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5 Ways that Professional Wedding Photographers Earn Every Dollar

When engaged couples start talking to potential wedding photographers, they are often surprised by what a true professional will charge. Perhaps they’ve (wisely) turned down Uncle Joe, who offered to shoot the wedding for free. Or maybe the quality of work from the $500 “wedding photographers” on Craigslist wasn’t quite what they thought it would be once they visited their websites (if they even have one).

The next step is to attend bridal shows, or look to popular websites such as The Knot or WeddingWire for guidance. These resources can help you find legitimate professionals, but they don’t necessarily give you any context to help you understand why we charge what we charge.

The misconception is that capturing a wedding day is just eight hours of photography, but there’s so much more that goes into creating your perfect wedding photos and giving you the highest level of service.

1) Before the Wedding

I have worked at some of the Baltimore-Washington region’s most popular venues (such as Turf Valley, the Baltimore Museum of Industry and the Chesapeake Bay Beach Club), but if it’s a venue I haven’t seen before I will take a tour of the location with you to start planning the day and brainstorming ideas. And, even if I have been there, I’ll visit the location with you to make sure you don’t have any questions or concerns.

I can also refer you to other vendors who I have worked well with before and who I can personally vouch for. I spend time helping you understand how photography will fit in to your day-of schedule and will offer guidance on creating or editing your list of “formal” photos. As the wedding day approaches, we often (happily) take phone calls at all hours to help you with final logistics.

2) The Wedding Day

You might think our only job that day is taking pictures, but I could write an entire blog post (and I will) about the things we handle on the wedding day that you and your spouse will never even know about. Our relationships with other vendors can often help to resolve problems before the bride and groom know anything is wrong. Plus, charm, industry experience and professionalism behind the scenes can also go a long way toward having everything run smoothly.

3) Editing

I have about 2,000 photos to edit from any given wedding. The clients are rarely aware of this high number but they greatly benefit from it. As the wedding day unfolds, there are moments happening everywhere and I am subtlety “working” these moments with my camera to get the best reactions, emotions, composition and lighting. I overshoot formals because there is always someone blinking or looking the wrong way, especially in large groups. Plus, after I get my “safe” shots, on the dance floor or during the ceremony for example, I’m always looking to try something a bit edgy to capture an image that really stands apart. I would never overwhelm my clients by presenting them with the entire take. I’ll cull the images down to about 800 to 1,000 to start creating the perfect representation of your day.

4) Post-Production

There are many steps taken to make the remaining images look their best. A digital image can be perfectly in focus but I will still apply a sharpening filter to give it extra crispness and clarity. This is subtle but important. Then, if needed, I will adjust the white balance of the image. Simply put, white balance in digital photography means adjusting colors so that the image looks more natural. I go through this process of adjusting colors to primarily get rid of color casts, in order to match the picture with what I saw when I took it. I will also adjust elements like the contrast, exposure, shadows, and highlights as needed.

Then there’s cropping, where I can create better composition, or do things like get rid of that unavoidable “EXIT” sign over the best man during his toast. In some cases, especially if it’s an image that is going into your album, we can use Photoshop to remove something unwanted, like a tattoo or blemish. Even on a perfectly exposed and composed image, giving it some extra attention in post-production can make a huge difference. Every image my clients receive has been through this post production process.

5) Creating the Album

All of our albums and books are custom designed by me, not by the album company or a third-party designer. I was at your wedding — they weren’t. I know what is most important to you, but they don’t. I give my clients as much help as they want when selecting the final edit for their book (anywhere from 60 to 100 photos or more, depending on their contract). Most clients need some guidance here.

For me, the best albums flow with artistic, story-telling images, with some fine details and formal portraits sprinkled in. The client though has final say in the page designs and we may go back and forth several times before they are one-hundred percent satisfied. When we agree on page designs, we move on to the cover design, motif, and material selection. This can all happen online or in person and it is a fairly painless process, but it still takes time.

Professional Wedding Photographers Are Worth the Investment

I’ll speak on behalf of the professionals I’ve met over the years by saying that we aren’t weekend warriors with a day job to fall back on. This is a career. We didn’t purchase our equipment at Best Buy on Black Friday. We carry upwards of $10,000 worth of equipment to every wedding (including back-up gear), we have business insurance (which many venues require), we pay for employees and sometimes for office or studio space.

Of course none of this matters if you don’t love your photos. Photographers like myself rely on years of experience and we have learned to overcome challenges that you can’t even imagine. This is our livelihood, and you are trusting us to flawlessly capture one of the most important days of your life. I respect that trust by doing everything I’ve described above.

A photographer who has dedicated themselves to the craft of capturing a wedding day will be excited to talk about their approach and all of the services they provide before, during and after the big day. I encourage you to send me an email anytime at mikeb730@icloud.com or call me at 410-446-7328 to discuss.

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