There are more wedding photographers near me than I can count.  New photographers pop up every day, while others slowly fade into the sunset.  Like any professional service you hire for your wedding, you’ll find a huge range of prices.  Some will be so low, it will seem too good to be true, while other prices will be so high it will make you laugh.  

Wedding photography is one of the most important “services” of your day.  When the wedding is over, nobody is going to remember the custom printed napkins, or the thousands you might have spent on flowers.  Your dress will get packed in a box.  Your extra invitations will end up in a drawer.  However, your photos will forever be visible wherever you hang them.  Unlike the screen we tend to stare at most of the day, pictures are always “on.”  They never stop displaying what is printed on their paper.

Phones now have incredible cameras, and real digital cameras have come way down in price.  Let’s face it, you don’t need a college degree to take photos.  You also don’t need a license.  Anybody with a camera can take a picture, but not everyone can tell a story with photos.

While it may be tempting to save a few hundred dollars by hiring a cheap wedding photographer, let me point out a few things that you probably haven’t thought about. 

1. If you find a cheap photographer, chances are they have a cheap camera.  A professional camera is a key piece of equipment!  If a photographer uses a low-end digital camera, the quality of your images will not be good, especially in dark situations like the reception.  And what if their camera breaks during the ceremony?  Will a cheap wedding photographer have a second, or even third backup camera?

2. Cheap photographers often run their business “under the table.”  Uncle Sam doesn’t know about a thing.  If these photographers aren’t charging and paying the proper taxes, after an audit, YOU could be responsible for paying them.  (Imagine getting that phone call!)

3. Photographers who are inexpensive use cheap lenses.  The lens is the most important part of photography equipment.  In the following picture, see how soft an blurry the background is?  This is the sign of a GREAT lens.  The quality of the background blur is known as “bokeh.”  With a cheap lens, there is no bokeh.  In other words, no blurry background. 

A groom kisses his bride at their Chautauqua Institution Wedding.
A nice, blurry background is a sign of a good lens. You will not get this look with a cheap photographer.

 

4. Cheap photographers usually don’t own any lighting equipment. Even if you have never taken a photo, you probably know that light is the most important ingredient in any photo!  Why don’t cheap photographers own lighting equipment?  Because it is expensive and difficult to use.  It takes some education.  

The bride, tearing up the dance floor, was lit with three lights. Two you can see in the background and a third was on my camera. All of the lights are wireless, and are controlled by radio signals.
The bride, tearing up the dance floor, was lit with three lights. Two you can see in the background and a third was on my camera. All of the lights are wireless, and are controlled by radio signals.

5. Cheap photographers have no education in posing.  How important is posing? Well, unless you are a professional model, you probably don’t know how pose yourself so you look your best in a photo.  This is what a trained photographer will help you do.  

A good pose will flatter you and make you look natural. While this looks like a simple skill, it is not.

 

6. Photography software is expensive.  Sure, there are some free apps for your phone and iPad, but real software for your computer is expensive. Not only is the software expensive, so is a good computer and monitor.  But wait, there’s more.  To insure color accuracy, a photographer must calibrate the color of the monitor using software and monitor calibration hardware.  And you guessed it…it’s expensive. 

7. Cheap photographers are uninsured.  That’s right…they have no liability insurance, nor insurance for their equipment.  What happens if their gear is stolen the night before your wedding?  What happens if your grandma trips over a cheap photographer’s camera bag?  

8. What happens if your cheap photographer is sick on your wedding day?  Does he or she have a network of professional photographers they can rely on if an emergency should arise?

9. How much wedding experience does a cheap wedding photographer have?  Would you risk your wedding photos to someone with only one wedding under his/her belt?  Two weddings?  Three?

While this may look like a simple portrait of a bride a groom, it's the off camera lighting system that makes this image beautiful. A cheap photographer could never take an image like this.
While this may look like a simple portrait of a bride a groom, it’s the off camera lighting system that makes this image beautiful. A cheap photographer could never take an image like this.

10. Capturing candid moments at just the right time is a skill…it’s something that takes years to perfect.  A photographer without experience will never notice the small moments that mean the most.  Your wedding day will be filled with these quick moments that fly by quickly.  

A perfectly timed candid photo, taken with a $2500 lens on a $3200 camera. Expensive, but worth it.

 

Like anything you have at your wedding, you get what you pay for.  If you want great photos from the best day of your life, please avoid cheap wedding photographers.  I hope this gave you some insight into what you pay for when you hire a great wedding photographer.

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