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.

  • Kimo

    Maybe you should hire an assistant to do all the business stuff for you and free you up to do twice as many wedding, i.e. 2 per week. Also, in those 8 other months you could do some other type of photography, like bar mitzvahs or quinciñeras. Just a suggestion.

  • Darwin Sayo

    I fought hard not to comment. I fought even harder not to reply on some comments here. Look, stop judging. Everyone runs their business differently. “She” pays $30 a month for internet? Hell, I pay $50! Oh, and have some respect and use her name.

    Nikki, I appreciate what you’ve shared here. It’s a great insight on the how much our biz cost us. It ridiculous that you’re being criticized for the little details like your car. Who says, as a photographer, we’ve taken a vow to poverty. If Nikki pays $800 a month for her BMW 7 Series then go girl! I don’t think Nikki was complaining or whining. She’s just being honest. She was standing up for all of us. We’re running small businesses. Not all of us have business degrees. I run my business, although probably really impractical, as best I can. I’ve got gear I can’t afford but I love what I do. I love doing weddings and the challenge they bring. I don’t run a corporation. It’s not about the money, it helps, but it shouldn’t be all about the money.

    I’m on the fence about what I think about you replying or not but you do what you do. It’s what you felt you should have done. You were probably mad, I would have been. But you speak for all of us whether you like it or not.

    And for all you judgmental types out there or “rookies” who obviously know how to run a top notch business, paying $10 month for internet, but still have time to comment negatively, drink more coffee.

  • Francie Painter

    I do not necessarily have a problem with what photographers charge. I didn’t take photography in college, so I’m sure they have an “expertise” I know nothing about. BUT….. You are doing what you WANT to do for a living. If it does not make you enough money to live on, then you need to change a few things. You cannot list things like shoes and rent as a business expense. They aren’t. Everyone has to pay for clothes and a place to live. If you feel your work is worth $3,000 for one 8 hour day, by all means, charge the $3,000. But, do not try to make people feel like it is some great bargain if it really isn’t. I had a professional photographer volunteer to shoot my wedding because they are CLOSE family friends. If they hadn’t, it still would only have cost me $500 for the day and then if I had them make prints for me, there would be a charge per print depending on size. And my pics were BEAUTIFUL. That also included three separate angles of video. There are photographers who do not charge an arm and a leg. There are some with over-inflated egos who think there work matches no other. There are good, honest, hard-working people who are just trying to make a living doing what they love. That doesn’t give anyone the right to take advantage of people because of one little word… Wedding.

  • Zabilde

    And the author of this response doesn’t know how to deduct business expenses from his taxes, or how to properly depreciate the cost of property over time. Does the author buy all new cameras every year? A new Mac every year. He claims housing costs yet everybody has those costs regardless so they are not relevant. And who forced him to Lease an expensive car? He’d be better off buying and holding onto a car for a few years rather than paying the lease game.

    A good Photog is not going to be cheap but a months salary for a couple days of work is excessive. That said, if the market will bear it, and based on what this bride was finding, it does. Then fairs fair, it’s a free market and she has to pay the market price unless she can find someone cheaper.

    Btw When I got married the photographer also owned and ran the reception hall, and our total cost for reception hall and his excellent work (which is also backed up by him on and off-line like you do) was about $1400. He also runs a photography studio so he isn’t limited to just what he can earn at wedding events. If you are as professional as you claim why are you limiting yourself to just 20 weddings a year? Why not family photo-shoots and portraits, and many many other activities during the week. But no you’d rather claim to just shoot 20 weddings a year (out of 52 weekends in a year.) What do you do during the rest of the year surf the interweb finding brides to lambaste when you could be working adding to your 50K a year wedding income?

  • Zabilde

    50,000 in roughly four months. What does she do the rest of the year? She’s doing very well (by her claims).

  • Guest

    You can live quite comfortably off 50K a year, you can live even more comfortably off what you can make the other 32 weeks a year as well. And a half-assed CPA will legally deduct most those expenses returning much of that 15k

  • val

    I’m sorry but this response would have been a lot more reputable if it would have omitted a couple of items that quite frankly, everyone else and their mother are responsible for getting…whether they are photographers or work as waiters. Such as: shoes. I mean really, why would you include that? you’d need shoes and clothes for any work. Waiters get paid absolutely nothing and I’m sure their shoe wear is quite substantially more than yours. Also, health insurance? Join the world with everyone else who doesn’t get insurance through their jobs. Car is the same…and a $400 lease is not a necessity of the job. I understand these are the choices you have made, but they should have been omitted so that your response could have been validated a little more as you did other valid points. Maybe you could edit and rethink a couple of the other things, that everyone else needs for their jobs and isn’t gripping to tell their employers to supply them with.

