(Closed) Photographers: Do you really make this much?

posted 8 years ago in Photos/Videos
Post # 3
3344 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: August 2010

It costs money to run a business – having and maintaining a website, advertising, affiliations with professional organizations, business phone, office space, taxes, etc.  Photographers don’t pocket everything you pay them.  Three events per month for a wedding photog means you’re working almost every weekend.

Post # 5
3344 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: August 2010

Also, it costs money to attend bridal fairs and give out printed info/disks.

Post # 6
2765 posts
Sugar bee

Even two weddings a month is a lot!  And with all the extra post-processing people expect these days, the amount of time each wedding takes has gone up a lot…

Still, photography has some of the most lucrative margins in the wedding industry – if you can get the gigs!  Florists have to deal with low profit margins and a lot of planners are struggling with all the info available on the internet (and day-of isn’t that profitable).

So photographers have it pretty good, relatively speaking!  But you definitely have to work hard to earn that money…

Post # 7
73 posts
Worker bee

Most photographers don’t shoot weddings every month. Unless the climate is right, most regions in this country have wedding “seasons”. For example, in Boston that is usually April – October. Some people will supplement that with other photographic work, some people are too tired to be able to handle both. 

Self-employment tax + federal income tax is where most stuff is taken out! I’d say these taxes together are closer to 33% rather than 25% of all profit after operating expenses. Even if they had no expenses from your $3000 wedding they will only see $2000.

Business insurance – most professional photogs have to insure their equipment (which easily amounts to over $20,000 of professional equipment) and hold a business liability policy of at least $1M. My business insurance is more expensive than my bf’s car insurance

Office space rental, upkeep, utilities – I can’t afford to have a studio or office, but it is a dream =)

Attending workshops and business conferences – the national WPPI conference along easily eats up a pretty thousand.

Health insurance

Advertising costs – some websites charge hundreds of dollars a month to advertise.

Backup! External hard drives and discs so that no work is ever lost.

Website and blog costs – A couple hundred dollars a year, but it’s not the biggest expense.

Professional services – Fees for lawyers, CPAs, graphic designers

Prints and sample albums.

Business cards, gifts for good clients, marketing materials, supplies, etc.

Assistants – if they are second shooters, they are usually paid several hundred dollars per wedding.

Gas mileage if they waive travel for a certain radius.

Equipment repair.

Adding more memory cards, the little electronics add up too.

I made a lot more money as a management consultant than as a photographer. I just love photography more.

Post # 8
2 posts
  • Wedding: August 2007

As a professional wedding photographer, let me explain a little bit of the details.

First – You say that “Equipment costs can be written off at tax time so I don’t count those expenditures….”

Well, I’m not sure how a write off at tax time magically makes us earn more money. The write off ONLY means we don’t have to pay additional taxes on that amount of income, but it is still spent. Most photographers take advantage of these ‘write offs’ by purchasing new camera bodies (at least) or multiple new lenses every single year. Upwards of $20,000 is very possible, I spent well over that last year on new gear. Idealy we’ll only spend around 10k on our gear matainence and upgrades every year.

Now, if we manage to book 3 weddings every single month you are probably assuming we work 36 days (360 hours) a year and make 100k+, right? A wedding rarely takes less than 2 weeks to edit, dedicating a minimum of 4 hours a day to it. Downloading the cards, touchups, editing, resizing, recropping and preparing 800+ images for web AND print and then accepting orders, creating prints, designing albums and ordering them, shipping and presentation of final product, and FINALLY keeping up with the bookkeeping and records while trying to keep an up to date web presence and emailing and meeting with other potential clients!

Now, having a professional website, blogsite, or other web presence can easily cost thousands per year. If you expect us to somehow shoot 3 weddings a month and still have time to code and update our own website, you must think we’re non-human, we have to sleep too and sometimes we get a break to eat. So, we purchase templates, webhosting, and design services.

