PetaPixel

Why Wedding Photographers’ Prices are “Wack”

Earlier today my friend and fellow photographer posted a link to a craigslist ad from a woman in Seattle looking for a wedding photographer. The woman was upset because she thought that $3,000 for a wedding photographer was “wack” because all we do “is hang out at a wedding taking tons of photos and editing them” and that we are “making so much money its crazy.”

I first read this post earlier today while I was running errands and my head almost exploded. I immediately started drafting a horribly mean and punishing response in my head, but by the time I got home, I realized that this is probably a common misconception and that maybe I should try to explain why photographers charge what we do for our work.

Before I post my response, I want to thank all of my brides who appreciate my work and think that I am worth the price. This response is not meant to offend anyone. I understand many people are on a budget — especially in this economy — and I understand planning a wedding is both expensive and overwhelming. I always try my best to work with my couples and offer customized and discounted packaging options for those who are on a tighter budget.

I just want to state again, that being a photographer doesn’t mean that we wake up in the morning, photograph a wedding for 8 hours and then go home and our job is done. Those of us who are lucky enough to be able to support ourselves as full time photographers don’t just work as photographers. We are also small business owners, which also comes with the job of doing all of our own marketing, sales, accounting, scouting, art directing, managing our offices and studios, being our own webmasters, doing our own post production, designing, blogging, being students, being mentors, researching, etc…

Sorry for the novel. Here was my response:


Dear Bride,

I am a wedding photographer in the Erie, PA area. Wedding season only last about 4 months here, so I photograph an average of 20 weddings per year for an average of $2,500/wedding (which totals about $50,000/year).

  • That being said, I am a small business owner, so I pay all of my taxes, totaling about $15,000/year, which leaves me with a gross income of around $35,000
  • Of that $35,000 I pay $600/month in rent for my small house and garage which I converted into my studio (which is where I would be editing your wedding images). $35,000 – $7,200 = $27,800
  • Then I have my car, which I would use to get me to and from your wedding, which I pay $400/month for the lease, plus $200/month in car insurance. $27,800 – $7,200 = $20,600
  • To get to your (and my other brides) wedding consultation, second wedding pre-consultation, the wedding itself, and to and from the printers I spend $840/year in gas money. $20,600 – $840 = $19,760
  • I also have $500/year insurance in case you sue me, or if any of your drunk guests would happen to break any of my equipment. $19,760 – $500 = $19,260
  • You also probably found me through my website, which I pay $30/month for hosting, and another $30/month so that you can view your photos online and share the images with your friends and family. $19,260 – $720 = $18,540
  • Or perhaps you found me through my advertisements in the newspaper or local bridal magazines, or a bridal show that you attended that I paid to have a booth at. $18,540 – $1,000 = $17,540
  • I also pay $250/month for my own health insurance in case I were to get hurt at your wedding. $17,540 – $3,000 = $14,540
  • I pay $200/wedding for a second shooter for your wedding, so that you can have more images and different angles, as to make sure you get the best images possible at your wedding. $14,540 – $4,000 = $10,540
  • I also need to have a new pair of shoes ($100) every season because my shoes get worn out and dirty from season to season. $10,540 – $100 = $10,440
  • I need high speed internet so I can upload all of your images online, my home phone for my business and my cell phone so I can communicate with you. $10,440 – $2,500 = $7,940
  • Oh yes, and I also pay a lawyer to make sure my contracts are iron clad and an accountant to make sure that I am paying all of the taxes I need. $7,940 – $500 = $7,440
  • Sometimes I attend workshops and seminars to teach me how to better my business, and make my client happier (that would be you), as well as keep up on the trends and learn new techniques so that I can make sure you have the best quality images available.

That would technically leave me with about $7,000/year to feed myself, buy groceries, pay for my heat and electricity, clothe myself, etc. But, usually I end up reinvesting whatever I have left on upgrades and new equipment:

During your wedding, I bring my professional equipment that I use so that I can make sure you have the highest quality images.

