Wedding photography is most ruthless form of photography. It is more like covering a chaos situation where a photographer does not have much control, the way he/she would have in a studio or planned shoot. The scope for going wrong here is much wider than any other genre of photography. If a photographer misses an important shot or get it wrong, there is no scope for any “RETAKE”. Once missed, it is missed for forever and no client would ever forgive you for that. A wedding photographer has to be prepared for the worst that may come. For example, the lighting may be too harsh, or dim; guests may block camera’s view from all possible sides, multiple events may happen at different spots at the same time, etc. At the end of the day, you just cannot put the blame on lights, decorations, guests and chaos caused by multiplicity of events. Whatever be the situation, you have to produce the best in those critical hours, without any mistake.
Covering the Risks and Cost Involved
The fixed cost of a good wedding photographer escalates highly to cover for all possible risks on the wedding day. Let me give you some easy examples. In order to cover for any issues with the lighting and decoration, a good photographer will always come with a range of lighting equipment and flashes. They just cannot rely solely on a DSLR camera like your friend-cum-photographer might do. The cost of these equipment itself may be much more than the cost of the camera and lenses your friend might have. A good wedding photographer is always prepared for the worst. What if the camera stops working or faces certain technical glitches in the middle of the event? A wise wedding photographer always carries back-up camera, batteries and lenses. This further adds up to the overall cost of a wedding shoot.
Similarly, in order to ensure the complete coverage of the event and deal with the multiplicity of countless rituals, they always come as a team with each member being truly professional. This significantly multiplies the overall cost of a wedding shoot as opposed to other forms of photography in which one photographer may be more than sufficient.
Now, when you are thinking that the job of a wedding photographer is done once the wedding is over; it is not. They also need to heavily invest in infrastructure required for a work station suitable for post-processing, which will necessarily include a high resolution large screen desktop (mostly an Apple device which can render true colors and minutest details), subscription for high end software and designing tools, etc.
Business Development and Marketing
Wedding photography is a highly competitive business. There is no dearth of wedding photographers coming up every other day. In order to be on top of the list, many wedding photographers incur huge expense for paid listing on various wedding portals and other related online market place for wedding. This again gets factored in their pricing decisions. Web site development and maintenance adds up further cost to the marketing and promotion of the business.
Unlike other forms of photography, the actual work of a wedding photographer usually begins at 6:00-7:00 in the morning and may go till 11:00-12:00 in the night, i.e., more than even 12 hours, without any considerable break. If the event gets delayed inordinately, many of the wedding photographers end up working extra hours without much rest/sleep for the same price. Now when you are thinking that it is just a work for 1-2 days; it is not. Any professional wedding photographer would spend at least 15-20 days for post-processing the huge number of photos they take in a wedding. Unlike other forms of photography where 50-80 photos may be more than enough, a wedding photographer has to go through at least more than 2000 photos; filter them to reduce the count to somewhere near 1000 and post process all of them to finally reach a count of 300-500 or 500-700 processed images, depending on the client’s requirement.
Believe me, post-processing requires much more efforts and precision and consumes a photographer’s time like anything. Lot of photographers find this job boring and prefer to hire professional retoucher/editor to create the final product. This is additional fixed cost to the wedding photographer, if he/she does not do post-processing inhouse. Even if it is done in-house what you pay for, also goes into all the efforts a wedding photographer consistently put for following 15-20 days at post-processing.
Wedding Photography is not a ‘commodity’ but an ‘art’
Last but not the least, one should always remember that photography is not a commodity. I agree that wedding photography at the lower range of pricing may have been commoditized by now due to huge number of budding photographers and no appreciable difference in their work. However, at a higher level, photography is still considered to be a beautiful form of art. A work of art can be distinguished from a commodity in terms of amount of creativity and seamless efforts a true professional put into his/her work. This does not come in a day or month. It takes years and years to practice it to the perfection, to learn from one’s own mistakes, to experiment with new ideas and be updated with latest technology and equipment. When a photographer comes out to shoot, those years of practice and perfection gets reflected in his/her work.