PetaPixel

How to Save Big Money by Not Hiring a Professional Wedding Photographer

Do you REALLY need to spend thousands on a pro? I don't think so.

pennypincher

What if I told that you could get wedding photos at a fraction of the cost that professionals will charge you, would you be interested in that? I bet you would because there are a heck of a lot of people out there that think wedding photographers are way too expensive, charging you thousands of dollars just for a few pictures.

Now, I’m not proposing that you have your guest snap shots with their iPhones. I’m also not going to propose that you wear a hat with a GoPro attached to it. With my plan, you will use the same equipment, the same software and the same techniques that the pros use to get you those super fancy wedding photos you see people posting on Facebook and Pinterest.

My plan will show you how to do everything the pros do so that you can save your precious money and spend it on something more valuable like his and her diamond-encrusted wedding cake toppers.

Everyone wants to look beautiful in their wedding day photos, but do you really need to spend thousands on a photographer?

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Introduction: The average professional wedding photographer is going to charge you hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

Now, as you know, the average wedding photographer is going to charge you big bucks for taking a few pictures. If you’re like most people, you’ll probably end up paying about $2,500 for a professional photographer. Now, of course, they will have an average of about 5 to 10 years experience and probably have shot scores of weddings, but come on, thousands of dollars for a few pictures?

I’m going to show you how to do it for a fraction of the cost they will charge you. You’ll save so much money you can buy those customized monogramed M&M’s with each of your initials that will look beautiful on the cake table.

Wedding Photographers like this guy will charge you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars just for pictures. You’ll notice many photographers wear shades to avoid direct eye contact with you when discussing their rates.

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Step 1: Rent the same cameras and lenses the pros use (Estimated Cost — $1,170)

If you want the same result you’re going to want to use the same top notch equipment the pros use. Most people know that the secret to awesome photos is the camera. So let’s go right to the source and avoid the silly middle man and save some big time money. There are places like LensRentals.com and BorrowLenses.com where you can go and get wedding rental packages that the pro’s use. These places are awesome by the way, I use them all the time.

Since professionals usually have at least two photographers at an event, I am going to recommend that you get two packages. You’ll need two lens bodies and two multiple lens packages and strobes. My recommendation is to get those packages for at least a week because you’re going to need to train your recruits (newbies right off the street) to use those fancy cameras the right way.

I added it up for you and you can basically get two Canon 5D’s and wedding lens packages each for about $1,169. That includes the insurance, mind you. If someone drops the camera in the fountains of chocolate, you don’t want to be on the hook for the $3,000 or more to replace the camera.

As you ponder all your savings, let your mind wander to the possibility of hiring Celine Dion to fly in and personally sing your wedding dance song for you because that could happen with all the money you are pocketing at the moment.

Rent the Canon 5D. These cameras seemingly produce extraordinary photographs on their own.

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Step 2: Rent your tripods, soft boxes and memory cards (Estimated Cost — $250)

Now, it’s a bit annoying but let’s not forget some of the accessories that you’re going to need to pull it off. You’ll need two soft boxes to diffuse the light to get that “Wedding Look”. Also, you’ll need some stands to hold the lights, a couple of tripods and of course memory cards.

I priced it out and we are still doing great. For about $250 you can get all these necessary extras to complete your package. *cha ching!* — ring up the savings. Is it too late to call the hotel and upgrade to the Deluxe Seafood Towers as appetizers for the guest instead of those little mushroom caps filled with spinach?

You are going to need some soft boxes to get that “Wedding Look” with your photos.

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Step 3: Recruit two friends or starving college students to snap the photos for you (Estimated Cost — $320)

Now that you have the best cameras, which will practically shoot award-winning photos on their own, you can recruit people to do the shooting for you. My recommendation is to recruit two semi-distant friends who are not already guests and who won’t be offended that you didn’t invite them in the first place.

If that’s not possible you can always recruit some starving college students willing to work on the cheap. When I was in college someone actually paid me to lay down a cement driveway for them and I had no experience in that, so why the heck not. The driveway had a real rustic and uneven appeal to it I must say, but the best thing of all is they saved money!

