(Closed) Why is wedding photography soooo expensive!!??

posted 9 years ago in Photos/Videos
Post # 62
362 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: August 2014

I’m a full time wedding photographer, I charge between $3-$4,000 per wedding, shoot around 30 weddings a year (on top of tons of other shoots) and I still net less than a teacher or social worker. And I don’t get health insurance, 401K, or any other benefits like paid time off, sick leave, etc.


The point is we’re not keeping all that money you’re giving us. Almost 40% of it goes straight to the government for income tax AND self-employment tax. So imagine that the photographer you’re paying $3,000 to is actually getting around $1,800 after taxes, before expenses. That’s not a ton of money when you consider how uniquely high overhead is for photographers regardless of volume – the gear still costs the same whether our calendars are packed or not. In other businesses a lot of expenses fluctuate – if it’s a slow season there is less payroll, less wear on machinery, etc.


Anyway, the point is we’re not rolling in it. I’m good with that (for now at least, because I don’t have any kids). The photographers who are rolling in it are the ones you can’t even hire because they have stopped shooting and have devoted their lives to putting on expensive photography workshops and seminars and selling books and Photoshop actions to new photographers because they’ve figured out that it’s actually very very difficult to sustain a photography business in the world we live in now and there is MUCH more of a market for selling snake oil to bright-eyed new photographers with DSLRs they got for Christmas.


The other important thing here is the cost vs. quality of service here. There will always be outliers – people who aren’t charging nearly enough but still deliver awesome work and service, and those who charge a lot and do a terrible job on one or both of those fronts. We’re just saying that BY AND LARGE you get what you pay for. That wouldn’t be a tired old cliche if there wasn’t some truth to it.


The photographers on this board who have been doing this for awhile and doing it the legal way (i.e. paying taxes and insurance) can spot pricing that is suspect because we’ve been around the block and we know the very bare minimum we can charge and still pay rent and feed our families. If I see someone charging $2,000 for 9 hours coverage, an album, an engagement shoot, and a bridal shoot, I know that photographer can’t be giving 40% of that to the government and can’t be paying $1,000+ to be insured every year because they’d actually be losing money or making less than a minimum wage fast food employee for a lot more work. They are likely pocketing all $2,000 they charge you, which is about what I would pocket charging you $3,500+ because I’m playing by the rules and paying taxes and doing what I need to do to make sure if something happens during an event I have gear/liability insurance to cover it.


So what do you care if the person you hire is paying taxes?


That’s what I would have probably said. What that tells pros here on the bee is that you’re likely hiring someone with little experience – you can get away with not declaring your business for awhile but you can’t do it for years and years without the risk of getting caught and you need to have a declared business to open things like a business bank account and to acquire liability insurance. So that also tells us they probably aren’t insured. That matters to you. If your photographer gets all their gear stolen a few weeks before your wedding and it’s not covered it’s going to be very difficult for them to replace $10,000+ in gear right on the spot. Your images may suffer, they might be borrowing lesser gear from a friend that is unfamiliar to them. What if your grandmother trips over your photographer’s light stand at the wedding and breaks her hip and they aren’t insured? The financial burden will likely fall on your grandmother. 


The inexperience can manifest in so many heartbreaking ways – they may not have gear that can handle the low light your particular wedding will have, they may have a camera die on them and not have a backup camera body, they may not have figured out a good, fool-proof backup system for images or invested the money needed to have multiple high-powered, high capacity backup harddrives and they lose some or all of your wedding images. The examples go on and on. We’ve read about ALL of them here on the board. They’re good people trying to get their footing but experienced pros know that a once in a lifetime event is a bad place to start trying to do that. Family and engagement shoots that can be re-shot? NO problem. That’s a good place to start because it’s low risk. Second shooting for free for experienced pros is another great way to learn the ropes without taking huge risks. It shouldn’t be happening at weddings though, so when we see suspect pricing the red flags go up – we’re just trying to help bees make an educated decision and, if nothing else, prepare them for what we’ve seen happen many times with these “great deals”.


For those of you tearing into P’s specific breakdown, google “why photographers charge what they do” and you’ll find dozens of photographer blog posts breaking down their specific costs and what they walk away with after it’s all said and done. It’s quite similar to hers, she’s not making it up. This one in particular is spot on:




Post # 64
362 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: August 2014

@LittleMissMagic:  Your snark is pretty incredible actually. I especially like how you rag on P’s education in a sentence where you spell crucial with a T.

Post # 65
17 posts
  • Wedding: November 2012

@mariematt:  I meant critical, not crucial. Sorry, when you’re typing quickly typos happen. As far as I know, “crucial reading” is not a thing. But yes, I admit that was a pretty hilarious typo to make.


