Why Wedding Photography is Expensive?

There was a craigslist post shared on Facebook that frustrated a lot of photographers, so I have to say something about this. This is not meant to offend or upset anyone, but it's a true rendition of the day to day ins and outs of running a photography business and why photography costs what it does.

The woman was upset because she thought that $3000 for a wedding photographer was "wack" because all we do "is hang out at a wedding taking tons of photos and editing them" and that we are "making so much money its crazy."

WHY is finding an amazing wedding photographer so difficult? :/

I am a Bride who is getting married this summer and have yet to find a decently priced, exceptional, amazingly talented, fun photographer.

WHY because the word "WEDDING" is involved photographers think they can change you $ 3,000.00 for wedding photos? Oh, because no bride is going to go without so they are going to pay it, because they HAVE to. They are ripping people off for all they have! Why when you want to get married it costs you AT LEAST 15 grand after all is said-and-done? Its such CRAP!! I love all you $ 3,000.00 photographers out there but i think your prices are WACK. All your doing is hanging out at a wedding taking tons of photos and editing them.. and thats owrth 3 GRAND!!! You're making so much money its crazy. I just wish people would be more realistic. I mean the "average" persons salary for 1 freaking month is somewhere around 3 grand. (Thats making 19$ an hour) So you're going to take someones WHOLE MONTH paycheck for one flippen day of photos? Just because you CAN!!?????? So that maybe they will not be able to feed themselves or pay any other bills they have, right? It makes me SICK!

I know im speaking for more than just myself right now. Alot of brides out there think the same thing. & I bet all you fancy photographers wont even read this. oh-well. Maybe there are cheaper photographers that will read this and LOVE to take my photos :).

Before I express my thoughts, I want to THANK all of my brides who appreciate my work and think that I am worth the price. This response is not meant to offend anyone. I understand many people are on a budget, especially in this economy and I understand planning a wedding is both expensive and overwhelming. I always try my best to work with my couples and offer customized and discounted packaging options for those who are on a tighter budget.

I just want to state AGAIN, that being a photographer doesn't mean that we wake up in the morning, photograph a wedding for 8 hours and then go home and our job is done. We are also SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS, which ALSO comes with the job of doing all of our own marketing, sales, accounting, scouting, art directing, managing our offices and studios, being our own webmasters, doing our own post production, designing, blogging, being students, being mentors, researching etc. etc. etc.

Dear Bride,
I am a wedding photographer in the Atlanta, GA area. I photograph only about 12 weddings a year because of the time involved in post production and preparation. Add it up and you'll see my annual income from it.

That being said, I am a small business owner, and that involves a lot of expenses:

  • I pay all of my taxes, which takes a good part of my gross income.
  • I have to pay mortgage for my small house where I converted a room into an office (which is where I would be editing your wedding images at) and the basement into my studio.
  • I have to pay a security company to monitor my house where I have all my equipment so I will not be robbed just before your wedding.
  • I also pay business insurance in case someone breaks my camera at your wedding.
  • Then I have to pay for my car and car insurance, which I would use to get me to and from your wedding.
  • You also probably found me through my website, which I pay $30/month for hosting, and another $30/ month so that you can view your photos online and share the images with your friends and family.
  • I also pay for my own Health insurance in case I were to get hurt at your wedding.
  • And I pay for a second shooter for your wedding, so that you can have more images and different angles, as to make sure you get the best images possible at your wedding.
  • I also need to have a new pair of shoes every season because my shoes get worn out and dirty from season to season.
  • I need high speed internet so I can upload all of your images online, my cell phone for my business so I can communicate with you.
  • Oh yes, and I also pay a lawyer to make sure my contracts are iron clad and an accountant to make sure that I am paying all of the taxes I need.
  • Sometimes I attend workshops and seminars to teach me how to better my business, and make my client happier (that would be you), as well as keep up on the trends and learn new techniques so that I can make sure you have the best quality images available.
  • I spend a lot of time and money on buying and reading photography books. Learning new tricks and trends so I can take be best photographs at your wedding.

All these spendings would technically will not leave me much money to feed myself, buy groceries, pay for my heat and electricity, cloth myself etc... BUT, usually I end up re-investing whatever I have left on upgrades and new professional equipment so that I can make sure you have the highest quality images:

  • I have 2 Canon Professional cameras (because you always need a backup in case of a camera malfunction which would ruin your big days photographs)
  • I also have quality lenses which can capture your special moments in low light situations.
  • And I have speed lights to catch the fun moments at your reception.
  • Also multiple battery back ups and memory cards, lens filters, light stands, umbrellas, light boxes, external battery packs and a bag to carry everything in.
  • Because this is equipment, sometimes I need to have it serviced or cleaned to make sure it is all working properly.

