Aspiring wedding photographers alert! Dreaming of all the stunning weddings, you’ll shoot when your photography business is thriving? Turn that dream into reality by preparing for any potential wedding photography cost. Start charging what you’re worth to prospective clients while covering all your expenses!
So you want to start a wedding photography business, but you’re not sure what to charge. You see photographers in your area charging anywhere between $500-$12000 for their services. Where do you fit in? Before we go any further, lets put together a thorough list of expenses so we can calculate your wedding photography cost.
Your expenses fall into two major categories: photography gear and business costs. Experienced photographers can have extensive gear lists with backup camera bodies, a dozen different lenses, flashes, reflectors, diffusers, memory cars, spare batteries, a quality camera bag and more. You might have less gear than veteran photographers but every piece should be accounted for in your wedding photography cost.
Business costs involve fees to photograph in specific locations, photography insurance, and a license to run a business in your municipality. You’ll also want to calculate the cost of photo editing software, online client galleries, and hard drive storage to backup your photos. You need to advertise your work to the world, so remember to include the cost of running a website. You might want to add the value of your computer, as you’re sure to wear it down. Don’t forget to include the cost of car insurance and car maintenance. Calculate the price of gasoline to get to weddings, client meetings and scouting new photography locations.
Business expenses are not the only thing you need to pay for in your business. Every minute you work at a wedding or consult a client needs to be accounted for. You need to pay yourself! If you would have to hire another person to complete these business tasks, then you should pay yourself for doing those things too. Otherwise, you’re not accounting for every wedding photography cost associated with running a business. So add up all the time spend preparing with your client, photographing their big day and editing their photos!
When accounting for your time, it is a good idea to also think about time spent educating yourself. This includes taking photography classes at your local college or spending your evenings off scouring Pinterest for inspiration. You need to pay yourself for this time investment into your business. No wedding photography cost calculation is complete without time invested. So what should you charge for your time?
At the very minimum, you should pay yourself minimum wage for time spent shooting, editing, advertising and researching photography. But you didn’t start your own business to only earn minimum wage. Give yourself a bump in hourly pay because you deserve it with all the extra responsibility! In Alberta Canada, a second shooter will charge $20-35 per hour to shoot for an established wedding photographer. However, the average wedding photographer wage in your area might differ. This is where you’ll have to do some research into competitor pricing (more on that shortly).
Basic Wedding Photography Cost Calculation
Now that you have an idea of your expenses and the amount of time you spend on weddings, it’s time for a basic calculation to determine your wedding photography cost. Let’s say that you’re an absolute beginner wedding photographer with one camera body, 2-3 lenses, one camera flash, three memory cards, two spare batteries, and a battery charger. The cost of this gear varies depending on whether you bought it new or used, and whether you bought the top of the line gear or older model gear. This gear can cost you anywhere between $2000-8000.
Next, we need to figure out how many weddings you realistically expect to shoot in your first year. Are you a marketing whiz who’s excellent at advertising and you already have 20 weddings booked for the year, or are you not sure how to get the word out about your business and you’re figuring it out as you go along? In that case, you might only book 5-8 weddings in your first year.
With a booking estimate in mind, you can now divide your total cost spent on your gear by the number of weddings you expect to shoot. With five weddings booked and $2000 spent on equipment, your base charge is $400, but with five booked weddings and $8000 spent on gear, your base charge would be $1600. This is assuming you want to pay off all your gear cost in one year. But this is only a start because we also have to account for time.
For one wedding you might spend 24-48 hours answering questions, scouting locations, researching poses, traveling, photographing, and editing photos. This number could be higher if you’re not efficient when editing photos. Let’s say the average time spent per wedding is 36 hours and you’ve decided to pay yourself $20/hour. You now have to add $720 to the cost of your wedding services. Your wedding photography cost just jumped from your base charge of $400 up to $1120. If you have the most expensive gear, it jumped from $1600 up to $2320.
Finally add up the other business expenses mentioned earlier in this article (insurance, licenses etc). Divide that cost by the number of weddings per year and add that to your wedding package price.
Before advertising your wedding photography costs, you should research what other wedding photographers in your area charge for their services. The average wedding photographer in San Francisco might charge $3900 whereas the average wedding photographer in Salt Lake City might charge $2200. The market will dictate pricing, so see what wedding photographers charge where you live.
You will also have to consider what services the photographers in your area provide. Two photographers in your area might both charge $2500. One might only take photos on the wedding day whereas the other photographer might also provide an engagement session and a wedding album. You will ultimately have to decide which services you are willing to provide and factor those into your wedding photography cost.
Your pricing VS competitor pricing
Now that you know how much your competitors charge, your wedding photography cost might change slightly. If you’re brand new to the field and your wedding photography prices are the same as your competitor who has been in business for 10 years AND you both provide the same services then you might have to adjust your expectations. Rather than paying off all your wedding photography gear in the first year, you may have to recover the cost of that gear over a year and a half worth of weddings instead.
Engaged couples will be nervous to be spending so much money on photography services for a single day, on top their other wedding expenses. So if they have to choose between you and your highly experienced competitor who charges the same amount, they will most likely choose your competitor who has a proven track record. You might have to choose to discount your photography services in the first year of service until you have enough weddings in your portfolio to justify the higher wedding photography cost.
How much should a wedding photographer charge for a wedding?
As you can see there are so many different factors into what a wedding photographer should charge for their services. I can’t tell you what you should charge, but at least now you have some guidelines for how to price yourself for success. At the very minimum, you need to cover all your expenses when determining your wedding photography cost. Remember, you deserve to earn enough to make a decent living AND save for retirement.
Don’t be intimidated with pricing though. You can always adjust your price as you go along. If you discover you’ve been undercharging than you can increase your prices for the next wedding. Regardless of what you charge for your services, make sure you go above and beyond their expectations to deliver the best service possible! This is how you get your clients to recommend you to their friends and family: word of mouth is the best form of advertising.