View original reply
@PizzutiStudios:  You posted information that didn’t add up. You’re not addressing the obvious errors you made within all your posts (if it was for education purposes wouldn’t you want to correct it and set the record straight of what you actually meant?). I simply pointed them out and you got upset. If you’re upset that I said you don’t seem professional, well, you don’t. This entire thread makes you seem kind of childish and bratty.


Anyway…You seem mad. Why are you so mad


View original reply
@mariematt:  Just wanted to point out that there are some photographers that do exactly what you say (charge $2,000 for a 9+ hour session, e-pics, etc.) that post on this site.


Post # 66
979 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: December 2011

@PassionatePhotoLady:  You know, I think you’re 100% correct about customer expectations going through the roof in the last few years. What’s driving these expectations? Ironically it’s photography itself, and how it is used in marketing the entire wedding industry. Style Me Pretty, for example – photogs submit their work to gain marketing exposure on the blog, but now a generation of brides have been trained to expect Style Me Pretty-level photojournalism with accompanying focus on detail.

My mother’s generation didn’t pay thousands for wedding photographers but they also didn’t obsess over the perfect cake topper and demand an image of it for their albums, either.

Post # 67
64 posts
Worker bee
  • Wedding: July 2014

@Magdalena:  that’s very true. And Pinterest too. I have friends pinning stuff they are asking their photographers to do and it’s crazy. Move your wedding to a hill in Tuscany , up your budget to $100,000 and become a Model couple. Then hire Jose Villa and you’re all good. Excepting the same quality at noon, in a park with your normal budget wedding with normal looking people isn’t going to work. You can hire a good photographer and they will make all that look better than reality but be realistic!!

Post # 68
64 posts
Worker bee
  • Wedding: July 2014

@Magdalena:  and though its true that most of our parents didn’t have professional wedding photographers, most of them dearly wish they could have. We’ve buried a few family members lately and theres been sadness over the lack or any wedding photos. People get older and memories fail. Your wedding is the one time your whole group of family and friends are together. It really is the first chapter of your family history! I’m sure given the chance, most parents would have loved to have it. In those days, professional photography was only for well off people. 

Post # 69
274 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: November 2013

@LittleMissMagic:  +1

View original reply
@Magdalena:  +1 for a couple of your posts. A lot of good points.


I live in Southern Illinois. We have a lot of small towns. Photography rates down here are VERY different, like a lot of other things too, but we’re talking about photography so lets stay on that. I’m paying $1,000 for two photographers, 7 hours of coverage, an engagement session, and a cd with all of my images & the copyright release. I’m sure someone on the bee will comment about that very low amount, probably about how she must not be good, but it’s whatever. I know that she is. Yes, I’m getting a small discount because I booked two years ago. My photographer is young, her business just getting big, and truthfully not charging enough. You can get another professional that does SUPERB work here, that’s been doing it a while, and with all of the same perks as mine for about $2500. She was my second choice, but ended up with mine because I knew she was just a great deal, and actually a friend of mine.

Post # 70
5879 posts
Bee Keeper

@Atlanticbride:  most people don’t want to hear the truth. I think you’d be better off just quitting bothering with this and concentrate on your own clients and your business. The people who get it, get it. The people who don’t, don’t. Just do your thing


View original reply
@PizzutiStudios:  Your view point is appreciated.


Post # 71
7039 posts
Busy Beekeeper
  • Wedding: September 2010

People are pretty much never paid based on how important or “worthy” their job is, so people need to get off their high horse. If that was the case, social workers, teachers, etc etc would make more than athletes, or oil executives, or pharma sales reps. For that matter, I am a scientist that develops life saving diseases – and I make about 1/3 as much as the average sales rep for a pharma company.

People get paid what the market will bear.

Post # 72
1 posts
  • Wedding: May 2014

I’m helping out a friend with wedding planning today and this thread was at the top.  We’ve only been on the site for about 20 minutes and I have to say I’m really shocked by how rude some other brides are.

@Magdalena:  I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you’re a social worker/teacher and have a close family member in the military?  No surprise you put so much value on that… To say that a photographer doesn’t have value, or has less value in society is horrible.  That’s their contribution to your wedding day, which I assume YOU value.  Why don’t you hire a social worker to take the photos?  Maybe a soldier?  Just because you don’t appreciate what someone is doing for you, doesn’t mean they’re worth less in the world.  I’m going to shock everyone and inject a little reality to this conversation.  There are teachers that are lazy jerks, and soldiers who just want to hold a gun and get a license to kill.  Those are facts.  A job title that you happen to be associated with doesn’t make someone more than someone else.  What an absolutely horrible and toxic attitude to have.