After spending 8-10 hours at your wedding, I then come home to my home office and spend about 30-80 hours editing your images, making backups, creating your album, posting pictures on facebook, ordering you prints and burning your DVD's

  • Also we use high performance computers with 30" IPS color calibrated monitors to achieve the most accurate colors on your prints. We also invested thousands of dollars in post processing software.
  • And I also back up all of my photographs 2 times on site and one time offsite so if there was ever a fire in my office, you would never lose your photographs.
  • I also have office expenses as far as buying paper, staples, envelopes, packaging, filing cabinets and files, etc. etc. etc.
  • I also spend time and money ordering your prints and albums, paying for shipping, going to the post office etc.

All of that being said, I'm usually in the hole at the end of the year, and take some family portraits jobs in order to make ends meet.

Photography is my passion and my livlihood, and it is also EXPENSIVE.

Yes, it seems like a lot of money for one day, but one day isn't all we spend on your photographs or on our business. You will spend thousands of dollars on a wedding dress or flowers or a venue or on catering which you are going to have for only ONE DAY, but your photographs will be the only thing you have to remember that ONE DAY for the rest of your lives.

I hope this sheds a little light on why we charge around $3000 for one day of your memories which are going to last you forever.

This is a response from another wedding photographer about the craigslist post:

I am replying to help educate you and answer some of your questions about the costs associated with wedding photography and how things may not be how they may appear to you.

Q: WHY is finding an amazing wedding photographer so difficult?

A: Simply put... Because you are searching through a sea of photographers with little experience based what you are willing to pay. Experience is everything in photographing weddings, and you will pay for the experience of each photographer accordingly. Newer photographers are still learning, and while you might find a diamond in the rough, most of your lower priced photographers will not provide the same quality of work as someone who has been in business for many years and educated themselves to perfect their craft. The simple answer is that you get what you pay for, as with most everything.

Q: WHY because the word "WEDDING" is involved photographers think they can change you $ 3,000.00 for wedding photos? Oh, because no bride is going to go without so they are going to pay it, because they HAVE to. They are ripping people off for all they have! Why when you want to get married it costs you AT LEAST 15 grand after all is said-and-done? Its such CRAP!!

A: Your budget is up to you... you can choose to spend money on linens, chair covers, a fancy dress, etc or you can skimp on those things and have amazing photos from your day. A wedding does NOT have to cost $15K, you could choose to elope if you have such an issue with spending that much money.

Q: I love all you $ 3,000.00 photographers out there but i think your prices are WACK. All your doing is hanging out at a wedding taking tons of photos and editing them.. and thats owrth 3 GRAND!!! You're making so much money its crazy. I just wish people would be more realistic. I mean the "average" persons salary for 1 freaking month is somewhere around 3 grand. (Thats making 19$ an hour) So you're going to take someones WHOLE MONTH paycheck for one flippen day of photos? Just because you CAN!!?????? So that maybe they will not be able to feed themselves or pay any other bills they have, right? It makes me SICK!

A: Photographers charge what they charge based on their costs associated with doing business. Just like any business photographers work to earn a living and to help feed their families. There are FAR more costs associated than you are even beginning to think about. Here's a likely scenario of cost and REAL time involved for the $3K photographer...

The average professional DSLR costs about $3,000. Education to learn how to be a good photographer costs at least that, more often than not MUCH MUCH more. If the photographer has a studio there are those costs, which can be anything from $750 – thousands of $$ per month. There are repair bills for cameras, lenses, flashes and equipment that is used for your wedding. There is second shooter costs of $30-$75/hour. There is gas costs and travel time of often upwards of an hour in each direction to a venue. There are hours spent the morning of a wedding charging batteries, cleaning gear, and getting everything packed and ready to go. There is an average of 8 – 12 hours of shooting time on a wedding day. There is liability insurance that many venues require, and equipment insurance to cover gear that might get dropped or stolen, insurance costs roughly $1,200/year. There are professional licensing costs, and local business license costs to be legal and legit. There are marketing costs associated with websites, blogs, any listings on wedding websites, or print ads, etc. Marketing is often in the thousands of $$'s each year.

