Every year 2.5 million couples tie the knot in the United States alone. At an average price of $35,000 for each wedding, it’s not hard to see why the wedding industry is huge.
Despite this extravagant spending, wedding planners and supply vendors are still experiencing a downturn. With Pinterest and a myriad of DIY tutorials available online, couples are choosing to do lots of the wedding preparations on their own to save some cash.
One part of a wedding that couples can’t do without help though? Photograph the day.
No matter how much the trends turn toward DIY weddings, wedding photographers will still be in demand. After putting in all of the work of planning and decorating, couples want to be able to enjoy their wedding day. Plus, they want to have their hard work commemorated for years to come.
Subscribe to our weekly 10 point newsletter. It's short and damn good - we promise!
Research shows that some of the do-it-yourself budget wedding trend is actually because couples want to spend their money on quality photography. They want perfect pictures framed in their home for years to come. They don’t want to regret not catching their favorite moments of the day on film.
So, how do you as a wedding photographer monetize this desire for perfect wedding pictures? By offering the most value and the most enjoyable service experience available.
No matter your experience level, follow our killer guide to set your wedding photography prices, and you’ll be on your way to living your dream life making a living with your photography.
Wedding Photography – Defining The Price Basics
In a typical wedding budget, 12 percent of the total is allocated for photography. For most weddings in the United States, this ends up somewhere between $1,200 and $3,000 per wedding. The mean falls around $2,000, though final totals can range anywhere between $500 and $5,000.
Keep in mind this only includes the photography services for the wedding day. It does not cover any extra shoots you do with the couple. It also doesn’t incorporate the upgrades or bonus elements they ask you to take on. Don’t be afraid to charge extra for extra work.
The easiest way to get a rough idea of where to start setting your prices is to look at your competition in the area. See what they’re charging. Look at their specials. Find where they’re adding value.
“If you’re a true warrior, competition doesn’t scare you. It makes you better.” – Andrew Whitworth
For many beginners, their first instinct is to see this number and charge slightly less. That’s not setting you up for success. People are often turned off by service providers they feel are “budget” or “lower value.”
Instead of lowering your prices, focus on adding value. Ask yourself what you can do with the experience and resources you have. You bring a unique set of skills and perspectives to the table. Charge what you’re worth.
Most people hire a wedding photographer close to a year before their wedding day, eleven months to be specific. This becomes a long-term working relationship. How well you get along and how enjoyable you are to work with matters more to your clients than how many years of photography education you have.
It’s easy to feel as if you are not good enough to charge high prices. Maybe you haven’t been shooting for very long. Perhaps you don’t have the newest, best camera. Imposter syndrome is a real feeling.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that you are a service provider whose offerings go way beyond the photographs they take. You are the one that notices and creates space for special moments that others might overlook. You catch the unbuttoned button on the groom’s shirt. You are the set of eyes that helps to ensure the visual aspects of the day remain perfect.
Remember, you can create a positive, value-filled experience that matches the requirements of your clients, even with a small portfolio. As we’ll cover later, little touches and extras that you offer go a long way in adding value for your clients.
Understanding Your Costs
Before you can accurately set your prices, it’s imperative that you understand what your services cost you to perform. Even the smallest photography business has overhead and costs that need to be covered.
Cameras and lenses must be purchased and well-maintained. They might need to be repaired or updated. The settings might require some tweaking. Just because you have the camera doesn’t mean that you don’t have to spend more money on it. Plus, who doesn’t want a budget for new lenses?
Similarly, your photography accessories experience a lot of wear and tear. Your tripods and light reflectors will see lots of use while you shoot a wedding. These will need to be replaced and maintained to prevent a disastrous situation.
Your photography gear isn’t all that matters for your business. You need a vehicle that can get you to the location with all of your equipment safely. This costs money to fill with fuel and maintain with oil changes and tires. Sometimes you’ll also have to pay for parking at the wedding venue.
Pictures can’t be edited or shared without a working, modern computer. You need a massive hard drive and expensive editing software. You’ll have to find a website host and digital storage space to share with your clients.
Business insurance is vital to cover you if something were to happen to one of your cameras or clients. If someone trips over your tripod, you’ll be responsible for both their injuries and the replacement of the, most likely, broken camera. Insurance would help shoulder some of the costs if that were to happen.
As a professional, continuing education is essential. Maybe you’ll be shooting the wedding party under the stars, but have never taken pictures like that. Perhaps they’ve asked you to include a technique you’ve never even heard of. Instead of turning down the job, use it as an opportunity to learn and grow. When you do, factor the price of an e-book or online course into your business overhead.
