Time and time again I hear people (clients and photographers) question and sometimes complain about how much a photographer charges for a wedding. This post is going to be written to both photographers and people looking for photographers for their wedding. What I would like to do is break down the cost of a wedding photographer so you have a better understanding of why photographers charge what they do, or why you should not charge $100 to shoot someones wedding. As an example we will set up a wedding “package” and hopefully come out with a good price at the end. Keep in mind, I will be quoting the low end of what should be charged. Some may charge $25,000 to shoot a wedding but I want to give people an example of what would be bare bones profitable.

Lets say our package includes:

8 hours of coverage
200 photos
2nd photographer
Engagement shoot (2 hours)
Online gallery

Equipment

As you know, photographers can spend tens of thousands of dollars on equipment. This is one of the most expensive aspects of being a photographer. I gauge equipment pricing off of rental pricing. For uncle bob to rent the equipment so he can shoot your wedding he will be looking at about $60 per thousand dollars of equipment (this is for a 3 day minimum). Because you need to be compensated for your equipment cost I generally say $20 per thousand dollars of equipment. This means:

5k worth of gear = $100
25k worth of gear = $500
100k worth of gear= $2,000
you get the point

When shooting a wedding, you really want to keep a careful eye on equipment. You dont want to bring so much you are dragging around a trailer, but you dont want to be under prepared for any situation. This means that charging for equipment vary with equipment used.

For this wedding lets say you are bringing 15k worth of equipment. This is a pretty standard number for wedding photographers. This includes second photographers equipment.

Package charge: $300
(this means you could pay your equipment off in 50 weddings)

Expense for Experience

This one is a bit more difficult to put a price on. You cant really put a dollar sign on blood, sweat, tears and the years that it takes a professional to become a professional. Being a photographer is much like being a consultant. You are paid to use all of your training and experience to influence the outcome of a situation. It is your experience that affects the final product more than anything else. You can give uncle bob a $10,000 camera and $1,000 editing program and his photos might be high res and saturated but they would look nothing like professional shots. Uncle Bob wouldnt have the gear experience or lighting experience. He might get a good shot or two due to a natural eye, but the final product would be nothing near professional. According to Forbes magazine, an entry-level consultant makes around $175 an hour. That’s entry level. The average hourly rate of a professional photographer in the USA is $150 an hour.

Why $150 and not $20 like any given generic job?

I used to think that photographers charged WAY too much. I mean, you are only taking photos and editing them right? Wrong. You are not only in charge of equipment, creativity and making the family look like models. You are in charge of documenting one of the most important days of someones life. Not only documenting, but using your knowledge to capture those moments they will want to look at in 60 years. When you reach 60, the $2,000 you spent on a photographer will mean nothing but the lovely photo of you in your dress or you dancing with the bride will be worth more to you than any price. The way I see it, the old you will want a better photographer and the old you would kick the young you in the butt for getting the guy who captures the back of your head every time.

On a side note, while the photographer may charge $150 an hour, they dont have the 9-5 luxury of working for your local corporation. Wedding and freelance photographers have to work for their clients and may get 5 or 0 a month. For this, lets say you are charging $100 an hour.

Package charge: $800

Processing

This is a little different dog all together. I tend to lean towards charging for amount of photos given to client but some photographers prefer to charge an hourly rate for processing. Either way works ok but the outcome is sometimes different. Editing photos generally takes from 10-30 hours for 200 photos (average of 3-10 minutes per photo). Even if you were to charge minimum hourly wage, editing would cost $80-$240. I believe that editing is just as important as shooting so lean towards charging at least $20 an hour. I would say a low estimate for 200 photos would be $500. This would mean that you are charging about $25 an hour.

Package Price: $500

Second Shooter:

Generally, in this profession, a second shooter is not as skilled as the main photographer and is paid a lower hourly rate. Generally the main photographer is the one in charge of the processing so only an hourly rate applies here. It still takes skill and expertise to shoot a camera correctly so I would say that a good hourly rate for a second shooter would be $50. This, again, is a low estimate. Some people want to charge less but I think that is a disservice to the second shooter. They still have the pressure to capture the candid moments and produce a professional result. Anything below $50 is cheap.

Package charge: $400

Engagement Shoot:

I actually prefer to do “free” engagement shoots. I would say always ask for an engagement shoot because it gives you the chance to work with the couple before the wedding day. It’s during this shoot that you develop relationship and it can help you be more prepared for the wedding day. In the interest of pricing. We would apply all of the same details above (equipment, hourly rate and processing).

Package charge: $300

Online Gallery:
You can set up any variety of online galleries. I think the price of this is almost negligible and can be considered processing but for the sake of example, lets give a price. It still takes time, energy, money and equipment to offer this service to clients.

Package charge: $25

Total package charge: $2,300

Now, to many, $2,300 may seem like a ton of money. Remember that this estimate is intended to give an example of what it looks like to be adequately compensated. If you dream of paying off your equipment, being paid for your time and actually having a profitable photography business, you need to charge. Think about it, if you charge $1000 and have average 2 weddings a month, you would make just $24,000 a year. When you are talking about maintaining and buying a $10,000 camera (and the tens of thousands of dollars in other equipment), you will eventually go into debt trying to be a photographer. If you are one who is charging less than this, I would encourage you to rethink your package prices. Anyway, I will post some more of my thoughts on this subject later on but until then, I encourage you to comment on what you think below!

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