Wedding photography is not the most important thing.

H * E * R * E * S * Y

F * O * L * L * O * W * S

If there is one fetish the wedding industry (and many brides) nurture it’s that Pictures Are Very Important. They Are the Only Thing You Have Left After the Wedding. This is a standard sales line but I have read many women obediently parroting it on forums or saying it in real life. The children have been brainwashed very well, indeed.

Even women who intend to have otherwise reasonable affairs feel and indulge the urge to pay a stranger multiple thousands of dollars to follow them around for a day (or a weekend) taking pictures of their private family party and then running it through computer software to make it look vintage or otherwise trendy. Example: A recurring feature on the A Practical Wedding blog is the Wordless Wedding. No commentary, just pictures. All of them just happen to have been taken by APW sponsor photographers. It’s an advertiser showcase, except not identified as such. The wedding industry is a slimy business, is it not? The blogger herself, Meg, had two photographers flown in from out of state to document her own nuptials. About 90% of her sponsors are photographers, a percentage I pulled out of my ass but which reflects reality.

Remember. The Photos Are The Only Thing Left After the Wedding.

This isn’t even true. You always have memories – unless you develop retrograde amnesia. Even if you have a traumatic brain injury that erases your recollection of your Grandma Luann standing on her hands on the dance floor with her skirt around her shoulders, there are other mementos. The cake topper. The wedding dress (you didn’t sell your dress did you?). Your wedding ring. Your husband.

The monthly payments on the loan you took out so you could hire the photographer.

All of this emphasis on pictures. All of these efforts to monetize the day itself – if you have a wonderful photographer, does that mean it was a wonderful wedding? Will it be a wonderful marriage? If you have crappy pictures taken by your paroled Uncle Pat, does that mean the day itself was a downer? There are millions of couples over time who married without one shred of photographic evidence. The look in their groom’s eyes, the way the bride’s mouth turned up at the corners as she spoke her vows, the reflection of the candlelight on the guest’s face, all of that is recorded only in their hearts. Did they have any less of a chance at happiness? Were they worse off? I begin to suspect they were better off.

This is coming from someone who spent $2,000 on a photographer and durned pleased with the results. So I know the attraction of photography. It’s art after all. Who doesn’t love some good art?

What I’d like to see are fewer blogs that revolve around astronomically-priced photography and a few more that address what happens to the thousands of dollars worth of photography in the 50% of marriages that end in divorce. It happens sometimes that the expensive album outlasts the relationship. What does a bride do with the high-end gallery art documenting the beginning of a marriage that ended in lies and infidelity? What to do when you have $5,000 worth of pictures to help you remember the heartache and regret? Do these photographers and bloggers have any suggestions for that?

Hmmm. I’m guessing not. That would be bad for business.

Photographs: Often the Only Thing Left After the Marriage.


2 Comments to “”

  1. I think it’s a little odd to call it “slimy” or infer that Wordless Weddings are not identified as sponsor posts. Each one has a large, colored swatch at the bottom that identifies the photos as being by an APW sponsor. In addition to beginning the post by stating so within the first few lines.

    Regardless, my real problem is with the way we all argue about photography prices. No, not everyone should shell out for a professional photographer. However, photographers who charge thousands are hardly overpriced. Consider the 6-8 hours at the event, travel costs to and from, consultation meetings, emails and phone calls, between 30-40 hours of photo editing, expensive equipment, software and production. This is not to mention any training, talent or expertise- which, in any other field, all mean tacking extra onto the price tag. (In my field, and most others I would assume, I’m paid more than colleagues in the same position because I have more education and a few additional skills.)

    If you do that math, you’re not paying an outrageous price. You’re paying a fair wage.

    • Ah ha! Thank you for the insight. But see, this is the classic industry line to try to justify extremely high prices. The reality is that the expensive photogs charge what they charge, because that is what the market will bear. If the market would not bear these prices, in other words if brides were not trained to shell out for the Anthropologie “film” magazine look, nobody would pay that and the price would come down. Guaranteed.

      My sister is an elementary school teacher in Tulsa, OK. She works in a high poverty school, defined as more than 90% of her students qualifying for free lunch. She struggles to teach her kids, because many of their parents don’t speak English and they can’t help with homework. She visits their families in their homes in war-zone neighborhoods to try to get the household involved in school. She spends about $100 a month of her own money to get them supplies because there is nothing for their classroom. She works nights, weekends and on her lunch break creating lesson plans and grading papers and giving her kids extra help. She works all told about 80 hours a week. When I Skype with her she looks completely frazzled and she is multi-tasking, writing grant requests. She and many of her colleagues are in counseling due to the extreme high stress and the sometimes frightening working conditions. She has a bachelor’s degree and graduated magna cum laude from a prestigious private university in Washington, DC (not going to mention the name but you can probably figure out which one).

      She makes about $30,000 a year.

      Nobody pays for her gas to and from the school. She doesn’t get to write that off on her taxes (photographers should be doing that if they have a decent accountant). No one reimburses her when she buys equipment for her classroom (also a tax write-off). Nobody pays her extra to wake up at 7 am on Saturday mornings to go to development meetings. And since she’s not self-employed, she gets to be threatened with layoffs every once in a while (like now).

      Her job is, I would say, 100x more meaningful and important than a wedding photographer’s will EVER be. And yet, there are elite photographers who make as much as she does, even more. Photographers who spend their workdays at parties, or at home, or in air-conditioned studios, making commissioned art for privileged people. That’s pretty outrageous. Actually, forgive my language but that’s f***d up. In a more just economy, my sister would make six figures and photographers would pay brides for the chance to have fun shooting their weddings.

      I remember when Wordless Weddings first started, they didn’t have to be shot by sponsor photographers. The first couple ones were submitted by reader-brides. In fact I believe once-upon-a-time APW had a policy of NOT publishing weddings submitted by photographers, “because it’s a community-driven site.” That went out the window when it came time to monetize, monetize, monetize. Which I don’t blame people for monetizing, because who wouldn’t? But, um, people notice when you do it.

      Again I loved our photog and I paid some big bucks, although 2 grand isn’t much in wedding world. I am not anti-wedding photographer, but yes they are overpaid based on their contribution to our society versus other professions’ contributions. They charge what they do because women have been trained to pay it. And it’s the blogs and magazines that do the training. Again with the whole, Photographs Are All You Have Left crap. Again, I have yet to see a photographer talk about what their clients do with the $5,000 images after the heartbreaking divorce 1 year later. I know one particular bride (who was on a well-known blog) who had a very nice photographer and her husband turned out to be bipolar and they were divorced 9 months later. Her pictures are still up on the web. They are beautiful and they document an emotional travesty.

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