“Why do you cost so much?”
“Wedding photography prices are outrageous!”
“I’m looking for a ‘reasonable’ photographer.” (my personal fav)
Take your pick or add in a new one – I’ve heard most all of the comments that talk about photography prices. I asked a bunch of people what they’d want to know when it comes to photography prices in hopes to better educate and illuminate the structure of pricing. They responded with wanting to know about equipment costs, how much time I spend editing, how much time I spend with clients, and even my monthly overhead/costs.
Well, that’s exactly what you’re getting. Let me preface this by saying that this is my full time job. I do this for a living and so I’m able to put my clients above any “regular job” I would have normally. I don’t include any personal expenses in this, like my mortgage, car insurance, or anything someone working a typical 9-5 would have as well.
How about we start out with equipment costs (we’ll keep it to just the cost to purchase an item this round).
- My Nikon D750 body with NO lenses? $1,500. But I need two of them for a wedding to make sure one doesn’t fail, and so I don’t have to change lenses as frequently. Some photographers have up to 3 or 4 camera bodies.
- Lenses range from “cheap” ones at a couple hundred dollars to great quality for as much as a Nikon D750 lens or more (zoom lenses cost more). For weddings I use a minimum of two lenses, but have many more than that in my arsenal.
- Ya gotta have something to store the images on. Fast writing SD cards range from $30 on up depending on their size (each one of my cards is about $50 and always carry a minimum of half a dozen on my person at a time). I always shoot with two cards per camera at a time. Images are written onto both the cards at the same time so if I lose one or one gets corrupted (God forbid), I haven’t lost your wedding images that no one can replace.
- My holster to hold both cameras at a wedding was $200
- My Pelican case to hold my equipment while traveling was $150
- I have softboxes and expensive bulbs to properly light certain situations that call for it. To put it in perspective, each bulb is about $20.
- External hard drives for storage and redundancy are around $100 for a decent one. Those will be something that you constantly have to get more of as your business grows.
- A computer is necessary to edit images. But it needs to be fast with a lot of memory/RAM. Macs are generally thought to be the better option, unless you customize your own computer. My Mac was $2200
- These are just the basics. I won’t bore you with the other items I have like prisms, external flashes, reflectors, and other stuff that adds up in cost
- My CRM software that you get your invoices, contracts, and customized client portal through is $20/mo
- Lightroom and access to updates is $10/mo
- My business phone line is $10/mo
- Online hosting software for your images? $20/mo – and I recently had to upgrade because so many clients requested extensions on their galleries that to hold them all, I had to upgrade storage. Cost of doing business, folks.
- Outsourcing of some marketing – $160/mo
- Repayment of small business loan to purchase initial basic equipment – $250/mo
- I have to have a phone – my phone is $100/mo (with personal line).
- I have my own studio located at my residence. It’s in a separate building so I’m able to heat it independently and do not pay “rent”. Photographers who do? Don’t expect to pay any less than a few hundred dollars per month for a small studio space. Usually it’s closer to $600-$1,000 per month (or more) for a studio.
- Marketing and advertising is all over the place and isn’t consistent per month, but it’s not uncommon to spend anywhere from $20 to $1,000 per month in advertising.
If you’re keeping track, my monthly overhead, to just pay bills to keep this business afloat is nearly $600/mo, without factoring in fluctuating advertising, miscellaneous studio expenses, stuff I carry on a wedding day to help out (tissues, breath mints, bobby pins, etc. in my apron) and more yearly costs like hosting and running my website.
Most people forget about a couple things when they’re thinking “Hey, I should be a photographer! These people RAKE in the money!”. Those little details are insurance, registering with the state as a REAL business (that costs money, y’all), and paying TAXES. As a small business owner in Oregon, my taxes take nearly half of my income. Yeah, almost HALF of what you pay me goes to taxes and possibly a smidge into a piss-poor retirement fund, if not my business expenses. A shout-out to all those hobbyist photogs charging money without registering with the state – the state and IRS could find out (and have in the past) and you could be in big, big trouble.
Stuff unique to S Photography:
I am excited to provide my brides with little treats here and there, and a wardrobe supply so you can incorporate some new outfit pieces in your photos. I’m constantly looking for new wardrobe additions (and just received some in the mail today!). Some outfits get so dirty I have to have them dry cleaned, which can get spendy.
Location scouting. The amount of time I spend location scouting and helping brides and other clients find their perfect backdrop is insane. It’s something I provide to each of my clients and I’m happy to do it! Some nights you can find me scouring campground reservations, Google Earth, and physically driving around to find new, awesome, and epic places that I think you’d love.
Just on editing, a wedding can take anywhere from 8-30 hours. It really depends on the wedding, and how long I was there for. That’s not including waiting for the images to import, export, or upload to your online gallery. That’s just culling and editing images.
Time spent with brides on top of that really differs. I love helping out brides & grooms and being their cheerleader. Can’t wait to share the dress you picked out? Text me a photo! Need help deciding whether to do a first look? Girl, I gotchu. Want to meet up because wedding planning is insane just to have drinksies? I’m already there with your favorite drink pre-ordered.
What if a piece of equipment needs repaired that insurance won’t (and usually doesn’t) cover? I just spent $65 to have one sensor in one camera body cleaned. Not fixed. Just cleaned.
Camera takes its final bow two days before a wedding? That’s another $1500.
Travel and lodging (which is normally included in my collections). I’m usually fine with staying at the cheapest non-seedy looking motel in town (usually a Motel 6), but that still varies in price depending on time of year and location.
Furthering education in the form of workshops, mentorships, and courses definitely has a cost. Y’all I’ve probably spent at least $1500 on that in the past year alone.
Bridal shows. The cost of a booth can range, but average is around $600. That’s just for the booth space. Not including the products you have to purchase to display, new business cards, brochures, and other stuff you’d see at a show. It isn’t uncommon to drop $2k on a bridal show.
Things difficult to “price”:
Experience, skill, intuition, dedication, time sacrificed with family and friends because of wedding emergencies (yeah, if you inquire at 2am and I happen to be awake, I’m going to reply).
And honestly, guys, this is just scratching the surface.
For wedding photographers, we have about half a year to make the amount needed to supply our business for the entire calendar year. And there are only so many weekends in that time frame.
Now, if you can’t afford to pay a licensed, insured, registered photographer who has sufficient equipment, that is fine. For real. We all run on a budget and totally get it. We just ask you not to degrade or insult us as “outrageous” or not “reasonable”. We’re simply trying to make a living (wishes aren’t going to fulfill my Goldfish Cracker addiction) doing something that we love and happen to be good at.
Next time you’re posting on social media looking for a photographer and have a budget in mind, say, “In search of photographer with _____ photography style. Budget is _______.” That way you won’t be wasting our time replying thinking we may be in a vague range of what “reasonable” or “affordable” might be, and we don’t waste your time by being one more photographer you have to wade through that doesn’t fit your needs.
Peace and love guys, from one person trying to make a living in this world to the next.