  • Guest

    Nobody missed all the other photography work, the numbers she gave were based on 20 weddings over roughly four months giving her a gross income of 50k a year. She chose to claim that all her costs (rent, car lease, insurance, equipment etc) have to come out of the 50k from those 20 weddings. She is the one claiming she can’t deduct any of those legitimate business expenses nor depreciate the equipment costs and deduct those as well. The author is a bigger whiner than the bride. She makes 50k in four months, what does she do the remaining 8 months?

  • Guest

    But she claims her entire income of 50k comes from those 20 weddings. Those portraits and other kinds of jobs, must also be fully accounted for before she starts claiming tax costs and equipment costs and housing and transportation costs.

    I don’t have a problem with her making what the market will bear. If she gets $1500, $2500 or $5000 per wedding, that is fine and dandy because people are willing to pay it. The issue I have is with her accounting and claiming that the 20 weddings (20 days plus 3 days editing per shoot I think she claimed so 80 days of work a year) is her sole and entire income for the year. The fact that as you noted she is doing other stuff the rest of the year, earning income which pays for all those business expenses just like the weddings do, but she does not account for that income. No she claims that after expenses and taxes she has about 7K per year to pay for food, heat and electricity, clothing and other living expenses, but then claims she puts much of that back into her business, which leads the reader to assume she hasn’t bought new clothing in years, and rarely if ever eats.

    If you are going to post a rant about how what you and others charge is actually fair, at least be honest and complete so your rant actually stands up to scrutiny.

  • Clayton Finley

    well technically, arch’s license out the plans to the builders, so they really can’t build jack without the arch.

  • Scott

    I feel ya, I spent years self employed. Uncle Sam is a greedy little bastard! No matter which way you spin it, you end up spending more of your income on taxes than if you are an employee. And we wonder where all the jobs went…

  • thejesususus

    I’m concerned that you’re paying $60 a month in hosting and domain names when it should cost MAX $30 for both. $9.99 godaddy domain + $5 hostgator hosting. It makes me wonder if you haven’t stretched the rest of your estimates. BTW, i agree with what you charge.

  • Tony

    You say that wedding season only lasts for 4 months and you make roughly 50k from that four months, excuse me for being a poor student but I think 50k in four months is quite a lot of money. Most of the expenses you cite such as camera, lenses and software you use are also fixed cost, meaning you only have to purchase these things once or maybe twice if anything gets broken. The other expenses you cite such as rent, utilities, gas money are expenses just about everybody has so it’s also not a justification for higher pay. Health insurance and car insurance are also pretty common costs for people in other professions. A laptop and printer are also not things you use solely for your job I’m assuming. Internet, home phone, and cell phones are also things you can use for personal use. An accountant? Well, we can all use of those can’t we. To be lenient though, I will say that this accountant is absolutely crucial to you running the business.

    So if we break down your formula now:

    11.5k for camera, lenses and other related equipment
    about 1k in software? maybe more?
    720 for website
    500 for photography insurance (? I dont really get this one)
    1k for advertisement
    4k for a second shooter
    100 for shoes

    500 for lawyer and accountant

    300 for dvd and jewel cases
    400 for online backing (does this overlap with your website and/or your image sharing abilities?)

    ~12.5k fixed cost

    ~7k variable cost

    Of course this excluded costs that are blended with your personal costs such as the computer, the printer, some gas fees, some external harddrive. It’s really hard to know what proportion of each goes into your photography but if we say half, then we get a number of roughly 7k. But I don’t think you should spend 2.5k on a mac when you can build a PC of equal performance for less than 1.5k. My 27in monitor was bought on sale for 250.

    So if we look now, the variable cost is about 14k per year which leaves you with roughly 21k after taxes coming out of 4 months of work. Thats about 1k per wedding which you say takes up to about 35hrs of work to shoot and edit. That’s about $28/hr just for labour (AFTER TAXES). If I worked full time at that salary, I would make a little over 82k/year before tax. If we take your minimum time to be 28hrs/wedding, then we have 37.5/hr and 111k/yr before tax. I’d be pretty happy with that pay tbh especially if it’s an activity that I love.

