photographer not knowing what kind of quality you’re going to receive on your images or if you’re going to receive any images at all?
- Can your friends, family or the cheap photographer deliver you GREAT IMAGES that you will be proud to show your family and friends?
- Will you be happy if your images are not the type of artistic quality that you expected?
- Will you be happy if your cheap wedding photographer cancelled on you just before your wedding without helping you get another professional wedding photographer for the happiest day of your life?
- Will you be happy, if an accident happens and his camera stops working and has no backup?
- Will you be happy if your photographer shows up in t-shirt, ripped jeans or shorts and snickers at your wedding?
- Will you be happy sharing your most precious images with everyone else when you really wanted to hide them and never see them again?

Let’s take a look at your budget and see the impact it has on your photographer and ultimately on the quality of your images

You found a photographer who will cost you only $800 and will shoot your entire full day of wedding, give you a DVD with all images edited, give you a 30 page wedding album, include your engagement session with edited images and even add a second shooter for free. HOLY SMOKES, WOW, what a deal you think…well, think again.

That photographer will have spent time with you on your consultation, phone conversation and meet with you probably at least 2-3 times. Shot your engagement for couple of hours and to edit those images it takes about 3 hours, then meet with you again to show and give them to you. Then on your wedding day takes lots and lots of images of the exact same pose to make sure at least one of them is good and at the end of the day will go home and load anywhere between 3000-5000 images on the computer. It takes then anywhere between 100-120 hours to select and edit those images and then burn them onto another DVD and meet with you. And many other tasks that he/she has to accomplish before and after the wedding. So by the time all is said and done, the photographer after taking in account all hours spent actually working on your images plus the wedding day, engagement day, meeting and travel, gas and other expenses finds out the he/she just made about $3.78 - $4.00 an hour. So, to increase that figure they will edit less by doing a sloppy job and hopefully it’s “good enough” or not edit at all and just burn the images directly on the disk for you.

My guess is that making $3.78 - $4.00 an hour is something you probably wouldn’t want to work for on your real job either. The reality is that a Professional Wedding Photographers won’t either.

So, why does the Professional Wedding Photographer cost so much then?

Professional Wedding Photographer have to cover lots of expenses and their work doesn’t cut corners. It seems that they cost a lot of money for working one day but that can’t be further from the truth and here is why:

- They have very expensive cameras and back-ups that can handle any kind of dynamic situation on your wedding day from low-light to small and dark rooms
- They have in their bad lots of spare batteries and memory cards to make sure they can capture your entire wedding day         
- Computer and backup equipment to store and edit your images
- Back-up storage solutions on servers outside of their office to make sure in case of a disaster your photos are saved
- Image editing software – a lot more software than just Photoshop
- The have large monitors with color calibration software to measure and display accurate color
- They took hundreds of hours of education and training required and specific to the wedding photography
- Studio space, rental or mortgage
- Transportation costs - to travel to your location
- Promotion, advertising and website costs - how did you think you found them?
- Attends trade show which can cost quite a bit
- Telephone and internet services - so that you can reach them at any time and for any reason
- They pay Income and sales tax on their business and money they make
- Business Insurance
- Memberships to professional organizations
- Last but not lest remember they are business owners and Photography is what pays for their living wage as well. That covers them and their families’ health insurance, food, housing and all other living expenses.

That being said, you must understand that you are not just actually paying for the photograph itself but you are also paying for the expertise, equipment and time of the one who is creating your photos.

In fact, bad photography is a lot more expensive than good photography. You see, bad photography wastes your money as well as your most precious time and memories. The fact that you can never redo your wedding just because your wedding album was pretty lame, there is no such thing as wasting money for that one. Learn that good wedding photographers are always expensive just as a Mercedes is a lot more expensive than a Kia for example.

Photography is never easy. It may seem that photographers never seemed to get stressed or that they look like they’re having fun while taking photos but don’t confuse expertise with ease. They are completely different from each other.

And remember this - Your wedding day is irreplaceable, and so are those moments….please, do yourself a favor and hire somebody who is experienced. There are many  elements of a professional that separate us from the hobbyists, such as education and experience, professional liability insurance, backup cameras and gear, lighting knowledge, coordination & communication skills.

The story goes that Picasso was sitting in a Paris café when an admirer approached and asked if he would do a quick sketch on a paper napkin.

Picasso politely agreed, swiftly executed the work, and handed back the napkin — but not before asking for a rather significant amount of money.

The admirer was shocked: “How can you ask for so much? It took you a minute to draw this!”

“No”, Picasso replied, “It took me 40 years”

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