Why There are Too Many Wedding Photographers

Hi friends, thanks once again for checking out the wedding video blog here.

Today, I’m talking about my cousins and no, not my literally cousins, the wedding media cousins to our video, wedding photographers. Over the years being a filmmaker, I’ve seen a HUGE increase in people getting into wedding photography compared to about 10 years ago and it’s not just in the Roanoke region either, it’s a trend nationwide.

Today, I’ll share with you why that is, what to look for when hiring a wedding photographer and I’ll explain why so many get burnt out after just a few years in the business.

The ‘Fun’ Illusion of being a Photographer

Listen, being a wedding filmmaker is a LOT of fun at times and the same goes for my counterparts too. There are many wedding photographers out there that have a lot of fun when they’re at a wedding, enjoying the craft of photography and people notice that. One of the factors for someone to get into the business is to have fun and the other, make money.

But truth be told, it’s mostly an illusion to those outside the industry as a whole. Sure, many wedding vendors put on a smile and enjoy what they do, but what you’re not seeing is the hard work that goes on behind closed doors.

The marketing, advertising, branding, business logic, then all the operations of a business, like paying taxes, licensing for being a business, keeping the books, keeping up with gear, meeting with couples, there is an entire list of things that you simply don’t see, after all, it’s a business first.

And that’s one of the downfalls of a new wedding photographer, they don’t see it as a business and that’s the biggest mistake they tend to make.

The Money Factor

Many that get into the wedding industry only make it a handful of years because of one thing, they can’t make money doing what they are doing.

There is a huge amount of money to sink into professional camera gear, often many thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars just to get started. Then you must take into account the number of weddings you will take on, what to charge, then deduct all the expenses of running the business and let me tell you there IS plenty!

Let me give you an example.

Say that you’re a wedding photographer and you have $4,000 in gear, a camera, couple of lenses, light and maybe a decent laptop to edit.

You’re new so you can’t charge $4,000 like some do in the area but you are good enough with your images that charging $1,500 seems pretty reasonable and let’s say you take on 25 weddings. That’s $37,500.

You take away the $4,000 that you took out on a credit card to get started, so that leaves you with $33,500. From there, lets dig into the number really fast, shall we?

Here is a quick breakdown of some expenses you’ll have each year:

·         Adobe Creative Cloud $600

·         Camera Bag $100

·         Website and Hosting $300

·         Monthly Marketing $400/mo (Facebook ads, business cards, wedding show, magazine ad) ($4,800)

·         Wedding Vendor Insurance $600

·         Local Network Dues $100

·         Cost for replacement lenses $1,000

·         Business license $45

·         Local / State Taxes (VA 6%) $2,250

·         Rent for Building $350 month $4,200

·         Utilities (power, internet, etc.) $2,400

Your expenses are going to run you about $16,395.

So, you’re left with $17,105. Then you have clothes, fuel and other things too but let’s not include those. That’s leaving you with $1,425 a month, $356 a week or $8.90 per hour.

Yes, $9 an hour.

My point is this, many people that get into the wedding business don’t think about it actually being a business, they simply see the fun at being at weddings, it sounds like great money to be made and an easy gig.

Well truth be told it’s not and many wedding vendors are actually just getting by. Sure, there is always a person or two that doesn’t fit this model, but typically speaking most people that get into the wedding business leave after 5 years because they realize they’re not making money.

Sure, you can make good money, but you have to charge you’re worth, usually much more than $1,500. If you’re part-time like me, then it’s not as bad because you have income to help your livelihood, but the struggle is that most people that start part-time want to go full time because they think they can make it and do well financially at it.  

The $500 Wedding Photographer

Just about every market in the US has them, the low budget, $500 wedding photographer. It’s usually a person with a cheap starter kit that comes with a low end DSLR and a couple of basic lenses, they offer an all-day package with a lot of images for little to nothing.

Sure, that might be a great deal, but usually there are some caveats that you should consider first. There is a reason they’re cheap, it’s usually because of a lack of experience or they’re just wanting to make some money.

Those newbies are actually hurting themselves as well the local wedding industry when they come in and undercut others, they lower the overall cost of their services and make it harder for others to gain more money, some do it on purpose to keep the market low, others unknowingly do it to just to get business.

Some key things to know about a cheap wedding photographer:

·         They typically use consumer gear instead of professional or prosumer level gear

·         They have little experience, tend to make more mistakes

·         They will not be as professional as someone well-seasoned

·         Usually, they will not take as many images as you might expect

·         They will have bad low-light images generally

The Saturation is Real

I can tell you that here in the Richmond to Roanoke part of Virginia, there are far MORE wedding photographers than any other wedding vendor and that includes wedding venues too! In fact, a quick search on WeddingWire will show you that in our region there are about 486 venues while there are 567 photographers.

Part of the issue is that technology has become much cheaper in recent years. Take video for example, in 2010, a Panasonic AG-HPX370 cost me about $11,000+ and you needed at least two of them to have a decent ceremony video. Well in 2012 Canon released an affordable DSLR that did video and it was $3,000. 3 is a LOT less than 11, not to mention the size was super small, the quality was more amazing than an over the should camera and it could do a LOT more too.

Well, the same has happened in the wedding photography industry, pricing has become much cheaper and more affordable than years ago.

For about $4-5,000, one can get a great quality full frame DSLR setup with just about everything you need to get started and places such as Best Buy offer the starter photography kits for about $500, the Canon Rebel T7 with a couple of cheap lenses comes to mind.

As prices drop and technology increases, it simply makes it more affordable for people to “get into the business” if you will. What you’ve seen is a huge increase of people getting into the business because of the affordability of the gear, that doesn’t always translate into being good at what they do or have the experience in wedding photography.

Now, don’t think for a minute that everyone that starts out is bad at what they do, in fact, many are good and are gaining both the technical skills and the wedding skills to be able to offer awesome services.

The simple truth is there are far more wedding photographers than just about any other wedding vendor out there and that wasn’t always the case. Those that are long timers in the business have seen this coming for a few years now and many that offer photography are trying to get into other avenues of the industry, such as wedding video. The problem however is that those that dabble in video realize that it’s an even harder market to get into and become successful at too. (for another blog, another day)

My Thoughts

There are many people to choose when it comes to wedding photography. I recommend that you pick someone with these minimum skills/gear:

·         Someone with at least 2 years wedding experience under their belt

·         Someone that offers a fair rate and the services you want, such as X amount of images, hours etc.

·         Professional or Prosumer level gear (Research their gear)

o   DSLR

o   Lighting

o   Related gear

·         Someone with at least 5 or more positive reviews found online

These are just my two cents worth when it comes to minimum guidelines here just so you know.