September 17, 2012

Why wedding photographers prices are "wack"

My sister-in-law and I have recently starting a photography business. Whimsy Willow Photography. We have recently come into an issue with someone inquiring about our wedding photography. Now usually someone who is interested in booking us for their wedding would do so 6 months or so in advance. A step-mother of the bride and a family friend of ours contacted me today about photographing this wedding on October 6th, less than a month away. I explained to her that I unfortunately could not work this day but my sister-in-law Heather could. She informed me that it was not a big wedding. The ceremony would take place outdoors (aprox. 20-30 minutes) and then they would like some pictures of the bride and groom alone along with their family after the ceremony. There would be no reception. So unlike a usual wedding we would shoot that would be about 8-10 hours of our day they only wanted us for about 1-1.5 hours. No problem. Now, our price for our cheapest wedding package is $995 for 6 hours of our time which includes the bride and groom getting ready, the ceremony, the bridal party pictures and the reception. Our prices go up from there along with the amount of hours we are needed for the day. Since this wasn't a typical wedding, I told her we would charge about $200, that I would talk to Heather and agree upon a price. The client inquiring about what we would charge told me that she thought that $200 was too much. All of our wedding packages include two photographers (only one in the case), unlimited amount of photographs, professionally edited and enhanced photos, a DVD of all of your photos along with a copyright release. So not only would this $200 cover our travels to the location of the wedding, our time at the wedding but also our time spent editing each photo that was taken. So that $200 we are charging covers a lot more than "JUST" standing around for an hour or two taking pictures. Which brings me to this. I came across this ad/article the other day and I thought this would be the perfect time to share.

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


  1. Great post !
    I do think that many people underestimates these costs. I would be over the moon if a photographer would ask $200 for just a few hours. Especially considering all the hassle you have to through to get there. And of course all the work it brings with it afterwards.
    People should start appreciating proffesional photographers more are realize that what they do doesn't come for free !

    Grace @

  2. I'm glad you posted this. Honestly as a non-professional photographer, you don't take the time to think about the business side of things! I would never ever underestimate the work and time that goes in to it. You get what you pay for also...I wish I would have invested a little more in to our pictures, but at the time it was all we could afford!

    You're doing a great job!

    1. I'm wouldn't consider myself quite professional yet, but we are getting there, and our business is growing. I use to charge 500 for a wedding and give them a CD of the pictures .. that was when I did it alone and was just starting out. I feel like people expect me to keep those prices, but as I grow, my prices are going to increase as well! I wish more people understood.

  3. I wish MORE people would UNDERSTAND there is ALOT more into photography than just snapping a few pictures!!! I gladly spent the money on my wedding pictures because 1. you will FOREVER have those pictures 2. you cant RELIVE those moments... that is something that a photographer can capture if you are going to spend 5000 on food...why cant you spend 3000 on a photographer and its something youll have forever??

    1. Exactly! Thats my thought on it. When I get married I will 100% spend more money on my photographer than I will my wedding dress. LOL.

  4. This was stated very elegently. Great job!

    I have a close friend that is a wedding photographer and the amount of work that goes into it is ridiculous! I admit, I don't like paying thousands and thousands for pictures, but considering they DO last a lifetime, it's almost an investment.

    Found you through the link-up.

    Newest follower!


  5. I'm excited to be your new follower. I think this photography thing is so absolutely insane. People don't EVER think about the work the "worker" has to put into it. It's all about them...and it's so dumb. You don't just "sit there" and take photos all day. It's a LOT of you mentioned. Keep up the good work!

    Amanda @

  6. new[est] follower! thanks for joining the blog hop today!
    this post was awesome btw- can't wait to keep following along!

    stop by sometime!

  7. Hi Lovely, I'm your new follower from Blog Hop.
    Love your awesome blog. Feel free to check out & follow my blog @

  8. This is an awesome post, Ashley. I think many independent service companies get the side eye from the uneducated, and this explains it so well. I work for myself too, and the taxes are killer, as well as standard operating expenses. And $200 for that is a STEAL!!

  9. Very nice information about Wedding Photographers Prices …keep writing on best of luck!!!!