Lion of the Blogosphere

Wedding photography in the NY Times

There were two articles in the NY Times last week about wedding photography. For Photographers, Competition Gets Fierce and Vying for a Shot of the Wedding.

Once upon a time wedding photography provided a decent middle class income for men who weren’t especially skilled or artistic, but who possessed the necessary equipment and know-how. The business model that became standard was that the price for shooting the wedding would be low-balled, and they’d make it up by selling overpriced albums and prints, which brides would be forced to buy because the contract stipulated that the photographer retained all rights to the photos as well as the negatives (remember negatives?). A big payday would come to the photographer when, post-wedding, some bride bought an unexpectedly large number of prints at a high markup.

While that business model always rubbed consumers the wrong way, it has gotten even worse in the digital era in which many bride or grooms are used to dealing with digital files and printing themselves, and thus there’s an even greater desire to own the original. And when one can easily make a 100% accurate copy of a digital file, the photographer’s argument about keeping the negative “safe” obviously doesn’t fly anymore.

So anyway, the wedding photography market, like most other markets, is bifurcating. There are high-end wedding photographers who charge lots of money shooting weddings of wealthy people, and I suspect at this end of the market business is better than it ever was.

But there is little demand for more middle-of-the-road wedding photographers. If you can’t get the rich-people weddings, you are probably doomed to being a “shoot and burn” photographer, meaning you charge often less than $1000 to do a wedding, and then burn the photos onto a DVD. No fancy wedding album and no money from selling prints at jacked up prices.

As I previously wrote, wedding photographers today are a lot more likely to be women. More women are happy to make a few extra thousand dollars a year working at a job that involves weddings and can be done on weekends when they have someone else to watch their kids.

Because digital photography is easier to self-learn than film photography, there are lower barriers to entry, and lower barriers to entry always means less profit for everyone making a profit.

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The other wedding article is about how at some weddings, guests are encourages to share their own wedding photos using apps or websites. But on the other hand, at some wedding they are requesting guest to “unplug” so that they can watch the ceremony without taking photos with their smartphones.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

March 29, 2013 at 4:02 PM

Posted in Photography

13 Responses

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  1. Priceless quotation from the first article:

    “With unemployment still high, a lot of people, women in particular, are taking their fancy digital cameras and booking jobs shooting weddings, leading some long-established wedding photographers to brand them as “mamarazzis” or “digital debbies.” ”



    March 29, 2013 at 4:17 PM

  2. Speaking of weddings, there’s a “letter to the editor” in today’s Daily Princetonian written a female alum urging female Princetonians to work on their MRS degrees while they are at Princeton. It is causing wide uproar in liberal media and in social media. Daily Princetonian website is currently down; perhaps due to heavy traffic.


    March 29, 2013 at 5:59 PM

    • … or perhaps due to denial of service attacks. Some people don’t believe in free speech


      March 30, 2013 at 12:11 PM

    • LOTB, Susan A. Patton’s letter to the Daily Princetonian is a must read. I can’t wait for you and Heartiste to riff on it and the mainstream reaction to it. Maybe you could run one of your background checks on her too.

      Kosher Kowboy

      March 30, 2013 at 7:06 PM

  3. I read a number of “mommy” boards and seems like every third woman there is a wedding, pregnancy, or baby photographer.


    March 29, 2013 at 7:59 PM

  4. Film processing is (or at least was) a huge barrier to professional photography, wedding or otherwise. As much as people marvel at Photoshop, most of what it does can be (and often was) accomplished in a darkroom. Except doing it in a darkroom meant becoming an amateur chemist, painter, draftsman, etc. As opposed to making a couple dozen mouse clicks. Sure, Photoshop has a learning curve, but it’s nothing like learning how to work in a darkroom. For example, it’s rare that you spill a bucket of Photoshop such that you have to call in municipal workers to help you clean it up.

    The beginning of the end came in the mid-2000s when sub-$1k DSLRs really started to proliferate. By 2005 it seemed like EVERYONE was an aspiring pro photographer, Digital Rebel in hand.

    I’ve done some pro work, including weddings, but I have no interest in trying to break into the elite group of local photographers who are able to charge big bucks for a day of work. Why? Because the work kinda sucks. Suffice it to say, not many people get married during bankers’ hours. Who in 2013 is willing to sacrifice some of their best (weather-wise) weekends for an extra grand here and there? They’re worth more than that to me, at least. You can have those weekends when you pry them from my cold, dead hands.

    What am I doing on those weekends, you ask? Often times I’m taking copious amounts of photos…of birds, local landscapes, family…basically shit that no one else cares about.


    March 30, 2013 at 5:19 AM

    • Photoshop is a very complex program, BUT there are books and online resources available to learn it on your own. Learning darkroom stuff generally required someone to show you the ropes, which is a bigger barrier to entry.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      March 30, 2013 at 2:16 PM

  5. And when women enter a field, wages decrease.

    E. Rekshun

    March 30, 2013 at 12:48 PM

    • There are very few boys clubs left in terms of occupation wise; so I suppose that does not alter relative wages too much.


      March 30, 2013 at 4:01 PM

  6. I approve of marriage: I disapprove of weddings. I’ve told my daughter to elope and that I’ll put the money saved towards the deposit on a house for her.


    March 30, 2013 at 3:56 PM

    • Wish my in laws had done that versus the 50k wedding.


      April 1, 2013 at 12:23 AM

  7. Perhaps another advantage of women over men is that it’s the bride who will be picking the photographer. A woman is much more likely to be able to generate an emotional connection with someone who is at one of the emotional times of her life. The average man would just present his portfolio and think having the best photos and equipment will win him the job.


    March 30, 2013 at 7:06 PM

  8. A distant cousin in Israel is a wedding photographer. He is religious and does religious weddings. This seems like a good niche as the religious have large families and lots of weddings. I don’t think he is getting rich but he has plenty of work and supports his own large family. But as noted the working conditions are poor — he goes to work in the afternoon and returns in the small hours. It’s a bit like being a musician.


    March 30, 2013 at 10:32 PM

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