For about $20 an hour my guess is that you can get two newbie photographers for about eight hours or even the entire day. That’s only $320! Thinking about how wedding photographers charge thousands really chaps my hide when I realize how much can be saved.

Modern fancy cameras have made photography so easy that photographers are essentially like robots clicking buttons for you.

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Step 4: You’re going to need a couple of books and video tutorials (Estimated Cost — $200)

Now the fancy equipment you’re using is going to require some basic working knowledge of the camera itself. I would budget in about $200 to cover the cost of some photography books, video tutorials and to pay the recruited photographers for their time to learn the camera equipment.

You don’t want your photographers not knowing the absolute basics of photography before entrusting them with the most important day of your life right?

As you are perusing your photography books don’t be surprised if you find yourself Google searching the possibility of having the entire wedding party carried into the ceremony by a parade of Arabian Horses and Belly Dancers. You’ll need to spend all the money you’re saving on photography somewhere else and that sounds like it could make for some interesting photos actually.

You’re gonna want a book like this at least a few days before you get married to study up.

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Step 5: Shoot away, tell the photographer to go nuts (Estimated Cost — FREE)

This is the best part. All the photos that you want to take on your wedding day are free. So instruct the photographers you have recruited to go ballistic. Machine gun blast photos everywhere of everyone. Get right in front of the altar if necessary and shoot at 9 fps to get each and every nuance.

Now professional photographers are going to know exactly when and where to shoot and how to do it with minimal intrusion on the ceremony or guests, but that’s just not feasible here. So I’m going to recommend the shock and awe strategy of having your photographers machine gun shoot as many shots as possible.

Instruct your photographer to be aggressive and absolutely everywhere at once for the best results. If they are not conspicuously shooting everywhere at 9 frames per second, they are probably missing something important.

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Step 6: Photoshop those pictures! (Estimated Cost — $200)

Thank God for Adobe Creative Cloud. Now instead of spending thousands on Photoshop tools that the photographers use, you can subscribe to a monthly service and get it for about $100 for a couple of months while you work on your pictures.

Now, you’re going to want to get some tutorials and books to help you learn how to use Photoshop so make sure you budget that in there too. Bottom line, however, is that your Photoshop costs in total are going to be a steal at around $200 for everything.

Since Photoshop is extremely tricky, I am going to recommend that you spend at least 40 hours learning the basics of cropping, layers, filters, plugins, masks, dodging, burning, vignetting, selective blur, overlays, lens correction, sharpening and smoothing. These are just the basics, however, and we can’t expect you to reach pro level. After all, many of those professional wedding photographers probably have several thousand hours experience working with Photoshop and associated tools.

They also probably have at least $1,000 worth of additional Photoshop plug-ins to make your pictures look beautiful. But remember, the objective here is saving money! And we are!

With Photoshop you’ll be creating glamorized wedding shots that make the bride look amazing, just like this actually.

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Step 7: You’re going to need to store and share the pictures. (Estimated Cost — $60 first year)

You are nearly there and you are saving money! Now you are going to want to use a site that will allow you store those photos so that you can share them with friends and family. You will probably have thousands and thousands of pictures to store.

Storing them is cheap though. You can use a site like SmugMug and get a full year of beautiful photo sharing for only about $60.

Step 8: Get your prints (Estimated Cost — $200)

Since most professional photographers are going to give you a couple of hundred prints with their packages, you’ll want to budget in about $200 to get 200 high quality 5 by 7 photos from the event.

You can even go to WalMart and get super cheap budget prints and that will only cost you about $120. There are tons of ways to save money on wedding photos! By now you’re probably wondering why you didn’t plate your wedding cake in edible gold with the money you saved on photos.

Conclusion: You Just saved a boatload of money. You’re welcome.

You can thank me later for saving you a ton of money. If you followed my instructions, you just managed to shoot your wedding for a mere fraction of what it would have cost you with a professional. With my program, which gets you using the same incredible equipment and tools the pro’s use, you can save yourself an incredible $100. That’s a whopping 4% savings for you, Mr. DIY guy/gal.