  • I have 2 Canon 5D Mark II cameras (because you always need a backup in case of a camera malfunction, which would ruin your big day’s photographs) which cost $2,500/camera = $5,000
  • I also have quality lenses which can capture your special moments in low light situations:
    Canon 24-70 f/2.8 lens = $1,200
    Canon 70-200 f/2.8 lens = $1,300
    Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens = $500
    Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro = $600
  • …and I have speed lights to catch the fun moments at your reception:
    2 x Canon 580EX II = $1,200
  • Also multiple battery backups and memory cards, lens filters, light stands, umbrellas, light boxes, external battery packs and a bag to carry everything in = $1,500
  • Because this is equipment, sometimes I need to have it serviced or cleaned to make sure it is all working properly = $200

After spending 8-10 hours at your wedding, I then come home to my home office and spend about 20-25 hours editing your images, creating your album, blogging about your wedding, posting pictures on Facebook, ordering you prints and burning your DVDs.

  • I edit your photographs using a 27-inch iMac computer = $2,500.
  • I edit your photographs on Adobe Lightroom ($200) and Adobe CS5 ($400 for the upgrade and $900 for the new program).
  • I print your DVDs on a printer which costs $300 and which uses $200/year in ink.
  • I buy the DVDs and jewel cases you’re getting printed for $300/year
  • I archive all of your photographs on 2 x 2TB external hard drives = $500.
  • I also back up all of my photographs online so if there was ever a fire in my office, you would never lose your photographs = $400/year.
  • I also have office expenses as far as buying paper, staples, envelopes, packaging, filing cabinets and files, etc…
  • I also spend time and money ordering your prints and albums, paying for shipping, going to the post office etc.

All of that being said, I’m usually in the hole at the end of the year, and take on many family portraits, senior portraits and corporate jobs in order to make ends meet.

Photography is my passion and my livelihood, and it is also expensive. Yes, it seems like a lot of money for one day, but one day isn’t all we spend on your photographs or on our business. You will spend thousands of dollars on a wedding dress or flowers or a venue or on catering which you are going to have for only one day, but your photographs will be the only thing you have to remember that one day for the rest of your lives.

I’m extremely insulted by your craigslist post and hope this sheds a little light on why we charge $3,000 for one day of your memories that are going to last you forever.

– Nikki Wagner, Photographer


About the author: Nikki Wagner is a wedding, portrait, and event photographer based in Naples, Florida. Visit her website here.


 
 
  • guest

    The costs WOULD still be there. Which is exactly why your income needs to be able to provide for such expenses. When negotiating your own salary in the work place, do you not consider your own living expenses? You don’t say “Well, I’ll only need $5 for lunch each day while at work, so go ahead and pay me $5 a day” 

  • Ghimmy51

    How about amortizing your costs over the life of the item buddy? Nice scam post. Not buying it. Bottom line is you are doing what you choose to do. You would be doing it in some fashion for free and probably did at first. Including your house in your costs is bogus because you’d have it unless you lived under a bridge regardless of what you do. You get the idea. Nope, just like doctors and other professions you are charging the going rate not because it’s necessary for your survival but because others do.

  • Gmague

    $1,300.00 is the price of the old version of the 70-200mm F2.8 IS (aprox. before 2011).

  • Gmague

    I wish I only had to work 20 days per year, earning $20 million, and doing my favorite activity. That can be a football, or a basketball NBA player. Can you play as good as they do? Or, better said, can you generate as much money as they do? Because, the best surfer in the world does not earn as much as the best football player. That’s market, and what some people are willing to pay for the best professionals. By the way, sport professionals train almost every day of the year.

  • Andy603

    Wow, what a fascinating read through a truly schizophrenic thread.  It ranges from informed to ignorant.  Guess its the price we pay for openness.  Now to *my* valuable post.  Overall I got the sense from both the OP and many others that they dont have a full grasp on what it means to be a ‘small business owner’.  While in principle, the OP is right about her expenses, her first and biggest mistake is to try to justify her price by explaining virtually exclusively her expenses (and whats left or not left over).  Mind you, its not wrong to share this, but with a potential prospect???  I cant frankly ever imagine using a ‘cost’ justification in response to a prospect saying ‘wow, thats really a high price’..”Well, madam prospect, do you know how much I pay for rent and my car?  I cant understand for the life of me what you don’t understand!”  Dale Carnegie is rolling in his grave right now.   IMHO, the way you rise above this is to view your business as a business…whether its photography, or being a plumber or its IBM.  You convey your value by your Branding, your image, your market and hope you’ve done enough research to know what the market will bear.    Is gas really worth $3.50 a gallon?  What attribute about gas conveys its value?  Octane level?  Gas Station location?  Personality of the attendant  or owner?  Cost of the gas station, pump, insurance you pay, snow removal?  Why is it that the gas station across the street charges $4.50 and has more cars in it?  Those poster who are dwelling on cost will not be in business much longer. Spend your time on understanding your marketplace not the cost of your gas pump.

