What Is The Average Cost of Wedding Photography?

whats the average cost of wedding photographer

The Truth Behind Wedding Photography Prices

When searching for a wedding photographer for your big day, you may come across average costs that seem shockingly high. You might wonder why they charge so much. The truth is that running a photography business is both costly and time-intensive. But that’s not the whole story.

The Real Cost of Wedding Photography

At first glance, wedding photography might seem unreasonably expensive. It’s easy to think it’s just about eight hours spent shooting your wedding. But wedding photography is much more than just snapping beautiful photos. It involves substantial time and effort both before and after the wedding day. Plus, photography is an expensive, seasonal business.

When setting their prices, wedding photographers must consider their business costs, hours worked, and profit margins. Let’s examine the real reasons behind wedding photography prices.

The Cost of Running a Wedding Photography Business

Starting and maintaining a wedding photography business is expensive. The fees you pay must cover numerous operating expenses. Quality cameras cost thousands of dollars, and your photographer will have at least one backup camera to ensure everything runs smoothly on your big day. Equipment like memory cards, lenses, filters, external flashes, backdrops, stands, strobes, and tripods also add up. Moreover, maintaining, repairing, and occasionally replacing this equipment is costly.

Beyond their initial photography equipment, photographers face additional expenses, including:

  • Accounting
  • Bookkeeping
  • Legal fees (business licenses, permit renewal, LLC renewal, etc)
  • Business liability insurance
  • Equipment insurance
  • Annual gear budget
  • External hard drive costs
  • Desktop/laptop replacement budget
  • Prop replacement budget
  • Lighting replacement budget
  • Off-camera flash replacement budget
  • Battery replacement/backups
  • Memory card replacement
  • Misc (camera bags, misc gear)
  • Photography training/mentors/coaches/courses
  • Website design and updates
  • Printed marketing materials
  • Google ads
  • Listing sites
  • Editing software
  • Album design software
  • Actions / presets
  • Website Hosting
  • Domain renewal
  • CRM software
  • Gallery software
  • Email software
  • Camera cleaning
  • Camera servicing and tuning
  • Cloud storage
  • Computer data backup
  • Accounting software
  • Misc office supplies
  • Carrying cases
  • Props
  • Travel costs
  • Taxes (including self-employment tax)
  • Studio or office space

Your wedding photographer must charge enough to cover these expenses. Otherwise, they’re essentially paying to shoot your wedding. And if their pricing doesn’t allow for a profit on top of business costs, the photographer is working for free. No one works for free, and photographers shouldn’t be expected to do so either.

The Hidden Hours Behind the Scenes

On average, a wedding photographer may shoot for about eight hours on the wedding day. But their work doesn’t start or end there. Typically, one hour of shooting equals about 12 hours of hidden work to allocate for running a photography business. This isn’t just culling, editing, and delivering the shoot to the client. It’s marketing, website, SEO, blogging, networking, social media, client service, responding to inquiries, data management, invoicing, scheduling, accounting, computer and gear maintenance, traveling to and from the shoots, researching locations, purchasing, education, and more.

Therefore, you’re not just paying for the time spent photographing your wedding. You’re compensating the photographer for the extensive pre- and post-production work that ensures a smooth shoot and beautiful final photos. Each of these hours represents time away from family, friends, and personal hobbies.

Understanding Wedding Photographer Costs

Wedding photographers don’t set their prices to take advantage of soon-to-be-married couples. Their pricing decisions are based on their expenses, hours worked, and profit margins. Like everyone else, photographers need to earn a living. Their prices must allow them to afford housing, feed their families, and keep the lights on. In the seasonal and expensive wedding photography business, unprofitable prices won’t provide a livable income.

We calculated that for a photographer to take home $15 per hour, their packages should start at $2,500. This should be the baseline for a beginner wedding photographer, which is still low considering the day’s importance and the years spent honing their skills.

For a photographer with a few years of experience, you should expect to pay between $5,000 and $7,000. Mid-level photographers typically charge between $7,000 and $15,000, while high-end wedding photographers can cost well over $15,000. Finally, luxury wedding photographers can cost from $40,000 to well over $100,000 for a full team.

Brides – Beware of The Knot and Wedding Wire: Misleading Brides and Exploiting Photographers

It’s outrageous that companies like The Knot and Wedding Wire not only mislead brides with unprofitable photography prices but also exploit photographers. These prices are not sustainable and are below minimum wage once costs and time are considered.. This causes so much confusion with brides seeing these lowball photography costs that are unrealistic for running a sustainable business. This deceptive practice harms both brides and photographers, creating unrealistic expectations and financial strain. Photographers end up paying significant sums to be featured on these platforms, only to find themselves unable to meet the costs of doing business from their inaccurate data misleading brides!

Beware of Cheap Wedding Photographers

If a wedding photographer charges less than the baseline (or even what those companies say is the average cost of wedding photography, it’s likely they are not running their business professionally. Anyone can grab a camera, attend a few styled shoots, and claim to be a photographer. However, we often see the downside of this—posts in photography groups about failing cameras, dying computers without backups, or clients unhappy with their images. Imagine your wedding day memories ruined or lost forever due to inexperience and poor business practices.

Investing in Your Wedding Memories

If you want gorgeous images of your wedding day, be prepared to invest more than you might expect. Your wedding photographer dedicates their time and talent to provide a priceless service: preserving your special day with stunning, lasting images. They deserve to make a solid living and set prices that allow them to do so. While those prices may seem high initially, understand that your talented photographer is charging what they need to survive and thrive.

Remember, wedding photography is much more than taking beautiful photos. The time and effort involved before and after the wedding day, along with the high costs of running a photography business, justify the investment. Memories of your wedding day will last a lifetime and for future generations.

Wedding Photographers are worth every penny.

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