Why Wedding Photographers Prices are “Wack” | Naples and Fort Myers Wedding Photographer response

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:

Dear Bride,

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.  =
$19,260
- 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 =
$18,540
- 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 =
$10,440
- 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.

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619 Responses to “Why Wedding Photographers Prices are “Wack” | Naples and Fort Myers Wedding Photographer response”

  1. January 26, 2012 at 4:16 AM #

    Nice job, Nikki, and several good points as well. This was well written, concise, and to the point. Many people do not realize that the cost of services and goods is set not only by market demand, but overhead costs as well. Your point that $3000 is paid for photographs that will last a lifetime is the strongest. I know that many, many brides fork over more than a mere fistful of cash for a dress, or makeup/hair artists with nary a blink. If someone feels so strongly that they should not pay a professional for professional level work, than they should seek out an amateur and get an amateur product.

    • January 26, 2012 at 11:07 PM #

      “A” “FREAKING” “MEN” !!!!!

      It’s not What we do…BUT HOW we do it…and S T A Y IN BUSINESS!!!!!

      Now I need a beer. :)

    • no
      January 27, 2012 at 3:48 PM #

      Look, if you are complaining that people not in the industry don’t understand the work you do, that’s ok, but don’t complain about not making enough money when you cover all your operating expenses (and then some) and have 8 months left to do other work and make pure profit. No one making $50k for 4 months of work is getting any sympathy from me, especially not in this economy.

      Lots of small businesses take YEARS to break even. Also, the price for the service you provide is dictated by the free market, not your operating expenses. If most brides in your area feel the same as the person who put the ad out, then you’re going to have to reevaluate your pricing, otherwise, if this is one crazy person complaining, why are you wasting your precious time on this?

      I’m extremely insulted at this petty blog post and your sense of entitlement in a tough economy.

      • Entreprenizzle
        January 27, 2012 at 8:47 PM #

        Have you considered that the OP’s operating expenses are actually part of the free market? All of it is incentive-driven economics, including the OP’s behavior. By your logic, not many photographers would stay in business for very long.

        I thought the blog post was very courteous, unlike your response. I respect this photographer and others, who are actually contributing to our economic recovery by hiring people and creating/sustaining their jobs. Want to help your local economy? Spend the extra dollar on a US-based small or medium-sized business! And for goodness’ sake, stop shopping at big box stores.

        As for the author of the Craigslist ad, perhaps it is SHE who ought to re-evaluate her own wedding budget and look for a larger company that has economies of scale and can afford passing on those savings to its customers (Google’s great for that sort of thing). Just don’t expect anything beyond Sears-and-Walmart “quality”.

      • Get a Clue.
        January 27, 2012 at 10:15 PM #

        Oh my gosh, I am SO tired of the “in this economy” NON-SENSE. Facts are facts… We’ve had 9% unemployment, which means the VAST majority, 91% ARE working. Pay on the average has not dropped and people quit spending money to pay down debts. The recent news of consumer debt dropping a whopping 11% last year. That’s a record. People are using the “in this economy” excuse for everything, including blaming people trying to make ends meet for high prices. It’s NON-SENSE.

        Furthermore, you have no clue. The price for photography services is NOT dictated simply by the free market and the price that a small group of people are willing to pay. It’s dictated by the quality and skill set of the photographer providing those services. If they are top notch, people will pay whatever they are charging. The “race to the bottom” in which you propose everyone abides by, is no way to run a business, unless of course you want to run it straight into the ground.

      • January 27, 2012 at 11:37 PM #

        So I guess tough times means people should stop paying what things are worth? Don’t expect for the economy to get better any time soon. It’s not “entitlement” to request a fair price for your services. The photographer didn’t even mention skill as part of her price! And that’s worth a hell of a lot if you ask me.

      • otto
        January 28, 2012 at 10:09 PM #

        I also don’t understanding list the $2500 computer, that will be used for more than the one job, all of the equipment, that will also be used for more than one job, she’s paying way too much for lease for a car, no doubt leased because she can write that off as a business expense instead of purchasing a car.

        I certainly don’t understand 7k a year for phone/internet, I have 6 phones, internet, and don’t pay more than 3200 a year.

        She’s got a wonderful home office, and does shoots for 4 months of the year, what is she doing to utilize that to the fullest the other 38?

        Yes, they do amazing work, and I’d not begrudge the 3k or 4 k earned to photograph my wedding, but it seems she needs some business classes.

      • January 30, 2012 at 3:40 PM #

        The 4 months work you are referring to is the time it takes for the photographer to accomplish the shoots. I guarantee the final delivery of the images was not within the same 4 months. Most likely post production (editing, posting online, reviews with clients, album designs, printing, and delivery) of the photos for 20 weddings would consume the majority of the rest of the year. Most professional wedding photographers will spend this appropriate amount of time to delivery the highest quality product that their client deserves.

        Fast, Cheap, & Good: You are only ever going to get 2 of the 3.

      • February 1, 2012 at 2:38 PM #

        Dude, let the man vent. Photography is a tough field. This person making his living off of it is a reason to brag. He is clearly allowing this bride to understand. Being one who has been ridiculed of high prices. I agree. I am insulted that you have to shoot this down. Yes it is a small business, yes it is hard, yes the economy is what it is.

        I am not about praising and rewarding people who make 125,000 for doing nothing, or ball players and coaches who millions a year. But for someone to pull this off in a few months. That is in accomplishment.

        I agree with others, this photographer provided work for others as well and contributed back to the economy. KUDOS to you photographer! Well done.

      • October 23, 2013 at 3:22 PM #

        Wow! Even photographers are affected by the economy too. I am sure you had an amazing dress at your wedding, and have decent pictures to show for it. I am sure you had decent make up too, but I wouldn’t know that unless I looked at the pictures.

        You pay what you get for.

        I am a dedicated amateur although many introduce me as “amazing professional photographer”. Funny since I studied math and physics and use photographer as a hobby.

        But I have taken “better than average” photos (about 1/20) that are amazing that I like to share with others, and sometimes sell. I have been asked if I take portrait pictures, and I try too, and many times people are impressed. In fact, people seem to like over 85% of my photos, and I accept about 10% to my error rate.

        As part of my photography training (never taken a class) I have done many “free shoots” or very low cost. But my lenses and camera do wear out and need maintenance, and it is not easy when I have taken pictures for others as favors. I have a full time job and a part time job that help pay my bills, but doing photo shoots for others takes away from spending time with people I care for but have nothing to do with the events I shoot.

        That said, I honestly don’t know how to price my work. I don’t edit the photos if I can help it. I didn’t pick up photography as a hobby to sit more hours at a computer (which I do for my job, and part time jobs). But I have accepted and done a wedding for $200, delivered high-quality, high-resolution photos on a disk only to be asked “where’s the book?” I never contracted for a book, and I would not have done the shoot and the book for only $200. Doing a book takes time, and I was doing someone a favor.

        Bottom line is photographers can and should charge $3000 if they are worth it, which includes putting up with Ms. Bridezilla and the like that are often rude, bad tempered, not easy to work with (you get the idea). No one should contract a photographer without knowing their work. You can always rent a camera and ask a friend to take pictures. It will save you lots of money, but you may lose the friend, so be careful who you ask.

        The blog is well written, not petty. Services are indeed dictated by the free market, and that means you will have to pay top dollar for a better-than-average photographer. But like any other product or service in the market it is always “buyer beware”. Anyone can claim to be a photographer, but only a few can state they are wedding photographers. These are experienced specialists that KNOW(!) what is involved in a weeding, so if you hire someone that simply asks “give me this much” without you reviewing their work, then it is your fault, and you should not have buyer’s remorse.

        sorry if this sounds like a rant, but after doing several weddings for free or low cost (largely out of ignorance) people expected me to continue to do them at no-cost to them or a very low-price. People hesitate (now) when I tell them $300 for a quinceanera but are more confident since they know my work, and know what to expect.

        Thanks Nikki!

        Sincerely,

        Luis “PHd Austin” Cuellar (Austin, TX)

    • Mmi
      January 29, 2012 at 6:05 PM #

      All you photographers are really talented artist who deliver professional level work and know to value art…
      Except when it comes to paying a professional web designer or a second photographer.

      Free wordpress themes and $200 for second shooter, i think you are no better than the Bride!!!

  2. January 26, 2012 at 5:51 AM #

    Ha! Perfect! I also wrote to her… I will email you my response! :) great minds….

  3. January 26, 2012 at 5:59 AM #

    Well stated, I do not think you can make a decent living in this line of work, just dealing with the parents of the bride and groom would drive me crazy. And now most newly weds also expect a video, I’m still editing vacation photo’s and video from a year and a half ago.

  4. Martin
    January 26, 2012 at 6:04 AM #

    Awesome, accurate and detailed response Nikki. Your polite response is so accurate listing each of the items that I will be using it to update my budget sheet. By the way, you forgot to add the cost of the clothes you need to buy to be properly dressed for the wedding and for the more than one meetings with the bride, groom, etc.

  5. Ashley
    January 26, 2012 at 6:10 AM #

    I’m all for laying out the costs and that’s great, but you essentially said at the top that your “work year” = a whole 4 months and you dabble in other things to “make ends meet.” Making $50K in four months sounds pretty damn nice, actually. I don’t think your argument should be overhead costs. It should simply be talent. Go ahead, hire a cut-rate photographer if you want to play fast and loose with memories that last generations. If you want someone who has a brilliant eye for catching fleeting moments, then you should probably hire someone with talent. As a bride, I fully understand that and value the photos above – WAY above – all else (reception, catering, dress, you name it.) Your talent speaks for itself, but I could honestly not care less about your overhead. Everyone has bills to pay. That’s your problem. I’m not paying you for your gas or printer or lenses. I’m paying you for your unique perspective, for your ability to capture a moment, for your singular eye. I’m paying you for your TALENT. When the photos are brilliant, they are priceless. Priceless. People who understand that should hire you. People who don’t understand that will post a clueless ad on Craigslist. Don’t justify your art by reminding everyone you have to buy paper and staples (the hell?) As a bride, I’m not remotely offended by your response. But as a photographer, it kinda pissed me off.

    • January 26, 2012 at 6:22 AM #

      Ashley,

      I appreciate your response, but as a photographer you should also know that although my “wedding season” only lasts 4 months, my work season is all year. Through out the rest of the year I am still taking photographs, just not of weddings. I am also taking album and print orders, working on my marketing, branding, website, advertising, taxes, making templates for albums, save the dates, thank you notes, BOOKING weddings, having consultations, doing bridal shows, networking with vendors, attending workshops and conferences, etc. etc.

      Yes, everyone has bills to pay, but people sometimes forget that photographers are also BUSINESS owners and that we work for ourselves and pay everything out of pocket. I left a job as a photo editor / photographer for a corporation to start my own business. At the corporation all of my equipment, computers, programs, advertising and sales, marketing, even taxi bills too and from locations were paid for me… now it is all out of my own pocket. So that $3000 actually nets us about $500 PROFIT (as Lacy who commented below broke down in another e-mail to this particular bride) actually breaks down to about $12.50/hour.

      • Ebony
        January 26, 2012 at 11:59 AM #

        I have to agree with Ashley here. People should pay quality wedding photographers their $3000 because the photographs they produce will be WORTH that much, not just because running a photography business can be expensive or time consuming. Of course over-head costs explain why photographers need to charge so much (and regardless of what the bride spent on a dress, 2000-300 dollars is still of money), but they don’t explain why people SHOULD still put their hard earned money towards professional photography at their wedding. People shouldn’t spend so much on photography because photographers are small business owners who need to pay for their Internet etc etc, they should pay it because the photographs will be WORTH the big bill.
        If this is the case and the pictures the photographer provides are well done and fulfill the needs of the client, then great.
        However if the photographs aren’t worth $3000, it wouldn’t fly with me to say ‘oh, but costs and stuff’. The cost rests on the talent of the photographer.

      • January 26, 2012 at 5:59 PM #

        And you AREN’T making $50K in 4 months after expenses. I imagine people who have never had a small business and only bring home a check don’t realize all of the other stuff that goes into the business BEFORE you ever “get paid.”

      • January 26, 2012 at 7:05 PM #

        Great post! I am a photographer in East Central Illinois – around here, people flat out won’t pay high prices for weddings (or lifestyle photography in general) because frankly they can’t afford it. I specifically set my prices lower so that those who were considering skipping photography at their wedding or not getting their child’s milestone pictures taken because the budget was too tight to fit in in, could actually have what they wanted, and I get to do what I love. Prices shouldn’t be the reflection of the photographer, the images they put forth for the clients should be the deciding factor in whether a photographer is good or bad.

        With that said – in 2011, my profits for my business were a whopping $8.34. Thank goodness for a husband who works for the railroad and can cover the rest of our big necessities like a house payment, car payment, clothes for our kids, etc cause on my income, we’d be living under a newspaper, couldn’t even afford a cardboard box!!! lol

      • Bella
        January 27, 2012 at 3:29 AM #

        I completely agree with you Nikki. I am a beginner photographer and I am in my last semester of business school. I am learning right now that it is not just taking a picture, but it is taking a good picture, focusing on the right person and making sure nothing is in the background that you don’t want. And for Ashley, YOU DO pay for our gas, that is if we put it in the contract. You are paying for many things and they should all be in the contract that both the bride and photographer sign. You are also paying for the Lawyers in case you do decide to Sue us. You are paying more a large variety of things. Unless you become a photographer and see what the entire job really entails, don’t complain about your price. I am sure you would realize that you have to charge the same for running your business. I love photography and before I started I thought “how do photographers charge so much”, but then I started to intern and I realize that a lot more money goes into a business for a LONG time before the owner starts to see a pay check. I understand that photographers are expensive, so if you don’t want a professional who has a lot of experience, then get a photographer who is just starting out. Just don’t expect nice pictures. It takes a lot of practice before it becomes second nature. I can’t believe I want to work with brides!

        Nikki, I am really glad that you posted many things about your business, it gives me an eye opener of what I am going to need. I am still learning, and according to my cousin who is a professional photographer as well said I will always be learning in photography. If it weren’t for her I wouldn’t have any wedding photos because we couldn’t afford anyone either, we don’t have a lot of pictures. I am grateful though, and because she took them they mean that much more to me.

      • Kris
        January 27, 2012 at 2:27 PM #

        There’s a difference between why the photographer costs so much and why they’re worth so much. The article explains why they cost so much; the issue of “talent” and “skill” explains why they’re worth so much. Assuming I could cover the costs of starting up a photography business, I could justify the cost of services, but I’d never be able to justify the value of the end product because I don’t have that talent, that skill, to make good photos.

        But the bride wasn’t questioning the value of the work, she was questioning the cost. Therefore I think Nikki’s response was entirely in keeping with letting the bride understand why the cost is so high. If the costs pf doing business were not that high, it doesn’t matter if the value is worth it, there would be photographers charging less just to undercut their competitors.

      • Lolacaust
        January 28, 2012 at 12:31 AM #

        You didn’t address Ashley’s point about your salary. You deduct 1 year worth of business expenses, personal expenses, and sunken costs from 4 months pay. How much do you make in the other 8 months? Your blog post would have been much better if you focused on the concept that just because you charge $X to the client and only show up on-site for a few hours doesn’t mean that’s all the work you’re doing. The financial figures you’re using to justify your argument makes you sound stupid. Honestly, I would delete this post and rewrite a new one. To a significant amount of the people reading this, you’re providing better justification for the Craigslist bride to be outraged than to the credibility of photography fees.

      • January 28, 2012 at 12:52 AM #

        First off, do people consider their gross pay when they calculate how much money they make and can spend to live on? No it is take home pay that counts. So for those who would complain about the fact that you make 50 k before all expenses are accounted for they obviously do not understand reality. Another thing people do not realize is overhead is charged in every item that is purchased anywhere.The more unique the item is the higher the price will be. Overhead is charged into the price of that thousand dollar dress that is only worn once, and most of those dresses are off the rack factory made. Imagine if Vera Wang made a dress for someone personally. What you wrote in your response to the craigs list ad was well written and unless a person acutally does this for a job they will never know how much work goes into their finished product. People do need to realize that wedding photography or any other professional photography is a business and they have a choice to have a professional service them or DIY their wedding. For those people there is always their cousin with a camera- if you know what I mean.

      • January 28, 2012 at 5:22 AM #

        I am completely in agreement with you here NIKKI. I have taken business classes and was taught, one factor in judging how much to charge is called, the COST OF DOING BUSINESS!!. Your going to need to figure out what it is that you need to bring in on a daily basis and therefore, giving you your rate. And then, there is also the other factors, such as: Time, Talent, Tenure, etc… Everyone’s may vary and EVERYONE is going to have to decide WHO is worth the money being asked for according to their END PRODUCT. This economy crap has nothing to do with it and the WALMART mentality is sickening! Truth of the matter is, not everyone can afford certain things, but there is always a cutrate individual willing to undercut the rest of the industry.

      • Liz
        February 10, 2012 at 3:11 AM #

        Most people would kill to have a job that pays $12.50 an hour….just sayin! ps it was rediculously pointless to list all the editing software paid for and other things that we all know you only purchased once and use time and time again and others pointed out your laptop-which is a mac which is one of the most expensive computers which is probably also a poor buisness choice as well as your car because you can write them off at the end of the year.

      • February 11, 2012 at 8:29 PM #

        I agree with Ashley. We ALL have bills to pay, business owner or not (which incidently I also AM, but not as a photographer.) While the response by the OP may be illuminating, to the average person, to pry into the specifics of someone’s financial life, it is of no concern to the potential bride.
        Kudos Nikki for leaving a job where everything was paid for you, and branching off on your own. I’m sorry the reality of business ownership has hit you so hard, but the consumers (I include myself in this as I am not involved in the photography business) are uninvolved and uninterested in your overhead, marketing bills, equipment, etc.
        I don’t expect my customers to exhibit any empathy or concern for my profit margin, that being whether it exists or not, and it is my obligation as a businessperson to communicate what I can do for THEM, rather than what I need to pay for in order to get the goods to them.
        I know a terrific photographer personally who spends half her time complaining about how people don’t like her prices. Well it hasn’t occurred to her that she should consider the possibility that maybe what she is giving isn’t equal to what the bride and group are being expected to, that somehow they don’t KNOW how good she is, if she has to lament about this constantly.
        $500 net profit is your business problem, not the bride’s.