    I find it insulting for you to complain about doing a job you love and still making a great deal of money out of it. I also find it insulting for you to say “your photographs will be the only thing you have to remember that one day for the rest of your lives.” The thing is, I can have a piece of rock that will remind me of my glorious day at the beach, but it’s sentimental value does not mean a street vendor can sell that piece of rock to me for a hundred dollars.

    I appreciate your guts to run a business but I’d also like to remind you how fortunate you are to do something you love and not take the money you make for granted. Tbh you really angered me when you said you only made 50k in a wedding season(4 months) and then went on to subtract your housing and car expenses from that. I mean, a house and a car is surely not all going into your business. It is unfair for your to compare your pay to other people’s pay after you subtract from it some of your highest living expenses. Should a person making 100k go up to a person making 80k and say they are making less because they have to take out 25k for housing and car? That’s a totally deceitful approach. Taxes, health insurance are also things just about everyone has to worry about. Let’s not forget that this 50k is also just for four months of work and when you say “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”, you make it sound like you are almost annoyed at the prospect of having to work in the remaining 2/3rds of the year.

    Most people will not read your post in detail, and they will walk away feeling sorry for you and kicking themselves for thinking that your pricing scheme is too expensive. Yet, if they read closely, they’ll find that maybe they’d prefer being in your shoes.

  • Tony

    Actually I don’t believe that plumbers should charge 100+/per hour either. I don’t see numbers for the other ones you posted so I can’t say anything about those either but I guess neither can you. So the point you’re making here is that the legal coverage is what’s important here? Well, I personally don’t think coverage really costs that much. You can always prove me wrong though and convince me that that coverage is what’s making these wedding photos cost 3k. Nobody here is trying to make the point that their uncles can do the photographs better than the author. I don’t really see where you pulled that one from. What Eco was saying was he noticed that the numbers the author used were inflated and included fixed costs as well as personal living expenses. I guess your point then is that the almighty *coverage* is what’s making the numbers inflated?

  • Tony

    woah there calm down miss hyperbole. First, no one is saying you should get paid pennies for being a photographer, and you have no proof that these people complain about their own pay. Also your generalization is seriously unfounded and mean. Basically, you’ve ignored the guidelines for how to conduct meaningful debate and have resorted to elementary school whining tactics.

  • Tony

    The point is not that she should find her rent from other sources, the point here is she subtracting her rent and car money and then using it to compare to other people’s salaries. If we look at its face value, she makes 50k pre-tax. If we deduct her variable costs for each wedding season (which I found to be around 14k given that a lot of what she cited can be also used for personal use) 35k after tax – 14k variable cost comes to about 21k true earning in a 4 months period. In 4 months, a person making 60k a year would make 20k pre tax and end up with 14k after tax. Compare the numbers. She makes 7k more than what this other guy makes and he’s already well in middle class. In the first year she will have to fork out an extra 13k or so for fixed costs, but that still leaves her with 8k and also equipment that can be sold later on when she wants to upgrade.

  • Tony

    Yeh Right? I mean 50,000 in four months! That’s almost nothing! Hell, you see that guy making 60,000 in a year? He’s making so much more than me! Oh wait… math…. right… that’s a thing I would’ve learned if I took math class seriously

  • Tony

    so because it’s a day and that day can only be remembered in the form of photographs, I must fork out enormous amount of money… =.= sad thing is I probably will have to pay that 3k to a photographer one day just because it is a norm now.

  • Tony

    I don’t think you got it. It means that when you compare your wage to other people’s you shouldn’t take out the rent because the people you are comparing to have to pay rent too!

  • Tony

    when did you become an architect?

  • Tony

    I guess you’re a prostitute or a gigolo…

  • Tony

    That’s actually a very good point but I don’t know if I agree with her earning more than a programmer or an engineer. I think photography is a very intuitive thing (but that may be because I don’t know all the technical details) but doing computer programming or engineering takes discipline because it requires you to think in a way that humans have a hard time doing due to its limited benefit for natural selection. Again, the arts are cool and fun and I’d really want a career as an artist but it’s also something you can do as a hobby and enjoy. I think we should be compensating the people who are doing the jobs which are the backbone of our society more, especially when those jobs are also difficult and draining to perform.