  • Skitch

    What about the 20 to 25hrs per wedding in editing? And all the ‘side jobs’ to make up for the negative?  Not just 20 days a year… promise.

  • PhotosR’Us

    Wow so
    much nastiness on this thread!!!

    Perhaps I am foolishly entering, but as a
    working photographer working now for 22+years, I feel like I need to say
    something.

    Firstly, I pay my second shooters $4-500 min and I supply all the
    equipment and transport. Also they hand over the CF cards and walk away at the
    end. no need to edit/cull images. Generally younger photographers who are
    learning or looking for experience. I know of others who pay very little or not
    at all, which I find exploitative.

    I am also
    happy to help out photographer colleagues when they need second shooters as I
    find that actually shooting, just shooting, for that amount is fine, as I turn
    up, shoot and leave without any of the postproduction or culling and editing
    the pictures, booking the clients, meetings for planning the day and, after,
    for presentation, image selection, album planning, dealing with printing and
    prolabs etcetc.

    Otherwise,
    my wedding rates are about the same as Nikki’s (original post), but which means
    I take care of everything.

    I used to
    charge more money in the days of film. Film, processing and printing was a
    massive cost to the day. A major reason Kodak’s going broke as they no longer
    make that money. Also ALL output had to be in the form of prints which meant
    presentation such as albums, folders and frames, which all added to the cost.

    I also
    price “a la carte” as a poster mentioned, as I know that all clients
    and their needs and budgets aren’t the same. But I agree with the essence of
    Nikki’s post. I am not an accountant, so will not comb thru her figures, but
    the idea that there is a lot more to the pricing than originally it appears.
    There is a lot of extra behind the scenes work, such as the days for culling,
    editing and postproduction, as well as a lot of costs associated with kit,
    computers, upgrades to kit and computers that are required as with anything
    digital. I generally am on a 2-3 year upgrade cycle, (just to clarify, not my
    whole kit, but newer technology bodies and faster computers to deal with their
    files, as well as things such as monitors and flashes which do degrade with
    heavy usage over time) so that I can provide clients with the best quality
    available, and also be able to use equipment that allow me shoot more freely
    and provide different perspectives, such as in low light without flash.

    If
    potential clients are not happy with my prices and experience as offered then
    there are many cheaper photographers out there. They are the customers and are
    free to spend their money wherever they like. I have a decent number of
    weddings every year, down to about 20-25 now from a peak at one point of 40-50.
    I am being more selective now and limit myself, as these days, I prefer some
    time on my weekends rather than the constant absence of social life on weekends
    with friends, partners and family.

    I do also
    shoot other photographic jobs ranging from PR, corporates, national magazines
    and newspapers, fashion and advertising. And as Nikki points out, like running
    any small business, there are many costs, such as studio rent, assistants to
    backdrops and promotional events.

    I do it,
    as I’ve always done it, because I love it, as well as providing a living for my
    family and myself.

    I meet with a lot of couples these days that require
    different things. Some prefer digital only for viewing on digital devices and
    HDTVs, others prefer extremely expensive and designed large format albums, for
    which I employ a freelance designer and the albums are custom made. Obviously,
    there are two very different costs to me and thus price to client. If a couple
    really prefer to save costs and get a friend or relative to shoot their wedding
    with a good quality DSLR then that’s fine. The iPhone does some lovely pics and
    even has a great video function. It can even play your tunes later at the
    reception!! But of course the quality and results will be very different. They
    may be very happy with the results produced and everyone’s happy.
    For example,
    I love cooking and cook all the time at home. While I am very happy with, let’s
    say, a Cassoulet or a Paella that I make, it’ll be very different than that
    made at a restaurant by a chef that is famed for that dish. Obviously it’ll
    cost a lot more, and for a special occasion, I’ll spend the dollars or euros.
    But if I’m not happy with the price, then I can always get the ingredients and
    make it myself. I certainly won’t offer to pay them to source the ingredients
    and spices and then do it myself, as some couples have requested that they take
    the image files directly out of the camera and post process the pictures
    themselves. It sort of misses out on the intricacies that makes a photo “look” even
    more special than just the image: the colour shading, the slight darkening or
    lightening that can change the whole mood of the image, the cropping that can
    accentuate the drama or mystery. Much as if I threw in all the spices and the
    ingredients can I hope to match a Paella of an experienced Andalucian chef who
    has been cooking it for all their life. And of course, as many people have already
    commented on, wedding photography, in fact, professional photography is much
    more than just taking pictures. Managing the bridal party, parents, guests,
    drunk or otherwise, weather, hire cars, locations, lighting, customs, travel….
    and the few other things that go on in that one “special” day.