    • Eric
      January 26, 2012 at 3:17 PM #

      Ebony,

      I see the points you guys are trying to make, but your points are fundamentally flawed. Below you said, “I have to agree with Ashley here. People should pay quality wedding photographers their $3000 because the photographs they produce will be WORTH that much, not just because running a photography business can be expensive or time consuming. ” As Nikki covered above, she has a lot of equipment. Not just factoring in skill, but the quality of the equipment a photographer has available directly affects the quality of the photographs being produced.

      In fact you could look at this from a few angles (no pun intended). The very expensive lenses NO doubt affect the quality and outcome of the photographs, but also consider the other myriad examples Nikki cited, consider editing software (I’m sure there is a free version that will do a less than professional job editing photos), the quality of the computer & monitor would also be directly related to the quality of the photographs, or even having a second shooter again provides quality to the diversification of the pictures being shot.

      So I think we can see a trend here that in fact the reason a quality photography business is so expensive is in large part due to all of the quality equipment, perks, and services associated. Again not to turn a blind eye to experience which certainly plays a large part.the

      • January 26, 2012 at 7:13 PM #

        Ebony I get what you are trying to say, and as a pro photographer I find the idea that anyone should have to justify why their product costs as much as it does ridiculous, However the fact still remains that the Craigslist bride WANTED, even ASKED to know why photographers charge what they do. She is the one being ridiculous. And whether you see the logic or not, Nikki did answer her question. Period! No we don’t want to gripe about our expenses, but she was pointing out how much of her $3000 really ends up in her pocket. I do not as a rule bore my clients with this info, they really don’t care, and this angry bride not only doesn’t care, she was being kinda nasty in her outrage towards photographers. and she answered her own question with your answer in a way. “Why do great photos have to cost so much?” She could hire a bad photographer and she knows it, she is griping because she wants good photos, in that statement she is admitting the reason some cost $3000 is because they are better. She most likely will not read Nikki’s reply and agree, because she is of the mindset that we should all offer great photos at a “great” price. Do you think she would go into Anthropologie and complain abut a $200 dress? Even though Target has a similar style made with cheaper material for $40? Nope, she would accept that price and either pay for it, or walk out. Why are small business owners the ones asked to back down on price? Because we can? As you can see from Nikki’s cost analysis, we really cannot afford to back down.

      • January 26, 2012 at 11:20 PM #

        The point is that the equipment is a tool. You still need a photographer that can bring out the best in what they have. Two photographers with comparable equipment, but one who is blatantly more skilled then the other will end up with different price points just due to their demand. I know I will pay more for a photographer who has a fantastic sample book over one with the best equipment. Being so skilled and booking more jobs will undoutedly result in more investment in the buisness and better equipment, but it’s not always the case.

      • January 27, 2012 at 12:00 AM #

        I agree. Plus the original writer remarked, ” I love all you $ 3,000.00 photographers out there but i think your prices are WACK.” Does she mean, that she ‘loves’ them because she thinks they are talented, but that their costs are unjustified? She obviously spent some time looking at work that she liked, but was frustrated because they were out of her price range, and noted that what they do is not worth what they supposedly make. Than Nikki’s article was right on. And yes, there are many people who will pay for the talent, but this bride obviously isn’t one of them.

    • January 26, 2012 at 3:23 PM #

      I am also a photographer and actually our clients DO pay for our gas overhead… as a business owner we need to pass those expenses on to our clients, otherwise we’d be in a hole the entire year round and owning a photography business would be pointless. When you go to a fancy restaurant and pay for a $30 steak, do you not think you are paying for much more than just the meat on your plate?

    • Charlie
      January 26, 2012 at 4:54 PM #

      Unfortunately that woman probably wouldn’t know talent if it slapped her in the face. Too many people nowadays are all all too happy to have free pictures from friends(“sent from my iPhone.”) and don’t know what a good photograph is, or even care.

    • Christa Wilkin
      January 26, 2012 at 5:32 PM #

      As a business professor, it is well known that you HAVE to consider your expenses and make sure those costs are covered by customers no matter if you are a big organization or a small independent contractor. If you don’t, you are unlikely to survive as a business owner. Customers forget this and Nikki was just reminding us of it. Sure it’s also about talent and that’s why there are variations in price, but what you pay for a photographer still needs to still cover the costs of doing business. Customers also don’t realize that there is a lot of work done behind the scenes. It’s the same with teaching. Lots of students think I have it easy because I just have to show up for class a couple of times a week, but they don’t realize the prep involved, tons of administrative work (e-mails, paperwork, meetings, etc), my research portfolio which I spend about half my time on, and the service that I do for my university and business community. Nikki was just putting things into perspective for some customers.

    • January 26, 2012 at 5:52 PM #

      I have a close friend that chose her photographer because it was only $1500 for the day – the pictures definitely show it – but some people don’t understand the difference between a picture and a photograph so those people do need a little extra explaining as to where this “huge” amount of money is going. It’s a common misconception that wedding photographers make “sooo” much money. I do think there are ones out there that charge a ridiculous amount, but $3,000 is fairly average and if that woman did her research she would find that out!

      • February 11, 2012 at 8:32 PM #

        I had a phenomenal photographer for $1000. Literally out of this world good. Maybe I got lucky (it was off season) but $3000 doesn’t always MEAN good either.

        • February 13, 2012 at 4:33 AM #

          Well yeah, I would never spend $3000 on wedding photography… but it also depends on where you’re getting married. I’m getting married in the DC area and if you only pay $1000 for a photographer you won’t be getting much.

    • Wendy
      January 26, 2012 at 9:31 PM #

      Dear Ashley,
      I disagree that $50k/year is a lot, because like Nikki said, we are small business owners. That means we’re just like any other small business owner–what we gross isn’t what we earn as a salary. What we gross is what the *business* earns, and I know small business owners who would laugh and say that is too little. Just like any other small business owner, we need to price things to cover the cost to run a business and pay employees. Paying for photography services is no different from buying a car. Is the car itself worth $40k? Probably not, though I’m no expert. As you said, consumers don’t care about that stuff. However, maybe they should because talent isn’t worth the same to everyone since it’s not tangible and hard for some to wrap their heads around, but no one will argue with a bill that says this is how much it costs to have internet in your office.

    • January 27, 2012 at 12:31 AM #

      In my case, my father’s transportation business makes $250,000 a year BEFORE expenses, yet we are still poor. Do we charge a lot of money for our services? Yes, because we are small business owners. We live on the edge of poverty, yet do a damn good job of making the job get done well. As a photographer you got pissed off, but as a small business owner your response made me roll my eyes. You may pay for talent, but you pay for all her other expenses included.

    • Lora
      January 27, 2012 at 7:04 AM #

      I’m with Ashley. As a customer, my concern is with getting the best price I can for the product I want. As the business owner, your concern is with getting the greatest profit you can for the work you do. We have different goals, and so we’re going to be interested in different information.
      Your sample book, your experience, your personality and professionalism, and of course your talent and skill are the things most prospective clients are interested in. In theory, your sophisticated equipment is already factored in with the quality of your previous work, but seeing your equipment list and having you explain to us why and how you use it does impress us, and it will increase the value of your services to us.
      Most of the rest of the expenses Nikki listed truly are irrelevant to the client. Most reflect personal choices of the photographer that have little bearing on the quality of the products and services I buy from him or her. Presumably, you have chosen self-employment for many good reasons, but higher overhead is the down-side. An individual health insurance plan, for example, is almost always going to cost you more than buying into the group plan offered by an employer. The higher cost of insurance has a negative affect on your profits. You have to take that cost into account when you set your prices, but I’m not going to think about it at all when I’m figuring out what your service is worth to me. And it’s not that I or any of your clients want you to be uninsured, it’s just not going to be the argument that persuades us to pay you more.
      I’d like to add, almost as a digression, that some of the expenses Nikki listed actually struck me as ridiculous. Although she’s describing expenses related to her wedding photography business, she factors in expenses like her rent and car payment for the entire year. She’s basically inviting us non-photographers to scrutinize her personal expenses to determine if they justify her income (e.g. Why a $400 car lease? Why not buy a used car outright!?).
      Ashley is right. Your expenses are your concern, and my expenses are mine. You’re not going to convince me I should pay you $3000 by listing every cost you bear. Some folks, like the Craigslist poster, really don’t value high quality photography. Nikki’s list will seem to them like a demand that brides help photographers make a living! That argument is going nowhere.
      Every other small business faces this same difficulty in our Big Box store culture. You have to make your case to the public that you offer quality, and quality is worth paying for.

      • Brooke B
        January 27, 2012 at 5:18 PM #

        I very much agree with you, Lora.

        I think Nikki makes some good points and I understand wanting to point out all the costs people are probably not aware of, but many things on that list are totally irrelevant to the customer and frankly, sound superficial. Listing out costs for “buying new shoes” or having health insurance “in case you get hurt at a wedding” actually hurts your argument and takes away from your well thought out list of relevant expenses.

      • Wendy
        January 27, 2012 at 5:21 PM #

        As a wedding photographer, Nikki made me roll my eyes when she tried to include her entire (egregious) $400/month car payment and insurance payments ($200/month?! How bad is her driving record?!!?!!!) in her business costs. Nope.

      • January 27, 2012 at 10:03 PM #

        I’m guessing you work for someone else from your comments. You take a paycheck home… and how much do you think you company charges their clients for your work? I’m a full-time architecture designer and I get paid roughly $30 a hour but I know that they charge the client $125-150 for ever hour I work on their project. I don’t see the other $95-120 because they pay the business tax that Individuals don’t… they pay for the power, lease, internet at my work… they pay for the computer upgrades and software upgrades to do my work… they pay for my health insurance… they pay for marketing and accounting to have jobs for me to work on… retirement funds. Here’s the thing… you may be making $3000 in a month, but your boss is probably charging their clients $9000 to do that job. I’m happy getting paid $30 a hour working for someone else… but if I was working for myself, I except to get paid $125-150 to take home my current living of $30. And if you don’t think that your bosses are charging your clients more then what they pay you… then look for another job because that is a business that is failing.

    • kritter
      January 28, 2012 at 1:04 AM #

      Just want to throw out that as i read these comments- i get frustrated at people who continue to point out the “4-month” statement. yes- wedding season is 4 months long. but many MANY people get married outside of wedding season, so although someone may book MOST of their weddings during “Wedding season” there are also weekends outside of “wedding season” where a photographer will book a wedding. So that $50k doesn’t always come within 4 months. this was just a rough estimate of how the year breaks down and the money gets spent, but it’s not 100% for every photographer. Those people who think that photographers bust ass for 4 months to make 50k and then do nothing or measly side jobs for the rest of the year need to rethink how they evaluate a photographers time table. my sister is a professional wedding photographer and she is ALWAYS working even when it seems she hasn’t shot a wedding in a while.

    • Alicia Marchant
      January 30, 2012 at 8:27 PM #

      If you’re not paying for her gas, then how is the photographer getting to your wedding??? Just sayin…..
      Anyone that owns a small business knows what it takes to run one. The grocery store charges customers more than what they pay for products to pay for overhead, what makes a photographer different?
      It sounds to me like the bride-to-be can’t afford her dream wedding and is just blaming it on everyone else.

  6. www.adelitasjewelry.com
    January 26, 2012 at 6:14 AM #

    I am not a photographer, but I do understand your job, I take pictures for fun, and I also edit them so I know that there is a lot of work involved when it comes to EDIT, specially wedding photography. I totally agree that a bride will spent more money to accessorize herself, than the fee you are charging for pictures that will last a life time and beyond

    • February 3, 2012 at 2:03 PM #

      If you take photos for fun, you are a photographer. You may not be a professional photographer, but don’t let professionals tell you you aren’t a photographer.

  7. January 26, 2012 at 6:15 AM #

    awesome, awesome, awesome response!! Well done!!

  8. January 26, 2012 at 6:22 AM #

    LOVE IT!!! FANTASTIC RESPONSE! I guess the only thing left to do is position yourself so you aren’t being compared apples to apples with other photographers ;) If people want you in particular, they will be willing to spend a premium (2-4 times $3k). Thanks for responding so brilliantly!

  9. A Professional Wedding Photographer
    January 26, 2012 at 6:55 AM #

    “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.”

    If you have to do that just to make ends meet, you might want to review your rates and charge enough to cover your costs. Otherwise you’ll be burned out and be of no good to your clients anyways.

    And to Ashley? You are, in fact, paying her overhead and for her gear when you hire her. That is how EVERY business is run. You pay the caterer for the food and their kitchen, in addition to their ability to make good food. Photography? No different. Do you think that the $10-20,000 worth of gear just magically appears out of nowhere?

    • Shannon
      January 27, 2012 at 4:14 AM #

      I agree! I think the break down is great for people to understand what it costs us to shoot a wedding. But when I saw that statement and saw her costs that she’s outlined I thought the exact same thing! I think it’s time for Nikki to go over her wedding pricing so that she is making a profit.

  10. January 26, 2012 at 7:32 AM #

    Perhaps I misunderstood since I am not a photographer, but when Nikki was laying out her costs I did not interpret that as an “excuse” for her charges, but rather as an explanation of the costs of producing her product in response to the original craigslist poster’s claim that all a photographer does is take some pictures and edit them. It seemed to me that the craigslist poster (as well as any layman) did not understand the overhead costs. I don’t think it’s really much different than a baker explaining that their net profit is less than what they charge due to the cost of flour, eggs, and sugar. I don’t bitch at the bakery staff for passing the costs of their supplies onto me.

    Furthermore, claiming that a response to that craigslist post should only be based on a photographer’s talent is like trying to quantify that talent into dollars. The poster’s main argument is that photographers profit too much from taking pictures. Nikki responded to that argument by outlining where profits go. It was a rational and sound explanation.

    • vaphotog
      January 26, 2012 at 9:26 PM #

      People seem to think of photographers differently, though. You don’t pay thousands of dollars for a pastry in a bakery so you could really care less what the actual profit is on that item. I don’t spend $6.50 at chick-fil-a and think i’m being taken. It’s a different mentality and its 100% based on the price. It’s just a bit outrageous for people to say things like “it should all be based on talent” and then bitch and moan when an explanation is given for costs that actually contribute to that talent…i.e. a $2000 f.1/4 lens is going to undoubtedly produce stronger images than a $250 18-55mm kit lens…it may be a bit much as far as pertinent information, but it’s certainly within reason to mention that there are variables that people would never think about and should consider before making such ridiculous statements. “All we do is hangout” is absolutely the most asinine thing i have ever heard and it burns me up because i bust my ass at every wedding i shoot (20-25 annually) and i hurt when its over. I don’t hurt from standing around.
      I don’t know what weddings this chick has gone to and who she’s watched shoot but she obviously has the wrong idea. The average wedding in America costs $28k (which i admit is insane) but hell, even you if pay $5k for a great wedding photographer, you’re at under 20% of the total budget for the only piece that you’ll have to remember the day by in 10 years. You can’t please everybody and im sure this girl will end up with amazing images from the photog she finds on craigslist who gives her full coverage, the CD, an album, an engagement session and a bridal session for $700.

      • March 19, 2013 at 2:46 AM #

        Photography is a passion for all of us wedding photographers, and making it a business is VERY difficult. However, the clients I work with are always appreciative and thankful for my work and that I am happy about. You can’t please everyone in life, but you (as a bride) won’t be pleased if you choose to hire a cheap photographer for your wedding.

  11. Mark
    January 26, 2012 at 7:36 AM #

    Random question but why list your 10-22 wide angle when you use 2x5dmk2s? They are not compatible!

    Let us know if you get a reply from the bride!

    • January 26, 2012 at 7:46 AM #

      Hey Mark, It was actually a carry over from my 7D, which I started my business with… I have read articles though that if you pop off the guard that protects the rear element, it is the only thing that prevent the lens from mounting to the camera. I haven’t attempted it yet though….

      • January 26, 2012 at 3:32 PM #

        I was wondering the same :-)
        it’s acutally not the mounting rather the type of lense. EF-S is closer to the sensor because they are designed for the aps-c sensores. that means you can mount it on the 5d but if you fire, the mirror will get “hurt”.
        nice reply to the bride acutally! really well sorted and I think you should charge more :-)
        all the best
        ingoman

      • Allen
        January 26, 2012 at 4:35 PM #

        While it might make it fit, the main compatibility issue is that the mirror could hit the rear element of the lens, and even if it didn’t, there would be some pretty severe vignetting.

  12. jen
    January 26, 2012 at 7:40 AM #

    YOU.ROCK. That, my dear, was an awesome post. (got here thru a link posted on Twitter)

  13. January 26, 2012 at 8:26 AM #

    That was pure genius.

  14. January 26, 2012 at 8:44 AM #

    couldn’t agree more.. wrote an article on my blog a few months ago in the same line…..

  15. January 26, 2012 at 9:01 AM #

    Very insightful post. I’m curious, though, how you use your 10-22mm lens with your 5D cameras ;)

    • January 26, 2012 at 9:08 AM #

      Martin, Popular question!! It was a carry over from my 7D’s which I started my business with. I probably shouldn’t have included it in my list, but I was looking around my office as I was writing my rant of everything that I could include, and it made the list ;) . I DID read an article however about being able to pop off the guard that protects the rear element which is what prevents it from mounting to the 5D2, but have yet to try it out.

