Investment versus Budget

I mentioned in a prior blog post about the balance between budget and desire when looking into the parts that go into a wedding.  I try to work with every prospective wedding client that comes along in order to find a way to accommodate their dream as much as I can within their budget.  Primarily, it’s because I love shooting weddings.  It’s a challenge, it’s a thrill.  It’s completely physically exhausting.  It’s a joy and a privilege.  It’s also a luxury, and it isn’t cheap (check out the list of what I bring to every wedding I shoot if you don’t believe me).  There’s a popular Tumblr page among wedding photographers I love reading.  It gives a great idea of the kind of humor and twisted mindset one needs to attempt a career at this.  It’s quite hilarious.  Check it out at whatshouldwecallweddingphoto.tumblr.com, you’ll see what I mean.

Howlin’ Wolf – Howlin’ For My Darlin’

This service is expensive, it is a luxury.  I’ve always looked at my rates as an investment.  For the service and the product I offer, I could probably charge much more.  But I’d end up working less and the money would balance out.  I charge what I charge because I believe it will bring me more clients, not more income.  I would rather shoot twice as many weddings simply for the sake of getting to practice my skills in an environment I love.  But, even then I have to have a hard bottom line.  I can count on both hands the number of times someone really loved my work but went in another direction due to price. 

Most of the time, the conversation has gone along the lines of people expecting I’d accept their maximum budget of around $500 for a full-day wedding.  I’m not the only photographer who gets this.  And there is a great breakdown of how much wedding photography costs that famously circulated the internet and Reddit a few years back.  I won’t get into that argument, it’s been made ad nauseam. 

The Coasters – Little Red Riding Hood

The ending of those conversations and consultations leaves with me wishing the client well, and hoping they can find someone willing to do their event for that $500 price point.  They usually do, but they don’t end up happy with the results.  A few times, more than I care to admit, I’ve gotten a late phone call the night before the wedding from those same couples in a quandary.  They found someone on Craigslist willing to do their wedding for $500.  They gave them half as a security deposit and haven’t heard from them since.  Phone line disconnected, emails are bouncing back.  Or in one case, the photographer calls the bride the day of the wedding saying his only camera broke and he couldn’t do it.  Is there any way I can show up and shoot their wedding, they’ll be glad to meet my minimum rate for anything that’d be usable. 

Only once have I not been already booked on another event.  I gave them a list of phone numbers for trusted photographers I know and love, and wish them luck finding someone, and even texted two other photographers to see if they were free on the off-chance to pick up the job.  The one time I wasn’t booked that day, I was already a state away enjoying a day off watching Georgia (GO DAWGS) demolish Auburn at home.  I wouldn’t have made it back in time if I had left right then and there.

None of this I enjoyed hearing.  It honestly hurt a bit to hear the anxiety in their voices.  But there was nothing I could do.  They didn’t have a good contract, they hired someone who wasn’t a professional, the choice of letting the price dictate their options.  Not to say that budget sheets should be thrown to the wind, far from it.  I believe there’s a happy medium between budget and desire.  That line in the middle is the investment where the amount of money spent gives back professional, high quality results.  I’ve worked hard to make sure that my service is an investment, and a cost-effective one.  Many of the photographers I know and network with do the same. 

Cage The Elephant – Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked

The truth is, very few of us do this job for the money.  I know I don’t.  The money is nice, but if I wanted to be rich, I wouldn’t be a photographer, I wouldn’t be a teacher.  We do this because we’re passionate about it.  We invest our time, our bodies, our energy, and our heart into every job we get.  We push for the image that will make the wedding party gasp when they see it.  We want them to see the world the way we do, their moments as precious as we recognize them to be.  Those moments are the investment, we’re just the ones vested in making sure you can relive them over and over again.

Thoughts?  Comments?  Criticisms?  I'd love to hear them!