- 9 years ago
- 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: