Secret Life of a Wedding Photographer

*******As part of the Cans for Comments drive, for every comment left on the blog in the month of December, I will donate a canned good to a local food bank. Please leave a comment and help out those in need!*******

I’m fairly sure that if you asked my friends and family who has the best job in the world, the vast majority of them would say me.  In the past few years I’ve had the opportunity to travel all over the country and the globe (next year I’ve got scheduled stops in Paris, Venice, Rome, New York, Playa Del Carmen, and New Orleans) all on paid vacations, working one or two days per trip and enjoying the rest.  I get paid thousands of dollars for what is perceived as one day of work.  I get to spend time with beautiful people doing something that most people enjoy as a fun hobby.  Almost every Saturday night I get a great meal by some of the best chefs in town and I get to party on the dance floor until the wee hours of the morning – and I get paid for it!  Talk about the good life, huh?

The International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers recently published an article on the Secret Life of Wedding Photographers.  Based on public perception of wedding photographers, this is what most people think our lives are like:


Source: ISPWP

Source: ISPWP



ISPWP followed up on that perception by studying the weekly routines of 50 wedding photographers.  Based on the results of that study, here is the ACTUAL breakdown of time spent during an average week in the life of a wedding photographer:

Source: ISPWP

Source: ISPWP



As someone who has been doing this full-time for several years, I can attest that that graph is about as dead-on as it gets.  And notice how just about everything except the “Taking photos” part involves a computer?  I always joke that so many people get into photography because they’re sick of spending Monday-Friday 8-5 sitting in front of a computer doing boring, menial tasks, only to find out that for most people, being a photographer involves spending Monday-Friday 8-5 sitting in front of a computer doing boring, menial tasks.. Only this time you work nights and weekends, too!  Granted, it is absolutely a labor of love – there is nothing in the world I would rather do, and I am so beyond thankful that this is my life.  In fact, I twittered earlier that I am probably the only person on Earth who is really sad when the workday ends, or sad when I have to stop working to do something personal like to go to doctor or run errands.  However, the reality is that I work 60 to 80 hour weeks most months, and I probably spend more time in front of a computer than anyone with a “regular” office job, as well as sacrificing my Saturdays and sometimes Sundays.

There are so many quotes I can relate to in that article (particularly about April-November being one long blur), but the biggest one is from a photographer who calculated that for every bride she books, that equates to 90 man-hours of work.  Hard to believe, but true for so many of us.  I posted this article so that brides who stumble across my blog can understand that although it may seem like you’re only paying for a few hours of shooting time, there’s so much that you don’t see, so many hours of behind the scenes work that you’re investing in without realizing it.  Yes, it’s true that your photographer has a pretty awesome job – but it’s not because they work so little, it’s because they get to work with great clients who appreciate their talents and their long hours of hard work – hopefully, people just like you.  :)

*******As part of the Cans for Comments drive, for every comment left on the blog in the month of December, I will donate a canned good to a local food bank. Please leave a comment and help out those in need!*******

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  • Celina Gomez - Soooooooooooooooo true!

  • Poser - Amazing. True.
    Go give a can.

    :P

  • Kaysha - Glad someone finally is straightening out where exactly a photographers time is spend! Thanks for sharing!

  • Amanda - I agree wholeheartedly! I’ve been doing wedding photography simultaneously with another job and you can tell people don’t really think I have 2 careers. They think I work one extra day per week and that’s the end of it. And can it even be considered work if you’re “partying” and “eating and dancing all night”?! Yes, I tell them. Because that’s not what we do. I like this break down a lot…and might have to forward this to some nay-sayers!

  • katie - love how this is broken down… while i do these things on a daily basis and I know what i do, this just validates that what i’m doing is ‘work’ lol… work in which i am obsessed with, but work none the less! thanks stacy!

  • Katie - Great post Stacy! You have the BEST articles out there on topics like this. Thanks for sharing with everyone!

  • Libertad Leal - We are still fairly new to the industry but I can say this is SO true! Oh the hours and hours spent in front of the computer editing and doing so many things besides actually taking pictures! In our case, add two small children to the mix and whoa, it’s a crazy life.

    That being said, I absolutely love it and I want to do this full time for the rest of my life (and I dream as awesome as you, some day).

    I love your images. You are an inspiration.

  • Tamsen - SO true! Thanks for posting :) I love your work and hope that people will appreciate all we do as photographers after getting a chance to read this article :)

    Tamsen

  • Kasi Stuhlman - I just started on the path of photography, on the side from my “day job,” and I literally spend my time before work, during lunch, after work, and on the weekends.. and there’s still not enough hours in the day! But we do it because of the passion :)
    Thanks for posting!!

  • Steven Hodgson - Having been a part-time portrait photographer for a while, I can totally see how this is true. I have a demanding full time job and do the photography thing on the side. The vast majority of my time is spent learning about the craft, being inspired, and editing pictures. I don’t shoot pictures nearly as much as I do all of those other things.

