The Pro lines may just end up there for marketing value to drag the pro-sumers up the food chain.
This change in the market does bring up the possibility of "pro" sponsorships like Fuji has started doing with people like Jose Villa and others to promote their film. Hey, if 400H is the magic bullet that makes Jose's work great, I want to use it too. ;)
We know better, but it's still a powerful marketing tactic.
I posted the e-shoot slideshow to demonstrate where one might find value in shooting 1,000+ shots. I'm not actually interested in defending that approach. In point of fact, it's the approach I've moved away from (which is why the slideshow itself is from 2007). Though I do believe that those types of slideshows get passed around between friends/family and give my studio better exposure, but it's not the kind of thing I'm interested in doing any longer.
I'm more interested in providing the quantity of product that you're producing Riccis. I'll let the $600 togs deal with 1,000+ shoots.
I shoot weddings on colour neg / B&W with Nikon 35mm and Hasselblad.
It's interesting what has happened to this business lately, although I'm speaking about the UK here, I don't know about elsewhere.
Firstly, photography in general, and Wedding photography in particular, has become an astonishingly aspirational profession. It seems there are more people trying to become Wedding photographers and shooting weddings on a part time basis than there are weddings each year. Prices attainable for shooting weddings have fallen like a lead baloon in the past 3 years because there are so many people shooting for £300 - £400 a pop.
There are few wedding photographers who command big money (Damian Lovegrove, Jeff Ascough), but the market is VERY small for this. However the aspirational types think they will be able to achieve this so these people cater for them with wedding photography courses, where they actually make most of their money with delegates paying £250 - £500 a head.
I wont shoot a wedding unless I can see myself earning a resonable wage for EVERY hour I spend on it. (Time is the most expensive aspect - even with film, processing and film is a small part of the cost.) There are many people out there working for less than the minimum wage because they only look at the wedding day itself as the time involved. Or they are just shooting jpeg and burning the image straight to a CD after the wedding without looking at them.
The consequence of all this is that Wedding photography has come full circle: Back in the 70' and 80's it was the fag end of the profession (for those of you in the US a fag is English slag for cigarette) It was the what the photographer from the studio, who drew the short straw, or was the new kid, got sent to do at the weekend. Throughout the 90's and into the new millenium it became much more of a profession in it's own right, with prices climbing considerably and, importantly, the quality improving too.
Then digital came along and lots of people percieved that anyone could pick up a DSLR and shoot a wedding - weddings in particular because they tend to happen at weekends and thus fit in around an existing job. The result of this, over the past 3 years in particular, is that the quality of work and the viability of wedding photography as a specialisation, has fallen through the floor, and I think we are back to where it was - the fag end of the profession.
Unquestionably, the biggest money in photography at present is in training. Hands down, no two ways about it.
My father was a part time wedding photographer from the 1960s to the 1990's. He provided high quality but for low pay. It usually seems to be the other way round now.
As a sideline, his full time job as a central heating engineer brought him into contact with Sangamo Weston sales reps (Weston also made central heating timers). This kept him stocked up with free light meters for many years!).
The difference now is that digital means more people percieve photography as being something they can get to grips with - they all have a PC and a DSLR and surely that's all they need.........When I got married in 2005, one "photographer" my mother in law approached openly suggested that with digital you didn't need any skill! Kind of an own goal as, understandably, he didn't get the job!
Further to this we have the economic downturn - there are record numbers of new businesses being started at present, generally and with record numbers of people enrolling on photography courses I'm sure many of those businesses are photgraphy.
I have been dealing with Warehouse Express recently and they have had record sales in January.
I've had a look at some of the wedding photographers charging that top price and didn't see any skill that was different from those charging hundreds. But it's all down to marketing, the bride will then name drop that she has hired x photographer for her Royal Wedding.
I've seen a few new wedding photographers spring up in my area, even the guy who tried to sell me advertising space did weddings at the weekend...
"Yeah we do black and white as well. We convert it to black and white and leave the flowers in colour."
There are more cowboys and tacky photographers than professionals and people don't know any different, I'll let them get on with it.
I've seen these seminars training people up to be wedding photographers close to my area. Yes they'll earn thousands from that weekend, but I wouldn't be encouraging more people to compete with you!
That's not much of a way to run a business.
It wasn't too hard to figure out what reasonable rates were either. Labs that do wedding processing as a normal thing all have price sheets. I took these to heart, I figure if I can't get what they charge or more on an assembly line that I can't do it profitably as custom work.
As you suggest though this is a very limited market.
There is a middle market too that I think can support bread and butter pros, solid work for reasonable pay but it's limited too. This market feels the pressure from the aspirational shooters but my guess is just at the lower end.
I'd suggest that the challenge in breaking into these markets is driven more by marketing and sales than technique. I'm not discounting photographic skill here, I'm just saying that that's maybe 10-20% of the job required to succeed.
Thanks for your detailed thread there Mark - I guess there are many similarites with UK and US in this area. Infact I think a lot of the high end stuff did float accross the Atlantic, with Bambi Cantrell being relatively well known here - however, guess what, she's best known for training seminars.
For what it's worth, and I might be sticking my neck out a bit here, I believe that £1000 - £1500 is about the limit, at present, for good quality wedding photography from a photographer with a good portfolio. This would include a decent album and about 50 prints. This is what the discerning couple will be looking at. There are plenty of photographers asking for more, but I'm really not sure how many bookings they will be getting.
I was recently talking to a very well established photographer with a very good reputation www.simonjohn.co.uk He charges a "creation fee" of £595 + production fee of £995 - £1500 to cover album etc. Ie. total starting at around £1600. He says everyone is after a deal at the moment. It's a tough market.
Matt, the market is a bit better for wedding photography here in the US. $3000 for the photographer's time and an album is quite average and not at all hard to get, even in this economy, provided the photographer is halfway decent at what he/she does. From what I've gathered over the years, Americans tend to like to shell out money to wedding photographers more than the British do. Jeff Ascough (a good friend of mine) doesn't charge nearly as much as I believe he could in the US, and he does absolutely impeccable work (even if he has gone over to the dark side, the traitor.)