Some things are inevitable: The sun will rise in the morning. Someone, right now, is offended about something on Facebook. Every guest to my house will get a German Shepherd nose in an inappropriate spot.
And…every few weeks a wedding photographer will post a question in a group about what everyone’s policy is on the number of hours they give couples on the wedding day.
For some reason, the topic of hours is incredibly vexing among wedding photography professionals. It’s a topic that will generate dozens of conflicting answers. All day. 6 hours. 10 hours.
The fact is, there’s no one answer. No right answer. But I do understand the pressing need to ask this question.
When we love our jobs, we want to do the most for our couples that we can. However, being mindful of the actual time we spend photographing is critical to developing and sustaining a successful business.
Everyone new to wedding photography finds themselves stuck with trying to juggle the right number of hours, with the fee they need to charge, with the number of photos they’ll need to prepare for delivery.
Believe me. I’ve been there.
To make matters more complicated, the hours a couple hires a photographer for isn’t exactly a cut and dried concept. Yet it’s often one of the first questions I’m asked.
The thing is, it’s not like I show up on the wedding day and start a stopwatch. I’ve never heard of a credible wedding photographer who does that. Yet it’s a common practice to state a given number of hours in a package.
Where things are confusing is that I think many of us mean slightly different things when we talk about how long we will be at the wedding.
I’m not constantly pressing the shutter button from the instant I show up. As much of a marathon any given wedding generally is, there is some down time. And this is what makes the “how many hours” question tricky – both among us photographers when building our photo packages, and with our couples when we discuss those packages with them.
My first several years as a wedding photographer, I used to tell my couples that they would get about 8 hours of shooting time with my most popular photo package, the Tangerine. But then I would explain I don’t count the down time. So if I arrive, say, around 11:00 am for some of the getting ready photos, then I will be done for the day around 9:00 pm or so (give or take, depending on the timeline for the day).
Another photographer might simply tell his or her couples that they’ll be with them for 10 hours.
Yet we both pretty much mean the same thing.
Which is why I’ve never been satisfied with the hours question or how to answer it. And maybe I’m wrong, but I feel like my couples care less about the specific number of hours, and more about the coverage of the events of the day that are important to them. (And couples reading this: if I’m wrong, chime in!)
So several years ago, I abandoned talking about hours at all in my packages.
Instead, I build my wedding photography packages around the events of the day.
Getting Ready. Family Photos. Ceremony. Reception. You get the idea.
I feel as though this better represents what my couples want and expect from me. It isn’t about worrying about a specific number of hours. It’s about capturing the important memories of the day.
Thanks for reading. If you’re a wedding photographer and decide to adopt my philosophy for describing coverage, drop a comment and let me know how it goes.
And now enjoy some photos of a super awesome couple: Kim and Joe!