Advertising is the single most exhausting and expensive part of our business. We have an image to keep up. Most wedding fairs cost over $5000 and we can’t do only one. Most bridal magazines and online ads cost around $500 a quarter, and we can’t have just one!

Not to mention studio/office rentals. A couple thousand a month, plus utilities.

What about the product our clients receive in that $3k wedding package? Most will get some prints and an album, that costs us money too! We don’t get amazing deals on your amazing albums. If you think Walmart’s pricing is what we actually pay on our prints, you are also wrong. We pay a premium for your professional prints, and if we print them ourselves we have to purchase and maintain the equipment and well as continual purchase of the ink and paper!

So if your final thought is we work about 360 hours in a year and make 100k you’ll be shocked to realize we are the hardest working vendor at your wedding, physically and mentally, we work around 10 hours a day/7 days a week (about 10x as many hours as you assume we do, 3640 hours) and if we’re so lucky to book 36 weddings a year (more like 10-20 for the average wedding photographer) we’re only making around the average salary for the US. And we still have to cover our personal expenses with that as well as pay federal/state income tax on it.

So basically, we work really hard and don’t really get paid that much, but we do it because we LOVE IT!

Post # 9
102 posts
Blushing bee

You don’t pay a wedding photographer for their hours at doing your wedding but rather the art they produce.. -Ian

Post # 10
1232 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: May 2009

OP- I’m glad you asked this question! I really enjoyed reading the answers. I had never put much thought into exactly how much work photographers really do. It’s interesting! I definitely appreciate my photographer 20x more now ๐Ÿ™‚

Post # 11
803 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: August 2010

i love photographers.  its truely an wonderful art.  i appreciate their work, dedication, long hours, stamina and patience.  i would be willing to pay $10,000 for a great one!

Post # 13
7779 posts
Bumble Beekeeper

@ejoyb- Uh… yeah. Photographs are captured memories. We attach sentiments to them because they are memories or trigger memories. Why have photographs that mean nothing? Save yourself the $3k+.

Post # 14
62 posts
Worker bee
  • Wedding: November 2010

if you consider the costs to hire second shooters/assistants, general business costs, costs of equipment, costs of products (albums/dvds etc) and the actual time to shoot & edit, photographers & cinematographers have a fairly small net profit. they are probably the hardest working vendor during and after the wedding. i would gladly pay top dollar for an awesome photo+video team.

Post # 15
2 posts
  • Wedding: August 2007

@ejoyb I promise I am not sitting here clicking “reload” waiting for a response. Hehe, I honestly just happened to do it 6 minutes after your post!

Nice photography website templates and hosting can cost a couple hundred a year, you’re right. I was also including on my estimate my ‘print lab’ I used last year (whom I have stopped using!!!) that cost me $100 a month to host a proofing site with that my clients could order directly from. Not only did it cost me $100 a month JUST to use their “gallery” but they also charged 50% more than typical labs charge on their prints AND a huge commission on every order that was placed. So thats a couple thousand a year. BUT…

I’m also an extremely creative individual (photographers should be, right?) and I really have a hard time settling with one style for more than a few months. I like new, fresh stuff, so I’m always purchasing new templates to try or different services that might help my business.

And in response to your quetion directed at ianvillaceran, you don’t know what you’re missing out on if you don’t have a pro photographer. When I got married (before I go into the business) I thought I would cut down on the cost and hire a few friends to do our pictures. When we got the pictures back I was happy they caught the moments but they were seriously lacking. I though recently, “hey! I can fix them! I’m so incredibly amazing at photoshop now I can do anything!” but I couldn’t. I couldn’t fix them. We don’t have ANY amazing pictures from our wedding. I wish I had hired someone who could have captured how extremely nervous and happy I was that day, or how beautiful I felt. I also wished I had more pictures of my husband, I always wondered if he was nervous before the wedding, or what his face looked like as I walked down the isle. But I don’t have those memories on film, only fading in my mind.:(

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