that sure is a lot of money for one days work….or, rethinking the value of photography

I was at a wedding not long ago when a nice lady started a conversation. After a couple minutes she mentioned what a great job I had–just going to parties and taking photos. I agreed! I do have a great job that I love to do! She then asked if I had another job during the week. No, I said, I am a full time professional wedding photographer. Wow! She exclamimed. What a great gig! You only have to work one day a week!!

I didn’t have the time to go into detail then, but I’d like to address that misconception now. It would be great if I only worked one day per wedding. That would be sweet! Unfortunately, it is hardly the case, The real work begins the day following the wedding. First thing I do is archive three copies of the event in case disaster strikes. Then Monday, I take a full week  to edit the job to get it the the final count–usually between 1000-1500 files. I go through every single photo and decide whether or not it is a keeper. I do three edits per wedding. That takes two to three days. Then, I go through every single photo, making global adjustments such as optimizing exposure and adding special effects like converting to BW or Sepia, and applying layer efects. That takes another five to seven days. I then use the adjusted images for printing 4×6 “proofs” and create a lower res version for upload to the internet. At this point I have three archived copies–the original files, the print-ready files, and the low-res web-ready files. I bring the print-ready files to the lab for priting and upload the web-ready files to my web site. That takes another day or two. After picking up the 4x6s from the lab I then put them in a 500 print photo album (there are usually three) for presentation to the client (another day or two). Finally, I notify the client that everything is ready to pick up and/or view on the web.

So, in total, the “one day” of work is actually more like two weeks.

Why do I mention all of this? First, simply because it is true. But secondly, because I don’t think that many clients realize what they are actually paying for when they hire a wedding photographer and the type of value they are receiving. Many years ago a client expressed shock at the cost of a 4×6 print–at the time it was $6.00. Why do you charge $6.00 when I can get a print from Walgreens for $.50?, they asked. Because, I said, that print represents years of experience and expertise. There is a famous story about Pablo Picasso. He was at a restaurant and a fan walked up to his table and asked him to sketch something. Picasso took out his pen and scribbled a quick drawing on a napkin. That’ll be $500, he said. $500, the man exclaimed! It only took you ten seconds! Wrong!, said Picasso, it’s taken me 35 years)

Just thought I’d let everyone know.

~ by christopher dimock on November 17, 2009.

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