      • January 26, 2012 at 10:53 PM #

        Hi Nikki,

        I assumed something like that. Wouldn’t really recommend trying out to mount the 10-22 on your 5D,though, as most EF-S lenses go back further into your camera’s mirror box. You’d therefore risk that the (bigger) mirror of your 5D might hit the back of the lens…

  16. January 26, 2012 at 9:01 AM #

    You are my hero. If you ever need a babysitter or a kidney let me know.

  17. January 26, 2012 at 9:05 AM #

    Excellent…

  18. January 26, 2012 at 10:05 AM #

    One of the best quotes I’ve ever heard, and use quite a lot is – “If you think hiring a professional is expensive, wait until you hire an amateur”.

    Even after you’ve made your point though, I don’t think I’d accept this bride’s business.. it would be hard to make someone look like they’re having the day of their life when their face will still look like they’re angry at having to pay you $2,500-$3,000.

    Good luck.

    • January 26, 2012 at 6:58 PM #

      Fantastic quote and great point.

    • January 28, 2012 at 2:13 AM #

      I think we’ve all seen the awful wedding photos some people (usually amateurs, even though some will still charge a lot) produce.

  19. January 26, 2012 at 10:19 AM #

    So after ALL the effort that Nikki put into this post, the most meaningful part that jumps out for some, is an incompatible lens?

    Come on folks, read the message, not the words…

    • January 26, 2012 at 6:20 PM #

      i love your point :) that was getting to me to — lets nit-pick at things that ARE NOT the point of the response!

      • Jamie
        January 26, 2012 at 9:02 PM #

        Not to mention, whether the lens works or not on her camera, she still bought it at one point or another to work on one of her other cameras that she didn’t list. I was annoyed too! LOL

  20. January 26, 2012 at 10:26 AM #

    This post is so great, not only because it is a great answer, but because it explains why you have to pay any freelancer or small business owner well to get a professional result. The post could be rewritten to cover graphic designers, illustrators and writers as well as web developers. I’m retweeting this (c;

  21. RON
    January 26, 2012 at 10:39 AM #

    As a Photographer myself of over 25yrs, I don’t deal with cheap clients who want the world when if comes to the photography. If they want cheap, they can go elsewhere. The headache and agony of hearing them make up complaints so they can eventually get something free is just not worth it.

  22. January 26, 2012 at 11:18 AM #

    Excellent response! I find it terribly sad that photographers need to explain simple business principals, to ignorant people.

  23. Trakus
    January 26, 2012 at 11:59 AM #

    Im not sure you had to explain yourself in so much detail. I think it comes down to getting what you pay for. All the above that you mentioned illustrates in detail the efforts you go to offer the best package to the bride and groom. You like my photography ? you like my style and the effort I will put into making sure your memories and recorded in a unique package. This is what I charge.
    Kudos to you for laying it all out for all to see. Im not sure I would be so kind.

  24. Igor Vrabie
    January 26, 2012 at 1:07 PM #

    and it’s in US ! in our country prices are less in 5-10 times and we have be as good as you are )

  25. January 26, 2012 at 1:17 PM #

    Right on! I can’t believe how many calls I get asking if I will do a wedding for $250. And questioning my print prices. It’s up to us to educate the clients that there is more to a professional photographer than just clicking the shutter!

  26. cos
    January 26, 2012 at 1:49 PM #

    Epic, i’d like to see her response :)

  27. January 26, 2012 at 2:04 PM #

    How did this woman do to find a husband ??

    • June 24, 2012 at 7:58 PM #

      LOL oh no, you went there! :P

  28. January 26, 2012 at 2:09 PM #

    Most definitely the most awesome response eva!!!

  29. January 26, 2012 at 2:09 PM #

    Nikki: this was very well written . . . one of the best responses to clients who complain about the seemingly high costs of wedding photography that I’ve read yet.

    I’m a wedding videographer in the area, and am up against the same challenges. Funny thing is, I have much more equipment to maintain, more setup time, longer shooting/editing hours, etc. than photographers, and can’t charge what photographers charge.

    Please know that I’m not downplaying how much work photographers do! I’ve also done my fair share of wedding photography, and it’s no picnic.

    We’re doing it for the love of the art, surely not for the (lack of) money! :)

  30. January 26, 2012 at 2:11 PM #

    Great article, and a very in depth explanation to a question which many people have in their minds. This should be sent to everyone looking for photography services ;)
    Thanks! :)

  31. January 26, 2012 at 2:14 PM #

    it is expensive but I know how hard you work I just wish I could have afforded it for my wedding!
    I have a very small design business and people don’t realize that yes you charge $60 for a little girls dress but that dress also took you 10 + hours and you aren’t even making minimum wage on it. you are all wonderful and inspiring. keep up the good work and don’t let people who don’t understand get you down! its hard out there!

  32. January 26, 2012 at 2:15 PM #

    Couldn’t have said it better myself! Good work, I am posting this to my page! Thanks for taking the time to write this up, hopefully it shreds some light for many of our clients!

  33. Caryn
    January 26, 2012 at 2:30 PM #

    Can I just send all my “oh you’re expensive!” peeps to you!? So polite, thorough yet to the point. And 100% true. And for those of us who don’t do weddings… ummm… yeah. We’re in the hole ;)

  34. January 26, 2012 at 2:49 PM #

    I feel the same way about my portrait business! It makes me c.r.a.z.y. when someone comments on my pricing, even though it usually follows compliments of how much they love my work. We don’t make up our pricing or pull it out of the air- we have to factor in all the costs associated with the business side of things. I don’t apologize for not competing with someone who just bought a “good camera” and decided to give themselves a business name. It’s unfortunate that legitimate, licensed, tax paying business are being compared to non businesses in the pricing arena. This is what this whole issue stems from, the perception that we are the same and just inflating our pricing for extra profit.

  35. January 26, 2012 at 2:50 PM #

    You nailed it 100%! OK if I post this to my page? Why does everyone think wedding photographers are wealthy? I have never been able to afford to own a home or studio (I’m a renter in my 40′s, mind you!), I have a 10 year old car, I buy my clothes at Target for the most part (unless I’m lucky enough to get a gift card from my folks to Anthropologie, J Jill, Title Nine, etc.!). I admit I do buy decent shoes about once a year, since I spend a good 8-10 hours on my feet at the average wedding. My Macbook Pro is 4 years old (gee I hope I can upgrade this season… but then I will probably owe taxes and have to bag that idea). I finally bought a new 5D Mark II and 24-70 2.8 lens in the past year to keep up with the industry. But I couldn’t afford a vacation in 2011 because I had to buy equipment and my health insurance was $4,000+ for the year. And a destination wedding is really not a vacation for us photographers. I do love what I do and am grateful to the clients who do “get it” and are willing to pay for quality work. On that note, I have a bit of editing to do!

    • emh
      January 26, 2012 at 4:37 PM #

      Everyone thinks you’re rich because of Simply Bloom.

  36. January 26, 2012 at 2:55 PM #

    Thank you!

  37. January 26, 2012 at 3:05 PM #

    AWESOME!! THANK YOU!!! I recently heard a stat that as a wedding photography you can’t expect to make some profit unless you are bringing in about $5,000/ wedding client (fee and product) and after looking at your list and spending the last month breaking down my cost and evaluating my fees, I totally believe it! Yes, wedding photography IS EXPENSIVE, BUT you are RIGHT WE WORK HARD, run a business, have equipment — it’s the ONLY thing that you will cherish for years and years to come!! AND we love what we do!!

    • January 28, 2012 at 5:31 PM #

      “No wedding photographer in their right mind would sell a wedding package for less than $10,000.” Yervant once said this at a Wedding photography workshop. He then produced a simple & reasonable spread sheet that showed exactly that. At the time I thought he was a little crazy… but now I know he is right.

      Photography’s crazy all over the map pricing stems from the fact there are no minimum standards. Unlike medicine or law where there are industry standards, photographers have none. The problem lies in that anyone with 1 eye, 1 finger and a stolen camera can call themselves a professional photographer. When they realize they need more skills, they seem to go out and for cheap or free experiment on unwitting clients to gain experience. This would be totally unacceptable way to learn medicine or law but it is standard in photography. A few live the dream and succeed, but most leave a trail of disappointed clients, a bad reputation for genuine professional photographers and then leave photography. (just watch the trouble shooter on any local news station & you can see the trail of destruction and angry clients) This churn at the bottom of the photography Market degrades the reputation of all photographers and drives prices down for EVERYONE.

      We ought to organize and have standards. Like being “board certified” or pass your “bar exam”. It is STUNNING the number of blog posts that include content that include “i’m a pro photographer & I how do I use ___________ (insert basic camera function like: use white balance, process a RAW file, use “M” on my camera). I’m not trying to be negative to wanna be Pro Photogs., I’m just saying its hard to command any $$$ if you don’t know the tools of your trade. if you don’t know how to use the tools, how do you get great images. People interested in medicine don’t go strait into surgery and start operating and see how they do. Yes, I know how to use a knife, scissors, needle and thread, but that doesn’t mean I’m qualified to crack your chest and work on your heart.

      If photographers want to make more, then they need to be trained & know the tools of their trade.
      If photographers want to make more, then they need professional Standards
      If photographers want to make more, then we ALL need to charge more. if the perception is: $500 gets you wedding photography, then that is what people expect. If the perception that Wedding photography is $5000, then that is what people expect, save up for and decide they want to pay. Undercharging for your services hurts everyone.

      Perhaps the easiest way to answer the question about about what to charge is ask a simple question… have you ever met a rich photographer….

      Photographers are usually better at making pictures and feeling bad about charging what the need to (or what they are worth) than they are at running a business that makes money and happens to do that by creating beautiful pictures.

  38. January 26, 2012 at 3:07 PM #

    O..M..G! Honey, I LOVE YOU!!! I didn’t take the time to read the prior comments, so I apologize if I’m repeating anyone when I say that bride just sunk her own boat with such insulting remarks. Good luck finding a photographer now, lady…
    Thank you for enlightening those who just don’t get it. I will be sharing this on my facebook page.

  39. January 26, 2012 at 3:21 PM #

    Nikki, I read ALL of the above comments…. vast majority positive ones! Keep rockin girl! This is a GOOD thing you’re doing!!! Stand strong! I loved the comment, “what did this girl do to get a husband?” LOL

    but also everyone who called you genius. Yup! :) Go Girl!

  40. vidchick
    January 26, 2012 at 3:22 PM #

    So eloquently put – have shared it on facebook (Since it also applies to us videographers). Mandatory educational reading. x

  41. Kat
    January 26, 2012 at 3:29 PM #

    Ashley and Ebony…the overhead costs DO have to be explained and they are all part of the cost. If we priced ourselves based on talent, many of us would be over $10,000. If you are a photographer and don’t get that, shame on you…I find that offensive!

    • January 26, 2012 at 6:24 PM #

      “like” :)
      a lot of people, like these two, dont understand why overhead costs are important when explaining your prices. No, its not required during normal “quotes” but when someone is complaining about prices, they post it on a website – i think it is more than required to go into this much detail! She asked for it. Overhead costs are a factor in EVERY purchase. businesses would not stay in business without incorporating every expense they make combined with efforts!

  42. Misy
    January 26, 2012 at 3:41 PM #

    Great response but a few problems…..i also have a job that i have to drive to work for (car and gas) i have to buy insurance for myself (i have children to think of) i have to purchase clothing to wear to my job etc., but my boss doesn’t care and neither do my clients what my costs are and i can’t ask for a raise just because the cost to myself is high and increasing….you have to think of a struggling economy when thinking of your prices if you still want to have 20 weddings a year……

    • Charli
      January 26, 2012 at 6:29 PM #

      you took your job knowing they were going to pay you “$x” … that is something you chose. you are supposed to factor in your annual needs and expenses in order to make the best decision. Nicki already knows her worth and offers the potential customer a quote ~ they either take it or leave it. you can always counter your potential job & ask for more if you think thats what you are worth. if you dont, you are letting someone dictate your worth. think about it :)

  43. January 26, 2012 at 3:57 PM #

    I have gone over that list a million times and as I get half way through it I just stop because its just not worth it. I will continue to work hard and gain knowledge to move up from that price bracket. I have noticed that the people that aren’t willing to spend over $2500, they just don’t respect the time that goes into it. The thing that is so hard to understand is that they literally don’t even see the difference in an “alright” photo and a really amazing photo. I am working like crazy to avoid them because if i stay around then I start questioning myself. Can’t have that ;)

  44. James Printer
    January 26, 2012 at 3:57 PM #

    Stop SHOUTING with CAPITAL lettERS

  45. January 26, 2012 at 4:00 PM #

    Great post! I am a wedding coordinator in Toronto (www.envisionweddings.ca) and it’s hard for me to also explain the costs that go into being a planner, so I appreciate the time you took to write out what your expenses are. I have great admiration for photographers!

    Cheers – keep on keepin on. :)

  46. January 26, 2012 at 4:00 PM #

    Nicely put! I hear that all too often…”oh my, how much?” But when you write it all out like that, its kind of disheartening….it does cost alot to be in this business. Bride’s should be kissing our feet…lol
    But we as wedding photographers trek on!

  47. Trish
    January 26, 2012 at 4:02 PM #

    I had found a photographer which was only going to cost me 400 for my wedding. We decided to use them first for family portaits before “hiring” her for my wedding. I am very thankful that I did. She did a horrible job with posing, etc. I am glad I tried her out prior to hiring her for the wedding.

    I had also worked in a photo dept at Rite Aid for many years, and have printed wedding pictures for people. Seeing the prints come out, ruined, or the color off. Broke my heart knowing these were the pictures that the bride was going to have the rest of her life.

    I was with the “bride on craigslist” when I was researching photographers. But I also know you can’t put a price on good pictures. I liked how you broke down the pricing and “overhead” in your response.

    I also found a semi inexpensive photographer that did an amazing job doing my wedding. She had over 15 years experience, and only charged $600.00.

  48. Nicole Aldridge
    January 26, 2012 at 4:05 PM #

    I love your response. I am not a wedding photographer but this woman’s comments outraged me. You will pay thousands of dollars for food and a cake that you will never eat again, several hundred to several thousands of dollars on a dress you will never wear again, and several hundred dollars on flowers that will die in a few days. These photos are the ONLY thing that will last from that “one” day.

    • January 26, 2012 at 4:35 PM #

      WELL PUT!!!! :)

      • Jen
        January 26, 2012 at 6:08 PM #

        And there is only one way to remember how beautiful all of those things looked…. The Photographs!!!

  49. Jessica
    January 26, 2012 at 4:16 PM #

    I agree with u 1000%. I am not a photographer, but I was a bride and I have no shame in saying I paid close to $7000 when all was said and done for my freaking fantastic photographer. I spent 250$ on my dress. I wore the dress for 12 hrs….I look at my pictures everyday. Theres something to be said wwith, “you get what u pay for” and its the truth.I wanna know who I’m hiring is using the best equipment and programs to give me the best finished product they can.

    Heather Fritz was amazing and if she didn’t move so far way, she’d be my photographer for my family on the regular!!!

  50. January 26, 2012 at 4:17 PM #

    LOVE IT!! Great response! You should charge more!!!

  51. January 26, 2012 at 4:21 PM #

    Absolutely wonderfully written!!

  52. January 26, 2012 at 4:23 PM #

    I think you need to raise your prices for your weddings! ;)

  53. January 26, 2012 at 4:29 PM #

    FREAKING BRILLIANT!

  54. January 26, 2012 at 4:32 PM #

    Very well said! I couldn’t of put it in any other way. I’m just amazed by people like that.

  55. January 26, 2012 at 4:34 PM #

    Whoot Whoot!!
    Well said.
    If anything we are under paid!!

  56. January 26, 2012 at 4:46 PM #

    I have to agree that the expense thing is something that people will never understand, people are paying for your TALENT and QUALITY, what you really explained is that obtaining quality is expensive and that the time spent at the wedding is the LEAST amount of time you will spend in achieving the final product – a collection of wonderful pictures. I explain to clients that people who shoot for 1000 work with a single pro-sumer camera, shoot straight to jpeg and hand the card to the lab and pray something half way decent comes out – the difference in quality is night and day

  57. January 26, 2012 at 4:51 PM #

    Bravo. As a wedding photographer it gets irritating when you have a bride come to you and say you’re to expensive and you do your best to “enlighten” them as much as possible as to why things cost as much as they do but sometimes it falls on deaf ears. Did she respond back to you at all? I’d be interested to know. Sincerely; Dave Helps The BIGGER Picture Photography

  58. January 26, 2012 at 5:02 PM #

    May I post this to my blog (full credit given of course!) I recently graduated from the Photo Program at Appalachian State where while I was in school, in order to get experience, I charged far less than I should have, however, since I upped my price, there has been sticker shock.

    Everything here is well said, and I loved reading it!

    • January 26, 2012 at 5:05 PM #

      Of Course!! Thank you so much for your kind words and support!

  59. Kimberly Petty Photography
    January 26, 2012 at 5:04 PM #

    Very well said! Kudos to you for speaking out!!!

  60. January 26, 2012 at 5:05 PM #

    You forgot our cell phones and land lines and the amount of time that we spend talking to brides about their weddings over and over and over. Our meals to and from the wedding, engagement and bridal session expenses….so much to do….
    I had two brides meet with me and they want my services but for $1000!!!!! I was MAD!!!

  61. DM
    January 26, 2012 at 5:05 PM #

    What do you expect from a bride that looks for a wedding photographer on CRAIGSLIST?!?

    • Christina S.
      January 27, 2012 at 4:14 PM #

      To realize NO ONE would show up to a JOB and WORK FOR FREE. Just a little bit of logic, not much. Why would anyone give up time with their family or to do other that things they would like to do, etc., if they were not getting paid to work a JOB.