  • Tony

    did you work all year round or did you work for 4 months a year to make that 24k? if you worked full time for that 24k, you need to rethink your business plan, just a tip

  • Tony

    Ah, the 5 year old has shown himself. Please describe your successful business to us, but please let it not be a Ponzi scheme. I can’t imagine someone who responds to a well thought out critique with “you are an idiot” running a successful business unless that business is the business of overcharging people for products.

  • julia neal

    Tony, your post made me really angry, but I’m gonna try and reply with some patience because I guess your stand comes from ignorance, not malice (although how you imagine you have the right to comment on what she earns and compare it to anyone else beggars belief… but maybe you’re an IT guy who doesn’t get much, so allowances will be made…

    OK, so you think being a photographer doesn’t require discipline? I’m trying to overlook how unbelievably patronising and ignorant this statement is, because, as you suggest yourself, you do not know the technical details. Nor, it would seem are you aware of the phenomenal discipline, time and cost involved in gaining and honing the skill required to be a good professional photographer.

    Photography is indeed intuitive, but ‘intuition’ is born of knowledge, skill and practice, practice, practice. (Ask some computer programmers, I’ve heard some of them have ‘intuition’ too. Or read Outliers and Blink by Malcolm Gladwell). The arts are ‘cool and fun’ and can be done as a ‘hobby’. Great! Just like programming! So become an artist!! See how easy it is! See how we just knock out stuff on a weekend and make a fortune!! It’s a bit like knocking out a computer program, I mean those guys just tap out a few 0’s and 1’s don’t they, and then the development software does the rest… I know this because I wrote a program once, and it took me less than an hour! OK, I’d have to admit it wasn’t quite as good as the stuff my programmer colleagues produce, but I could see how easy it was :)

    You think we should be ‘compensating people whose jobs are the backbone of our society’ (of course, rather than those silly frivolous photographers), because you imagine photography doesn’t constitute one of those careers (a bit like footballing and acting?). Maybe you’re right… if a couple has no decent wedding pics, who cares? A child loses a parent / a parent who loses a dying child? Nah, the pictures that remain don’t matter. (That’ll be why some photographers volunteer their time to go, unpaid, into hospital maternity units at any hour of the day or night to photograph a baby that won’t make it, so the parents have something better to remember their little one by than the nurses can do on their iPhone. But, hey, wheres the value in that?). Worldwide news; nah, never uses photos. Advertising? Books? Marketing? Catalogues? The internet? Of course, none of those are relevant to society, and none use pictures. Forgive my sarcasm, but really, come on, how do you think worldwide commerce would work without images? Or don’t the jobs the world rely on count as ‘the backbone of society’?

    And you imagine that photography isn’t ‘difficult or draining to perform’? Gosh, how I’d love to see you do it. Let’s take a wedding, one of the many disciplines a professional photographer often has in their skillset. First get up early and scout the location before a bride and groom arrive, then spend 12 hours non-stop shooting, wearing heavy equipment that weighs about as much as a small child and does your back in, because you’re lifting it and and moving around with it all day, standing, climbing up, lying down, teetering on chairs and stepladders, thinking on your feet, being nice, responding to the constant demands of changing and challenging lighting conditions – oh wait, I expect you think the camera does all that on its own, right? – all to grab one never-to-be-repeated moment after another, a fleeting glance of joy from the bride to groom, Granny gazing at the bride, Aunty May hugging the sister she hasn’t seen in 30 years. And the rings! The kiss! And the right angle on the cake cutting… and a thousand other important moments, all of which have to be achieved in record time, one take, no second chance. So of course, so pressure!! Then after a physically and emotionally draining day you start to back up all the data (what if a card corrupts? A camera bag gets stolen? You crash the car on the way home?). Then you drive home, start uploading the files (pros have several backups). Next comes all the editing and post-production, analysing maybe 2000 shots in order to pick the best 300-500 for your client, then you work on the post production. (Guess what, it’s not automatic. It takes twice as long as the shoot did. You can do the math right?) I could go on but I think the original post captured it well enough.

    By the way, I spent 25 years working in IT on creative software before becoming a photographer. I’d love to hear from you again if you ever discover you have the guts and the talent to change career and become an artist. Meanwhile, might I suggest a little more sensitivity and respect for the career choices of others?

