New Zealand weddings are expensive, it is as simple as that. Wedding is also one of the most important day of your life, where your life will never be the same again, telling the world you are now sharing an eternity with the person you love, which is a good thing. And this is where wedding photography is so important as the day will be a blur and will just zoom by. As wedding photographers, we are there to document and capture your day in our very own unique style, our very own way to see the stories that are being unfolded in front of our eyes. The results are beautiful pictures that represent precious memories that allow you to revisit the day with your loved one for many years to come.
So the big question is, how much should a wedding photographer cost, and how much should you set aside for wedding photography? The answer is not as easy a magic number, a range, or even a percentage. But if you do want a quick rough ball park, wedding photography is about $2000-$5000, about 10% of your total wedding budget. So if the average wedding cost in New Zealand is $30,000, wedding photography is about $3000.
Now, we can analyse this question into more details. You will quickly find on your wedding journey is that wedding related items always seem to cost quite a bit more than the usual price. Look at flowers, catering, etc. The reasons?
Supply vs Demand
While one can argue that there are many wedding vendors available to choose from in New Zealand, most vendors can only cater for one wedding per date. This would then create a significant demand for their services and severe restrict the availability (supply) for the vendor for each exclusive date.
As you can imagine, if you dont care which date you get married on, where, which vendors to help your day, your wedding costs would reduce dramatically. For example, with wedding photography, if you only just want images from your day, without worrying about quality, style, etc, you have endless options to choose from to suit your budget. But if you do fall in love with a style, a photographer's unique approach, you have just skewed the graph and created a strong demand while reduce the availability by restricting it to a single date. Once you sign a contract, I am sure you want to have the piece of mind to know that you have exclusively locked in a vendor for your wedding day, instead of worrying if the vendor would still choose another client if they feel like it.
Wedding Photography is not a service, it is an expertise
So what does this mean. If you hire a plumber, a builder, you pay by the hour, you pay for a service, something that you can quantify. But when you look at a creative vendor, an artist, a painter, a photographer, you are really paying for their expertise to create pieces of art that have an emotional connection with you. The stronger the emotional connection, the more you value and prize the finishing artwork. I guess this is why someone can pay $50,000USD for a screwed up ball of office paper as they view that as a piece of contemporary, when in fact, that piece of paper would only cost like 10c at the Warehouse Stationery. For many of us who are not well versed with the world of art, we only see a piece of paper, scrunched up, that we often see in the office rubbish bin. And yet, there are many who appreciate the artist's visual creativeness to create something out of the piece of paper.
How important is wedding photography to you?
For many brides, especially those whom have chosen us to capture their wedding days, wedding photography is more than just images. It is about the experience, the adventure and the relationship that they share with us. They love our work, and have chosen us for this important responsibility. They wanted their memories captured in our style which has deeply resonated with them, their wedding planning and their visions of their big day. When you share this passion that photography is more than just an image, you will find that you are much more choosy about what style and what body of photographic works that you want to consider.
However, for many other brides, an image is an image, the cost is a big deciding factor. They would see images from a $500 wedding photographer in the same light as a $10,000 photographer. If you are one of them (like the people who see the example above as just a piece of paper), it is likely that your wedding photographer to be much lower. At the end of the day, if you are happy with your choice, and the portfolio of the chosen photographer, then you will be happy with the images and the experience involved.
You are paying for the experience, as well as the creativity
Most of us wedding photographers have been to more weddings than our brides and the guests. This equip us with experience of how to help and deal with things on wedding days. I often help the boys with wedding ties, button hole, dressing etiquette when it comes to suits etc. I often help brides with lacing of wedding dresses, or the placement of the veils etc. During the wedding ceremony and wedding reception and speeches, I often work with the MC to ensure things proceed smoothly, and offer my advice when asked and requested. I am often involved with the finalising of the wedding day timetable, choosing of location for wedding photos.
However, probably the most important thing that I feel I can bring as an experienced wedding photography is that sense of calmness, that everything will simply be ok. So often brides are worried about this and that, and time line is regularly a big talking point. I love having fun on wedding days and I feel it is important that my clients do have fun with me, and with everyone involved. This is why I tend to remind my clients about the importance of the day, the joy, the love, the presence of the loved ones, and that fun and happiness is everything, and that things will be just fine.
When we talk about wedding photography equipment, it is much more than just the megapixel count and ISO sensitivity and how big the zoom is. It is about the right camera and lens to suit the photographer's unique artistic vision. If someone brings along 10 lens and 5 cameras, then its likely they don't quite know what they want to achieve in their wedding photography. However, it would be one impressive and kick ass box of toys thats for sure.
Equipment is also about having backup gear, good quality memory cards to minimise the chance of crashing, backup workflow to make sure you have little chances of loosing the digital files before the final product delivery to the bride and groom. There are many gears that the public just simply do not see that significantly help us to create the beautiful wedding images that you see all over social media and online.
.. and time
Where do I begin? Wedding photography involves so much more than the 9 or 10 hours on a typical wedding day. We are talking about initial consults, paper work for contract and invoices and receipts, scouting of locations, preparing all the gear before the big day, and then of course the fun day of love and laughter, and then the copying of cards, backup of files, second back up of files, cloud backup of files, culling, editing, and more editing, preparation of final products for delivery, posting of images on social media, creation of blog on website, more backups, and whatever other little tasks required to complete the job. We are talking about days of work for each set of clients. Its not quite as glamourous as many people think, where the misconception of "Oh wow, you earn $3k-$5k a day for wedding?". This is so not the case as you can see. I wish that it is the case 🙂
So how much is too much for wedding photography?
This is likely a question that many brides do ask. My answer is this. While wedding photography is important, your wedding day is still only one day in your life. You and your partner will have years and years of creating and building memories together. Please don't financially stretch yourself where you place unnecessary stress and burden on you both on the wedding day as well as afterwards. You will still get married no matter what. You will still be surrounded by your families and friends when you say your wedding vows and exchange the wedding rings and dive in for that first kiss as husband and wife. So do splurge, but with a tiny bit of sensibility 🙂
Wedding photography is an art-form, and just like any form of art, it is subjective. Do your research, look at your budget, ask lots of questions, and then go with your instinct. But the most important thing is to make sure you can have lots of fun with your wedding photographer to create ever lasting memories. Happy memories will always give rise to good images, simple as that.
I hope the above little guide gives you some insight as to why we charge what we charge as professional wedding photographers here in New Zealand. If you have any comment, or think we have missed something, please drop a line below. I would love to hear your thoughts.