  62. Jedi
    January 26, 2012 at 5:11 PM #

    While you have many good points (and I have a great deal of respect for photographers who are small business owners) I find your statement that you are “usually in the hole at the end of the year” a little far fetched. You cannot count *all* of your rent, car lease & insurance costs as “overhead” business expenses. You live in that house and drive your car for other purposes as well. Paying your own health insurance is not an “overhead” cost, it’s a cost of living. As Misy says “my boss doesn’t care and neither do my clients what my costs are”. While I respect very much the amount of time, energy and resources talented photographers put into their work, and know that your net is not nearly what the craigslist bride (or most other people for that matter) think it is, I find your lack of discernment between business expenses and living expenses effects your credibility as a business person.

    • January 26, 2012 at 5:58 PM #

      I dont think Nikki was implying that her living expenses are included in all of that. She was just showing the bride why there is a need to charge what she does. The bride was complaining about the price because that’s a month of her income & complained about having other bills…. Nikki was using the same argument, but only to show that they are either BOTH relevant, or NEITHER of them are. I definitely dont think any of this affects Nikki’s credibility as a business person, whatsoever.

      • Jedi
        January 26, 2012 at 6:33 PM #

        Kat, no she was not simply implying that her living expenses are included, she was stating that as a fact when she says “in the hole at the end of the year”. How can you interpret this any other way?
        I do believe this affects her credibility as a business person because if it weren’t for the fact that she was claiming these as “business expenses” I would be TOTALLY behind her response.

    • Paul N
      January 26, 2012 at 5:58 PM #

      You’re bang-on, Jedi. As an accountant, I cringed through the entire list of expense items. If she filed her taxes with the same justifications, she wouldn’t be paying anything in tax.
      Rent: probably 25% of the home could be considered business-use = $1,800
      Car: 40 days out of 365 is 9.1% = $1,875
      Gas: Same % = $100 (rounded up)
      Insurance: Legitimate = $500
      Website, booth, 2nd shooter: Also legitimate = $5,720
      Health insurance: Zero impact on business = $0
      Shoes: Pretty sure all of us wear out our shoes = $0
      High speed internet: Saying 50% would be generous = $1,250
      Lawyer/accountant: To say 100% is generous, but ok = $500.
      This leaves total OH costs at: $11,745. Not quite the $28,000 she implies. Plus these costs are over an entire year, not just the 4month span she shoots wedding photos.
      Equipment costs would have to be spread out (amortized) over the useful life of the equipment, not just dropped in.

      But bottom line is as has been mentioned before: You DON’T pay $3,000/wedding to cover the overhead of the photographer. As in all art-related trades, you are paying for the perceived quality of the end product. The worst photographer in the world could have the EXACT same expenses as you, but his or her photos wouldn’t be worth $300. Likewise, the best photographer in the world could charge $10,000 to show up at your wedding with an old-school Leica, take the most amazing photgraphs ever taken, without ANY of these costs, and it would be worth every penny.

      Your argument is 100% correct. Some (most?) photographers are ABSOLUTELY worth every penny they charge… but it’s their talent that makes them worth it, not how much they spend to get there.

      • Jedi
        January 26, 2012 at 6:43 PM #

        Thanks Paul, glad to see I am not the only one with some sense. :P

      • Another Photog
        January 26, 2012 at 9:04 PM #

        You totally missed the point! LOL

      • Max N
        January 26, 2012 at 10:52 PM #

        Oh thank god there are people who realize the audacity in those posts. As a financial planner I cringed when I was reading that.

        As a buyer, I care about two things, 1. How much it is going to cost me. and 2. What am I expecting to get out of it.

        Nothing else matters. That is business 101. The cost of business, and whether you should be in business if you cannot make the numbers work is your problem as a business owner, not the clients problem.

        Just one thing… your taxes, 15k taxes on 50k gross revenue? Please hire a competent accountant, especially if you say those are your expenses. You are paying taxes on the earnings of the company, not gross sales. Sales taxes are on the gross sales, but not corporate taxes, that is if you even file corporate taxes.

        Your focus as a photographer should be “I charge these rates because I am worth it, and I realize that I am not the photographer for everyone.”

        However, you cannot be pissed off at someone who does not think your rates are high or not worth it.

      • ;)
        January 27, 2012 at 3:45 AM #

        “But bottom line is as has been mentioned before: You DON’T pay $3,000/wedding to cover the overhead of the photographer. As in all art-related trades, you are paying for the perceived quality of the end product. The worst photographer in the world could have the EXACT same expenses as you, but his or her photos wouldn’t be worth $300. Likewise, the best photographer in the world could charge $10,000 to show up at your wedding with an old-school Leica, take the most amazing photgraphs ever taken, without ANY of these costs, and it would be worth every penny”

        I don’t even know why I’m reading all these comments, lol, Someone posted it on my facebook, it’s so addicting! However I had to say Paul, you are so right and now I can stop reading!, Andy Warhol and Unknown artists used the same paint. It’s always talent! and I think to an artist this should be even more obvious. I have a friend who gets paid $20,000 for a one day fashion shoot because he is incredibly talented.. and he uses old school film! I think it is so unprofessional to describe all of your expenses like that, and a wast of valuable artist time anyways, I am out of here. All the best to artists everywhere!, never undervalue yourselves;)

      • Ed
        January 27, 2012 at 6:22 AM #

        Wow Paul, I would hate to have you as my accountant! I was looking at your breakdown of expenses and such and I am not sure if its just you or if you are speaking for ALL accountants but I have to disagree with some of the stuff you said was illegitimate. The two that caught my eye were shoes and health insurance. Yes everyone probably goes through shoes once a year but some wear them out quicker than others because of the use. Did you know that it becomes a health risk if you use worn out shoes? That is why runners go through shoes a few times a year. And how dare you say that health insurance has zero impact on business? She said that she pays out of pocket for it and whats to say that an accident happens (like she said in her blog). The bride’s insurance isn’t going to to cover for it. It is business related so she is covered for BUSINESS accidents.

        And how can you go with a $100 for gas? Do you know how far she drives? Do you know the price of gas for that she pays when she has to fill up?

        Not to mention if you read through it, she said that if she did weddings ALONE, she would be in the hole. That is why she does other jobs to help try to make some profit.

      • kritter
        January 28, 2012 at 1:15 AM #

        Max, she said she pays $15k in taxes but i don’t think that’s based on the $50k wedding season. she works YEAR-ROUND. that means she’s pulling in money for portrait sessions, seniors sessions, etc. and we don’t know how much, which means that $15k could very well be accurate.

    • Britianie
      January 26, 2012 at 6:24 PM #

      Her point was a “this is how much I live off of and you’re telling me I make too much?”. Are you implying that workers should only get paid the cost of running a business with zero profit? How about we tell your employer that he only needs to pay you cost of living and supplies, and then come back and tell me that you believe the statement you just made.

      • Charli
        January 26, 2012 at 6:35 PM #

        WOW – an accountant didn’t even get her point! WEDDING season is only about 4 months of the year. Her BUSINESS is as a photographer. She is not solely a wedding photographer. In her response, Nicki even said that she does multiple other photography sessions throughout the year! So, Paul. Stop cringing because it affects your ability to comprehend whatever it is that you are reading. I would hate to have you as my accountant!

      • Jedi
        January 26, 2012 at 6:50 PM #

        Wow, really!? Did you even read Paul’s response?? That isn’t what he is saying at all. If she doesn’t make enough to live off, then she should charge more. It makes good BUSINESS SENSE! What she has to live off of is none of the clients business at all. As a previous poster said, she can set her prices and clients either accept that, or they don’t.

    • January 26, 2012 at 7:06 PM #

      How should you pay for your living expenses if not from the income you earn from your job?

      • Jedi
        January 26, 2012 at 8:22 PM #

        Do you understand ENGLISH!??? READ THE POST AGAIN AND UNDERSTAND THE POINT!

      • January 26, 2012 at 10:20 PM #

        Do I sense a touch of hysteria in your reply? I understand English very well, thank you. Of course the actual point is that while your “day job” boss is paying all of your business expenses and 100% of the income you earn goes towards your living expenses, small business owners are paying both… and in photography that’s often out of a gross income that’s less than what their clients are making.

        So sure, while you can’t count “*all* of your rent, car lease, & insurance cost as “overhead” business expenses,” you still need to cover exactly those expenses with the income you earn from your business, thus for all practical purposes it’s the same thing. It’s not like you can only rent out 25% of an apartment, or heat 25% of a room, or buy 25% of a computer. That’s why our income has to cover 100% of it.

        Nikki’s point is that even though her price makes the bride think that she’s “making so much money it’s crazy,” in actuality it’s barely covering the basics. Even by Paul’s calculations of overhead, Nikki is getting a take-home of $23,255. The poverty line in Pennsylvania is $22,050. That extra $1206 is really crazy.

        For some reason people think that photographers should only earn exactly the amount it costs them to do business and not a penny more. It’s true that clients typically don’t care about costs, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t care, and it certainly shouldn’t mean that acknowledging your photographer as a human being who has both business and living expenses that will be paid with the money you give them should somehow “effect [sic] [their] credibility.”

        Should she charge more? From the math, probably! But you screaming that up above doesn’t help explain to the bride the price as it stands.

    • Totally...
      January 27, 2012 at 7:23 AM #

      She only included house because as she stated that is her STUDIO also – converted garage. If your ‘boss’ didn’t pay the mortgage on your place of employment, how would that go over with the business? And when you’re evicted and all working feverishly at a park in the front yard, how credible is that business plan?

    • January 27, 2012 at 7:06 PM #

      If you don’t pay for your living expenses with the money you get from your job I’d be curious to know how you pay for them?

  63. January 26, 2012 at 5:13 PM #

    perfectly said!

  64. January 26, 2012 at 5:17 PM #

    I’m curious what MWACattack would say to your post?
    I sent the bride an e-mail asking what she thinks a reasonable cost would be. I hope to hear back but doubt she will.

    Have you heard back from her?

  65. Where has the quality gone?
    January 26, 2012 at 5:21 PM #

    Dear bride,
    Since you are looking for cheap – please feed your guests a sandwich and hire a cheap, untalented photographer. But please, don’t cry and complain afterwards that your pictures suck. There is a reason why cheap is cheap and cheap does include quality.

    • January 26, 2012 at 5:59 PM #

      I emailed the bride a response similar to this… implying that you get what you pay for.

  66. Lindsay
    January 26, 2012 at 5:26 PM #

    Thank you for writing this. I own a small cafe/play place. I lease (with high rent) a space in a very busy strip mall. I have rules in my place which I do enforce due to allergies and plus I AM A BUSINESS! If I let people bring in food, I would not be able to pay the rent for the store (so the kids can play and the parent can socialize), or the bills for the lights (so they can see). I sell food because I am a restaurant, it’s my business. I get a lot of Moms who get upset and complain. I am a business, which you are in right now sitting on the leather chairs I bought having your children playing with my huge variety of toys.

    I have come to the realization that you can’t please everyone, so there is no point in trying. Pleasing the ones that matter is what I focus on.
    You’re break down was awesome! People really need to walk a day in a small business owner’s shoes, then maybe they might actually have an idea of what it costs to service them.

    • Mary Meyer
      February 17, 2012 at 5:46 PM #

      I agree that people have no idea what a small business owner deals with to run their business. If everyone could own a business just one time in their life they might understand.
      My daughter had Jessica Strickland for her wedding photographer in Indianapolis. Jessica stayed with the bride and groom from the beginning of the wedding day until the bride and groom rode off in their carriage. Jessica did a great job and we definitely our thankful for her. But I do think weddings in general are over priced. I have been to very simple weddings and very expensive ones. In the end they are all beautiful, and it is the memories made that day that really count.

  67. Robyn
    January 26, 2012 at 5:27 PM #

    I think a lot of interesting points have been made. As a small business of course a lot of costs are going to go towards your overhead and people need to understand that. Photography equipment is expensive but I think saying that you NEED $20,000 worth of equipment to take good photos is completely ridiculous. I have $2000 worth of equipment and have done some excellent portrait/macro/landscape photography. I’m not in the industry to the point where I have my own business but it’s a hobby and I have been paid for it in the past. I’m not saying that you’re not talented if you use expensive equipment and if you can afford that boost then that’s fantastic but you shouldn’t say that you need to charge $3000 because you absolutely have to have extremely costly equipment. Equipment should not be a crutch or a requirement, lighting is it’s own seperate argument but a camera body should not determine your vision, skill and talent. I’ve found that the basics (as long as you have a camera that can take a decent RAW photo size) plus a bit of creativity with lighting etc. goes a lot farther than you’d think.

    As far as software, I realize it’s not always an option but if you’re taking courses then you should be able to be considered a student, instead of paying $4000 for the adobe creative suite (of which you only need one, maximum 2/6 programs) you pay around $400 as a student. Also, I’ve done perfectly acceptable editing with Elements, which only costs around $100.

    Anyway, I’m not trying to discount what you’ve said because it is true but you shouldn’t portray the industry as a black and white of ‘unless you spend $10-20,000 on equipment you’re not professional and not worth $3000 a wedding. I just find that sort of offensive.

    That being said feel free to disagree if you feel I’m completely off base with all this.

    • angelique
      January 26, 2012 at 6:05 PM #

      The licensing for Adobe’s student collection is that it is used for learning, not profit. While most photographers are constantly learning to improve their business, taking advantage of these software discounts for students is not something a “professional” should be doing. Cutting corners is not professional, and I certainly wouldn’t want to hire someone who is essentially breaking copyright. Do the developers at Adobe need to write up a similar post as to why people should pay the full price for Photoshop?

      There is also a huge different between portrait/macro/landscape photography and chasing around a moving target for 12 hours straight.

      I’m not a photographer, so you can take my disagreement with a grain of salt. But I am a small business owner who works closely with photographers, and I prefer to work with the ones who take their business seriously.

      • January 27, 2012 at 2:52 AM #

        Actually, if you read the policies surrounding Adobe’s student licensing there is not copyright breaking by buying a student version of their programs. They give you the exact same license at an 80% discount. They realize that students will either own their own business while students or eventually graduate. A graduated student only needs to purchase an upgrade rather than buying the entire new version of and adobe product as well.

        I know it’s not the point of this post, but I thought I’d throw that out there since you are accusing people who use their student “versions” for business of breaking copyright. This is actually not the case and Adobe understands and is okay with this happening as long as it was bought with educational intentions in the first place.

    • Britianie
      January 26, 2012 at 6:28 PM #

      She isn’t saying “this is the equipment that you HAVE to have” she is saying “this is the equipment that I have and THIS is why I am able to do what I do in the conditions that I work in”. Agree with it or not, if you wan’t high quality photos, you need high quality equipment.

    • January 28, 2012 at 6:29 PM #

      Okay, mr. Amateur. You say you use $2000 set of equipment and it gives you perfect results. But when you do landscape, macro and portraiture – you don’t need fast and really precise AF. You probably don’t do low-light. And, what’s a bit more important – you do that for YOURSELF.
      Actually I wonder how Nikki does wedding with slow and inconsistent 5D Mark II, but probably she has some approach, or 7D does the job when it comes to speed and precision.
      I shoot with $5000 camera, that’s EOS 1D Mark IV. I do it for living, I’m photojournalist and Actually, 90% of my pictures won’t be any worse taken with EOS 500D and cheapo lenses, but that remaining 10% are what I work for. For myself I’m fine with 1930s Voigtlaender 6×9 cm camera, which is now dirt cheap compared to modern stuff, in good working condition condition and with nice lens it costs like $250 (actually, it was $250 in 1936 too, but then-$700 could buy you a car, new and not the cheapest).
      The likes of your say that camera is just a tool and it’s photographer who takes pictures. That’s right. Sewing machine won’t make you a dress, chainsaw won’t cut the tree, spanner won’t unscrew the rusty screw and chisel won’t carve ornate on a wooden cabinet unmanned. You need tailor, lumberjack, plumber and carpenter to do that.
      But ask tailor, lumberjack, plumber, carpenter – are they willing to do their work with cheap instruments? I guess the answer is “no”, because cheap instruments will do fine ten times and will break on eleventh. Probably tailor can sew with just needle and thread, like tailors did for centuries (will you have your dress ready in three days then?). But lumberjack risks his life if his chainsaw fails.
      You can say that camera is another thing. But try shooting wedding with your inexpensive gear. What will you do when you find out that half of your images are out of focus because of slow AF, quarter of them are too noisy because the camera body isn’t capable of low-light, another 15% miss the moment because of long shutter lag and your third spare battery is drained amidst the ceremony, because you want your camera to be compact and lightweight.
      BEEN THERE, DONE THAT. I started with cheap equipment, like the majority of us. I had enough of that.
      Wedding is probably the MOST complicated branch of photography, because it includes EVERYTHING. Еvent, candid, fashion, official, macro, architecture, food, portraiture of all sorts, even still life and landscape, sometimes even espionage; both studio and outdoors. And you have no right to miss the shot – because if you miss some moment, it is forgotten. And, like it’s been told numerous times regarding this case and many times before – wine, cakes, flowers and dress are gone next day. The only remaining things are rings, certificate, wife, husband and pictures. Funny, but, for instance, if you are citizen of certain states, Russian Federation, for example, and want to get New Zealand (and not only NZ, but some other countries too) tourist visa, one of the requirements for you if you stated that you are married, is a small set of professionally done wedding photographs.
      Nikki is not a “monster” kind of professional. Average, I’d say, nothing I can’t do myself, nothing I haven’t seen before. I have the right to call her “beginner”, since as she started with 7D, it turns out that she is in biz for not more than two years, and it takes at least five years to have a right to call yourself real professional. But she does steady job, and she improves, she makes her living with that and she doesn’t give up whatever happens – and that already makes her professional. Many amateurs are better photographers than professionals, regarding creative vision and individual approach. But the main difference between amateur and professional is that professional GUARANTEES the result of a certain level, both technical and creative, whatever happens. Even if I shoot for free, I can’t do lower than some certain level. And amateur can fail anytime. Technically perfect image without a spirit is nothing, same goes for excellent idea ruined because of poor equipment.

      I hope you got the point.

