Heated seats in a car are nice on a cold day, but honestly who cares if the engine is so bad that it’s going to stall over and over again each time you go for a drive? In a car, it’s far more important to have a solid engine and good tires to get you where you’re going reliably and safely.
Wedding photography is no different. Sure, fancy table top photo cards and glassware laser etched with your engagement portrait can add a little fun and flair, but when all is said and done there are only three basic components upon which all wedding photography is founded: Capture quality, image quality and album quality. Everything else falls under the “frills” heading.
The difference between a $1000 package and a $4000 isn’t in the frills, it’s about the quality of the basics. In a perfect world we could all get the very best of everything for a next-to-nothing price, but unfortunately reality intervenes and quality does add to the cost.
This is actually the broadest of the three fundamentals. It includes everything from how much coverage time is included to the skill of the photographer and the quality of the equipment used. It also includes whether the photographer is fun or a terrible drag to work with.
On the low end of the price scale, you may end up working with a new photographer who’s not as proficient or who doesn’t have the best equipment for dark, fast moving wedding conditions. Even with an experienced photographer, there simply won’t be as many hours of coverage. As the package price goes up, so too does the experience of the photographer and the coverage time.
More specifically I’m talking about the quality of the images on the CD. Remember, just because you get a CD doesn’t mean you’re getting that photographer’s finished work. Many times you get the digital negatives, essentially what comes out of the camera with no enhancement at all. Remember, enhancement is not about “fixing” a bad photo, but rather to bring out its very best. Higher priced packages tend to include more advanced enhancement.
There is no “auto” button for professional photographers. Enhancing photos requires a lot of time and a lot of skill (which itself takes time to develop). A photographer may spend between five and fifty hours enhancing a whole wedding’s worth of photos. That’s right, fifty hours! As an example, when I’m doing my 25 Step Artistic Enhancement on 600 photos from a wedding, I’ll spend between forty and fifty hours on that alone.
Now, while I take a lot of pride in every wedding I photograph, it is simply not possible to spend forty hours enhancing a wedding in the $1000 range. With business overhead, I’d need to do two of those weddings each week and there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do that level of enhancement. By necessity lower priced weddings require more streamlined production and often mean a much more basic level of enhancement or, at the lowest price level, none at all.
High end albums require more advanced layout and design, again something that requires more time. They also tend to be more costly to put together with better materials, more pages and larger sizes.
So, what does this all mean?
When you’re looking for a photographer for your wedding, try to ignore the flashy frills and concentrate on the quality of the basics. And, be sure to budget accordingly. If you know that you want more than “adequate” for your images and album, it’s going to be hard to find at bargain prices.