  • julia neal

    Damn! I could have saved myself a lot of time if I’d just said that :D

  • Victoria

    Tony, you are obviously here with a huge chip on your shoulder…what is your “beef” with photographers making a good living? She doesn’t make that much ALL YEAR long, although I’m sure she wishes she could. The wedding season helps round out the rest of the year when we do portraits for a fraction of the amount of weddings (for obvious reasons of course). Overall, we would be EXTREMELY lucky if we bring home $60k AFTER taxes, much less before taxes. As for your comment about rent and other expenses…do you not expect to pay your rent from your wages as an employee? I believe you do, so why is it wrong to expect to be able to pay your rent and personal expenses from your BUSINESS? I’m so confused by your ridiculous responses and condescending attitude. Calling everyone “children” when you are being nothing more than a smart ass on here yourself and purposefully taunting people who are emotionally connected to this post. Do you feel you are underpaid based on your catty responses (which is ironic in itself if so) doing whatever you do? Or is the reason you have so much free time to infuriate others simply because you actually have no life or job of your own? Grow up please. You are not contributing in a constructive way at all, and you are eliciting the “childish” (as you put it) responses of aggravation from others.

  • Victoria

    The guy that makes $60,000 a year gets a solid paycheck just showing up to work every day and doing what he’s told, and he only pays a small portion of taxes because his employer pays the majority (it’s called employment tax, read up on it). The rest of the year she might make another $20-30k PRE-TAX. So taking all the other expenses out of it and just leaving the major cost of business, she might end up bringing just a teensy bit more than the employee makes yet she works much longer hours overall running the business. What is the point of risking starting your own business if you end up only making what you could make as an employee without the stress and headache of the business?? Tony, you are seriously sour.

  • hdc77494

    I want to know where you buy your lenses, I can’t get them for that price at B&H.

  • Eva

    There are few conceptual errors in this article. Let’s take and analyse them:
    1) Wedding photographer admitted that wedding season lasts 4 months only, however, he includes all its business and personal costs for the whole year. Does that mean that he / she expects to work 4 months per year and cover all its yearly costs?

    2) Annual net income of USD 35,000 is quite small amount, however, if you look at USA averages, you will see that this is above average (once more I remind you that this is 4 months net income).

    3) House and car are the main costs, which are for personal use. Also, your family lives in that house and use a car. So, it is absolutely wrong to attribute the whole costs to business only. In case you want to do so, you have to calculate the cost of renting garage (for 4 months) and car mileage (for driving to weddings). You will see that in this case business costs will be much smaller.

    4) Equipment depreciation: of course equipment is costly, however, you could use 2 cameras (e.g. Canon 5D Mark III) at least for few years. Assuming that you make 2000 shots per wedding you will make 40.000 shots per wedding season. Shutter resource for above mentioned cameras is 150.000 shots. So one camera resource is sufficient for 4 wedding seasons. Taking into account that you have 2 cameras and use them simultaneously and there is a moral depreciation factor you could use your cameras for 5-7 years. Regarding lens: if lenses are well maintained you could use them at least for 10 years. So, depreciation costs are much smaller than you could expect. Also, many photographers have their own style and do not need all lenses :) Some of them are shooting with primes, some of them use combination of lenses. Also, Sigma and Tamron currently produce very high quality lenses but their costs are much smaller. I know professional photographers who even shoot weddings with Rokinon and similar lenses but they produce excellent results.

    5) If you look at wedding protography business for wedding season perspective only, of course this is not very sustainable business, however, if you combine wedding photography with another job (photography or not) this business become very profitable. For example, I am professional accountant and my salary is more that EUR 100,000 (USD 130,000) per year but photography is my hobby. I own professional equipment but do not calculate equipment depreciation as I bought camera and equipment for my personal use. I spend quite a lot of my free time in reading / watching various tutorials on wedding photography, photoshop and etc. and think that my photography and Ps level is quite high (once more – I am doing this because I like it).

    In my country I have to pay a fixed very small licence fee if I want to do photography business legally (this fee is calculated on daily basis). So, fee for 20 days is exceptionally small.

    Accordingly, all weddings to me are an additional income without no additional costs. I am photographing weddings because I like that . Also, I do not feel any pressing on price reduction from client side. If I get my fee I am happy, if i do not photograph wedding, my familiy is happy (I spent my free time with them). So, in both cases is win – win situation.