Client communication (emails/phone calls, etc) can be into the dozens of hours in the year or so before the wedding, and continues after the wedding. Editing of an average wedding takes anywhere from 15-40 hours of time after your wedding day. Add in the costs of computers, external hard drives for backing up your images, and photoshop to edit your images. ONE computer with the latest version of photoshop and all of the needed peripherals will run you anywhere from $1,500 – $4,000. If your photographer is creating any slideshows for you or burning discs, there is more time. On average our studio spends between 50-100 hours per wedding to complete the job NOT including the actual day of shooting. And let's not even get started on income and self employment taxes which take a substancial chunk, and the fact that most photographers don't have health insurance, etc. The list goes on and on... but THIS is why quality photography is expensive. What your photographer actually sees in their bank account after the wedding is probably less than 1/6 of what you pay to them for the service after all is said and done.

For our studio there is even more time and cost involved. Both my husband and I shoot weddings together. So that is TWO people's time involved for your wedding day. With two shooters there is even more editing time involved because there are two people photographing, which also means twice the editing time as well. Let's not forget two photographers also means twice the cameras, lenses, flashes, etc. And any true professional will always carry duplicate back up gear which is another huge expense. We also have to hire and pay a babysitter for our children on wedding days which runs at least $100-$150 for a 10 hour day of being gone from home. Obviously not all photographers have children, but many do, and this is a business associated cost.

While I am not going to add up the numbers and costs involved, you can see the costs of running a business are VERY high. The above costs/time involved is not even a complete list, but gives you a good idea of a starting point for the average full time photographer. Time is money... for you to say that all photographers do is "hanging out at a wedding taking tons of photos and editing them" is an insult and completely disrespectful to our profession. You really have NO idea what all goes into the business, what it takes to even keep a business alive for the long haul, to thrive and to even begin to make a living in our industry. It's people like you who have NO appreciation for the art of photography and the real heart behind what we do that have brought the industry to where it is today. While it may look easy to just click a button and sit behind a computer and edit, there is FAR more involved than that. Most photographers are barely making minimum wage. The life may sound glamorous and like we are rolling in dough, but truly, we struggle just like everyone else. Even more so because we don't have a guaranteed paycheck to turn to every week, we have to WORK for it, and save for months when we might have NO weddings to count on to feed our families.

I know im speaking for more than just myself right now. Alot of brides out there think the same thing. & I bet all you fancy photographers wont even read this. oh-well.

Maybe there are cheaper photographers that will read this and LOVE to take my photos.

I know I am speaking for more than just myself right now, I can guarantee you that ALL of the photographers that I know and associate with have the same feelings about your post. If you cannot afford $15K for a wedding or whatever your budget is, then have another type of wedding, or elope and have none at all. If you cannot feed yourself and pay your bills because of a wedding, perhaps you have your priorities out of order. No one is writing checks for you on your behalf and spending your money, only you can choose what you spend it on. Some people can only afford the Hyundai, some can afford the Mercedes. Comparing a "cheap photographer" to a "fancy photographer" is like comparing apples to oranges... There is NO comparison. Each bride makes a choice in what portion of her wedding budget she wants to put towards photography. The photos are truly all you have left from your wedding day... Many brides on a budget choose to cut back on other things in their wedding to have the photographer of their dreams. If you can only afford a few hundred dollars, then find the best photographer that you can find for the money, but it isn't fair of you to bash the higher priced photographers for their prices. That would be like walking into the Mercedes dealer and calling them "wack" because you could only afford a Hyundai... the logic just doesn't make any sense. The classier thing to do is to continue looking for the photographer that suits your budget and leave those of us that charge more alone. People pay our prices, so obviously they feel okay with what we charge.

For what it is worth, our studio rate for a six hour day start at $4,000 and tops out in the $10,000 range for full day unlimited coverage on the wedding day. I feel we are worth EVERY penny that our clients spend. We POUR our heart and souls into our business and our client relationships every day and sacrifice our weekends with our families to capture priceless memories for our clients. We work harder than we have ever worked at any "regular" job, and yet we struggle every day at the same time to overcome the disrespect of people like you who put no value in something that you will have for the rest of your life to remember one of the most special days of your life. I'm guessing even the "cheaper photographers" will have no desire to respond to your insult filled ad for services, as it's pretty obvious you would never appreciate the effort and work they put into your wedding day and the months before and after being of service to you. Best of luck finding the right photographer for you. I hope you have read this with an open mind and gain some respect and insight into the industry that you so publicly bashed.