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The link goes to a wedding blog.  I’m not sure if anything is being sold or it is someone’s hobby project.  All the photos I checked seem to be stock shots.  The post here seems to be research for the blog.

So, the question is: “Is there any way to hire a wedding photographer and just pay for the electronic prints and print them ourselves own cost? I just don’t see the point in having them print a $400 album that I could do myself for much cheaper. How much on average is a good photographer?”

The short answer, of course, is “Yes, you can have someone shoot the wedding for next to nothing, then you can print yourself”.  I did that.  I gave my brother a bag full of film and told him he was the photographer for the day.  We arranged people for posed shots and he took the photos.  For those shots he was in, someone else was given the camera.  The film was developed and prints were made by the lab.  Later the film was scanned and eventually a book was made.  It was a budget exercise but it worked out.  It wasn’t much of a risk since I had seen lots of his photos.

I started out shooting slides.  I liked slides because they are easy to share with a large group, and because the lab that developed them was consistent.  They were always developed the same way and by the time anyone saw the image, it was a done deal.  There was no lab person looking at the print and deciding it had to be brighter or a different colour.  Of course, I could do my own printing but that required setting up and taking down a darkroom, and it involved smelly chemicals.  B&W wasn’t too bad but colour was a real pain.  It was too much work so I seldom bothered.  Digital fixed all that.  You can email a photo to a group, or you can post it on a web page, and each person can look at it in their own time.  Editing is clean and simple, load it into the computer, convert it and crop as desired.  Clean and simple with no stinky, possibly cancer causing, chemicals to deal with.  Minimal clean up, just deleting some files instead of having to get rid of those chemicals.  Digital is so much nicer.

Slides look great projected on a screen, but if you give a slide to the average lab and ask for a print, the result is very dark.  Those that know what they are doing can get a good print from a slide.  We know that because National Geographic had all their photographers shoot slide film for years and their magazine was full of gorgeous photos.  Digital is similar.  The monitor has its own light source and usually it is pretty bright.  If I print from what looks good on the monitor it is too dark.  That happens regardless of using my own printer, printing at Costco (or wherever), or printing a book.  So, I have scripts that run when I will be making a print.  The output is adjusted in several ways, based on where the printing will be done.

I’ll give set of photos suitable for viewing on a monitor.  Some people will print from them but the print will usually look too dark.   Sometimes there will be ratio problems.  A 4 X 6 is the shape of 8 X 12, not 8 X 10, for instance, so something has to give.  If the process is automated, you may not get the image you are expecting.

Getting back to the part of the question that went “I just don’t see the point in having them print a $400 album that I could do myself for much cheaper.”  The subject is a wedding.  The bride may want photos to send with thank you cards.  She may want something for the mantle, or to hang on the wall.  She will probably want a book of some sort to keep the photos in order while carrying them around to show friends and relatives that could not attend the wedding.  And she may want the book twenty years down the road to show her own children and other relatives that were not born at the time of the wedding.  She may want the book sixty years down the road for the same reason.  Not all photos are created equal.  Not only does what the photographer does affect the photo, but the materials used affect the photo.  The photographer is responsible for the composition, and the actual exposure – how bright, how much depth of field, etc.  That’s partly locked in when the shutter is released.  After that the question becomes how is the image rendered.  Put the photo on 40 different monitors, you will probably see 30 to 40 different variations of the photo unless all the monitors were calibrated before you displayed the image.  Print on different grades of paper with different printing technologies and you will see immediate differences in the print.  Store those prints for 50 years and you will see vast differences when you look at those prints.  Many people who had wedding photos done in the 1950’s or 1960’s now have very faded photos because of the printing method of the day.  Now you can print on acid free paper with pigment based inks and the life of a print can be in excess of 200 years.  Or you can print with a dye based ink that will smear and fade.   Who cares, you say!  Well, they are wedding photos and someone three generations into the future may really enjoy seeing what grandmother looked like on her wedding day.  That probably won’t be possible if the photos were shot to a DVD and left to the bride to print at the cheapest place she could use.

Books are a similar situation.  The publishers I deal with offer different grades of book, and other publishers offer much cheaper books than the lowest grade I’m offered.  What paper is used, what ink is used, what the printing process is, what the binding process is, what materials go into the cover, all of that affects the price, and the longevity of the book.  Which is the better deal, a book you print for yourself that costs $120 but falls apart in 5 years, or one the photographer prints for you that costs $400 and is still in good condition when your great grandchildren want to look at it?  It’s a book of the memory of your wedding day.  It’s a custom product.  You can’t run down the street to the local Chapters, or go on line to Amazon, and order another if yours falls apart.  They don’t have one.  And after ten or twenty years, will you still be able to find your digital files on the DVD?  Will you still have a computer that can read those files?  If you can, will you spend the time to lay out a new book with the discount publisher of the day?