Johann van Tonder

Wedding photos 'for free'

2005-03-31 12:56
<b>A wedding photographer leads the bride away for portraits as the sun sets. (Johann van Tonder)</b>

A wedding photographer leads the bride away for portraits as the sun sets. (Johann van Tonder)

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One of my students asked me last week about the "exorbitant rates" charged by wedding photographers and whether they were justifiable.

After all, anyone could sacrifice a Saturday afternoon to take a couple of snaps at a mate's wedding. The only drawback, really, is being busy on the big day - their first wedding.

I've been put through the experience of looking at The Friends' attempt at wedding pictures just once too often.

Admittedly, I'm one of those who do weddings for acquaintances only. By no means am I a professional wedding photographer, but as an experienced news photographer, I might have just a little more chance of making a success of it than the average cousin with a camera.

So, wedding photographers, forgive me for talking on your behalf. But, the expectation of free or cheap photography is not foreign to me as a photojournalist.

The problem is that photography has become so accessible. It's a bit like the internet in that way - Joe Soap is expecting quality information for free, because it is so readily available.

You turn on the lights, you pay for electricity. Turn on the taps and the water bill arrives. In some way you (or your boss) are paying for the internet connection which allows you to read this.

Wedding planners fork out thousands for a venue, food and booze. Then try to save on their photographs. This short-sightedness amazes me, considering all the careful planning and effort that goes into these events otherwise.

Afterwards, what is left of the drinking, eating, the boring speeches? Does any couple actually remember that lecture they received from the podium before declaring "till death do us part"? Even post-divorce, the pictures from the day are often still around.

So, you pay for someone's equipment, insurance, transport, and a professional's time so that you have one thing less to worry about.

The marketing bunch will tell you, however, that what you are really paying for is memories of what's supposed to be this Big Day - the culmination of all these preparations.

Someone you know, can certainly cook. Yet you pay someone to cater. The resulting food is enjoyed for a few minutes, and... well, let's not go through the entire cycle.

  • Johann van Tonder is an award-winning news and conflict photographer, and was previously photo editor at Die Burger. He lectures in photojournalism part-time at the University of Stellenbosch and Rhodes University. He is currently finishing a book on how to break into the exclusive industry of photojournalism.

    Send your comments to Johann or discuss this column now in our debating forum.

    Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

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