  • Gail Kelly - You only speak the truth Stacy!

  • Erin - Great post! Those graphs are so on.

  • Torsten - Saw this on ISPWP earlier. People think that being a photographer is so easy, but it is not. Just because an SLR is cheap doesn’t mean that should go buy one to make a few extra bucks.

  • Chris - It’s great to see this broken out as it is. It’s definitely a misconception by some clients that they are “hiring” us for only 8 hours (the time we spend taking photos at their wedding). I explain for each hour of photography we do 2-3 hours of editing and all the other things that go into their final products. Especially the toning and other computer editing. Once they understand how time-consuming it all is, and the specialized talent and experience involved, they realize our pricing is actually a bargain. They also realize that “uncle Joe” with his new digital camera is not going to deliver a final product like we can. I like to let any skeptical clients who are considering hiring a family member of friend know that when you get something for free it’s usually worth the price you paid… Or better yet – It’s extremely expensive because they may spend the rest of their lives blaming each other for making the wrong decision to entrust their memories to an amateur.

  • Jeanette - Brilliant – that is so dead on. thanks so much for posting this!

  • Heather - That is so true! I feel like I never ever leave my computer!

  • Amanda - This is fantastic- I’m just starting out and have noticed that it’s not so easy- it’s time consuming. You put so much time in… but the reward is so great. It’s amazing to meet people so in love… to be apart of their life for even a short time is nothing short of awesome. Everyone has a story- and why not document it for them? :) Great post. And great idea to drop of canned foods.

  • Barb - I was SO frustrated and disappointed about how much time I spent on the computer when I started down this road as a professional photographer; I couldn’t wait to be able to make money so I could pay somebody else to do my post-processing, etc. Now that I’ve come to love post-processing, and would never let somebody else touch my pictures :D , I look forward to having employees to take care of everything on the graph except for taking pictures, editing and social media, etc. :)

    I am sharing your post with others – both photographers and would-be clients (not just brides-to-be) so that it may dispell the myth of the work being just “taking pictures”.

  • ohana photographers - so beyond true!!

  • Photoartology-Agi - I had to re-Tweet this on Twitter and encouraged all beginners and clients to read it… I wish being a photographer would ONLY mean taking photos… :)

  • Tanya Perez - Yup!

  • Sae - You rock!! And of course you’re an Aggie so enough said!!

  • imthiaz houseman - great post,those graphs are crazy…and true!

  • Sae - You rock as usual!! What else would you expect from an Aggie!!

  • Cindy - I love that you posted this! So true! Lots of time doing things other than taking pictures, but I admit that I love love love my job and definitely wouldn’t trade it!! And sometimes those “other things” include reading the blogs of other talented photographers! ;)

  • Photog Hubby - This is so true. I can’t tell you how much time I have lost with my wife since she has started her business.

  • anahi - Great post!. love your work. thnks for sharing it!

  • Kayleen T. - AMEN! I so agree on the april-november being a blur! It’s like I woke up and it was December!

  • Maggie Krueger - Even if it’s not as glamorous as it seems, I’m still jealous of your career! If I could do it all over again, that’s where I’d like to be. You have such vision, and I love checking out your photos from time to time!

  • Jenna - hahaha, LOVE IT!

  • Braedon Photography - I don’t know what you guys are all talking about. My life is like the top graph. Living the dream.

  • Shannon Luther - Wow!! This sums up my life except I don’t make thousands of dollars yet.

  • Lori Duprey - This is great! Love the article, love the cans for comments too! Every time I visit your site, I get inspired with great ideas! Thank you!

  • Deborah - I tell my clients that each wedding usually is 80hours of work overall… really helps them put the pricing in perspective.

  • Carl - Scary but true!!

  • Nathan Clendenin - Where’s the huge chunk called Facebook/Twitter, which doesn’t fit under Social Media because it’s pure info-tainment time.

  • Michelle Fisk - Looks like you have got what it takes to make any occasion special. Your website is awesome and so is your work. Maybe one day I can be lucky enough to use your services!!

  • Michelle Fisk - I really like what you are doing to give back. I organized a canned food drive 2 years ago and it was a HUGE success!! Maybe next year we can put our forces together and knock this out of the park!!

  • How Wedding Photographers Spend Their Time | Dallas Wedding | Wedding Photography Austin, Dallas, Houston Wedding Photographer - […] I’m gonna continue being lazy and let Stacy say the rest: (thanks Stacy! Copying your post probably saved me 1 percentage point on the chart!) As someone who has been […]

  • Photographick - Love this article, it really odes break down the hours of a wedding photographer, now I need to communicate this great knowledge to my clients….

  • noemi hedrick - always love helping a fellow photographer.

  • Photography professional secret wedding - […] Secret Life of a Wedding Photographer « Dallas Wedding 8 Dec 2009. The International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers recently published an article on the Secret Life of Wedding Photographers. Secret Life of a Wedding Photographer « Dallas Wedding […]

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