    6) Please do not underestimate amateurs who might put their all soul into photography and put much more efforts into composing shots, editing photos as they are doing that because they really like that or they want to become professionals in the future. Photographers, who look at wedding photography as a business only never will put so much efforts as beginners :) Also, wedding photography is more or less standard – you need to know what a mandatory shots, plus you can always get a lot of very good ideas on various compositions from worldwide photographers.

    My advice for you would be the following: find another job and your income would be much better and you will be happier :)

  • Tony

    I wasn’t refer to all photographers, I was working with the numbers she gave me. Maybe you make less than the person who posted this, but please refrain from leaving this context as all arguments can be distorted out of context. What is this 60k after taxes, much less before taxes? Your gross income should be more than your net income. Again, you missed the pt about the rent situation. She was deducting her rent and car expenses and then complaining about how much was less. If you look at the situation though, we don’t really need to know those things when we compare her salary to other people’s because those people have to pay rent to. Since her and everyone else have to pay rent, what about comparing their incomes before rent? If we do that, as I outlined in my main post which you did not comment on (maybe you missed it, maybe it was too long for you), you will see that her earnings is indeed much more than other people. I see you have a knack for using personal attacks but not numbers. I’m afraid to tell you that personal attacks are not a very good method for debate. You quoted “children” but sadly doing a search of the page, the only instance of the word children being used was in your comment. If you are alluding to my “5 year old” comment to Mark, you should see it in context. I was chiding him for starting his post with “you are an idiot” to the person above with no real information to back up his claims. And it was also intended to allude to his picture (a kid holding up a middle finger? come on) If you want to fall into the same league as him, you are doing a good job. You both seem very good at personal attacks and lack a propensity for using information.

  • Tony

    You say it like “high quality” photography is the same as any other archiving method. I can take a photograph for my website or else create one but I don’t see the need to hire someone who would create an image that sure may be highly artistic, but for a huge sum of money. For example, what do you think about the fact that the BP pretrol logo costed $211,000,000? Do you think that was a good allocation of resources? You know what? I don’t see the need to capture every moment in photograph. I would much rather be in the moment and keep the feeling in my memory than outsource it onto a photograph. Do you think the early cavemen cried because they didn’t have a photograph of their friends or family who passed away? No, they cried because of their memory of the person, not a 2D representation that can only display a non-moving, desolate image. You are confusing the value of the event with the value of the photograph. Look again at my rock vendor analogy. What do you think about the new trend of people taking photos of their every meal? I would hardly call it a bad thing if people stopped worrying about capturing their food in a photograph and instead focused on enjoying the moment itself. Look, I understand the powerful use of pictures, it’s just I don’t have an appreciation for commercializing something where the increase in noticeable quality diminishes but the price goes up exponentially.

    And what if you crash the car? Well, what about a person who is drained from a different job and crashes their car? You are trying to make people feel sorry for you for enduring something that many other people in a variety of other jobs have to deal with as well. Many people have to deal with the same things that you deal with. teachers have to deal with unmotivated and rowdy kids every day. IT has to deal with customers who are impatient and angry every day. I can only imagine that the wedding was at least a nice environment and that you were invited to be part of a very cheerful ceremony at least most of the time.

    Look, people’s career choices is not even what’s being discussed here. What is being discussed here is the hefty fee being charged for the service. I enjoy arts as much as you do. I play the piano, I played the trombone and clarinet, and I took drawing lessons since I was 5. The problem comes when you begin commercializing the arts in a way that produces lots of profits but not much in the way of societal benefits.

    I see there is a lot of emotion running through this post and I should have recognized that and stayed away from it, but the truth is, whatever you choose to post in public is up for public scrutiny, so I looked at her post carefully and saw the various things which I perceived as flaws in her argument. I strongly encourage you to look at my main post rather than responding to a mini-selection of what I’ve said.

    PS: starting your post with ‘your post made me very angry’ does not sound threatening or likely to make someone change their mind. Instead of focusing on your emotions, I strongly encourage you to take a course on how to conduct meaningful debate.

  • Tony

    Really? you don’t see a problem in making a baseless claim?

