Not so long ago, my Aunt asked me if I understood yet why wedding vendors charge what they do. The answer, "absolutely yes, but I'm still not quite there yet".
Looking from the outside in, weddings and the costs of many wedding professionals out there seem exorbitant and a lot like a good way to waste money. People look on and think, 'surely I could do that!', (as we humans are wont to do), but as with most things in life, saying something and actually doing it are an entirely different thing.
You could be a fantastic travel, landscape, street or portrait photographer, and find yourself at your first wedding completely flustered. "I, uh, maybe try standing over there?"
You make it through to the end of the day exhausted, confused and absolutely enthralled (well, only if you find that weddings are the right fit for you), but also ready to jump onto instagram, pinterest and facebook, stalking every wedding photographer out there to search for poses, tips of the trade and how best to capture moments on the fly.
And then you realise you have 2000 photos to sort through, a bride & groom who cannot wait to see their photos no matter how long you said it would take in the contract, and it can quite quickly become overwhelming.
I estimate that a single wedding for me would take up about 2 weeks of full-time work, if not more. There are the emails back & forth, meetings, site visits, the wedding itself (the best part!), and then there's post-production - getting film developed, culling photos, editing photos, posting on social media, more emails back & forth, and delivery of the finished product.
Outside of that, there are insurance brokers to wrangle with, tax forms, invoicing, creating an administration system that actually works for you, legal advice to seek out & pay for, keeping up with social media accounts and constantly working to improve your skills.
A wedding isn't just 7 hours on a Saturday, it is an event that is often in the works for over a year, or frantically squeezed into just a few months. And this is why, when my Aunty asked me if I understood yet why wedding vendors charge what they do, the answer was a resounding yes. And yet, I'm not quite there.
A few months ago, a video popped up in my facebook newsfeed about having good taste - the creative who shared it said they wished somebody had told them this when they started out all those years ago - and being the advice-hungry person I am, I clicked the link without a second thought. I was met with words that have yet to get out of my head (and that I hope continue to haunt me for years to come).
"Nobody tells people who are beginners ... that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But it's like there's a gap, that for the first couple years that you're making stuff, what you're making isn't that good, OK? But your taste - the thing that got you into the game - your taste is still killer, and your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you're making is kind of a disappointment to you, you know what I mean?"
As these words, the words of Ira Glass, were read out to me and written across my screen, it was like somebody had simultaneously lifted the weight of the world off my shoulders and punched me in the stomach. This gap is exactly where I was, and while I can feel myself slowly closing in on the other side, it's where I still am.
I understand now why a single photographer would charge $5000 for a wedding, but I also understand that any photographer charging these rates and worth their salt is well & truly past that gap. They've worked through those incredibly hard years between taste & ability. They have both the equipment that they need and the hard earned knowledge that only experience can give. Basically, they know what's up.
As for me and so many other young creatives out there? We're still learning. We don't deserve to charge that amount of money yet. I'm thankful every day that I get to do what I do. Even on the hardest days, it is an absolute pleasure to call photography my life, but I've still got a long ways to go. I know this and I make sure my clients know it, and I'm ever so grateful that they choose to trust me with this momentous day in their lives regardless.
So to all the young creatives out there who are struggling with pricing and contracts and not being quite as good as they want to be, keep at it. Just keep working and working and working, keep doing what you do until you can do it better. Ask established people in your industry for help & advice (I'm always so pleasantly surprised by the kindness of other wedding photographers, stylists & creatives in Perth). Consider where you are in line with those you admire in your field and create a scale to charge on. Allow yourself the pleasure & the opportunity to work yourself up to the big leagues.
Because even if your work isn't quite where you want it to be, your taste... Well, your taste is still killer.