Wedding Photography a Dying Industry?


Senior Member
Along the lines of recent discussions, check out this article.

With digital making it easier for amateurs to break into the photography industry, many pros now feel the market is saturated, driving down prices and quality. In the article, a 15-year pro confesses that he might as well close up shop because he will never work as a full time photographer again.

'Now it's a matter of having the money, buying an average camera, and calling yourself a professional photographer' says Pamela Aurino, from Ela Photography.

What are your thoughts?

  • Is the wedding photography industry changing?
  • Will the digital age change photography forever?
  • More photographers in the market a good thing?


Senior Member
It's not just wedding photography, it's all manner of professional photography that has become more competitive. In the days before auto focus, it used to take some real skill and hand-eye coordination to shoot sports; few could do it really, really well. Setting the correct exposure at night/indoor sporting events was also a learned skill, what with the dark backgrounds and white uniforms there was a certain level of experience needed to know proper exposure to keep a white uniform from washing out while still maintaining good shadow detail under the bill of a player's cap. News photography has also changed. With everyone having a camera in their cell phone, more and more news outlets are using images from amateurs and most of the time these individuals are happy just to see their image published without any sort of compensation. This has caused news outlets to lower the amount that they pay pros; why pay a pro when Billy Bob will gladly give an image to their local paper for little or nothing? I quite often see news organizations report a "breaking story" and asking if their are any viewers in the area to e-mail their pics in.

Digital has certainly made the pro's job easier in many ways, and also made it possible for the consumer to get the news much faster. No need now to leave a game after the 7th inning, or in the third quarter to get back to the office to process the film and print it to make the deadline for the morning edition. Many pro stadiums have T1 jacks right in the photo well so you can just plug-in and upload between innings. With wireless transmitters it's possible for an assistant to capture images in real-time in the press box and send them out for immediate posting on the web while the photographer keeps shooting. During the Vietnam War, images that appeared in the paper were often shot days, or even weeks before they could be published. Photojournalists would have to get the film to Saigon, then from there it would be sent to London/Paris/New York for processing. Now with satellite uplinks, images from the Iraq war could be posted within a few minutes of being captured.

Digital and auto-everything cameras have allowed photographers to concentrate more on the subject, and less on the technical aspects, as well as opened up photography to many very creative individuals who otherwise might have been put-off by complex cameras. At the same time auto focus, auto exposure and digital capture seems to have instilled a "spray and pray" mentality for many with an "I can fix it later in Photoshop" approach to basic photographic skills. Don't get me wrong, it still takes a great amount of skill to produced a truly remarkable image, but today's cameras have made it much easier for many to get really good images without much (any) formal training or commitment to the art of photography.
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Joseph Bautsch

New member
Are these "Professionals" still complaining about being put out of business by "Amateurs"? I was shooting freelance for wedding studios back in the early 60's. Back then they were complaining about the same thing, "OMG any one can go out and buy a cheap Japanese roll film camera a bunch of rolls of film, some flash bulbs and call themselves "professionals". "They are going to put us out of business." Even back then the "professionals" were talking about establishing professional standards and requiring state licensing. It has not happened in 50 years it's not going to happen now. What todays professionals forget is they were yesterdays amateur they are complaining about to day. It was the same complaints back in the 60's as it is today. As far as todays cameras making it much easier to get really good images, it's not the camera, it's the photographer that gets the really good images whether it's digital or film. If todays amateur is really good he can be self taught or go to a photo school, start a good business and become tomorrows professional. The rest of the spray and pray amateurs will fall by the wayside. But I suppose the amateur that does make it to professional status (whatever that is), he acquires the right to complain about the amateur that is trying to put him out of business.


Snow White
Another source says 'it's really kind of sad'. Now the art of photography is dead. More digital is claimed to be killing the timeless oringinality of images and calls for bigger and better equipment to be the best in the field.
I think digital is allowing for more interesting art in photography. Digital images can still be "timeless" and "original". This is like saying "average joe" is the best artist and better than Rembrandt because he has a more expensive and bigger paintbrush.

Another issue in the wedding industry is lighting equipment. 'It used to be film, natural light & a romantic feel for weddings' says a source. 'Now it's digital, lighting, softboxes, photoshop, digital photo frames and a feel for a high fashion model bride.'
This is called "evolution" --and part of capitalism and business enterprise. If you're catering to the wedding industry, then you keep up with the trends or sink. It doesn't mean you lower your standards. That's the first law of nature . . .adapt or perish.

'Does anyone not see what's wrong with this?' says the established Wollongong Photographer. We need to do something to protect the professionalism of our wedding industry. A late suggestion by a number of wedding photographers was to award professional wedding photographers with certified accreditation. This will deter amateur photographers to claim they are professionals.

Here we go (again) with the pro vs amateur. Brides are not stupid. They want their special moments captured and presented in a format that their children and grandchildren will have access to. It does not matter to them whether the "photographer" calls him or herself an amateur or professional, or even "certified" They want QUALITY delivered. I have yet to find a bride who asks about what kind of equipment I use. But they do want to see samples of my work.