  • Tony

    “just for showing up to work every day and doing what he’s told”. He also has an inflexible schedule and the daunting prospect of having to perform tasks sometimes that are both non-essential and boring. Why are you saying she can only make another 20-30k pre tax for the other 8 months? Whatever job she is doing in the other 8 months, this means she is making 30-45k a year. What job is she working that is making her less in 8 months than she did in 4 months as a wedding photographer if she is so skilled that it is justifiable to make 50k in the wedding season? You may perceive me as sour, but that is likely a mental reflection of your own mentality to other people. I was never sour, I took a long time to think out and draft my posts, trying to be objective. When I am using humour, it is usually in response to someone else who finds it unnecessary to use actual information (see the post I was responding to) I hope you take the time to read as I have to create my main post. Actually, I understand somethings about running a business since I helped my dad set up his and talked with him about it extensively. It does take a lot of stress and hardwork but that doesn’t automatically justify the prices you charge. I can have a lot of stress and hardwork put into a bad business model and not make more than other people with a stable job. The point is taking the risk and working hard to create a business does not automatically mean you should make more money. You only make more money if the services you offer are reasonably priced and offer something that is invaluable to your customers. I just don’t really see it as the case here because the increase in quality as you go to more and more skilled photographers diminish but the prices seems to go up exponentially. This is true in a lot of artistic areas such as dining and painting. People are willing to indulge in these things once in a while if they have the money, but it doesn’t mean that the pricing scheme is justified. BP’s new logo costed 210million just as an example. When I look at that 210million logo and compare it to some other logos, forgive my blaspheme, but I don’t think it was money well spent. Sure the oil company was rich and could afford it, but I don;t think it was an optimal allocation of resources. Compare it to Google’s logo which the founders designed themselves and costed 0 dollars. I sure recognize Google’s logo more than I do BP’s

  • freekmagnet

    I think what you’re missing here Tony, is that part of what makes professional photography expensive is the upkeep of equipment and the experience of the user operating the equipment. Wedding photography is not something you do as an art, fun or personal satisfaction. It is very demanding work. Wedding photographers provide a service to a client in order to make a living. As the client, you are paying for a service that will produce the product that you want. If you choose to hire a hobbyist uncle with a $50 point and shoot and pay him $150, be aware that you will not get the memorable photos that you are looking for. If you don’t feel that hiring a good photographer is necessary to preserve the memory of the most important day of your life, then you work that out with your bride.

    Secondly, the argument that we should be “compensating the people who are doing the jobs which are the backbone of our society more” is short sided. If that’s the case, then fruit pickers should be making more money than anyone else because they are providing food for the people.

    And what do I think about paying millions for the BP logo? Well, pricing intellectual property not something that can be easily discussed here, but in short, if a company intends to make billions or trillions of dollars from their brand logo, then yes, it is a good allocation of that company’s resources to pay millions to a qualified artist for that logo. And by the way, I have designed logos for large companies, and there’s more than one person involved in the process – often there are many and it is a process that can take up to a year.

  • Marcus Sudjojo

    Although some of your words do make good points, there are still some points that’s arguable….

    First, the ‘you should be paid less, because you’re doing what you love’ part, which isn’t valid from both professional and business/economical point of view. Let me give you an example: There are 2 chefs for hire, for your wedding, chef A and chef B. They’re both equally good in their job. The difference is chef A loves his job, but chef B hates his job. So should you pay chef A less (or chef B more)?? Turn the table around, say you’re the ‘chef A’, the chef who loves his job. Are you willing to be paid less than chef B for doing the exact same job, at the exact same time, working for the exact same employer?

    Second, yes, everyone has to pay for clothes and a place to live. And they should consider that expenses to the revenue of their job/business. Example: If you’re given the offer of a job, and in the part where you negotiate your salary, where they ask you how much do you ask for. Do you really ask for a number where you don’t have any money left for paying your clothes and renting/upkeeping a place to live? Surely you have to put that expenses in calculation when you’re thinking of the number you want to ask for. Because if you don’t, it won’t be long before you end up with torn used clothes and living in an alley, right?

    Third, the ‘that doesn’t give anyone the right to take advantage of people…’ On the contrary, every businessman do have the right. Example: Say I have an electronic store. I have the right to sell a mediocre brand/quality DVD player for, say, $2000 (which is ‘wack’ of course). I have every right to do so, as the buyers (or potential buyers) also have the right NOT to buy it (or anything in my store). The point is, nobody is holding a gun to somebody’s head. So back to the context, I (and any other photographers) have the right to sell my/their 1 day wedding photography services for, say, 50 grand (which is also ‘wack’ by a long shot), and anybody in their right mind also have the right NOT to use my/their services. The business/economic world is incredibly realistic. On one side, everyone want to earn as much money as they can, but on the other side, they have to keep it reasonable, so they can actually find a customer/employer in order to keep the business/job running…

  • BruceD

    Excellent response. Not only doesn’t most of the public understand the economics of time and overhead, many entering the profession don’t comprehend either. They think like a consumer and not a business person. The factor that isn’t addressed is the physical and emotional stress that a photographer takes on photographing a wedding.

