Earlier today my friend and fellow photographer posted a link to a craigslist ad from a woman in Seattle looking for a wedding photographer.
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.”
I first read this post earlier today while I was running errands and my head almost EXPLODED. I immediately started drafting a horribly mean and punishing response in my head, BUT by the time I got home, I realized that this is probably a common misconception and that maybe I should try to EXPLAIN why photographers charge what we / they do for our / their work.
Before I post my response, 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. Those of us who are lucky enough to be able to support ourselves as full time photographers don’t just work as photographers. 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.
Sorry for the novel! Here was my response:
I am a wedding photographer in the Erie, PA area. Wedding season only
last about 4 months here, so I photograph an average of 20 weddings
per year for an average of $2500 / wedding. (which totals about
$50,000 / year).
- That being said, I am a small business owner, so I pay all of my
taxes, totaling about $15,000 / year which leaves me with a gross
income of around $35,000
- Of that $35,000 I pay $600/month in rent for my small house and
garage which I converted into my studio (which is where I would be
editing your wedding images at) $35,000 – $7,200 = 27,800.
- Then I have my car, which I would use to get me to and from your
wedding, which I pay $400/month for the lease, Plus $200/month in car
insurance = $7,200 = $20,600.
- To get to your (and my other brides) wedding consultation,
second wedding pre-consultation, the wedding itself, and to and from
the printers I need gas money = $840/year = $19,760
- I also have insurance in case you sue me, or if any of your drunk
guests would happen to break any of my equipment = $500 / year. =
- 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 = $720 =
- Or perhaps you found me through my advertisements in the newspaper
or local bridal magazines, OR a bridal show that you attended that I
paid to have a booth at $18,540 – $1,000 = $17,540
- I also pay for my own Health insurance in case I were to get hurt at
your wedding = $250/month = $14,540
- 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 = $200/wedding = $10,540
- I also need to have a new pair of shoes every season because my
shoes get worn out and dirty from season to season = $100/year =
- I need high speed internet so I can upload all of your images
online, my home phone for my business and my cell phone so I can
communicate with you = $2,500 / year = $7,940
- 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… = $500/year = $7,440
- 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.
That would technically leave me with about $7,000 / year 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 equipment:
During your wedding, I bring my professional equipment that I use so
that I can make sure you have the highest quality images.
- I have 2 Canon 5D Mark II cameras (because you always need a backup
in case of a camera malfunction which would ruin your big days
photographs) which cost $2500 / camera = $5000
-I also have quality lenses which can capture your special moments in
low light situations:
Canon 24-70 f2.8 lens = $1,200
Canon 70-200 f2.8 lens = $1,300
Canon 50mm f1.4 lens = $500
Canon 100mm f2.8 macro = $600
Canon 10-22mm f3.5 wide angle = $800
- and I have speed lights to catch the fun moments at your reception:
- 2 Canon 580EX II = $1,200
- 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. = $1,500
- Because this is equipment, sometimes I need to have it serviced or
cleaned to make sure it is all working properly = $200
After spending 8-10 hours at your wedding, I then come home to my home
office and spend about 20-25 hours editing your images, creating your
album, blogging about your wedding, posting pictures on facebook,
ordering you prints and burning your DVD’s
- I edit your photographs using a 27inch imac computer = $2500
- I edit your photographs on Adobe Lightroom = $200 and Adobe CS5 =
$400 (for the upgrade) and $900 for the new program.
- and I print your DVD’s on a printer which = $300
- Using ink = $200/year
- and I buy the DVD’s and jewel cases your getting printed =$300 / year
-I archive all of your photographs on 2 2TB external hard drives = $500
- And I also back up all of my photographs online so if there was ever
a fire in my office, you would never lose your photographs = $400/year
- 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 on many family portraits, senior portraits and corporate
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’m extremely insulted by your craigslist post and hope this sheds a
little light on why we charge $3000 for one day of your memories which
are going to last you forever.
-Nikki Wagner, Photographer.