So my final take on this is that wedding photography as an industry will survive and the wedding photographers (pro or amateur!) who will keep it going and who will thrive will be the ones who have learned to read what a bride wants, be able to deliver it, and keep up with the trends. Wedding photography is dictated by trends.

And as far as the masses having access to all this digital photography, more power to them. It shouldn't threaten any good photographer. There are still publications and consumers, etc. who know the difference between a good photograph and snapshot. Just like "cream", good photographers rise to the surface, whether it's in the wedding industry or elsewhere.

Just my humble opinion . . .

Incidentally, who do you think photographed Chelsea Clinton's wedding?

Joseph Bautsch

New member
OHK Photography - Right on. It's the same today as it was 50 years ago. Same people same complaints. It's called competition. The best survive.

Happy shooting,


Super Mod
Staff member
Super Mod
Just my humble opinion . . .



Senior Member
Wedding photography is dictated by trends.

Well said! I couldn't agree more. I think the photography industry is going through some growing pains, just as others have when introduced to the digital age. Those who adapt, survive.

The news industry has been hit hard by technology. We no longer have to wait until the 6:00 news or for the morning paper to get our dose of current events. It's downloaded to our iPhones as soon as it happens. Industry giants like the New York Times are losing millions in business each quarter because people simply don't want biased news sources when they can read from a variety of place on the internet. Kindle is replacing paper. Clip and save coupons are giving way to e-retailers.

Wedding photographers need to face reality: technology drives down costs. Period. When costs become lower, more people are going to be starting up businesses and entering the market. More competition also drives down costs on the consumer end. These days, people want something special for their wedding at reasonable prices. If not, chances are high that they know someone else who will work cheaper or even for free. I think a lot of the ruckus raised by pro wedding 'togs specifically is that they've been used to being the only kids on the block and now they're forced to actually do something creative in order to survive.
Sample of what's out there:

Looking For a Wedding Photographer for our Tahoe Wedding (hayward / castro valley)

Date: 2010-08-11, 8:25AM PDT
Reply to: [email protected] [Errors when replying to ads?]

Hello we are looking for a up and coming wedding photographer to shoot a wedding in Tahoe. we have the date of Sept. 25th and are going back and forth between two locations. we have a very small budget or TFP please e-mail us with your portfolio or web site and pricing. we are also willing to do an engagement shoot and possibly a trash the dress shoot for your portfolio f you want those two if not no big deal.

  • it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
  • Compensation: TFP or small Budget

Fashion Photographer needed for Models Wedding (Malibu)
Date: 2010-08-16, 2:29PM PDT
Reply to: [email protected] [Errors when replying to ads?]

2 Fashion Photographers Needed for Agency Models Wedding
6-8 hours including meal

Sept 4th Backyard wedding in Malibu

Email Links to Fashion Photography, Phone #, Rate & Availability Confirmation

* Location: Malibu
* it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
* Compensation: 150 day rate

There are those that understand and respect that wedding photography doesn't simply take the same amount of time as the wedding, then there are those who think that digital is just a bunch of pixels, no physical product, so it's simply a matter of a photographer just snapping the shots and handing over images. Why pay for that? Do I think that people should be charged extraordinary amounts of money for their photography on their wedding day? Not really.

But then again, there are some who are just ignorant to what things cost.

Craftsman Leatherbound 10"x10" album - 25 pages printed and bound - anyone care to guess how much that costs a photographer (with a professional discount)?
Matching parent albums (10 page) 5" x 5" - anyone care to guess at that?
Proof book with enough pages to fit, say, 600 images for the bride to select images from for her album?

These are just deliverables alone - and the answer for all of the above (I have a package I'm shooting in September with these deliverables) - it's a four-figure number before the decimal point.
Do I make the prices for these? No - but I have to factor them into my rate for photography - as well as the two hour each way drive, the six hours of photography, the twelve hours editing, the post-production work (if I outsource) of around 20-25 hours.
I charged what I felt would cover my costs and allow me to get paid fairly for our work.


Anyone care to tell me how this image was created?


Senior Member
EoI, I've said it before and I'll say it again: I love your style. That's an excellent image and is very current with the contemporary look many young couples want these days.

I completely understand what you're saying. So many people have succumbed to the Wal Mart mentality of pricing, and are now brazen enough to simply ask to get something for nothing (or next to nothing). I gotta hand it to the the examples you cited...time for prints (TFP) for a wedding?!?! They've done their homework. Odds are, both of the above couples will find someone willing to do their wedding at little or no cost to them. So many people think it's simply a matter of showing up with a $100 camera and then putting images on a CD later.