    • January 29, 2012 at 3:06 AM #

      Yes, Robyn I think you’re completely off base. You summed up your “hobbyist” point of view perfectly by saying “I’m not in the industry to the point where I have my own business but it’s a hobby and I have been paid for it in the past.”

      There’s a difference between hobbyist and professional. When your game is at a professional level, you can’t run a business with “good enough” tools and equipment. You can’t deliver professional images by doing “perfectly acceptable editing with Elements”. Her level of work and professionalism justifies her prices…

  68. January 26, 2012 at 5:31 PM #

    This was well said!

  69. January 26, 2012 at 5:45 PM #

    I am a bride to be and a Photographer myself and thank you for writing back to her, I never understood how someone could charge so much until i became a photographer myself and know exactly what you said above.. Thank You!! I’m paying my photographer for my wedding $3000.00 and it will be worth EVERY Penny,

    “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” – TOTALLY TRUE!!

  70. January 26, 2012 at 5:45 PM #

    I guess if one wants to be cheap on the ONLY thing on your wedding day that will last forever and that you can go back and view over and over again, since even these days the marriage itself doesn’t last very long, that is how much she cares about her marriage :) If she wants to go cheap, just get a $1 minister, get married in the garage and have the reception at the local dive bar.

    • January 27, 2012 at 8:45 PM #

      and if you had a professional photographer charging $3-5000 at that $1dollar minister, married in the garage, reception at the dive bar wedding day… your photos would look FABULOUS!! Likely set a new trend in minimalist weddings… going green or something like that…make it on the wall at the Metropolitan Art Gallery…

      (ok to fend off the heat from that… I will qualify it with “Talented” professional photographer. As I am sure there are some who charge that but may not have the skills)

      • January 28, 2012 at 6:48 PM #

        Actually I dream of shooting wedding where bride and groom are casual, rings are made of tin, tramway+subway or old school bus instead of limo, pop instead of champagne, a street band replacing the orchestra and all formalities turned into joke (yes, minister or official doing ceremony at the garage is really cool). I can even do that for free – probably not branding myself “wedding photographer” for this very case, since weddings are side jobs for me and my main occupation is news shooting. That will be a cool story for me as photojournalist, and, I guess, damn effective for bridezillas and their show-off-obsessed traditionalist parents. And if I’ll do that kind of wedding according to regular price list, that will be much better lesson for them, as it’s the perfect illustration that memories are the most precious thing after spouse, all bells and whistles are nothing, and efforts should be rewarded accordingly.

  71. Monica
    January 26, 2012 at 5:46 PM #

    I pay money for expensive photographers for all of my kid’s birthday sessions (and I used them for my wedding, maternity sessions, and newborn sessions) so I can have these memories forever. I want to thank you and other photographers for having such a passion and dedication for your work.

    I did not read through all of the comments as there were so many, and maybe it was mentioned somewhere, but one thing I noticed was when you were listing out the cost of being a photographer you listed your car payments, insurance, lawyer fees, etc. as part of the cost. The costs you reflect above are one-time yearly costs, correct? I think your response was flawed in the fact that while you may be “in the hole” for this one particular session, you make up for with all the other sessions.

    I realize this was not the point of your response, and I fully respect you and other photographers for sticking to your guns when it comes to idiot brides (and other clients). However, I don’t think photographers are struggling as much as they appear to be. I could say that my job doesn’t pay very much after considering the cost of my car payment, insurance, gas, secondary insurance, etc. It’s just the economy we live in–everyone struggles.

    Again, I want to thank all of you truly professional photographers that create these memories for us. I don’t mean to insult or offend anyone. This is just what I was thinking about when I read your response.

  72. January 26, 2012 at 5:51 PM #

    Well put! This is a great explanation.

    Just your basic camera and lens collection for a serious shooter is 5-10k! People do not realize how expensive it is for someone who’s serious and wants to use all quality equipment for their clients’ best interests.

  73. January 26, 2012 at 5:52 PM #

    Only photographers have to do this. I’ve never seen a restaurant owner or a plumber or car mechanic have to go into such depth and detail as to why they charge what they charge. It’s a good article though. It’s probably the best I’ve ever seen at explaining the business side of being a wedding photographer. But, again, only photographers seem to have to resort to this kind of thing. Does Toyota sit there and argue with customers about their costs of manufacturing and outsourcing and why a car costs what it costs? No. They just say, there’s the price. I think sometimes, we have to take a step back and look at the bigger picture and not worry about people that don’t appreciate the work we do.

    • Britianie
      January 26, 2012 at 6:29 PM #

      That’s a fantastic point.

    • January 26, 2012 at 7:08 PM #

      How many “everyday” people do you see able to fix their own cars? Or manufacture their own cars? How many people are able to do their own plumbing repairs? People don’t complain about the prices of these things, because they don’t have the ability, or the patience, to do those things themselves. These days, you can buy a “nice” camera for an inexpensive price–how many DSLR cameras do you see at a vacation spot?–so because everyone has the capacity (note–NOT necessarily the ability) to take pictures, people seem to think that it isn’t that difficult to be a photographer. Photographers have to justify their prices more often because so many people buy a DSLR camera and think they automatically turn into Ansel Adams.

    • January 26, 2012 at 7:39 PM #

      Oh no .. its not only photographers who have to do this kind of “accounting”. I am a highly qualified and skilled home child care provider and people think that all I do is sit around and play with kids. I’m good at what I do, so of course it looks easy. I should do it for 20 bucks a day. I’m allowed 5 kids at a time so each fulltime spot is 20% of my income. And there are limitations to how many kids of each age, etc. making it virutally impossible to be 100% full 100% of the time. I’m raising those kids and what I do is totally “priceless” yet its hard to make a living in this vocation. I do it because I love kids, and its what I’m good at and love to do. I can’t EVER afford holidays other than drive an hour or two to visit family occasionally. Self-employed/independants/small biz people we need to stick together and support and encourage each other. Bravo for your posting, Nikki.

    • LogicalConsideration
      January 26, 2012 at 8:15 PM #

      Stick to photography, not arguments. Restaurant owners don’t do it because people have a more instinctive understanding of what their costs are. They can SEE the building, the food, the wait staff, the cooks, etc. So, they trust it. It is much harder for for people when they have to IMAGINE what the expenses of the photographer are. So it is easier to mistrust. Your expenses are not imaginary expenses mind you, its just that your customers have to use their imagination because they can’t actually SEE the bulk of what you do. Toyota doesn’t break it down like that because, no offense, but designing and building a car and bringing it to market is infinitely more complex that shooting weddings and customers would be overwhelmed by bookshelf filling number of pages it would take to itemize each individual expense of the car.

      And in fact, the plumbers and the car mechanics DO itemize everything, at least the reputable ones do. No one is saying you need to break out your items of overhead. But you do need to break out every aspect of the actual work (and materials) that goes directly into the wedding job. A reputable car mechanic will not only list the individual parts (and their prices), but how many hours they expect it to take to make the repairs and what their hourly rate is. That hourly rate is understood by the consumer to include both their overhead and their profit. The MOST reputable ones will not only quote you an itemized price ahead of time, but if it takes less time than expected, they will charge you for the actual time it took rather than the expected; and if it takes them longer than expected they often won’t charge you for the extra time.

      • Jennifer
        January 27, 2012 at 6:03 AM #

        I am not a photographer, but I have a good friend that is. I am not a car mechanic, but my fiancee is. The professions are actually very similar in the equipments needed and complaints voiced. By law an auto shop MUST furnish you with an estimate of cost and labor. If their price changes by more than 20% they must notify you before they continue work. Photographers can’t really change their price after work has started. If you have a mechanic that doesn’t charge you for extra labor, you got very lucky. The same as people never stop to think about how much photography equipment costs, mechanic costs are very high. People find out my fiancee is a mechanic, they want him to fix their car for $20 or $50. They never stop to think about the almost 20 years experience he has and the cost of keeping licenses current nor the almost $24,000 worth of tools he has had to buy and still has to buy to do specific jobs but they get upset when he says it will cost more. The whole point of her reply was to try to inform an ignorant person of the true cost of her business and if you want to pay cheap prices, you will get cheap work.

  74. January 26, 2012 at 5:53 PM #

    I am not a photographer but I am an event manager and her rant is why the word “wedding” automatically adds more money to it. Brides and the families are CRAZY. All of them, doesn’t matter who you are, you are nuts when it comes to your wedding. And I don’t blame you, its something you only do once (hopefully). So yes you should charge a premium for all you have to do when it comes to weddings.
    Laying out your expenses I agree with most of it, but your right, people don’t pay you 3G for your overhead, they pay you for your talent, but you charge 3G for your overhead and your talent because that’s what you need. So I see both sides of the coin.
    I paid a TON of money to a wedding photographer and had great photos but not enough of them, so money isn’t always everything nor is talent, sometimes its just being on the same page and sometimes it just means combining “free” photos from your friends (if you want to lay out expenses you probably paid more for them to take them than you do the photographer) with the ones your photographer grabbed.
    I think this woman is nutso and probably deserves a spot on the show “bridezillas”. She will likely suffer and be upset when she comes back with bad photos and realize why people spend the money. Or she won’t. I wouldn’t waste my time or breathe with someone obviously angry at the world!

  75. January 26, 2012 at 6:02 PM #

    awesome! great job in voicing out the industry! :D

  76. January 26, 2012 at 6:04 PM #

    Wow! Way to break it down! Love this article and I’m not even a wedding photographer!

  77. LogicalConsideration
    January 26, 2012 at 6:06 PM #

    You make a lot of good points that most brides and grooms are unaware of. There is one thing that a lot of wedding photographers do (maybe not YOU, but a lot of them) that is bad a bad business practice since virtually every couple complains about the price of the photographer, even the ones who pay anyway.

    It seems that most photographers, when contacted by a couple for a price quote, quote by the value of a “package” of a certain number of photos of certain sizes and maybe an album and a CD (I am sure there are other options, too, but that’s not the point). It might also say that it covers X number of hours at the wedding events. That’s all they supply and, since most couples are young and inexperienced, it never occurs to them to ask for more information.

    You would probably be better served if you provided an itemized list that broke down all the parts of the job and what the hourly charge for that time would be. For example, if it takes you 3 hours to do the layout on a wedding album, then under “wedding album preparation” you might have the following (keep in mind both hours involved and the per hour rate you have to charge to cover your expenses and earn a living are totally made up by me, this is just the TYPE of information I would want. I don’t mean to suggest this task would only take 3 hours and you should only charge $25/hour. Or what a blank wedding album costs for that matter):
    Do layout of wedding album — 3 hours x $25/hour =$75
    Cost of blank album $25
    Print photos for album– 1 hour x $25/hour=$25
    Total $125

    Most photographers would simply break it out at the level of “Wedding Album – $125″ which tends to give heart attacks. If you break it down, people can understand and accept it better. Do something like the above for every aspect of the job.

  78. January 26, 2012 at 6:06 PM #

    Great blog entry – super entertaining! I was cheering through the whole thing. The comments from photographers and brides above are hilarious!

    If I were to add anything, I’d tell her about this cool thing called the “free market”. It’s not like every wedding photographer got together and decided to raise their prices. If someone could afford and sustain to do it cheaper, they would!

    I’m going to write that bride an email just for fun as well :)

  79. January 26, 2012 at 6:06 PM #

    I’m a business owner as well and I find it beyond frustrating when people question pricing or say that we are too expensive. Being in a legit business (and a damn good one if I may say so myself) comes with a multitude of expenses that the client often times does not consider. Great service comes at a cost and in the event clients want a ‘deal’, there are plenty of ‘under the table’ operators that will happily service them but not provide them with anything close to what a legit company would be able to, let alone meet the fiduciary obligations a company has to its country and state/province of origin.

    A good business deserves every penny paid to it. There’s a terrific quote by John Ruskin that I love, it’s about getting what you pay for.

    ““It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money – that’s all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot – it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better.”
    ― John Ruskin

    Good on you for taking the time to prepare such a detailed letter. I wish you the best in your business; you have a great head on your shoulders. I hope this post goes viral!

  80. January 26, 2012 at 6:08 PM #

    you are tack sharp and sound in everything you explained Nikki! I totally support your justifications about the payments going into investment of all sorts to run this business and leave us with little to raise toasts. Probably, the clients who find 3k$ too much for a great piece of work to be kept with themselves for the rest of lives, should get their weddings covered by their younger cousins shooting thru iphones and videos thru banquet hall CCTvs :D
    Cheers for such a bold attempt to spread your costs and justify the answer Nikki! Respect!

  81. January 26, 2012 at 6:10 PM #

    I’m completely frustrated with this right now. I did 11 weddings last year in between family shoots. It was busy and I loved it. All of what you stated above is so true. But the reason the public feels this way is because “their best friend got a Canon rebel for Christmas and thats a good camera and why not just let her take the pictures?” I hear this all the time. In this day and age, it’s so hard to justify your costs when they know someone with a nice camera that can do it. Really? Then trust them to do it and see what you get. GRRRRR… I liked your response! Reminds me of something funny I read. Said basically you don’t approach a chef after a delicious meal and tell them they must have an amazing oven.

    • January 27, 2012 at 9:00 PM #

      I started reading your post and was all ready to provide the same ending as you did… you never walk up to a chef after an excellent meal and ask him what kind of pots and pans he uses…!!

      • January 28, 2012 at 6:56 PM #

        Actually it’s a VERY BEARDED anecdote about chef+pans and (choose your liking) photographer+camera, musician+instrument, artist+paints, tailor+machine… Better tools in better hands deliver better results.

  82. January 26, 2012 at 6:11 PM #

    Photography is a business. Period.
    It’s perfectly acceptable to consider that business in your pricing. EVERY business does. Period.

    As for needing to make a good product, that’s where competition and market value comes in. It’s good for business to be good at what you do. If you are not, your business will go bust. Likewise, if you do not run your business like a business and price accordingly, you will ALSO go bust. The article perfectly articulates this.

    We don’t become photographers to become rich. We know we’re not going to. But we do have to make a living at it. Personally, I believe where the original article went wrong, is you did not even CHARGE for a “creative fee”. There’s the charge for your talent.

    A photographer’s cost of business + his talent = his market value.
    DO NOT shoot for less than you can afford to. You may THINK that any amount is at least something. But in doing so, you not only undervalue yourself, you send a message that your work and your business is not worth the market rate. Your livelihood will not recover from that.

    I’d be interested in hearing the bride’s response.

    • LogicalConsideration
      January 26, 2012 at 6:52 PM #

      Sorry, but to an outsider, something called a “creative fee” sounds pompous and like BS. Yes, you deserve to be compensated for your talent. But that should be incorporated into your hourly rate. You don’t see lawyers or plumbers or most anyone with skills beyond those of the normal public tacking on a “creative fee” on top of their hourly rate.

      • E.
        January 26, 2012 at 7:05 PM #

        I’ve got to agree here. I’ve seen a lot of photographers who have bogus sounding fees like that, and it just irritates me.

      • January 27, 2012 at 9:07 PM #

        No disrespect to plumbers… they work a hard job that I would NOT want to do. But you could hardly say plumbing gets creative in an artistic sense the way photography or any other art form does. I get that you may feel it is pompous to say… but only if the person isn’t really creative or talented. It is fairly common terminology in the advertising business and does actually make a lot of sense. If you put it into the hourly rate you are minimizing the creative talent involved in taking excellent pictures to something that you just slog through at an hourly pace for an hourly rate. That is definitely NOT the case when it comes to creative talent.

    • Toma
      January 26, 2012 at 9:39 PM #

      I wouldn’t even put a creative fee separately in there as it’ll make you sound shady. The overall cost represents your talents.

  83. January 26, 2012 at 6:13 PM #

    Amen, sister! As a budding photographer (fresh out of college), your words are encouraging, on valuing ourselves and our work. Preach it Nikki, preach it.
    -L

  84. Well said!!

  85. Charles
    January 26, 2012 at 6:19 PM #

    Did you get a response? I’m curious how the poster reacted

    • January 26, 2012 at 6:50 PM #

      I dont know if Nikki got a response yet, but I’ve been wondering all day about this bride’s inbox. She’s from Seattle. She’s getting replies from us over here in Erie, and I can only assume everywhere in between. I replied to her, I know a few other people who commented on this blog replied to her…. I’m not sure how many of us will actually hear from her.

      • LogicalConsideration
        January 26, 2012 at 7:56 PM #

        The original response by Ms. Wagner to the Craigslist bride was completely reasonable. The rest of you piling on her and flooding her email with further harangues (many of which I am sure are not polite like Ms. Wagner’s) are just being jerks and contributing nothing to the education of your market.

  86. confused
    January 26, 2012 at 6:25 PM #

    I’m sorry, but I have a job (Registered Nurse). I don’t understand your expenses. I am required special shoes and clothes for work, a car and gas to get there as well. I also have required classes that I have to pay for and take on my own time.
    I do realize that you get what you pay for, but lets be honest. A lot of your expenses would be expenses in any job and you cannot justify them. The one example that sticks out is your rent. We all have to pay for a place to live!!

    • Charli
      January 26, 2012 at 6:48 PM #

      do you OWN the facility or company? or do you have a boss that hired you?
      look at the companies income. it will be GREATER than the SUM of its employees salaries. thats how it affords to stay in business and hire people like you!
      she OWNS her own business. she could rent a facility/studio but decided to SAVE money by converting part of her personal residence. And yes, according to taxes, dedicating part of your personal residence as business is allowed!

      • January 26, 2012 at 6:51 PM #

        Carlie, LIKE! ^^^

      • Jedi
        January 26, 2012 at 6:55 PM #

        PART, the key word there is PART of her personal residence…not all of it.

      • charli
        January 26, 2012 at 10:05 PM #

        Correct- it would be unethical to claim everything – but if you use it for business you can use it as a business expenses.

    • Toma
      January 26, 2012 at 9:33 PM #

      You are definitely confused. Try owning a business and you’ll find out.