The reason my wedding photographer likely won’t be at my friend’s wedding is because they’re bankrupt.  They were very personable and their work was beautiful.  To top it all off, they only charged $800 for a 7ish hour day, plus a disk of images, plus printing rights.  We weren’t considering at the time how the hell they expected to make any money.  At the time, I thought that was barely in my “budget”.  I whined about how I can’t afford it. I found them on craigslist, thought all wedding photographer were “overcharging”, my husband even made a comment privatly after the meeting that he wished he could get $100 an hour for “taking pictures”. Looking back, we could have gone without a few nights out, some expsneive clothes, maybe not those exact center pieces, a couple months without cable, and paid our photographer better.  At first 2 months seemed like forever to wait for our images, then 3, then 6.  We got mad, we sent emails, we called.  I won’t go into all that because what my husband and I found out later broke our hearts.

Our photographer, we still feel, is a good person.  They had good intentions and were completely transparent with us at the end.  To be able to afford to live on what we (being wedding couples/parents/etc) pay when we try to go cheap, they neededed to take on a lot of weddings, plus work another full time job during the week, plus do other photo related jobs.  Working 7 days a week, every week sounds pretty hard to me.  I know I couldn’t do it, nor would I want to try.  Anyone who says a person deserves that quality of life I feel is just unhappy with their own situation and choices.  Do you people really think a good photographer is doing nothing for weeks or months at a time?  That thought never even occured to me.

We were told how everything piled up, how they were already behind when our wedding came around, how they couldn’t afford to hire another editor to help them out.  They didn’t want to cut corners on our photos or anyone elses.  They loved photography but were obviously not the best business person and couldn’t afford to hire one to manage it.  We thought it was just excuses at first.  In the end, we and presumably all the other couples got our photos after the photographer sold off some camera equipment and personal belongings to pay their regular living expenses and materials to finish the weddings they were behind on.

I only found this out months later after some back and forth with them about how things were going, and if they thought they’d be able to handle weddings again (my friend’s).  It was so sad to hear this person who worked so hard for us, gave us photos and memories (especially the portraits with both my parents who have since passed away), has had such hardship, much of which I won’t repeat.  There are plenty of photographers who are rude, who are just out to make a buck, just like any other profession. To me good, kind people have value regardless of their profession.  Someone giving me great photos I’ll always have, has value.  Some people, they don’t want those things and that is up to them.

I just konw that I can’t help feel partly responsible for what happened, and feel even worse seeing people trash the photographers who are trying to do what they love and just try to get by. The wedding is still at least a year off and I think after seeing all the negativity here, we’re going to try and raise the money to get our photographer back. Maybe it will give them a jump start again.

Good luck to all of you brides in your search.  Money is tight for everyone, including your wedding vendors most likely.  Consider what you value and what it’s worth to you.

Photographers, I hope you’re able to be picky with your brides and I suggest turning down anyone giving you as much attitude and disrespect as is present here.  Yes some of you are snobs, some of you I’m sure are inflating your costs, your effort, and your skill (like any profession). But to the good people, I wish you the best of luck and thank you for what you provide to us.

Post # 73
4913 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: June 2014

I feel really bad for the OP.  All she did was come on here and try to explain that she’s not taking advantage of brides just for the mere sake that they’re brides.  Tons of bees here have said that you say the word “wedding” and everyone increases their price – caterers, photographers, bakers, venues, etc.  Everyone certainly feels that way, but I also think that brides also have a “this is one day in my entire life” and “this is the most important day out of my entire life” feeling and there are higher expectations and more stress on the vendors to make sure everything goes right and that they’re using the best quality.  And while I agree that some people JUST DON’T HAVE the money for it, some people do have the money, but don’t see where it goes (and there is a bee who posted on this thread that said herself that even if she had a million dollars, she wouldn’t spend $5k on a photog).  Everyone has their own priorities. 

Let’s stop attacking the OP because she came on here to be helpful, not to start trouble. 

I don’t like to see this side of the bee…

Post # 74
520 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: September 2009

@Magdalena:  Totally agree. If I had to write an article about why wedding photography is so expensive, it would be like “cause b*tches is crazy.” Just kidding, but I have read any number of stories about brides suing their photographers for the entire cost of the wedding so they could retake their photojournalistic pictures. Four years ago I was perfectly comfortable shooting weddings alone, but now I’m to the point where I feel as though the average brides expectations can’t even possibly be met by a single photographer shooting a wedding so I always partner up, which costs me more money to have a second person there and twice the amount of time culling editing and delivering twice the photos etc. just sayin 🙂 I swear, some days I get a must have list that makes me want to cry and hire a third photographer too!


Post # 76
447 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: September 2013

Putting all this BS aside….I really feel that if someone asks the opinion of a Proff Photographer then yes give it…if not and all they want to do is vent or tell their story then butt out of it as you come across as extremely self promoting and snobbish…someone telling you that its your fault for compromising with a lower cost photographer does not help…So in a nutshell: professionals trying to promote their own biz etc be quiet unless asked for your opinion!!

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