Is [good quality] Wedding Photography in India expensive?
If I were to ask you this question to this question, what would your answer be? While a bunch of you would say yes, another bunch of you would say it isn't. Both are right in a way.
It is sort of a trick question and a question that needs to be answered in detail.
Cutting the long story short, if you compare wedding photography costs (in India) today to what it was 5-6 years ago, its definitely gotten more expensive. But if you were to compare the quality delivered today in India with the quality delivered in many other countries, then you would see that india is actually less expensive.
Read on to understand this in depth.
Before that you need to know that wedding photography has been drastically changing (for the better) over the past 5-6 years.
Wedding photography was primarily a social obligation until about 5-6 years ago. It was mandatory to take photographs of every guest standing on a stage with the couple. And also while every relative blessed the couple and gave them their wedding gift. The album of course had to contain the pictures of the hundreds of relatives who attended the wedding because when they came to see the wedding album and their photo wasn't there, they would be offended (to say the least). The two people whose big day this actually is were merely a prop in the photos. The pictures did not revolve around them, nor did it attempt to capture real emotions of the biggest day of their lives.
The entire thing was more an ordeal or ritual rather than a ceremony which marked the beginning of many things. It was almost never enjoyed and it was never planned keeping fun and memories in mind. You did a bunch of things, but had no idea why or for whom you were doing this. You just assumed it made the elders and gods happy.
Recently (over half a decade maybe) the way weddings happen have changed. They are slowly turning into a celebration. Families are starting to plan the event around what they like and enjoy. The idea/objective now is make this day memorable for the couple and their families.
So you've now noticed the key difference. Earlier weddings were for the sake of the society, today they are more family centric. For most of us, when we do something for others we don't pay too much attention to it. But when we do the same for ourselves, we look into finer details a lot more. That is the typical change photography is going through. Earlier we weren't too bothered about the quality of the pictures because it was primarily making sure every guest was captured and so were all the traditional rituals. Today we want good quality pictures of ourselves, our families and most importantly the emotions.
Since "coverage" & "guest group photos" were primary focus earlier, it did not require immense talent nor did it require state of the art equipment. Which explains why it wasn't too expensive.
Now photography is considered a lot more important, the focus is trending towards capturing emotions and candid moments at weddings. It is moving away from a social obligation and more towards preserving memories of the best day of a couple's life. Emotions and candid moments don't give you much time to take a picture and almost never a second chance. The creative and aesthetic side of wedding photography is also being recognised only now and everyone wants stunning wedding images. As it does sound a lot harder and more complicated, this level of photography needs a combination of expertise, talent and state of the art equipment. This probably explains why photography has gotten expensive over the last half a decade or so.
I'm also writing a separate post on various types of photography available in the indian market today. Once that is published, I will add a link to that in this article itself. I'm noticing a lot of terms like "candid", "contemporary", "artistic", "journalistic", "documentary", "traditional", "regular", "coverage" etc are confusing clients on what or who they should choose for their wedding day. The other article that I am working on is an attempt to give clarity on how the indian wedding photography market offers and what may be your best fit.
Coming back to the pricing front, I'm sure you agree by now why wedding photography in India is more expensive today than what it was half a decade ago. There are still a huge bunch of amateurs offering photography solutions at low prices. But those are out of scope of my discussion. I am only considering professionals who deliver excellent quality.
Now moving on to the trick (and interesting) part part of the initial question.
Initially we compared apples and oranges. Obviously apples are more expensive. So ideally it is a flawed comparison. Anyway, I hope I managed to get the point across that quality is directly proportional to the cost. In the ideal world, higher quality is more expensive. Now indian wedding photography industry offers much better products than it did a few years ago and so it is more expensive.
Let us compare apples and apples now. For the sake of ease of understanding, I am comparing India with the country that most Indians know about, care about and are fascinated about - The USofA.
As per surveys on the internet, the average spent on a wedding photographer in the USA is $2800 (which is almost 2 lakh rupees). Most decent photographers charge between $3,000 to $5,000 and means Rs.2,00,000/- is the minimum you will pay for good/decent pictures. And I am only talking about photos here. Leaving video out of this because I dont want to complicate the calculations and discussion.
A typical wedding photography package in the US is for around 8 hours of continuous coverage, 1 or 2 photographers, and in most cases albums are additionally priced.
And that is 20-40% more than what most Indian photographers charge for an Indian wedding.
Typical indian weddings are atleast twice as long. Have around 5-10 times the number of guests and are way more chaotic. So basically in Indian photographer goes thru a lot more hardship, shoots much more number of pictures, works way longer durations.
What is similar then? The equipment they use, the technical expertise they have and the quality they deliver. Equipment (cameras, computer hardware & software) is just as expensive in India as in the USA. We spend a lot of money there, it takes Indian photographers as much hard work as it takes photographers in USA to develop the expertise required for good wedding pictures.
So effectively you pay lesser in India than what you would in USA or UK or most other countries. But the photographer works for more than double the duration in much harder situations and delivers world class quality. Doesn't this mean wedding photography in India is actually not that expensive?
Feel free to share your views/comments but lets not take it towards a pointless argument. I am not looking to argue and justify with different thoughts that other people may have or take very specific examples that counter my argument. What I have written is the way I perceive it and may be different from your view.