  • Captain Eddie

    Obviously, the bride who called the pricing a “wack” is totally uninformed and sadly a complete spoiled idiot. I’d love to smack her in the face with a large piece of that expensive wedding cake!

  • Marcus Sudjojo

    Are we not covering our expenses (work + living) from our revenue from business/job?

    Do you really not count your rents, insurances, payments, new shoes, etc in your business or salary?

    Let’s say you need $800 a month to pay for your rents, insurances, payments/bills, new shoes, phones, gas, etc. Would you really get a $500/month job?

  • Marcus Sudjojo

    Well, the fact that she has been doing her wedding photography business for 2 years and still running, means she CAN make a living that suits her…

  • Jon Peckham

    $3k is too little in my opinion. Inflation is an unfortunate side effect that we all endure and is also damaging to our ability to make a living let alone idiots buying cameras at Costco and doing weddings. . .

  • Kai

    You buy cloths with your paycheques? You go out for supper with friends with your paycheques? Photography is a job, and we need to survive too. Yes, it sounds stupid to say “The client is paying for my groceries” but your boss is paying for yours. The thing is comes down to, is that this is a photographers career. We live off this. And it is a challenge, we want to charge you what is fair to you, but also what we can live off of.

  • abby

    this is awesome

  • cmcgovern1990

    Not saying that this woman shouldn’t charge $3000 for wedding photography, but this calculation is definitely off. There’s no way she’s paying 15k per year in taxes first off, because the taxes are after all of her other expenses. Also, some of her expenses like car insurance, her car payment, her rent (less the amount that is apportioned to the garage studio), her new shoes (wtf?), and her phone (I mean who wouldn’t have a cell phone even if she wasn’t using it for clients) are not business expenses are entirely irrelevant to this calculation. Also, any software or equipment gets depreciated over time so she gets a small deduction each year on her tax return because she is using them over time. If she’s actually paying 15k in taxes though…she really needs a new accountant!

  • dsjjhljkfsadhljh

    photographers have it SO tough!!!!

  • Oj0

    EXACTLY!! An eye for photography is either something you have or you don’t have, if you don’t have it NO AMOUNT of training will make you a good photographer. If you’re one of a few to have a certain skill set, you can and should charge more. If I have any interest in becoming a doctor or engineer, nothing stops me from getting a degree and doing the job – it’s something where there are clearly defined right and wrong ways. Photography, or any other art, doesn’t have these clearly defined rules. It is therefore for the very reason you stated that I DISAGREE with you.

  • Guest

    This photog only works about 4 months of the year – yet subtracts the entire year’s worth of rent, auto costs, etc – and charges customers for their own business development costs [booths, etc], pays WAY too much for hosting and many of their other services AND isn’t ammortizing their fixed costs in a responsible way (or taking in to account that they should not be paying taxes on those costs). They are making a horrible case as to why they “deserve” to be paid as much. The way it’s stated, it would be cheaper to provide the equipment and then pay the photo $25/hour for the day.

  • BBell

    I would gladly spend $3k to have my wedding photo’s redone.. our photographer bailed 3 weeks before the wedding, and some amateur gave us maybe 30 total pictures at the end of the wedding, of which my head was cut off in nearly every photo. Horrible experience.

  • Kathrine

    You only have ~$7k for the year IF you assume that you’re only going to work for those four months. I’m not saying photographers shouldn’t be compensated for their work, but you can’t write this up and act high and mighty when you say yourself you only work 1/3 of a year.

  • James

    And since that is the current expected wedding season that is the time she will work, which means that she will have 7k left over after expenses to pay for basic needed items such as food, clothing, utilities etc.

    The other 2/3rd of the year she is not working and is NOT MAKING MONEY, you understand that right? That 7k she has left over needs to carry her through 8 months of relatively little work.

    You just sat here and read the post, and I would hope the comments, not to mention you most likely came from reddit where this is now popular, and you still fail to see that her argument makes perfect sense and in fact is a good argument for a wedding photographer to actually charge more to ensure they can survive during the off season without needing to work at McDonalds.