    It’s really the choice of the couple, and having shot
    weddings in backyards catered for by a BBQ to overseas weddings on exotic tropical
    islands, even one for an African refugee couple, where the older women cooked
    in big pots and carried it all to a hired hall and where the bride did her
    makeup with the aid of a small piece of broken mirror, weddings are as varied
    as there are people, and not every couple will want or willing to pay for a
    $3000 photographer. Some even want to pay more. But there’s bound to be one at
    a price near you and no need to go off and offend lots of people. Enjoy your
    day!!!

  • NoCrappyImages

    I paid double that and would do it again. When I became engaged, the two things that were most important about the big day were, 1. the guy, 2. the photography. In that order. I have an MFA in photography and I was unwilling to end up with crappy images. I knew the day would fly by and be a memory blur – those images are worth every penny.

  • tler

    I am not sure about how it works in US but, here in France, the prices are around 1000$ for a standard package (HD photos on DVD, album, 20 printed standard 10×15 photos and 3 big 30×45 photos). 

    During that day, the photographer takes many photos of all the guests. Those photos are sold 10$ each (or 6 for 50$ hummm). People use to order those photos here en France. And parents use to order the entire album. Then the photographer will get more money for those guest photos than for the main photos. For example, if the photographer sells 300 guest photos, he take 3000$… Here, when you want true great photos, you have to pay 5000$. Then you will be happy. But, that’s true, when you’re getting married, you can spend sooooo much money.

    To answer Nikky, you said that you’re paying 200$ for the second photographer, who certainly have exact same taxes… Should I think that that only cost 200$ in reality ? And all the equipment you talked about is allready paid for your main photo activity. for example, the internet access… Oh come one : BS… And the compta details is really false. Please it doesn’t work this way : Big BS. 

    I am freelance. I pay all taxes. I know how much everything cost and how you can reduce taxes. It works allmost the same in all countries. I would say that it should not be charged more than 1000$ : 500$ for the day, 500$ for homework. Well maybe 1500$ if the photos are beautifull.

  • MerelyFinite

    Just curious, did the person ever reply back to you?

  • JIm

     Bravo! Well put.. Now that’s realistic…

  • Jim

    If I had a photographer trying to receive their whole life’s income in one photo session, I know I wouldn’t be calling him back.. Now I know what people mean when they tell me “There’s little money to be made in photography”

  • Anna

    We have a successful wedding photography business. We’re top end rather than bottom end. We put a lot of effort into every wedding and most of it is after the wedding. We often work 16 hr days. We charge for it. We don’t feel threatened by those under-cutting us. There is a market for the $500 photographers and there is a market for what we do. Every time I question whether our pricing is right I ask myself this: Is the client happy with what they paid for our services and are we happy with what we were paid. We get 100% good feedback. We’re busy. Our Facebook page is a testament to how happy our clients are.  Yes we get paid well for it. We should.

  • Dsajkhjk

    buncha cry babies

  • JesusHChrist

    One day I’ll turn my HOBBY into work and charge ridiculous amounts for it. Then post an unnecessarily long article covering all, every single one, of my expenses in the least bit pertaining to it, to justify my outrageous cost. You guys are a nothing but whiners.

  • Guest

    And that is why my brother took my pictures. I have beautiful memories and I didn’t have to pay some trumped up fee. I have a passion too, I am a freelance musician, but as the poster stated, passions don’t pay the bills.  And it certainly does not give me the right to charge out the ass for my services. Sorry, $3000 is way to damn much for a photographer and anyone who pays that is an idiot. 

  • LA photog

    Wait. You only pay $600 a month rent? With a garage?! 

  • Marja

    This.  We always included a finished album with packages over a certain price.  Things have gone more towards the storybook format now, but we still do the albums if they choose it.  They are very expensive:

    $80-100 for the leather cover
    $5 for each page; album holds 10 to 30 (???) pages
    $5 for each mat, each page holds two mats (front and back)
    The enlargements from a pro-lab:
    4×6 = $1; 5×7 = $4; 8×10 = $8

    Average album may be 20 pages.  That might include 10 – 8×10′s; 20 – 5×7′s; 30 – 4×5′s.