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Now, granted, you did have to spend close to 100 hours of your time renting, learning and editing, but that has got to be worth all the money you saved. If you saved $100 and spend 100 hours additional time that means that you just earned an incredible $1 an hour for every hour you spent. Now, that has to feel good. Let me know how this works out for you.


About the author: Frank McKenna is an amateur photographer based in La Jolla, California. You can find him on his blog, 500px, Tumblr, and Google+.


Image credits: penny-pincher by theilr, Canon 5D photograph by Charles Lanteigne


 
  • http://www.vividblue.co.za Andie

    PDTA. How much storage do you think a Pro Photographer need? I have 14TB of photos stored on hard drives. $500 Worth of hard drives.

  • Gurwinder Soor

    What the hell are you on man!!!!!! You hire a professional because of his or her style, creativeness, experience. Machine gun shooting will not get you great shots and remember once the wedding is done the moments are never coming back!!!! Thats why you pay a professional to capture the event!!

  • John

    Nice try, but this is really stupid. You shouldn’t charge the customer the ACTUAL COST of “equipment rental, camera accessories,photography tutorial, photoshop subscription, photo storage, and photo prints”. The whole point is that you are running a business with many customers so that the cost for each customer must be much less than the actual investment cost. Your argument is like saying that when we see a doctor we should pay the cost of medical school, renting office space, insurance costs, etc. HAHA. No, that’s not how it works. The doctor sees many patients so that the cost for each patient is much less than the actual cost that goes into becoming a doctor. LOL. You photographers are way overpaid and nothing more than another scam that drives up wedding costs to ridiculous prices. This piece also illustrates that you guys are really stupid and have no idea of how to run a business and what a reasonable price is for customers. LOL

  • Moeskido

    Excellent satire. Too bad most people won’t read through to the end.

  • lousy Tips

    useless review!!! What would I want to spend $2.4k to get all these done when I can get a photographer to solve all my problems. I still have to source for my own students and equipment that is ridiculous. Not worthwhile.

  • Daniel C.

    by learning math before learning art.

  • Michael Wade

    “Since professionals usually have at least two photographers at an event…” Good Lord, how did I, and every photographer among my peers, people who actually made a living for decades as photographers, ever survive NOT knowing that it took two photographers to cover a wedding. It’s this mindset that dominates the amateur’s thinking; but, sad to say, the math always wins in the end. If you aren’t capable of covering an event, multiplying the incompetency doesn’t give the client any benefit. 2×0=0.

  • Jess-Mongillo Temple

    OMG! I laughed so hard when I read this. This is awesome and LOVE IT

  • Jess-Mongillo Temple

    I agree Corey and this is what I got from the piece. These days, anyone can buy an DSLR and say they are a professional. I’ve even had people tell me they don’t see the point in paying for any editing program!

  • http://www.picklejarpictures.com Rachel Twitchett

    Iv never been good at maths, but I am at art iv had to learn the little bit of measuring Iv needed to compose my pics and work out the numbers on a camera but aside from that iv never needed it to create art its been more of a random journey of experimentation with me.and a vision

  • http://www.picklejarpictures.com Rachel Twitchett

    the writer was just trying to put over his point across by being sarcastic, which works for me cause i have that sort of sense of humour

  • Bill W.

    The problem here is that no one can reproduce the results of professionals with a few tutorials or rented equipment. Besides the fact that the satire itself underestimates the various technical intricacies of achieving satisfactory images, there are intangibles that are not accounted for, but which are equally, if not more important than the cost of gear, software, and friends. For example, understanding composition. Understanding how to create flattering lighting (yeah, hand a strobe and an umbrella to a novice and tell me about the great pictures they produce after reading the user’s manual and watching a youtube vid – good luck). Understanding posing. Unless you’re counting on monkeys beating away on typewriters for a million years to reproduce shakespeare, things won’t go well. Guaranteed. I photographed one wedding in my career and that was enough for me. It’s a bear (and I’ve worked some pretty awful jobs in my life).

  • Bill W.