    • Totally...
      January 27, 2012 at 7:33 AM #

      Start paying for any medicine you administer, any syringes you use, any utilities for the hospital in any rooms you are in, any food for the patients, and pay the cleaning crew for any rooms you treat patients in, ad nauseam out of your TAKE HOME salary, and THEN you would understand what she’s talking about. As stated, rent is a justifiable business expense when you work from home, but perhaps not the entirety of her rent, but at least part – every business needs to have a primary residence.

    • January 27, 2012 at 7:50 PM #

      And do you not pay for your rent with the money you make from your job? I don’t get why this is so hard to understand?!

    • January 27, 2012 at 10:30 PM #

      Exactly what Charli says… You get your salary and yes…pay for all those items that you have listed just as Nikki and all the other small business owners do…but to liken yourself to Nikki or any other small business owner you would also have to pay rent at the hospital, buy all the tools/instruments you use at work, cover your own health care, and all of those other things that have been listed out of your take home pay. Being in business for yourself is filled with cost… Most people who “just have a job” (and I am not putting anyone down… we all have out own comfort level when it comes to risk and needs for employment) don’t fully comprehend the cost of running a business. I know from my days working in the helicopter business that most employees on the floor have a greatly skewed idea of what it costs (or doesn’t cost) to run a business. (As for the Rent portion… you are allowed to claim a portion of your home on income tax if you work out of the house. Like for a professional meeting with clients… if they do it at their home will have to make some kind of renovation and or have somewhat upscale furniture. Business expenses. Your employer has to pay rent… or a mortgage on the property yes? it is a valid business expense. It just so happens that here the business is attached to the home, but for business purposes it is treated as a separate building)

      The perceived cost of being photographer or any other professional working for yourself is often greatly underestimated by the lay person. Nikki has done a great job of informing this woman of “why it costs so much for an excellent photographer” there is so much more to it than what she (the Craigslist Rant Lady) thinks there is.

      At the end of the day, the dress goes in a box likely never to be worn by the bride again, The food gets eaten the flowers wilt and die, the DJ and the guests go home and all that is left of this whole special day…. the beginning of two individuals, now as one, taking on the rest of the world as a team… is the Wedding photos. When you get right down to it the Wedding photographer is creating the very first heirloom of a new family… to be passed down from generation to generation… THAT is THE single most important job of the entire event. Worth every penny of $3000 and more for truly exceptional talent. (Nikki… charge MORE)

      Sucky pictures will haunt you the rest of your life… you can’t redo your wedding if the cheap amateur photographer screws it up… or doesn’t have a backup camera when their primary goes down, or their cheap data card fails. (a good CF card for a DSLR can cost $300-400 dollars) or takes all the shots with the camera set to P. (Automatic)

      Sorry trying not to rant and not upset by your comments… you have a valid question that I hope we have been able to help you answer. (I know I branched off your original expense question… but I have been reading through most of this and felt compelled to fit a lot of what i have been thinning into this one post.)

  87. Heidi
    January 26, 2012 at 6:26 PM #

    AMEN! I am so sick of hearing this from people and I love your explanation. Sadly the other issue is anyone who buys a DSLR feels they are a ‘professional photographer’ which is horrid for those of us who know what we are doing and then we have to hear ‘so and so offered to do my family pictures for only $20 why are you so expensive?’ I am going to start directing them here because this applies to any type of photography.

    • Heidi
      January 26, 2012 at 6:39 PM #

      The other thing that has to be taken into consideration is all the time we put into consultations that never pan out. Think if a wage earner had a regular full time job but still had to go on interviews multiple times a month in hopes of gaining just a little extra capital.

    • E.
      January 26, 2012 at 7:10 PM #

      Your point about everyone who owns a DSLR thinking they are a ‘professional photographer’, is spot on. It seems like anyone who owns a camera and editing software automatically knows what their doing. Bugs me. Having the equipment doesn’t cut it. You have to have the ‘eye’ for photography and know how to operate your equipment properly.

  88. Rebecca
    January 26, 2012 at 6:28 PM #

    Well, seems typical of Seattle–this past week our power has been out due to some very nasty weather that everyone was warned about in advance. As a fact newscasters were telling people to be prepared for two weeks without power. Guess what? We’ve had people threatening to shoot the crews, stealing copper wire from the trucks, people blowing up Facebook with rants/threats, demands to cut down all our trees (yeah, we’re the “Evergreen State” for a reason), and State Patrol on duty at the service centers. Why would these kind of people think they should have to pay for a photographer? It’s so sad.

    • January 26, 2012 at 6:52 PM #

      Yikes!

  89. January 26, 2012 at 6:28 PM #

    Great post. I’m not a photographer, actually I’m a copywriter and I face the same issues on a day-to-day basis. People think “You’re just writing words”, but of course there is way more to it than that. You wouldn’t believe some of the insulting offers I get from people. $50 to write a website! A website which, given the proper copy, will make them a fortune.

    Of course, when you explain to them it will cost much more than that (about 100 times more than that) they freak out. They go get a “copywriter” who is happy to be paid anything and they get crappy work in return.

    It’s very hard to make most people see the value in what they do because most people will try anything to save money and get stuff done on the cheap. The problem is, most people don’t realise that it’s a false economy.

    Bottom line is, if you want the best quality of anything, you have to pay for it.

    Thanks for the post again.
    James

    • January 28, 2012 at 7:32 PM #

      The answer for these people is simple: “Try writing yourself”. Sometimes I’m blamed for being paid more than bus driver. I have $1300/month (after taxes, boss’ accountant cares about that), that’s salary. Photojournalist + writing + videos + publishing + translations + whatever else I’m capable of. And I dare say I do it professionally not only because I’m paid for that.
      I own all my equipment which costs like yearly gross income – and I need that to deliver results competitive to rival major news agencies and newspapers in visual quality, since we’re specialized media. It is not reimbursed. On the positive side here is that I can use this equipment as I wish.
      I just don’t want to jeopardize my own name with pictures technically inferior to what major media do, just because my boss can’t afford buying me decent and capable equipment. Also, I want to work for major media, and these days it’s a Darwinist struggle, because who needs dedicated photographer if there is a smartphone capable of delivering picture good enough for web… thus I need to show that even in small media I’m capable of doing like “big guys” do, and sometimes even better.
      My boss sometimes complains that I don’t attend the office every day and prefer doing everything online. When I counter that my colleagues in other media get 1,5…3x my payment for just one thing from the list of my skills, he shuts up. And I also know why my boss can’t pay me more.
      You can ask, why I’m underpaid if I’m so smart. Ok… try to be staff journalist in time and place where everyone blogs and news are replaced by tweets. If some media posts an ad about vacancy, they remove no later than in one day, because they fill it in several hours. And everyone who has steady job in Russian news market, holds for it for all his worth and cherishes his luck, even if the wages barely cover food and clothes.

  90. January 26, 2012 at 6:32 PM #

    If you want top-quality professional photography, then you have to pay the going rate. You *could* risk it and hire a student photographer in their final year, but they’re unlikely to have all the equipment and experience that a fully-fledged professional possesses.
    A friends’ wedding hired a retro photo booth (that produces the 4 classic passport photos) and everyone had their pictures taken in that. It was a great idea and everyone had fun with it. Then again, he’s a tattoo-covered tattoo artist and she’s a tattoo-covered “suicide girl”, and the theme of the wedding was Hallowe’en, so they’re not conventional people. Unlike most “Bridezillas”, who want their perfect, unique (and utterly generic) day in the sun. Y’know, virginal white dresses, flowers and cake; a veil of female envy and male fear.
    The fact is that everything at weddings are at a premium for precisely that reason – the illusion of idyllic “uniqueness” – and I only wish that freelance writers like me could get in on the act as well!

  91. Abby
    January 26, 2012 at 6:34 PM #

    As a recent bride with a very small budget, I found that by looking for newer photographers or photographers that were in need of building their portfolio really helped a lot. We didn’t complain or ask for discounts because we know how much goes into the photos, yet we wanted really quality photographs. We also got married on a Sunday which allowed for our photographer to squeeze us in on a very busy and profitable weekend. One of the photographers we talked with suggested the above advice and also put us in touch with her best second shooter. We got great shots and stayed within our budget. If we had a bigger budget, we would have dished out a lot to get the best experience, but we trusted who we talked with and it all worked out!

  92. sofia
    January 26, 2012 at 6:42 PM #

    Amen is RIGHT!
    Nikki you forgot to add – while working on her images you are missing quality time with your family.
    People don’t get it! It’s like any other small business.
    I get people calling me for photography services and complain about my pricing. Seriously? If they want a point and shoot every day shot they might as well hire their siblings to take their photos.

    You have put it out there loud and clear — hopefully the bride and others understand what we photographers do everyday.

    -sofia

  93. January 26, 2012 at 6:43 PM #

    Thank you so much for your response to that lady’s craigslist ad. I couldn’t have put it any better. So thanks again for standing up for all of us Honest, Hard-working Photographers out there!

  94. January 26, 2012 at 6:43 PM #

    Great blog post, good on you.

  95. January 26, 2012 at 6:47 PM #

    Hey Nikki
    all I can say is wow…yes you said it all. People ate always trying to bargin me down in price for weddings. I simply wont budge…and I charge less than you too. I miss out in weddings because of this but I spend way to much time editing pictures to bargin with clients. Thank you for perfectly saying what most of us photographers think!!!!!!!!!

    • January 26, 2012 at 7:09 PM #

      are always, typing on my droid is so frustrating

  96. PJ
    January 26, 2012 at 6:48 PM #

    So, do you think the value in what you do is justified purely by the expense in the costs you incur to do it? I think by making this argument, you are devaluing the value that your experience and skill bring to the table. I am a profesional videographer and would put my product produced on amateur equipment against an amateur with professional equipment any day. There are thousands of amateur “photographers” out there with fantastic expensive camera packages that will shoot 1200 pictures at a wedding and end up with 40 that are worth delivering; while I’d bet you can shoot 200 and have most of them be as good and probably better than those 40. I have always made this point by billing my day rate separately from equipment rental and services. Sure there are many, many jobs that I didn’t get because people are driven by unrealistic budgets, but the clients that know my value, hire me time and time again and don’t blink at my cost. Sure, those people who want me to shoot and edit a corporate video for $500 aren’t going to hire me, but they will hire someone, and the product is almost guaranteed to stink– and they’ll be upset with that and hire someone different the next time. So, unless you are ready to offer your services on an ala carte basis and let clients pick and choose what costs they are willing to pay for– don’t stoop to the level of justifying your rate on a dollar by dollar basis… and for goodness sake, quit reading Craigslist ads, they’ll only piss you off!

    • January 26, 2012 at 7:18 PM #

      she wasnt reading the ads, it was posted to a group page that we all read for kicks.

  97. January 26, 2012 at 6:51 PM #

    Wow! Fantastic post and very well said. People need to understand that there is a reason why a professional photographer is worth their price. If someone wants their photography cheap then they should go and buy a cheap camera and get their mate to take the photographs… and then they’ll see why a pro is worth the money!

  98. January 26, 2012 at 6:52 PM #

    This is so incredibly true and well worded! I think you’re right in that people don’t understand how much expense and work goes into each wedding and session. I will definitely be sharing this! Thank you for perfectly wording what so many of us photographers are feeling!

  99. January 26, 2012 at 6:53 PM #

    Wonderful post Nikki. I think at the end of the day, we could only hope to make that $19/hr that the original post had suggested. I know every photographer uses different services and has different costs. Yes, equipement is important, but again it’s really up to the photographer to spend money on gear, so I’ll leave that out of the equation. For a $3000 wedding, minus any cost in paying 2nd photographer, gas, cost of any printing, hosting images for the client, album proofing services, plus any other fixed monthly costs (divided by the number of weddings), we probably net out at around $1800. I personally have done a quick tally on hours I spend for each client: 3-4 hr spent on complimentary engagement, 10hrs post processing, 1 hr initial client consultation, 1 hr followup emails/phone consultations, 1-2 hr driving to/from venues, 10hr wedding day, 30-40 hrs post processing + slideshow creation, 10 hrs album design & revisions, album/deliverables packaging (total of anywhere from 70-80 hours). If you do the math $1800/80hrs = $22.50. All this is not including the heart and soul poured into marketing and blogging, advertising, vendor networking, and quite simply running the day-to-day errands of a small business.

    As a professional photographer, $3000 is pretty bare-bones to make a business run and sustainable. I’d like to wish the original post-er the best in finding an “amazing” photographer.

  100. January 26, 2012 at 6:58 PM #

    Awesome sauce. +10 for a well thought out, meticulous response. You’re my hero.

    • January 26, 2012 at 7:19 PM #

      LIKE ^^^ I think I’m gonna start saying Awesome sauce.

  101. January 26, 2012 at 7:00 PM #

    I am sharing this on my FB page if thats okay :) I was a full time photographer, still am part time but I did not have the capital needed to do what i love so I am only doing side jobs at the moment. Hoping that soon I can get back into it – it is something I am extremely passionate about! Hoping to open up my own studio + nutrition club = great market with brides!!!
    i love your post – so true!!! I ran into this multiple times with brides and families. I refer those people to the “get your portraits & groceries at one stop” place because essentially thats what they want to pay for.
    a lot of good points have been brought up throughout these comments & a lot of people that don’t get the point! Good luck & don’t lower your prices!!! You are definately worth it and I believe that your response to that Bridezilla was appropriate! :)

  102. January 26, 2012 at 7:08 PM #

    Nikki!!! Thank you so much for writing this! I was going to reply to that bride with a long drawn out response, but I started writing it on my phone and by the time I got home I just felt so winded trying to explain (in a bit of a nasty tone) why we charge what we do. Your response is killer and nailed every single point. I appreciate this, so again thank you in behalf of Nina Grace Photography

  103. January 26, 2012 at 7:11 PM #

    Agree with most of what nikki says except the expenses. Particularly the equiptment expenses. It assumes that your camera (& other hardware like computer etc) are ‘used up’ & replaced at full value every year. Not so, they can last many years and so they should be amortized over their usefull life, probably at least 5 years. You don’t buy a new body & lens every season.
    Also some of the expenses are partially personal….you don’t use your car & its expenses) solely for wedding shoots, so tose expenses need to be apportioned as well. With these adjustments, then the figures look a lot better and are more realistic.

    derek
    PS this also applies to other shooters, not just wedding photogs.

    derek

  104. E.
    January 26, 2012 at 7:15 PM #

    My dad, being a small business owner, has always said “You get what you pay for.” I think it fits perfectly here. If you find a cheap rate, then you’re probably going to get cheap service/product in return.

  105. rich
    January 26, 2012 at 7:15 PM #

    Some people are just clueless.

    …yeah, and I guess EVERY software package cost $0.10 because that’s the cost of the CD.

  106. January 26, 2012 at 7:16 PM #

    OMG!!!! You gave this lady the best answer People really have no idea what it takes. I agree with you 1000%. if she wants to pay peanuts she’ll get a monkey!
    Way to go!!!!!!!!!!!!

  107. Peb0
    January 26, 2012 at 7:18 PM #

    Fair enough I guess. I understand the rant. Running a small business is hard at the best of times. I run my own business; residential hardscaping, fencing, decks, etc… so I get it.

    For me (and all businesses), my pricing has to reflect value. Value in material, time and quality. My clients don’t care if I go hungry in my off months. If my pricing is off, I don’t get the work. I can’t rest up in the winter just because “landscaping is my passion”. I have to have alternate work.

    If you can’t “capture the moment” the you aren’t a photographer, you’re a hack. (and deserve a lawsuit if you fail at your job and screw up someone’s wedding). It’s your responsibility to ensure you are capable of doing what you’ve been hired to do.

    $20-30K for equipment… ha! I wish. You can’t start any reasonable business without putting capital into it, so arguing your equipment is moot. All businesses have overhead. Every time I turn around I have to buy something $5k+

    I drive up to a clients residence with $80K+ in equipment. I have massive overhead… Millions in liability insurance, vehicle insurance, employee insurance, wear-and-tear, fuel, etc… plus storage for all my equipment when it’s not in use.

    And in the winter…. I clear snow!
    Perhaps I should incorporate an “artist fee”. and take my winters off.. I mean reasonably, I produce a better product than most other contractors. (would you pay your next contractor for that?)

    I feel your logic is flawed in that:
    You work 20-30 hours on an individual job.
    You charge $2500
    That’s about $100 per hour
    End of story.

    If this doesn’t cover your costs, do something else, or work more hours.
    (20 weddings x 30 hours = 600 hours; Full time employment is 1645 hours, allowing for 5 weeks of holidays and 35 hours per work week)
    Looks like you have some spare time on your hands.
    I’m not diss’ing the quality of your work or your talent, but get real. You need to work for a living.
    I’m sure $100 per hour (consistently) would offer you a decent income.

    You need to rethink your accounting. Turn it on it’s head and reverse calculate your break-even point. After that, all jobs are gravy (less job specific expenses).

    IE: I have to build 20 fences to cover my overhead. I only realize profit from the 21st job onward.

    Ok, I’ll don my firesuit for the maelstrom of hell-fire from the cranky masses.
    My apologies to anyone who is offended that I may suggest you cannot justify a God given right to pursue your passion at the expense of clients… and for those that are offended, perhaps you can convert me… call me up for a quote and I’ll incorporate a “passion” fee and see if you give me the job.

    Sincerely, Peace and love to all.

    • Toma
      January 26, 2012 at 9:22 PM #

      …and she does capture the moments as well as have the talent. That is why her price is reasonable.

      • charli
        January 26, 2012 at 10:17 PM #

        it takes a hair dresser 15 minutes to cut my hair. i pay them $20+. Why am i paying them $20? it only took them 15 minutes. they already bought the equipment. right?
        EVERY product someone purchases – be that a something from the grocery store, a book, a toy or a service they recieve from someone else – the fee includes production, materials, and labor. point blank. trying to follow your logic, how would her prices not be justified if she is doing what every other successful business is doing? maybe you disagree with the amount she charges, but when you shop do you buy mediocre or the best? in her situation, i believe her quality is more than worth the price she is requesting.