    So…
    1 cover: $80
    20 pages: $100
    40 mats: $200
    10 8×10′s: $80
    20 5×7′s: $80
    30 4×5′s: $30

    Owww.  :)
     
    Even without the finished album, we still spent $100+ on the proofs and $30+ for the proof albums.  Digital has cut down print costs, but now we do the labor the pro-labs used to do (color balance, etc.)

    I’m not complaining, all that is part of the business.  The albums are so worth it, they’re big and substantial, and they show off the wedding day right.  It’s just the nice stuff costs more than people may realize.

  • guest

    Not a reasonable comparison. The photographer is not selling lemonade, they are selling years of artistic knowledge, skills and experience on top of the technical aspects involving the actual photography and post-processing. If you don’t like the idea of paying for that kind of knowledge, then don’t, but be prepared to have less than ideal records of those memories.

  • Marja

    Brendan, I’ve heard quite a few stories like yours.  We met with a bride who brought her matron-of-honor along.  She was a newlywed and did the same as you, then regretted it. 

    I have suggestions for you.  You could renew your vows and do so on a smaller scale.  If that’s crazy-talk, lol, you could hire a photographer to do a portrait session with you guys.  If you have kids, or you have a family reunion, even more a good idea. 

    A lot of people get family portraits from Sears or Walmart, and there’s nothing wrong with those, but they can be too plain.  A hired guy will give you a beautiful, unique product.  He’ll work with you — he’ll shoot what you want and will know plenty of great places to go.

    And the best part: they’re not all that expensive, compared to wedding photos.  A lot of photogs runs specials around the holidays, so if you wait until then you can get a good deal and great photos.

  • Rhys

    At the end of the day, a photography business is a business.

    For that business to remain viable, it has to break even, or turn a profit.

    I’m not good enough to shoot pro yet, I can’t guarantee I’ll get *that* shot, and I refuse to charge for my shots until I can. But that’s not my point- Just letting you know that this is me thinking this out, not actually doing it.

    Also, I live in Australia, so bear that in mind with dollar amounts posted here… For example, an average retail job pays about $17/hr. I’m sure we’d all agree that a good photog does a lot more in their 8 hour wedding & reception than someone scanning barcodes, but let’s just say that the ‘tog pays themselves $20/hr. For every hour shooting, there’s 2-4 managing and editing the photos- backups, imports, etc.

    So: wages for an 8 hour shoot and 24 hours managing/editing is 480 dollars. Round up to 500, cos I doubt most pro shooters value themselves at 20 bucks an hour.

    Then there’s equipment. To remain competitive, especially in the digital age, I’d expect to replace my gear every 24 months. This’d include the PC and editing suite. Let’s say I run a 7D and a 5D2. eBay reckons I can get a 7D for 1800 bucks, and a 5D2 for 2000. Bodies only. 3800 dollars in bodies, to be replaced every 24 months. Between them, those bodies have to earn 160 dollars a month to pay for themselves. I could do this for lenses and computers and editing suites and cars and etc etc, but I really can’t be bothered.

    Whatever my wages are, my business needs to pay for itself. If it doesn’t, I go out of business.

    A bar won’t charge less for it’s drinks because people don’t want to pay it. It creates an atmosphere, a quality of presence that makes people want to pay what they want to charge. If a good pub charges 10 bucks a pint, and a bad pub charges the same, and they both have the same profit margins etc etc, all things being equal, the good pub will have more customers. Same product, same price.

    That’s where being good enough comes in.

  • Guest

    So you basically work for 20 days a year (Okay, lets add another 20 for post-production) and you make $50,000? Not bad.

  • Paulalabra

    She doesn’t work only 20 days a year, seems you didn’t read it.  She has to do portraits and other kinds of jobs to live.

  • Megreul

    woah…this is AWESOME….this about sums it up…for so many of us who are very hard working. i really appreciated every word of this. THANK YOU Nikki Wagner…WONDERFUL RESPONSE…. meg reul, Denver CO

  • tanman

    she needs to get a better tax preparer… if she paid $15,000 taxes on $50,000 gross income that is ridiculous!! I believe this was exaggerated like all other statements..

  • fredd

    I would go only for a second shooter for $200/wedding !!! then he will bring his ”second shooter for $50/wedding  !!!

