Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wedding photography charges: why, how & should

Many photographers who want to start doing freelance photography in wedding ask me this question: how much should I charge? So, I thought of writing this article to share my view & philosophy for this subject. Furthermore, I hope this article would also benefit other readers who are looking for wedding photographer to understand why it can be expensive sometimes.

When I first started to do freelance wedding photography as a "part-time job-cum-hobby" 2 years ago, I didn't know how much to charge. So, I looked & asked around to find out what the "Market" is like, ie. wedding photography charges

The "Market"
A typical wedding normally last 10 hours or so. In Miri (Sarawak), photographers (full- & part-time) charge between RM150 to RM2,400+. In other parts of Malaysia, the price goes up to RM10,000 & beyond. So, what is a reasonable price?

Labour cost
Adi, my grass cutter for the past 5 years, get paid RM25 for cutting my grass. He usually spend less than 45 min to cut, sweep & clear the grass. Now imagine a photographer who charges RM300 for a 10 hours shooting, that's without including the hours spent sorting & editing the photos. Is RM300 for a wedding day shoot reasonable? Truth is, many people do not wish to pay RM30 per hour to hire wedding photographer.

Equipment cost
Back to Adi, my grass-cutter, he told me that the grass cutting machine is about RM2500. Let's say we round it up to RM3000, and compare to what you can find in a photographer's bag. What's in my bag easily cost 5 times more. So I should be charging 5 x RM300 = RM1500 for a wedding day shoot; reasonable? For your information, I charge RM988 as of this year (2009) but it’ll be increased soon. Some say I'm expensive, some say I'm cheap.
Therefore, to pay a photographer the same way you would pay a grass cutter, RM1500 seems a good bargain; or is it? Well, that means it cost RM150 per hour to hire a photographer. Again, I say this : Truth is, many people do not wish to pay RM30 per hour to hire wedding photographer.

Interesting fact: a pro-level DSLR cost about RM16,000 and has a shutter life of 150,000 cycles. That means each shutter click costs about RM0.11. Normally, one would do about 3,000 shots and that translate to RM330. So, if someone photographs your wedding using such camera for free, he/she is actually making a loss of RM330, just on equipment wear & tear. That is even if he knows NOTHING about photography, shoot underexposed photos, out-of-focus, missed a lot of things, etc etc.

Don't eat a pine”apple” the way you eat an “apple”
Let’s look at the next level of thoughts on wedding photography charges: There are reasons why a photographer shouldn't be paid like a grass cutter. However, sometimes, a photographer can be paid like a grass cutter. I'll give two reasons & examples here:

1)   Precious moment is precious, because it is a moment that once it's missed, it's gone. Unlike cutting grass, if you missed a spot, you can come back the next day. Take this shot of mine for example; it’s a moment of showing love, friendship & care. If I’ve missed that shot, I couldn’t have had it replayed, and even if I did, it won’t be as candid as it was because it was a candid.

2)   How much is the price of creativity? How much is the price of an art work? I was learning oil painting from an Indonesian artist when I was a kid. I swear that his work is good enough to hang on any of the 5 stars hotel but guess what? He was selling his painting for less than RM50 a piece. I still remember so vividly that he has just kerosene stove in his room and eat instant noodle for meals. Then, I remember myself standing in front of Picasso’s Guernica in Madrid. This is a piece of work that would worth millions, if for sale. So, let’s take this shot of mine as example... I wouldn’t say it’s Picasso but I like to think I’ve made a little effort with my own creativity & artistic sense. So how much is it worth? Close to nothing, but that didn’t stop me to do what I like to do.

So, I hope you get the picture by now. Hopefully, you’d understand why wedding photography cannot be free-of-charge. You would also knowhow such a huge range of charges in the market is possible. Sometimes, brand name is a big factor, that’s why a LV bag or a Rolex watch is expensive. Thus, the more famous a photographer is, the higher the price will be. Lastly, should you be charging that price? Should you be paying that price? This is where subjectivity comes in.