      • Peb0
        January 27, 2012 at 10:58 PM #

        I’m not arguing experience, quality, talent or price. I just find a rant about hardly breaking even, but then clearly explaining that she works less than half time not very compelling for me to get all sympathetic.
        From what she explained in her numbers, if she could double her jobs she’d be sitting pretty. If she can’t get enough weddings (or the season is too short, or whatever) she’s going to have to use all that creativity she apparently has, and come up with an alternative. Maybe stoop to some less than “passionate” photography, and do church, school, sports teams, sporting events, etc…
        If she worked all year and was hardly breaking even, I’m ALL there to help a fellow small-business-person, and yes I completely agree that her rates would need to increase.

        As it is, if she worked regular full-time hours, her income would be substantial for a one person shop. I have WAY more invested in equipment. I work WAY more hours than regular full-time, and I can’t hit that kind of number without having employees.

        Lowballers or people who don’t understand your costs exist in all industries. Getting all ranty about it is kind of silly. Just ignore them.

  108. January 26, 2012 at 7:20 PM #

    thank you so much for sharing this. I’m so glad you informed her, and took the time to do it… I bet she pooped her pants when she read it…. loved this post!

  109. Kate
    January 26, 2012 at 7:23 PM #

    While this is well-written, I don’t think price-justification of any service should be based on what it costs you to live every year. The price of a service is impossible to really value unless there’s some justification of return on investment – which is the last argument of “you spend thousands on flowers and venue that last 1 day, whereas photographs last a lifetime.” That really is the only valid argument in this entire post. Not de-valuing your work, just pointing out a flaw in your business-logic. Cheers.

    • Totally...
      January 27, 2012 at 7:45 AM #

      Every business plan includes overhead & profit. Which is what she is accounting for, overhead. What she pays out of pocket that contributes to the client benefit vs. what she keeps and uses for her personal living expenses are different. Do you think that when you buy a big mac the price of the materials + labor of the grill boy are the only factor in the price? No prices are set so that managers, owners, and CEO’s get a bite of the apple (sometimes huge) and guess what that pays for? THEIR living expenses (and then in the CEO’s cases a whole lot more).

  110. January 26, 2012 at 7:24 PM #

    Great response!

  111. January 26, 2012 at 7:26 PM #

    While I can certainly appreciate sticking up for the wedding photography industry when it is appropriate, I hope that receiving multiple emails from photographers around the country does not leave this frustrated bride feeling even more frustrated and hurt. I certainly do not agree with her post, but I fear it might be more of an issue of educating the client than anything. I even wrote about it on my blog here today: http://robynphotoblog.typepad.com/robynphoto/2012/01/photogcostswhy.html. Thank you for your post, Nikki. I think that you said it as best as you could, and I borrowed your blog so that I could make sure my list was as complete as possible, too. I hope that as wedding photographers we can all use this Craigslist post as an opportunity to improve the industry, though. Best wishes and intentions! – Robyn

  112. January 26, 2012 at 7:27 PM #

    Amen to that! We shouldn’t have to justify our prices. If people can see the value in what we do then those are the people I want to work with! Keep up the good work all! :-)

  113. January 26, 2012 at 7:29 PM #

    Nikki, that is an excellent response, and one that can easily translate to others in the media/arts business for themselves. I am a professional musician and have encountered much of the same aggravation over the years regarding this subject, and had to learn the hard way.

    I have one suggestion, though to lower your yearly expenses. I read that you pay $30 a MONTH for web hosting? Yikes, I don’t know anyone who pays that! The average these days is about 90 bucks for a whole year. Check into GoDaddy or another popular web host service, I’m sure you can do much better. Also, the photograph hosting and image sharing need not be that expensive at all. Flickr offers an incredible hosting and sharing package for a fraction of what you are paying. I’m just saying, I think you are getting ripped off in these two areas.

    Still, your letter was much needed in our community. Thank you for doing what you are, not just for yourself but for others in the same pickle.

    regards -

    Irminsul

  114. January 26, 2012 at 7:30 PM #

    Perfectly stated. Thanks for shedding some light on why $3000 is not really $3000 in our pockets.

  115. Casey
    January 26, 2012 at 7:31 PM #

    Ok… I’m going to admit that, while planning my wedding, I myself wondered why it cost so much to have a photographer at my wedding (I would have NEVER felt as strongly as this girl on craigslist apparently did, though). I did have a very small budget; I had a beautiful wedding, but it wasn’t a lavish affair that we went into debt for.

    However, with that being said, I would like to thank you for shedding light onto this subject to ignorant people like myself. This is a good reminder to people that there are always 2 sides to a situation. I applaud you for this WONDERFUL article, and I would like to apologize for being quick to judge photography prices. Keep up the good work:)

  116. January 26, 2012 at 7:34 PM #

    This is awesome!

  117. January 26, 2012 at 7:41 PM #

    As a wedding DJ entertainer in Erie, PA, I only recommend the best in professionals to be a part of a bride’s dream team. Unfortunately, there are those cost crunching brides who want to go cheap with the important parts of her wedding like photography or entertainment, then spend thousands on chair covers. People won’t remember the chair covers, but when you have the best team assembled, the entertainer works hard to pack the dance floor so the professional photographer can take amazing photos. And, a professional photographer knows when and what pictures at the RIGHT time without disrupting the event.

    When I hear a bride is having a ‘friend’ photograph a wedding, I know that very often she didn’t realize the importance of hiring a professional. I may only charge a fraction of what a photographer does, but it’s important to have the best professionals available for a once-in-a-lifetime event. (DJ, photographer, video, venue, flowers, cake etc.) I spend anywhere from 15-20 hours with a bride and groom preparing and entertaining at their event. Plus, a professional photographer or entertainer will always reinvest in their business and constantly stays on top of the latest trends by educating themselves on a regular basis. The bride planning a 2012 wedding has many more planning resources available than the bride of 5 or 10 years ago. But, the bride should never have an unprofessional photograph or entertain at their event. It’s not like a movie where you can redo something. If a photographer or entertainer ruins the event, then what do you do?

  118. January 26, 2012 at 7:49 PM #

    Great response. You are also paid to orchestrate their wedding and make sure their relatives and guests are there on time to be photographed. Also, you are paid for your talent and attention to detail. Without those things the wedding would be a mess and not on time, and their photographs would look sloppy and unprofessional.

  119. Jasmin
    January 26, 2012 at 7:50 PM #

    AWESOME! Well said Nikki! I wish I had a nickel for every time a bride came up to me & said she regretted hiring her cheap photographer because the pictures were horrible and the lack of professionalism was atrocious. You get what you pay for. I think you did a great job educating her that we do more than just hanging around weddings and editing images.

  120. January 26, 2012 at 7:51 PM #

    I’d love to know if she responded to this, and how.

    Because everyone planning a wedding should read this, take it to heart, keep it in mind, and be grateful there are photographers able to capture their special day with a lot of style.

  121. January 26, 2012 at 7:51 PM #

    I read this, and I can certainly relate to this situation. I used to try to justify my prices by reeling out a long list of the cost of doing business. Then I had a client actually say to me: “I don’t give a @#%$ about your life or your experience or the bills you have to pay! I am not going to pay your prices! I want cheap!! I can go to Walmart and get a better price!!!” I then decided that if someone wants to hire me based on their love of my work and the quality of product and service they receive, then they will do so gladly, regardless of price…because Value is an objective concept. As photographers we are only as valuable as we present ourselves to be. My value is determined by myself and the clients who hire me to capture their special moments and the faces of their families. I no longer justify my prices, I don’t feel I need to, as my work speaks for me and for itself. Anyone who would post this sort of Craigslist Ad is not the sort of client who values quality and service, it is a client who feels entitled to “more for less”. There are certainly photographers out there who will meet her needs, but if we value our work, then there is no need to beg for understanding or lower ourselves to post every nickel and dime we spend to live and work. I don’t see any non-photographers having to post a detailed list of their household expenses in order to justify being paid for their job or profession…. :-)

  122. katherine
    January 26, 2012 at 7:59 PM #

    You’re basing your whole budget/income on a 4 month wedding season? You can’t photograph indoor weddings? Or are you saying that your area simply does not have weddings for 8 months of the year? Unlikely.

    • charli
      January 26, 2012 at 10:22 PM #

      I have heard in that area, it rains the majority of the time so brides plan their weddings around that. In her post and if you notice on Nikkis page – she does more than just wedding photography & her business does run more than 4 months out of the year.

      • Alisa
        January 27, 2012 at 4:20 AM #

        Charli, if she does other things throughout the year then she CAN NOT justify charging these prices just because she can only do weddings 4 months of the year. she gets other incomes and really needs to include all of the income in her response not just the 4 months of the year.

  123. January 26, 2012 at 7:59 PM #

    I agree with everything you said and only wish to add one thing, it’s as my husband always says…”you get what you pay for”. Professional Photographers have knowledge and experience that is “priceless”. Aside from business costs, one pays for their professional knowledge and expertise of a true photographer, not just someone with a digital camera.

  124. January 26, 2012 at 8:00 PM #

    I can see both sides of this. While I wholeheartedly agree with you Nikki on the reason why it cost so much I too get frustrated with the cost of what a wedding photographer cost. That doesn’t not, however, excuse this woman’s horrible nasty attitude by any means.

    As a woman who is renewing her vows and finally getting a wedding it’s frustrating to be unable to find an affordable photographer. When your budget is tops $6,000, and that has to cover EVERYTHING, as much as you want the outstanding photos of someone with your talent (and you have loads of it and deserve the money!), it’s near impossible to agree to spend half your budget on one thing.

    And not all photographers are as willing as you to work with the bride/groom on the pricing when budgets are so tight.

    I guess my point is maybe this woman is just venting her frustrations on a bad day. I love your response to her and think it was wonderful and professionally worded.

  125. Photog
    January 26, 2012 at 8:05 PM #

    Valid points. I’m from the same area and shoot weddings consistently from April-November, as do many others in our area. So I think the short 4 month figure is a little exaggerated- the season is much longer. I personally feel that pricing also needs to based on experience, so a bride isn’t paying someone $3,000 to shoot a wedding if they’ve only shot a couple on their own and a handful as an assistant. You might have a cool website, take good photos, rock in Photoshop, whatever but experience is also worth something. Weddings are no joke and a big responsibility- you don’t get a do-over. Brides should be educated about that- it’s easy for someone to say they’re a “wedding photographer” when it’s their first year shooting weddings and they have no experience. And if you need more money you either shoot more or get a second job to supplement your (lack of) income.

  126. January 26, 2012 at 8:10 PM #

    Freaking LOVE this article!! You have written the most awesome post!! I am not a full-time photographer because I can’t afford to quite my day job with a daughter in college and one graduating high school about to go to college. In this industry it seems like todays brides are always looking for someone cheaper to do way more work.
    I went to college for photography but I didn’t finish because having 3 small children at the time just didn’t work. So one day when I realized I had 2 friends that graduated college with teaching degrees decided they were going to be photographers – I was like what you can do that. I had no idea anyone would hire you without a degree. (BOY WAS I WRONG) So I went and bought my camera and started from the bottom. I followed a professional on my first couple of weddings and practiced a lot, I’m still not where I would like to be, but I do hope to be certified by the end of the year and start shooting weddings again. I do hope that one day brides will realize the work that we do and stop trying to get anyone that just got a camera that now thinks their a professional photographer because they are cheaper.
    Thanks for listing!!

  127. January 26, 2012 at 8:17 PM #

    This is an amazing post. thank you x 1 million!!

  128. January 26, 2012 at 8:23 PM #

    LOVE IT!!!!! Thank you for this.

  129. January 26, 2012 at 8:27 PM #

    YES!! THANK YOU!

    Kim, Studio K Photography

  130. January 26, 2012 at 8:29 PM #

    Ug! I wish I would have added more to the above comment. Anyway, going through the posts I noticed a lot of hang ups on having to justify the cost for equipment and other external things (which are important) but let’s face it the photographer runs the show. Unlike the florist or the cooks, we are there the entire time making sure that all the facets of the wedding are recorded. Including being there in the room getting ready! They have no idea of time management that day and leave it to us to make sure we get ALL the shots. If not, they will be late to the reception, or the even the wedding itself. There is so much work that goes into gathering everyone up and making sure that this person is not next to this person because they don’t like each other ect…………………… I could go on and on, but yes, they pay for High Quality photos but they are also paying for your experience and hard work to make their wedding day run as smoothly as possible. If not, in the end, it is always the photographers fault they were late.

  131. January 26, 2012 at 8:43 PM #

    Brillant and brave! What especially rings home to me is your expenses are really modest compared to a lot of photographers and you’re still not technically making anything in the end from weddings. We do this because we love it not because it’s making us rich! Now we just need to channel this energy into uniting photographers to take a stand so when this bride starts calling around for a cheap solution she has no takers!

  132. January 26, 2012 at 8:44 PM #

    great response!

  133. January 26, 2012 at 8:46 PM #

    Not being funny but that’s a lot of time to spend editing. Totally agree with your points though, you pay for what you get. I know of a few cheap photographers that have in the brides words “ruined their big day” didn’t sign a contract and cut corners. I’m not sure how it works over in the USA but here in UK we have to pay for higher education so i/we have do include repayments of student loans we had to take out to pay for our education, As for equipment do you really need to fork out all that money for the latest cameras etc? Shouldn’t your talents and skills you’ve learnt be all you need? I still use my 35mm film camera from time to time and don’t even worry about my end results as I know my camera like the back of my hand.

  134. January 26, 2012 at 8:48 PM #

    BRAVA! You served her.

  135. Raphael
    January 26, 2012 at 8:51 PM #

    A friend of mine paid a few hundreds dollar for a wedding photographer in Nova Scotia a few years ago and the guy showed up with a camera. He took pictures and gave my friend the memory card at the end of the day.

    At my wedding last year, I paid good money for my photographer and he showed up with 2 assistant. The pictures look great afterwards and he made the pictures better before he send us the final pictures.

    Every one can use a camera and take pictures, but a real photographer knows how to compose pictures The person has to deal with stressed out people during the event, it is not easy. and most people don’t know what a photographer needs to do to prepare for the day and the work that needs to be done when the day is over…

    • Toma
      January 26, 2012 at 8:59 PM #

      You’ve just explained the difference between Amateur and Professional Photographers.

  136. Responder
    January 26, 2012 at 8:52 PM #

    I must disagree. $3000 dollars is a LOT of money for photographs. I can appreciate the living expenses that everyone has to pay, including the bride you are taking photos of. Wedding season is NOT just 4 months, but people get married all year…there are several people who have fall and winter weddings as well as spring and summer. I think you are making it out to be a bit more that it is. And, of course you would take it personally – it’s your work. It seems this bride was venting and stressed (as most brides are) about clueing in to just how much one can spend on a wedding. It’s not like she gets married everyday and is accustomed to the prices of dresses, flowers, etc. Perhaps she was budgeting a photographer for what she IS familiar with – a family session, etc. Brides need room to breathe and vent and it seems she was doing just that. It need not call for a response such as your cost of living. You are the one who chose this profession, you chose to have all that equipment and the brand and accessories, you chose the type of car you drive, etc. Just a thought.

    • January 28, 2012 at 7:59 PM #

      Rockfeller said: “I’m not wealthy enough to buy cheap things” (not sure if quote is precise). He had a good reason to say that.
      Why home bread baking machine costs $200 and small bakery oven costs $20000?
      Same with camera equipment. If you use something to make your living with, it should be durable. You can ask Canon, Nikon, Mamiya and Hasselblad, why are they so ungodly frivolous about photographer’s wallets, as cameras are mere boxes of circuitry and gears ;)

  137. lynn
    January 26, 2012 at 8:52 PM #

    Nikki, im a photographer also i understand that bride’s concern and was agitated too that she undervalues what legit photogs do.

    However for the record while i understand your intent with this response, many of your costs are exaggerated. I see alot of your costs as lifestyle choices that can be cut down and also the fault of not looking for simple deals. For example if you paid 2 Canon 580EX II = $1,200, you got jipped really bad. Thats $400 that could have stayed in your pocket.

    I really hope that you only exaggerated costs to prove a point (because if so, the message is crystal clear, thank you and thank you on behalf of other fellow photogs out there) and that you arent really “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.”

    • January 26, 2012 at 8:59 PM #

      Lynn, yes, this seems to be a huge deal that I should probably address that many people have been commenting on.

      Obviously this post was written and made as a generalization statement (I did rough math, guesstimated some things etc) and exaggerated… as most people do when they read something that upsets them and they quickly rant and want to make a point. At no point did I know or believe this blog post would get as much attention as it has, or be looked at with such a critical eye. I most definitely was writing this to make a point to the BRIDE, and I wasn’t only speaking on behalf of myself, or even just wedding photographers, but all photographers and small business owners in general that there is a lot of “behind the scenes” work and expenses that doesn’t automatically put that $3000 as a profit into our pocket.

      • lynn
        January 26, 2012 at 11:49 PM #

        you are getting alot of press on this. a handful of my photog friends are already re-facebooking it.

        bottom line is when it comes to “Art” there will always be the critics who price it as worthless. id like to see someone price the work of engineers and doctors worthless. rock on fellow photogs. keep on doing what you do and do it with all your heart! rock on nikki

    • January 27, 2012 at 8:24 PM #

      Hiring a wedding photographer for $3000 is also a lifestyle choice. Photographs of your wedding are not mandatory. Nor is a fancy wedding dress, flowers, and all the other trimmings. Many things associated with weddings are extravagant and that is just the way it is. You will be married either way. It’s a choice. Take it or leave it.

  138. January 26, 2012 at 8:53 PM #

    I’m a budget bride myself, and have chosen to go with a photography studio that charged me $1500, but I completely understand why higher prices are the norm! A lot of creative professionals deal with people severely underestimating the time, skill, and money that goes into their work, and your post is a great demonstration of that.

