Recently there have been quite a few articles about the cost of wedding photography, with clients bemoaning and photographers explaining said costs alike. Most recent (and famous) this ‘wack attack’ blog of photographer Nikki Wagner. Now I don’t want to regurgitate the contents of these other articles but, even though similar parameters could apply in principle to both photography and videography I still thought it worth its own ruminations.
Nearly £2000 for a day’s work? Great if you can get it, I’d say. Reality, as usual, tells a very different story. The fee, for starters, is of course turnover, not profit. And the ‘one day’s work’ does not include:
Time spent talking to clients, meeting prospective clients, designing artwork, websites, stationery, website maintenance, SEO work and website optimisation, advertising, marketing, social and other networking (yes, this is ‘work’), administrative duties, writing blog articles, writing emails, producing free work for publicity, 40 or more hours of editing per wedding, rendering, archiving, research, training, updating software, DVD design and print, cover design and print, exporting, re-editing and uploading highlight clips to various hosting sites to share with friends and family.
And this is in addition to the 20 man hours or more spent filming a wedding with two operators (the ‘one day’s work’) and 20 – 30 hours processing time per wedding film in addition to the 40 hours editing time. Although this is nothing in the grand scheme of things, I once saw a documentary about director James Cameron (of Titanic and Avatar fame) and learned that 1 frame of the movie Avatar took 50-100 hours to render (or process). And there are 25 frames in a second and the movie is 2 hours long. To illustrate this point, take the the filmstrip on the left: exactly one second of wedding film or 25 individual frames. Which would equate to 1875 hours or 78.125 days of rendering in Avatar terms. O.M.G.
Now, don’t get me wrong here, I love what I do (or I wouldn’t have been doing it for as long as I have) and this is not a justification rant (although the ‘one day’s work’ comments sometimes grate a bit) but meant to educate a little and just maybe make you see things you hadn’t thought of before.
Weddings are seasonal and, in addition, due to the quite substantial amount of pre- and post-production work involved in producing wedding films of a certain standard we have to limit ourselves to around 20 weddings per year, so that’s already a capped turnover (and still only turnover). I’m also not going to list all of the costs involved individually but to give you an idea of what to deduct from the ‘one day’s work’ turnover here are just some thoughts:
Petrol to travel to consultations, weddings and rehearsals, car including insurance, tax and maintenance, equipment insurance, public liability insurance, professional indemnity insurance, equipment maintenance/ repairs, updating equipment on an increasingly regular basis due to technical advancements, advertising, website running costs, commission for referrals, second camera operator for the day, licenses for filming a wedding, music licences for using copyrighted music per production and per copy, electricity (quite a lot on computers running 24/7 and air con in the office to stop equipment over-heating in summer), heating in winter as I work from a studio in my house almost 24/7, software including regular upgrades/ updates, material costs for DVDs like discs, cases, high quality paper for the insert, lots of printer ink, postage costs, packaging materials, general office expenses, constantly adding hard disk space for archiving (I’m currently at about 35TB for all my archives…but then Avatar used over a Petabyte)…
And that’s just the material side of things. Then there are those unquantifiable qualities one can’t really put a price on. The arty stuff, the story-telling, the skillful and sensitive music editing…We have two decades’ worth of experience to draw on and have acquired not inconsiderable skills along the way – not to be snubbed and all included free of charge! Yes, I would class myself as a perfectionist. This is what Cameron said about being a perfectionist: ‘When you think about the olympics – it’s 2/10ths of a second that makes the difference between you and the guy next to you.’ Is it really worth paying that much attention to the metaphorical 2/10s of a second in attention-to-detail terms? Absolutely. Even if it sometimes breaks my back in editing terms.
So what about the price tag? The Ka-Ching and Ba-Bling? The average cost of a UK wedding over the last four years was about £18,705; this means a wedding film accounts for only just over 10% of the overall budget, yet will make up a massive 50% of your tangible memories, your photographs being the other 50%. Not a bad return on your investment.
And after all is said and done what do you get out of this? Look at it this way – our average wedding film is about 90 min in length. That’s 5400 seconds or 135,000 unique frames, every single one of them individually edited, colour graded, colour corrected, processed and nursed into beauty. At an average cost of £1995 per film that works out at less than 2p per individual lovingly tended frame, with the additional trump card of carefully honed audio thrown in for free. I’d call that a bargain.