  • Jim

    In the UK, we get similar comments from Brides to Be and Grooms to Be. I asked one potential Bride to spend half a day with me in my office/studio to see what went into post-production of a typical Wedding shoot, at which there were in excess of 500 images taken by 2 photographers. After about 2hours of watching the amount of editing required on just a small proportion of the images, colour-matching the outfits, cropping, and general pp, she conceded that it was not simply “point & shoot”, and booked me.
    I would like to know how Nikki ended up with a $7k surplus?Then again, we, in the UK, have some of the highest-taxed camera equipment in the civilized world, as well as about the most expensive fuel costs.I don’t know ANY pro photographer that could survive on 20 days work a year. I work about 350 of the 365/6 days! 

  • Anonymous

    After reading the article, I agree more with the Craigslist post about the cost being ridiculous. 

    You’re only working for 4 months out of the year(wedding season, you said it yourself), making a livable wage from just that time(you said it yourself).

    I just don’t have much sympathy for this, I understand you don’t get that many jobs but you have much, much, MUCH more free time than an ordinary job would allow. This blog post is deceptive

  • Guest

    Reminded me of a joke, when a guy is selling potatoes at a groceries market at the price of 200$ per kilo. When he is asked, why his prices are so high, he shouts, that needs money to make ends meet.

  • http://www.magicalmemory.co.uk/ Jim

    After you have invested in all the equipment, insurance, business premises overheads, transportation costs, service & maintenance, wedding photography is NOT as profitable as you have implied – if you count the hours worked going to and from pre wedding, wedding and post wedding visits, plus the time spent editing wedding photos, I reckon to spend inexcess of 80 hours per week for 25 weeks of the year – that is equal to an average industrial or shop worker doing a full year of 40 hours per week!
    In addition to wedding work, I have a studio, which also had to be kitted out, and keeps me busy for the other 25 weeks (taken off 2 weeeks for Christmas and summer breaks)
    Also remember that as a self-employed person – all days off are unpaid, including holidays. I am certainly not a photographer for the money, as I could earn far more in industry. I do it because I love it, and I hope that this shows when I produce a stunning lifelong memory for my clients 

  • Anonymous

    I’m a photographer just starting out and I’ve assisted at several weddings. This blogger did her calculations correctly–good photography consists of good equipment, intuition, a business mind, and creativity. 

    I haven’t yet started my own business but I’m researching it. In order to pay for the insurance, websites, advertising, editing software, etc, you have to charge so much. Of course, it’s up to the each photographer on what he or she will charge, but a  wise photographer will start out charging at least $1,000 per wedding–gradually increasing the price as the equipment and photo packages get better. And that’s considered cheap in the photography world. There’s nothing wrong with hiring an amateur photographer for less, but in this business you really do get what you pay for.

    I enjoy photography and want to please my clients, but it’s good for them to understand that it’s more than snapping a few photos the day of the wedding. You have to be at the right place at the right time–you never know when surprises will happen–the bride might surprise her parents with gifts; the father might start crying; the groom might dip the bride quickly when he kisses her, etc. 

    My point being this: it’s the photographer’s job to be everywhere. And it really helps if their camera rocks. Therefore, it will cost what seems like too much, but look at it this way: you’re paying $3,000+ for your wedding venue for one day and then it’s over. But when you pay for your photographs, you get to go back to that place and see the cake, the decorations, how happy everyone is, how in love the bride and groom are, but most of all–you remember how happy you are that you decided to invest in your photographer.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Muafukas-Sumbeych/100001349564809 Muafukas Sumbeych

    B*tch, just use your iPhone.

  • Anonyguest

    Reread the article, or read up-thread.  That’s not “20 days for post-production”, that’s 20x(20-25 hours), or 60 days of full-time work.  Plus the two initial wedding consultations, the follow-up where they go over the pictures, and the wedding day itself.  

    That is a significant amount of skilled work, and I’m sure if the traditional “wedding season” were longer, she’d be working more weddings as well.

  • Joel

    “What you have failed to mentioned is getting paid for your “talent”, “skill”, “vision”, patience and artistic value.”

    And the time and money that it cost to develop such!

  • Keystroken

    I hop for cash, bitch.

  • Dheeraj

    The woman doesn’t know the difference between “your” and “you’re”, how can we expect her to understand why a photographer charges said amount for his work? :P

    That apart, this is a brilliant reply to an ignorant person. Hope more people read and share this.

  • BrianGavin

    If the equipment was that good and that expensive, you wouldn’t need to spend 25 hours editing them.

