Us wedding photographers have heard it all too often- the casual remark about how we don’t do much of anything except lavish our time away with brides and grooms at fancy parties, how easy our job must be, how we must get paid an awful lot for not doing very much. Those sorts of offhand remarks used to push me to Level 10 rage/indignation, but I’ve learned to laugh them off because I know they don’t usually come from a malicious place, just a misguided perception! I have the BEST job in the world, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything! But I thought we’d take today to debunk a few Wedding Photographer Myths.
#1: “Oh, you’re a wedding photographer! So you only work weekends? That must be really nice!”
Negatory. On weeks where I have weddings, I actually work Monday-Friday in my office, and THEN shoot a wedding on Saturday, and then I spend time culling my images on Sunday. My time during the week is spent doing a myriad of other tasks: editing, uploaded, backing up my images, blogging, maintaining my social media, marketing, submitting for publication, filing taxes, logging mileage, ordering prints, client emails, prepping my equipment, attending educational opportunities, etc. etc.
#2: “You charge $4,000 for nine hours of coverage? So you’re making almost $450/hour. That’s more than I make as a lawyer.” (paraphrased from an actual email I received)
I WISH it were that simple :). For every 8- to 10-hour wedding day, there are approximately 40-60 hours of work that goes on behind the scenes. Keep in mind we’ve already shot an engagement session, meaning I’ve traveled to, photographed, edited, blogged and backed up that session. Then for the wedding day, I spend time working on the schedule with my bride weeks beforehand, emailing with necessary parties (i.e. bride, planner), arranging for a second shooter, paying that second shooter, prepping my equipment, traveling to the wedding, photographing the wedding, culling, editing, backing up those images, blogging it, advertising it on social media, uploading it to galleries, prepping their flash drive, traveling to the post office, album design and print fulfillments. And then there’s the wear and tear on my equipment- part of being a professional means having top of the line equipment. Last year I purchased a brand new 5dmk3 because it was what I felt I needed in order to do my BEST job while shooting, and the price of the camera body alone was almost as much as a single wedding package.
Oh, and let’s not forget that after I’ve paid Uncle Sam all of his necessary dues, I’m only taking home roughly half of what I bring in for the year. So if I’m hoping to average $50K in salary, I need to gross $100K. Yeah, I know, my palms just started to sweat too.
#3. “Anyone can take professional wedding pictures if you have a nice enough camera.” (My husband was told this exact sentiment last week)
Negatory again! Anyone can take photoss at a wedding, yes. But to be skilled enough to be able to call yourself a professional, there’s a lot more required than just the latest Canon or Nikon DSLR. You need a thorough working knowledge of how a wedding day typically works- walking in to shoot a wedding with no previous experience means you won’t know to anticipate things a seasoned veteran knows to look for- that when her dad first walks into her bridal suite once she’s dressed, it’s a moment you shouldn’t miss. That turning off the overhead lighting in a bridal suite will help avoid yellow tinting on a white gown. That those little “in between” moments between the groom and his grandmother during family formals are just as, maybe even more precious than the family photo itself. That having more than just a kit lens really does matter, that knowing the ins and outs of your equipment allows you to make better, more informed choices according to where you are (i.e a dark church doesn’t often pair very well with a 55-200 lens that only stops down to f/3.5). And then there are things like liability/equipment insurance, professional demeanor and business etiquette that a seasoned veteran will be all too familiar with, things an “uncle with a camera” simply won’t know they need.
#4. “So if wedding season runs April through November, I guess it’s party party party from December-March!”
Nope! The “off-season,” if we can call it that, is when we wedding photographers catch up on alllll the stuff we couldn’t get done during wedding season itself. That involves album design, website overhauls, investing in workshops, equipment maintenance, purchasing new equipment, marketing marketing marketing, meeting with new/potential clients for the next year, the list goes on. This January has actually been one of the most busy months I’ve had since leaving my corporate job last June!
#5. “Wedding photography’s like a free profession- once you have your equipment, it’s not like you have to PAY to do your job.”
This thought was actually directly from me before I had any idea what owning a small business entailed. Oh, how woefully wrong I was! I didn’t take into account just how much it takes to run a business- insurance, file storage, materials, packaging, attorney fees to make sure my contract is iron-clad, spoiling my clients with gifts, shipping supplies, website design, office space, and all the other fees that pop up here and there. And I have no idea how much I anticipated it would cost to furnish my equipment list, but last year I spent something like $15K alone on camera equipment. Yeah, not a free profession by a long shot. To whomever I said the aforementioned sentiment to, thank you for not laughing in my face.
I’m so thankful to have a family that loves and supports me in what I do, and it’s been so good for me to learn how to answer these sorts of remarks with patience and good humor!