Now I'm going to play the devil's advocate. And this is an open invitation for all wedding photographers:

Would you reply to either of the ads listed and try to get their business? Perhaps sell them on the idea of using pro services and increasing their budget by showing them your work? Would you be willing to cut out some of your standard services in order to meet their budget?
I'll be quite honest - no, I wouldn't reply to either of those advertisements. My digital-only packages with DVD(s) of the images in a 4" x 6" print resolution start at $350/hr. of shooting. This enables me to have two photographers at all times to ensure full coverage of the wedding. "Agency Model" or not, they can't afford to pay for one hour of my services, yet want 6-8 hours? Not unless that "agency model" has at least 50 MAJOR fashion magazine covers to her credit - i.e. Vogue, etc. which would put her in the "supermodel" status, but the chances of one of them advertising so cheap on CL are between nil and none.

Carolina Photo Guy

Senior Member
Okay, that sounded a lot different than the way I wanted it to. To clarify...
The "pro" that is so afraid of amateurs entering the field has probably lost the passion that got him or her into the field in the first place.
That passion and the drive to make your photography niche your own is the biggest visual difference between an amateur and a pro in the visual sense. The obvious business differences aside, that drive
is what makes photography an "art".

Am I an artist? I don't know. But I DO know that I feel a thrill in the pit of my stomach when a picture "comes together". If I lose that, I sell the gear and go play golf.




New member
I think that there are plenty of people who just want to save a buck, and for whom an inexpensive amateur will fit the bill. But let's face it... a good wedding photog has the vision and knows how to frame, compose, light and make the shots that the discerning couple wants to remember their special day by. I think there will always be a segment of society that wants pro quality work, and will seek out the talent to deliver it. An "amateur" photographer will never be able to compete for that market.
Here are the offers currently on CL:

SHOOT YOUR WEDDING FOR ONE DOLLAR! (limited time offer) (brentwood / oakley)

Date: 2010-09-13, 8:05PM PDT
Reply to: [email protected] [Errors when replying to ads?]

Thats right, I will shoot your wedding for one dollar ($1.00) (this is a limited time offer). Let's get together and discuss the details. DO NOT LET THIS OFFER SLIP BY YOU! This is not a scam, I am a professional wedding photographer shooting in the greater San Francisco Bay Area.

My website:

You can call me from an unblocked phone only I don't answer a blocked phone.

Just in case that one dollar fee is too much for your low budget wedding:

Offering free wedding photography (downtown / civic / van ness)

Date: 2010-09-12, 8:03PM PDT
Reply to: [email protected] [Errors when replying to ads?]


I am currently a beginning photographer. I done a lot of event photography in the past and would like to keep doing my hobby. Besides wedding photography I also want to do portraits, baby, sports, and etc.
I have a Nikon D80 with 55-18mm lense. I prefer the location to be in San Francisco but you can compensate my commute fee.

I have a web album for all pictures I took at: Picasa Web Albums - andy
(it's pretty much event/activity photography)

I know Photoshop so I can as well enhance your photo to make you look pretty/handsome lol.

A little about me: A Chinese American male in his 26

Feel free to send me an email =)

  • it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

Make sure you click on the link in the second advertisement. It should give you some entertainment. I'm certain that they'll be contacted for work - and I'm certain that they're going to be busy with this offer.
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Senior Member
hehehe.....oh brother! :) The pro who charges $1.00 for a it me, or are most of those shots overexposed! lol Good Lord! lol


Senior Member
Having outstanding equipment may help but it still comes down to the photographer. I just spent a pant load on my sons graduation pictures. Yes I have a nice Nikon camera and some nice (IMO) glass. I also have computer software to process the pictures. I still spent the money and had it done well. It was not cheap but it will be worth it.
As for wedding photography, well some people in this economy can't afford it. The "settle" for a much lesser quality due to cost cutting. That is not to say pro-wedding photographers are over priced, they have to make a living and pay their over head. Even wedding cakes are going to card board with frosting and then serving a sheet cake. People are looking for ways all over to shave off the corners. As a guy, weddings are a huge waste of money for what you get. $10k-$50K for a one day event is outrageous, no matter what it is. I have a middle class family and it seems way too much.

Now, don't show this post to my wife, she will beat me for that ROFLMAO.
I do shoot low-budget weddings, more correctly called elopements.

As a matter of fact, I shot two at nearly the same time, just because I was there. I was shooting a San Francisco City Hall wedding - the couple, and 4 friends, and while they were waiting in line to do the paperwork, a groom came up to me and asked if I wanted to make some extra money. The father had brought a p/s camera, but it broke, and they wanted some photos of the wedding. My clients were happy to let me go up there, because this couple was in line in front of them to get married, so it wasn't cutting into their ceremony. I only charged $150 per wedding - especially since I was there - and sent them a CD of high-resolution images.

I love those kinds of weddings - simple, not much to it, so I don't need to spend a lot of time doing post-production, etc. to come up with the deliverable product.
The people who I don't get are the ones who want to have a low-budget wedding, but have 200 people on the guest list.