  • DLee

    Probem is as follows: EVERYTHING COSTS TOO DAMN MUCH, PERIOD! The guys at the top have to make sure they have their fancy houses and big cars.  The costs trickle down from there.  I want to cringe every time I see the price of a new camera or a new lens and everything else. Somebody is getting rich, somewhere, and taking advantage of everybody who works hard to make a living.  

  • PeterB

    I have an M.F.A. degree in photography and worked as a wedding photograher for nearly 20 years. I am happy to finally be out of the business! I charged $2,500. to start (after many years climbing to the top in my area), and it was barely enough to earn a living. Most regular weddings involve approximately 40 hours of work and albums and pictures run $700. or higher. I paid my assistant (she worked with me over 15 years), $200. cash. With the advent of digital photography, there was a flood of “newbees” who dropped the price beyond what could sustain a business. Yes, it is a business, brides think we are just dying to snap pictures of their ultimate day. Federal taxes takes a huge chunk – probably the biggest – we pay tax upon tax in this country. I went out of business because I could not afford it any longer. I worked nearly every weekend from April to November, including many Sundays. I saw couples several evenings a week and occassionally on Sunday. I can’t tell you how many family events I missed. Many couples wanted perfection but were looking for a deal. Yes, there are some disreputable people in the wedding business – buyer beware - but most independents are honest hard-working people. I recommend a VERY simple wedding – be realistic and just enjoy the day. I would NEVER work for this bride! I learned that the moment you have to justify your price – it’s over. I had a plumber come to my house recently and just had him do the work and paid him his due – and thanked him for coming out. That’s life. This bride would freak out if her employer asked her to take a 20% pay reduction.

  • Faf

    Many of the expenses you claim you’d have to pay for anyway, business or not.  I pay for my mortgage, car, car insurance, life insurance etc, my job doesn’t pay for any of that even though I do use my car to go to work and get back home afterwards and I’d pay for a roof over my head anyway…  Don’t tell me you wouldn’t own a car or pay for rent or mortgage if it weren’t for your business, that’d be bullshit.  And then, like you said, wedding photography only accounts for 4 months of your business, where’s the other 8 months?  Surely you do something?  I hope you’re not taking 8 months of vacations? I don’t want to undervalue the photographer’s work, but your article isn’t convincing me at all.  Granted, it’s not just one day (8 hours) of work for a wedding, say it’s 40 hours if you include meetings before the wedding, retouching some of the photos etc), one regular work week), it’s still 75$ an hour if you spend 40 hours on that one wedding, minus some of the expenses, not all of them because I don’t agree with all of them, I think you end up with a pretty darn good income just the same, no?

  • PeterB

    It will be a circular argument trying to justify operating a business. What did I do the other 8 months? (4 months is more accurate). I did about 6 bridal shows a year – a lot of work and expense. Mostly, it was album production and consultations.  AGAIN – it is not as glamourous or lucrative as you believe. If it was, I would still be doing it, no? It is a tough business and not an easy living. Most photographers don’t make it.  I have nothing to hide or gain by my comments, can’t you accept them? Go ahead and purchase your own professional outfit, do all the marketing and businesss stuff and then come talk to me.  Let it go.

  • Old Pro

    Wow, that IS an awesome living! Why don’t all you skeptics run out and buy a camera outfit? What a life. (You will be rudely disappointed. I did it for many years and am happy to be done with it). Go ahead and give it a go… 