General business expenses are often overlooked. Stamps to mail a thank you note to the client. High-speed internet to speed up the uploading times. Your phone to find the location, post teasers to social media, and communicate with clients. Try to predict everything you’ll need and work them into your budget instead of scrambling to afford them later.
These costs add up quickly. Make a list of them all and find the grand total of expenses for the year. Divide this by the number of weddings you plan to shoot. This will help you to know what you must charge not to lose money on the event.
Considering Your Time
Your time is valuable, and you deserve to be paid for the time that you put into the entire wedding photos process. You’ll spend much more time on the wedding than the 6 or 7 hours actively shooting the couple on their big day.
Consider all of these time investments you make for one wedding:
Planning and organizing
Your relationship with the bride and groom probably began with an interest phone call. Then an in-person meeting to go over their budget, needs, and desires. You probably took the time to scroll through their Pinterest page and create one of your own to share with them. You gathered your portfolio and traveled to meet them.
After the meeting, you took the time to organize your notes. You wrote down everything to be sure not to miss a thing during their wedding day. All of the logistics and schedules must be made and verified, so you can correctly define your wedding photography pricing.
“I’d imagine my wedding as a fairy tale… huge, beautiful and white.” – Paris Hilton
If they requested a second shooter, you found one, hired them, and took the time to train them on how to help. You figured out how to pay them and make sure they had all of the cameras and equipment ready for the big day.
Maybe their wedding required extra lenses for you to rent or lights for you to borrow. All of these little things turn into a significant investment of time and affect the final wedding photography prices.
The wedding day
Maybe their venue is an hour and a half away from your house. That’s an extra three hours of your time invested in the wedding, both there and back.
While at the wedding, you’ll probably use all of the equipment you brought. At the end of the evening, gathering your things and loading your car will take – you guessed it – even more time.
After the wedding, even more of work happens. With it comes an even more significant time requirement. You still have to sort, edit, share, and publish all of the images.
Quality editing takes hours of tweaking and then doing more. Great photographers do whatever it takes to make their pictures perfectly capture the day.
Once the pictures are edited, it takes even more time to upload them to a gallery site to give the clients access. If you choose to send them on a USB or DVD, you have to find a time to meet the customer or package it for the mail.
Finally, when all of that is complete, you still have to send the final invoice and receive payment. Plus, pay your second shooter and return any equipment you rented or borrowed.
There is no such thing as quickly providing quality photos for a wedding!
Accounting for the Extras
As we shared earlier, the extras you provide your clients will help you stand apart from your competition. Weddings are stressful and expensive, so your customers will be more excited to work with you if they feel they’re getting the most bang for their buck.
Adding in extra items or bundle options is a great way to add value. Even though you may market these as free or discounted, you should still account for them in your pricing structure.
Common extras for wedding photographers include a printed album or memory book of the best pictures, a pretty USB drive with all of the shots, or one photo printed and framed. Though not the most expensive of gifts, it will help your clients recognize your efforts and attention to detail.
Options to add on other photo shoots at a discounted rate is another way to add value. You have already invested a significant amount of time in learning these clients, their preferences, and personalities. For you, another shoot with them will include fewer setup costs and less time upfront.
Ideas for other photo shoots to bundle include engagement pictures, bridal portraits, a boudoir session as a gift from the bride to the groom, or a trash the dress session once the wedding is over. These additional sessions create even more ways for the couple to celebrate and have printed memories of this special time in their lives and relationship and increase your wedding photography pricing.
As with everything else, be sure that you’ve got these costs included in the quote you give your client.
Are You Ready to Put It All Together in Defining Your Wedding Photography Prices?
After considering all of the elements above, you’re better equipped to create your wedding photography prices. Here’s how:
- Go section by section and add up all of the time you’ll need and multiply that by your hourly rate.
- Factor in your costs of doing business.
- Add in the extras your clients asked for.
- Finally, add on a buffer for any unexpected time or materials and whatever profit you would like to make.
Now you have the exact price you should charge for the wedding. No more pulling numbers out of thin air. No more just charging less than your competition so clients will choose to work with you. No more second guessing the wedding photography prices listed on your website.
You know what your time costs and how much you’ll be using. You understand the value you’re passing along to your clients. You’re no longer surprised by how expensive your business is to run.
You’re ready to start feeling confident when pitching your services to clients. So, what are you waiting for? Go and book your next perfectly-priced wedding today.