    Wrong. Look up the price of the body (no lenses) for a canon 5d Mark III – $3200. Now add a 70-200mm telephoto lens ($2400 for a f/2.8 USM pro-grade) and maybe a 24-70 for wider angles ($2000). Now, buy some good lighting equipment, and dependable radio triggers. Are you serious -1200$???? And that is not top of the line equipment. Try going to a Phase 1 medium format or a Hasselblad, and you jump up to about $5000 dollars just to get the camera body (no lenses included). Do your research before making ignorant statements please.

  • Bill W.

    It’s no different than telling your friend to buy a violin off of ebay, watch some training videos for beginning violin players, and then perform at the wedding in trade for food. You get what you pay for.

  • Bill W.

    good luck with that. Enjoy the garbage images!

  • Seb Kaczorowski

    Still there are plenty “photographers” who are willing to work for food…

  • Romeo Ray

    Most people think by owning a DSLR they are already photographers.. so y not buy a ‘ronaldo’ football boots and call yourself a pro. Creativity and talent varies from people to people. to quote an example. everyone can kick a ball. so can the top clubs in the world hire just anyone who is cheap and not cost like over 50million bucks? ponder on that.

  • Alfred Albarracin

    “Step 1: Rent the same cameras and lenses the pros use (Estimated Cost — $1,170)

    If you want the same result you’re going to want to use the same top notch equipment the pros use. Most people know that the secret to awesome photos is the camera.”
    - WHOAH! Really?! I think you are missing the point here and i think you do not know what you’re talking about. Maybe you possess all the good equipments and gears and probably read a lot of books in photography, but still experience and skills is always a big issue. You cannot just click and click without knowing all how to use your camera properly. And renting a studio flash or any flash is also a big issue if you dont know how to use them properly….so good luck with that! You would probably ending up over exposing your subject.
    Its not about the equipment you use but the time and effort you spend with photography. Do not encourage anyone, they might end up dissapointed. Its so clear that you do not know what youre talking about. Wedding photography is not a volunteer job you know.

  • Kapil Kant Kaul

    Sarcasm anyone ?

  • William R. Hood

    Wow, a whole $1000.00? So how do you make a living? Make a return on your investment?
    How many Saturdays (the most popular day for weddings) in a year? How many Saturdays which don’t fall on major holidays, not in the dead of winter? Let’s say you get 40 weddings a year (damn good!). A gross of $40K. Of course for each wedding you commission you will probably have to meet with 3 or 4 couples (maybe more if you can only compete at $1k). So right there we are looking at say 120-160 meetings a year – not including the wedding day. Say 90 minutes per meeting that’s 180 – 240 hours which have to be covered by your gross – not counting the hours on the wedding day, nor post day(s). Minimally, and realistically another 800 hours. Now, subtract the cost of your pro camera, lenses, back up equipment, flashes, media, batteries, tripod, repairs and maintenance, equipment and venue insurance, computer, software, ISP, website(s), storage, automobile, auto insurance, clothing, meeting parlor/studio, health insurance, 401k contribution… You probably don’t have to worry about income taxes because you’ve just shot yourself out of business. You’ll make more serving latte’s and you can spend your weekends playing with instagram.

  • Basil Glew-Galloway

    Yes, and if that is what you want then that is available. And they might be good, and might have a nice photojournalistic look, but will never be great. And good luck getting those edited, delivered in a timely manner, making sure they are backed up, etc. Believe it or not, this stuff is actually important to some people.

  • Basil Glew-Galloway

    It’s not meant to degrade and slander, it’s meant ironically.

  • Basil Glew-Galloway

    A- the whole thing is ironic/sarcastic so LOL. B- he said 2 cameras plus lensing. 1 16gb card per camera won’t work for all day shooting, especially in raw. I generally burn through 100gb/day in raw on my d800. good luck learning photoshop and doing all your editing in 1 month. and it’s $30/month after the first month free.
    but yes, you could also just should the whole thing with an old camera and a decent zoom lens and get pictures of your wedding. Too bad you didn’t pay someone who’s an artist who devotes their life to being good at this stuff.

  • Basil Glew-Galloway

    That’s exactly the point here.