  • Jim

    Faf – you obviously miss a very important point here. Firts, an expensive camera outfit does not make anyone a good photographer, any more than a ’59 Gibson Les Paul makes you a rock star!I started taking photographs as a hobby in the early 1960′s, and it became a passion as my skills improved.
    My “professional” entry into photography was about 15 years later, when a family member was let down by the photographer booked for her Wedding. Fortunately, I owned a half-decent camera and had it with me, so, despite being the Best Man at the Wedding, I did what I considered to be the “Essential” Wedding shots.Happily, everyone was pleased with them, despite there being an absence of Best Man in them! (No-one else felt confident enough to take any photos with me in them)Upon seeing my photos, A friend asked if I would do his Wedding, and offered to pay me the going rate. To be honest, I was not confident at that time, and worried about all the “what-if’s”. What if the camera jammed, what if they were under or over exposed, what if my car let me down, what if I forgot to include an important shot? The list was endless!In order to cover some of those worries, I went and purchased a second camera and a couple of spare lenses, 2 new flashguns (the expensive ones that I had seen most photographers using) and opted to shoot in colour, using Vericolour film, which was at least double the price of normal colour film, and 5 times the price of Ilford FP4 Black & White film, which I had used on 90% of my previous photography.
    Next question from me to me was “Am I good enough? Should I decline the job?”The answer was No! I felt confident in my ability, but, just to be certain, I hung around local churches at the weekends, and took photographs of Weddings as and when they happened (for free, and without any interior shots)I got names and addresses of the couple from family members, and forwarded copies of the images I had taken to them, with my contact info – again – No Charge!
    Remember that these were pre-digital days, so it cost me a fortune on my meagre income to buy pro equipment, pro film, and use pro labs to have them processed and printed!
    I reckoned that at that time, every wedding I photographed cost me about £150, which was over double what my day job paid me per week, plus I had invested heavily in pro equipment to the value of well over a year’s salary.
    I did this for most of that summer, and spent the winter working on lighting techniques, soft focus techniques, and shooting mock-ups of wedding cake shots, again, at great expense.
    Before the spring of the “booked” wedding arrived, I realized that the majority of Pro photographers were using roll-film medium format cameras, not 35mm, so I bit the bullet and sold one of my 35mm kits to part-fund the purchase of a Rollie camera, and then had to practice using it, as the viewfinder image is upside down and back to front! Also Roll film was incredibly expensive, and there were only 12 shots per roll, whereas 35mm got you up to 36 shots!.
    When the wedding day came – I had the right equipment, the right technique, and the right ability, so all I had to do was hone my organizing skills.That was 1975, and I have been a full time pro since then!In that time, I have moved with the trends, and used (and invested in)a massive range of photo equipment, my own darkroom and ultimately a studio.You say you use your car to “get to” work – I use mine almost exclusively “for” work. You say we all have rent/mortgage – true, but are you paying for a second premises for your business?As for the assumption that pro photographers only work a few days a year, I can assure you that i have difficulty planning any days off.
    As, like any other business, you are paying not only for the photographer’s attendance on the day, but also towards the cost of him/her being able to afford to. Somehow all of the equipment has to be paid for, as does my time, and let’s not forget the amount of time that I have have spent getting properly qualified, and the costs involved in that.
    Try telling your favourite rock band that you will only pay them for 2 hours and see how they react!As in any business, and yes, it IS a business, there are many hidden costs and overheads that must be paid to ensure survival.
    Go ahead, buy yourself the latest, greatest expensive pro camera, flasguns, tripods, lenses et al, and go and show me how it can turn you into a proficient and artistic photographer who can secure thousands for a few hours work a year!!!

  • Dema

    2500 for internet a year? Yeah right!

  • BI

    Ever looked at high speed “upload” packages for unrestricted data usage?… 

  • Cem Hochreiter

    As long as there are people, who are willing to pay that amount of money for such a service, it’s ok I guess.
    There are much more stupid ways to spend money, and anyone who really can’t afford such a service won’t bother anyway…

  • Jtduncan001

    They don’t stay in business very long if they are.

  • Delilah

    Can’t sympathise with wedding photographers charging the earth! MOST photographers I know also have a second (MAIN) job. What else are you doing when it’s not wedding season?!? Also, most photographers also photograph things apart from weddings, so they’re still making money.
    So there’s no need to complain where all the money you make goes. 

  • Janis

    The fact that the author does only 20 weddings per year is irrelevant.
    One has to calculate the COST PER HOUR (attending wedding + post-processing) and compare it with price per hour (attendance + post-processing) when photographing portraits, events and similar. I bet these will differ greatly making wedding photography far more expensive that anything else.

  • http://www.facebook.com/UnrealCraig Craig Harris

    Those expenses listed above are on the low side – my own kit cost significantly more; many photographers will have more lenses and also the current generation of L glass costs way more per lens than any of those listed above. The full professional 1D bodies are each 3 times the price of a 5D and some people have 3 bodies; additionally an assistant also needs to be paid for the day.

    Once you account for everything, $3000 is not enough for the photographer to make profit unless they do 100 weddings a year – a more realistic rate is £3000 ($4500) for a wedding photographer, note that the before, during & after accumulates to 4 long days of work (more if any printer issues or fussy requests) and when not shooting locally there are also hotel costs to deal with.

    And if the photographer is renowned or has medium format kit then you’d better be willing to pay 4 times that!