(The author is a Reuters contributor. The opinions expressed are his own.)
By Mitch Lipka
May 19 (Reuters) - Recording Amanda Bortzfield’s wedding last summer at the Breakers resort in Palm Beach, Florida, was no simple - or cheap - task. Still photography and video added up to more than $23,000, not far off the average total cost for a wedding in the United States.
“The end results far surpass anything I could have imagined,” says Bortzfield, 27, whose overall wedding costs were significantly more than average, to say the least.
Her photography package included a two-and-a-half hour feature film and an elaborate collection of still images, all aided by the use of a drone. (A nearly four-minute trailer of the film posted on Miami-based wedding filmmaker Ray Roman's Facebook page has nearly 18,000 views (on.fb.me/1ebJuZf).
The wedding photography business, including video products, is continually pushing the limits. Photographers say they must do more, better, or be distinctly different than rivals because the field is crowded and they have to separate themselves from the pack.
That now increasingly includes using equipment mostly used for adventure sports and spy surveillance - drones, tiny GoPro Inc video units that can also capture time-lapse images, 3D rigs and remote cameras.
“When it comes to videography, nothing beats having aerial footage,” says Brad Merriman, a wedding videographer based in San Francisco. “Even if you have a jib crane, it’s still not going to do what a drone does.”
The price to have a professional capture your wedding has a broad range, generally from $1,500 to about $15,000 just for still images. An edited video used to be considerably less expensive, but now new devices are pushing up costs. Rates are typically similar to the $2,700 Merriman charges for six hours shooting video, including aerial shots from a drone.
Bortzfield’s video topped out at $12,500 because of the length of the edited video and the complexity of the shots.
Massachusetts wedding photographer Glen Cooper says there is a difference between fads and actual advancements in the field. It was not that long ago, he notes, that the Jurassic wedding was all the rage, using photoshopped images of dinosaurs chasing the wedding party. He wasn’t a fan.
Cooper says that, while some clients have asked about drones, none have chosen a different photographer just because that is not something he offers. Instead, he says, they are impressed with the low-tech aerial shots he gets with a remote-controlled camera that can be mounted with suction cups, attached to a monopod and held overhead, or hooked onto a decoration. He uses his iPhone to see through the viewfinder and take the pictures.
“It’s similar to a drone, but you don’t have to worry about flying anything,” he says.
New York City wedding planner Viva Max says it is a buyers market when it comes to photography gimmicks. Long gone are disposable cameras on every table.
One popular addition is a photo booth. Options range from a traditional booth, to one that can shoot slow-motion video, to booths that create old-fashioned flip-books that make sequential still photos look like they are in motion. In many cases, souvenirs are generated on the spot and given as favors.
Standard booths rent for $1,000 to $2,000, with the fancier ones such as those using slow-motion going for up to $5,000.
Some wedding photographers include gadgets in their pricing, and use the footage to enhance their offerings.
Photographer Kristin Griffin offers 3D images that you can see through an old fashioned View-Master. Each couple gets a complementary View-Master with a seven image wheel, but extras cost $100 per View-Master and another $50 per wheel.
“Everyone has different priorities,” says Griffin, who is based in Massachusetts, but has shot weddings in 11 states. “How much are you going to watch (the video) or look at the pictures?” (Editing by Beth Pinsker and Andre Grenon)