  • Basil Glew-Galloway

    I’d like to see your photos from that event. I’ll share some high-end wedding photography with you. We can contrast and compare after.

  • BrunøƳaɱazakƴ

    If you really are a professional photographer you don’t let Uncle Bobs or any other person get in the way, it’s part of being a professional, that’s another reason you pay big money for..

  • David Macharia Mwangi

    Photography is art and every art have a price tag…

  • Guest

    hiring a pro-photographer?

  • Basil Glew-Galloway

    You make $35/hr full time, with benefits, your employer pays your payroll tax, and you don’t have 10s of thousands of dollars of gear constantly going obsolete. Also- great photographers charge a lot, just like great engineers tend to be a little better than $35/hour.

  • Isaac Hussein

    awesome

  • Jeff

    I understand the point of the article but I have to say, for the most part, wedding photographers are not adapting to a changing market. If your client wants a big fancy wedding package with you following them around all day and a photo book and prints, then the several thousand dollar wedding package is perfectly justified.

    However; there are plenty of people like my bride and I that wanted a simple wedding with only a few photos to show from it. All we wanted was a head shot of us and family photo. We went the “unlce Bob” route and spent $120 all said and done. I offered uncle Bob $100, take it or leave it. The rules were simple, one shot of us, one shot of her family, one shot my family and one shot of our combine family, anything else he did was by his choice. Now if a professional photographer offered a package like that, I would have been willing to pay more than $100 for their experience, since I basically composed for uncle Bob and he was just the button pusher, but my point is, spending $2500 for 4 photographs and 30 minutes of someone’s time is outrageous.

    I realize this will likely offend most wedding photographers, but if there were options other than a several thousand dollar wedding package, maybe you wouldn’t lose so much business to craigslist wanna be’s. Offer your big expensive package, but also consider the reality that not all clients want that. Consider offering something different, more like a family style shoot, that just happens to be on a wedding day.

  • anotherview2

    The essay offered a scenario for DIY wedding photography which showed that DIY would not save enough money to justify, in time or money spent, the DIY approach. The essay sneered at the DIY approach as penny wise but pound foolish. By implication, the essay instead recommends hiring an experienced wedding photographer.

  • gregorymbehrens

    Peyton . true that Jessica `s blurb is shocking, last
    monday I got a gorgeous Peugeot 205 GTi after having earned $6860 this past 4
    weeks an would you believe ten-k this past-month . with-out a doubt this is the
    easiest-job I’ve ever had . I actually started six months/ago and pretty much
    immediately started to bring in minimum $84… p/h . Read More Here C­a­s­h­f­i­g­.­C­O­M­

  • carlos

    This isn’t about being a pro, or even an active amateur. It’s about storing your own wedding photos.

  • carlos

    “I don’t believe in post editing my pictures either and this now seems to be the norm.”

    Don’t believe in it or don’t know how? Being able to pop off some decently exposed images is basically taking snapshots. There are people who want something more than a snapshot of their wedding. If you look at all of the award winning images you’ll find that there has been quite a bit of time taken to tweak it in post. You can choose to look at more expensive photographers as greedy and making a grab, but they’d likely be more justified in branding you lazy and careless. Fortunately for you, there’s a market that doesn’t care any more than you do.

  • carlos

    No. Chase does all of his helicopter rentals, airfare for himself and his entourage, equipment purchases, etc. out of his own pocket and then turns over a disc of completely unedited images (including every exposure regardless of quality) to clients for $200 because he’s far more concerned with being seen as greedy than with his reputation as a photographer who can get things done and deliver quality images.

    The fact that tm brings up Chase Jarvis in a wedding photography discussion tells me that in all likelihood, tm’s “experience” is from reading Chase’s blog, strobist.com and Joe McNally while watching CL classes (only while they’re free – never buying one). Not that there’s a thing wrong with any of that. But one would think such a dedicated wedding photographer would at least know about Denis Reggie or Joe Buissink or someone….. anyone with any stature in the wedding photography industry. Joe isn’t even the primary shooter at his weddings and he charges a whole lot more than anything I’ve seen quoted here…. and he shoots on “P” for crying out loud! And his images are amazing!