  139. Toma
    January 26, 2012 at 8:55 PM #

    Ebony and Ashley,

    Moral of the story. Expect for what you pay and don’t complain. Prices are reasonable for “Professional” photographer. Want a cheaper price, expect a lesser quality job to capture those happy moments.

    Besides, those are Nikki’s justifications of why she charges the prices that she offers besides her talent (and she is…). If you don’t like it, find another photographer.

    “Go Cheap, Buy Twice…”

  140. Another Photog
    January 26, 2012 at 9:06 PM #

    So accurate! Some people just won’t get it. Some of the comments crack me up!

    I’m going to share this!

    Thanks for sharing with us!

  141. Morgan
    January 26, 2012 at 9:09 PM #

    While I do appreciate both the talent and overhead for photographers, I can’t help but wish that there was a good and affordable option for decent photography. As a bride who is paying for 95% of our wedding myself out of a 30 hour a week desk job, I would love to pay for the services of a talented professional who would do justice to the occasion. As, however, $3,000 is the budget for my entire wedding, mediocre photography it is.

    • January 28, 2012 at 5:09 AM #

      Morgan, I totally understand. I’m able to offer wedding packages under $1k for a simple reason: we do it part time. I’ve been shooting for over 25 years, share equipment with my office/studio, and rent amazing lenses for weddings. My wife, a former wedding planner, knows how to plan ahead & keep us on target.

      http://wbimages.smugmug.com/Portfolio/weddings/Featured-Weddings/20867592_t8jQBL#!i=1331104312&k=LvQ8Kwq

      I also set expectations: I don’t compare us to the top-tier pros. If that’s your budget, I can send brides to half a dozen pros who deliver stunning results. But I think our work speaks for itself – at this price/value point.

      But for those who need it on a shoestring, we can do it because we’re experienced, work efficiently, and have low overhead. Those conditions wouldn’t be present if we did it full-time. We do it for the love. But my day job pays the bills.

      • January 28, 2012 at 5:21 AM #

        PS Nikki – I didn’t post my link here to grab business or anything, only to support my point. If that’s not cool, I’ll resubmit.

        Thanks for fostering the discussion!

  142. January 26, 2012 at 9:11 PM #

    I have 3 words for you….PREACH IT SISTA.
    Thank you for that.

  143. Karen G
    January 26, 2012 at 9:13 PM #

    Not everyone can be a photographer – especially one that must take beautiful pics of someone’s special day. BUT… In your explanation you pointed out your list of expenses. If you were not a photographer, I’m presuming that you: would not have a car (and gas and insurance expense), you would not have shoes, you would not have high speed internet, or a cell phone, or a house you are renting, a computer or a home phone. My husband owns a home based business, and you forgot to point out the amount of money that you are able to write off because it is home based. Just thought I would throw that out there! It does take a true artist to be a great photographer.

  144. Jessica
    January 26, 2012 at 9:16 PM #

    I hope someone shares this with the disrespecting bride. If she does not want to pay/ can not afford your services she should just hire a family member or friend not disrespect people trying to provide a service.

  145. January 26, 2012 at 9:21 PM #

    Ok, just one question:

    Why haven’t you fired whoever does your accounting? Taxes aren’t calculated on your gross, they are calculated on your net after expenses. You could be saving yourself about $10,000 a year here if you’d quit making that error.

  146. January 26, 2012 at 9:30 PM #

    Excellent response. Good for you for pointing out every detail; some people just have no clue.

  147. Rich
    January 26, 2012 at 9:42 PM #

    After reading the information and comments, I’m going to add my two cents to the mix; and, come at from a different angle.

    You are buying “art:” from an “artist”. It is an investment; not money, but memories and stories. No, all of it will not hang on a wall of be displayed on a stand. The work is kept in an album and on a disk. It is now, like art, a piece of history the relates to a certain time in life. It is shared with children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and generations to come. Usually, along with the images is some oral history, that is passed along.

    Now the question is. “Do you want Uncle Tipsy Withacamera to be the official wedding photographer?”. Or, do you want a professional photographer to create the memories?

    Maybe ask your self this: when you need heart surgery; do you call a Cardio surgeon or a Tree surgeon?

  148. Cheryl
    January 26, 2012 at 9:47 PM #

    Nikki,

    First off I would like to thank you for posting this. I get your point. I see that others are taking this out of the context it was made for. The overall point is that you have to run a business, and live! You are doing this with your own talent and investments. You are not punching a clock somewhere, and getting the pay check direct deposited with everything already factored in or out. You are doing it on your own. Please do not apologize for not giving the exact numbers! It was the principle behind your words, and the explanation to those that think, “Most photographers are getting rich”. Photography is an art form, if someone cannot afford to pay $3000.00 for a wedding then they need to go with other options, or wait to get married and save up the funds to hire a professional. Or better yet plan ahead, research, and safe! It’s an investment in preserving memories. Your post gave insight to those who may not realize all the other things to factor into that price. That’s easy to do really, and I do not have a problem explaining to someone why my product is worth what it’s worth. I know that I did not realize all the expenses when I started out all starry eyed into the photography business. However one business degree later, and a lot of trial and error I’ve learned a lot, and have a lot more to learn. Never sell yourself short! There is also NO need to explain yourself to those that do not get the true message and intent of sharing this.

    For those of you who are nitpicking this to death:
    There are expenses in being a photographer, business owner, and human being and if you did not understand that she was giving a general run down, and not a formal CPA review of her assets, expenses, and liabilities, then you would get the point and frustration. Take a long look at the message not the frivolous details you want to pick out. Her message is true, and needs to be understood. If you already know the value of a great photographer then the message is not for you. If you don’t then… read it twice just in case ;)

    ~Cheryl

  149. Serialcode
    January 26, 2012 at 9:50 PM #

    We go through all of those figures (half of which have little to do with the job itself and are simply the ante to be an adult that doesn’t live at home) and we calculate that photographers have no idea how to run a business.

    Keep on keepin’ on, girl!

    • Shoshannah May
      January 26, 2012 at 10:05 PM #

      I wonder how many replies that girl got. I know of another wedding photographer who also wrote her a nice and respectful but also very educational letter. Maybe since more than one person has told her close to the same information, she’ll understand.

  150. Sean
    January 26, 2012 at 9:57 PM #

    Where as I do Understand your points Nikki, and I myself am a small business owner, but some of the costs you have associated with your work, I feel like if that is Truly what you’re paying, you are surely getting ripped off, and that is YOUR fault for not doing the research and finding more inexpensive ways to pay for those things.

    1. My HP i7 computer SMOKES whatever your imac is. I am CERTAIN that there is photo software that is as good for it as your apple computer has, (even if it takes you more than 5 minutes to learn how to use it) and at 1140 vs 2700 bucks, I think those 5 extra minutes are worth it.

    2. If your car insurance is 200 bucks a month (AS an insurance broker I know this) then you are either a TERRIBLE driver, or paying Way too much, and are with the wrong insurance company. it takes 5 minutes to call up a broker and have them shop around for you. If they can’t find cheaper insurance for you, then your car insurance payment is your own fault, cuz with no tickets or wrecks (or even a few of them) it should be way cheaper.

    3. 500 a year for contract reviews?? Prepaid Legal (which is now called legal shield, which is prominent in PA) has a small business plan (perfect for you) that does contract and document review for FREE. AND you get a TON of extra stuff for it. DO some research. It would help you out quite a bit as a small business owner.

    My point is, I get your point. I have to pay for office space. I have to pay for marketing. I have to pay for office supplies. I have to pay for equipment to do my job too. I have to pay for licensing Every year, and continuing Education every year, just to keep writing insurance. I have a lot of the same bills you do.

    You know how much I charge people to do my job? NOTHING.

    I quote people’s insurance for free, and I SAVE them money. I make less than you, I work just as hard as you do. People bitch about Insurance Saleman(Brokers) all the time. and you know what I do about it? NOTHING. I don’t write a bitch blog about it. I just keep working.

  151. January 26, 2012 at 9:58 PM #

    AMEN! I’d LOVE nothing more than to really show ONE of them what really goes into their special day on our end! Very well put, May have to borrow this!

  152. laura manthey
    January 26, 2012 at 9:58 PM #

    Hi Nikki!

    I was so happy to read this blog because although I am not a professional photographer, I LOVE taking photos, and I understand the passion and importance behind capturing such a special day. I am currently engaged and have been scoping out photographers because that is the one thing I want to splurge on, although I have been discouraged with the prices. Reading this blog was a good reality check and I appreciate your passion for what you do. Even well intentioned bride’s to be (like me) can get sucked in the trap of budgeting, although your message is so important for us to remember the passion and kind spirit people like you bring to the business. I think that person’s post was outlandish and rude on craigs list, but I just wanted to let you know that your post was a really good reminder for me :-) . Keep doing what you are doing!

  153. January 26, 2012 at 10:06 PM #

    I have done one wedding as a freebie favour to a mate as I’m a new (very new) wannabe photographer. I don’t need to tell you how INCREDIBLY STRESSFUL & TIME CONSUMING it was. I already had a lot of respect for proper photographers but it went up a zillion times. I couldn’t believe how nerve wracking it was & I was so grateful that it wasn’t a ‘proper’ job. I am saving to get proper equipment, this woman has no idea & should definitely get a mate to buy a disposable camera to take the pictures and stop whingeing.

    That is all :)

    xx

  154. Natasha S
    January 26, 2012 at 10:08 PM #

    I got married 13 years ago and if I could do it all over again I would have spent the bulk of the money on the photographer instead of worrying about the food and the rest of the things that I can’t even remember. I don’t know anyone else who doesn’t feel the same!

  155. January 26, 2012 at 10:19 PM #

    wow…loveit, love you, love my job too…:)

  156. Bob
    January 26, 2012 at 10:23 PM #

    Can you please post last your TAX Return from last year?

    Also, $400 car lease? Please never bring that up to anyone again. That’s just vanity.

    • January 26, 2012 at 10:48 PM #

      LOL! What am I? Mitt Romney?? I’m sorry, but I’m not sharing my tax returns.

    • LisaLee
      January 27, 2012 at 8:06 AM #

      you are such a stupid person BoB, wtF!

  157. Lisa
    January 26, 2012 at 10:26 PM #

    I don’t know that I’d have put that much effort into responding to a bride looking for a photographer on Craigslist.

    And you should never justify your prices – your work should justify your prices. I don’t know that it’s a wise (or professional) business decision to put all that information “out there.”

  158. Alisa
    January 26, 2012 at 10:27 PM #

    I pretty much agree with you Nicki, but as a bride who had a budget of $1500 for my WHOLE wedding, not just my dress or food or a photographer but the WHOLE wedding i can kind of relate to how she must have felt when she wrote this. When i was planning my wedding I got very frustrated at prices of different things, and yes even though i understand why you charge what you charge for things it is still frustrating. Now i dont want to get criticized i just want to point out a different side of it. Luckily a friend of mine was a photography student and did my wedding for free and i have all my friends and family pictures also.

  159. Cindy
    January 26, 2012 at 10:30 PM #

    Well said. I feel there are two things that a bride should never “skimp” on-the photographer and the DJ. The photographer captures all those moments that will last a lifetime. The DJ keeps the wedding and reception flowing so everyone has a good time. I have been to two weddings where the DJ was terrible and it ruined the wedding/reception. Just a thought.

  160. January 26, 2012 at 10:32 PM #

    We have golf courses, which gross much more than your business, but the overhead is consderably more as well. I’ll never understand why people think that they can bargain the price. My favorite comeback: “Do you get anything out of arguing with the cashier at the grocery store?”

    What really amazes me is the number of business owners who come in and think that we’re raking money in hand over fist. C’mon! You own a business and it probably doesn’t come with 100+ acres to care for on a daily basis ~ think, people, think! Overhead eats profits in a big way!

    If he’d allow me, I’d do something similar on our websites. You posted a great breakdown :)

    • January 26, 2012 at 10:53 PM #

      Isn’t that the truth, Dedi. If I meet with a prospective client and they start to do the haggling thing, I quickly shut the conversation down and bid them a good day. It’s simply not worth it. If I were more of an argumentative person, I would ask them how successful they were in bargaining down their last month’s electricity bill.

      - Irminsul

  161. January 26, 2012 at 10:37 PM #

    Totally agree!

  162. AnOn
    January 26, 2012 at 10:54 PM #

    Art, talent and quality are such misunderstood and undervalued commodities. That being said, some of the responses to your blog are just frigging hillarious! I’m especially loving the responses that keep implying that you work 4 months of the year. My second runners-up are the landscaper and the accountant who think they know the ins/outs income/expenses of running a photography business. And last place goes to the other local photographer who, instead of supporting the spirit of Nikki’s blog post, chose to take a petty swing at a colleague.

    • gloria
      January 27, 2012 at 5:55 AM #

      Amen!

  163. Hancock Image Services
    January 26, 2012 at 11:09 PM #

    Um… I was right there with you until you said you use a Canon 10-22 F3.5 lens. See at the beginning of your equipment list, you said you use 2 Canon 5D II cameras which are a Full Frame camera .vs. something like a Canon 7D which uses a chip smaller than the 24mmx36mm imaging chip the Canon 5D II has. A Full Frame camera uses a sensor the same size as the image area of a 35mm negative. The “R” in DSLR stands for REFLEX. This is the feature that allows for the “SL” or Single Lens. The reflexing part is a mirror that flips up against the bottom of the ‘hump’ on all DSLR cameras like both the Canon 5D II and the Canon 7D. Only because the sensor is smaller, the mirror is smaller and will clear the rear protrusion of an EF-S lens which the 10-22 F3.5 is. Next was you’re listing your 70-200 F 2.8 as $1300… WHERE!!?? It was $2400 when I bought mine and since the earthquake and tsunami in Japan they’ve gone up I understand! That must be the non-IS version or non-brand or used.

    Like I said, I was with you right up until then and then it was like the game they played in that movie “How to lose a guy in 10 Days” at Matthew McConaughey’s family’s house…

    • January 26, 2012 at 11:21 PM #

      Haha! I’ve explained in earlier comments that it was for my 7d, which wasn’t listed… But got added to my list as I was staring at my lenses…

      After all of the focus on it I considered removing it from my post because I feel like some of the message is being lost due to some of my errors but I don’t want to edit my e-mail after the fact… It is what I sent.

      I’m sure if the bride read this I would have lost her WAY before the technical mistake, so thanks for hanging in as long as you did ;)

      • January 28, 2012 at 5:17 AM #

        I think your post struck a nerve, on both sides. Congrats – you can’t buy PR like this!

        Consider (if you don’t already) posting some shots with descriptions on how your equipment helped make it happen. Lighting, planning, makeup, a magic f1.2 prime lens – people don’t grasp that the “look” costs money.

  164. January 26, 2012 at 11:11 PM #

    I really really really love this. Great job. very consie and to the point. not rude at all. It amazes me that people think photographers cost alot for their wedding when thats the only thing they will have forever. I am so happy you saw that post and commented! way to go

  165. Lindsay
    January 26, 2012 at 11:21 PM #

    Hi Nikki,
    I am a bride to be planning a wedding for this coming September. I didn’t realize how much this would all cost, but I was certain I wanted a great photographer and would rather cut back on other things to ensure we got a quality professional job. I live your response to this ad, and I plan on showing this to my fiance which still feels as though he spent unnecessary dollars on our photography (which we actually got an outstanding deal on!)
    Thank you and all great photographers for all you do for us brides :)
    Lindsay

  166. Kristy Abbott
    January 26, 2012 at 11:24 PM #

    I am blown away by her ad. I responded:

    Wow. I saw your ad for a photographer.

    You don’t want much do you? You want a photographer who is AMAZING, EXCEPTIONAL, AMAZINGLY TALENTED and FUN as long as he or she is CHEAP???

    You don’t get amazing, exceptional talent cheap.

    And, then, you go on to insult every photographer in the business by implying that all they do is stand around taking photos and editing them. Do you even understand the WORK that goes into a photoshoot? Do you understand the HOURS that go into editing photos? Obviously, you do not.

    Lastly, if you choose to forego feeding yourself or paying your bills so that you can afford an expensive wedding, well, that’s YOUR choice. The photographer isn’t going to make you do that. To blame a photographer for someone not being able to afford to pay their bills because they chose to hire an expensive photographer is asinine.

    I doubt there is a photographer around who will take your business, and if they do, I can pretty much guarantee they will regret it. When you expect something for nothing, you aren’t exactly the easiest person to work for.

  167. January 26, 2012 at 11:25 PM #

    Well said. Apart from all those costs though, you left out one very important, and probably THE most important thing….SKILL and EXPERIENCE. Ask these people, do you really want to trust the most important photos of your life to someone who is experienced, or someone who is new?

    Why then do we hire a plumber, electrician or carpenter to do their trade, when anyone can go to home depot and buy the same tools or a book, and do it themselves? It’s because of experience, skill, and their knowledge, and that alone is what costs money. Same thing with a camera. Anyone with more money than brains can go out and buy a Nikon D3s, but that doesn’t mean they know how to use it.

    I’ve seen some great “marketing photographers” as I call them…they have fancy gear, and pick up a lot of clients because they are great businessmen and marketers but lack skill at photography and their work is average or mediocre, so price isn’t also a determining factor. Some people have the opposite mentality, where they think “the more a photographer charges, the better they are” and that’s nto necessarily true. In my line of work as a manager of a professional photo retail store, I see people who come in all the time who think they’re the greatest thing on earth, but their work is average. Yet, I know people who are amazing photographers, yet they’re not doing too well because they have little marketing skills to amrket themselves and their fantastic work.

    To sum all that up, I do agree though, that to those who complain about paying $3k to a good wedding photographer because they can find a “student” or another “photographer” who charges $500 to to the “same” job, you get what you pay for, generally. Find out who the photographer is, and most importantly, look at their work, not just on their website, but see if that photographer can provide you references to some of their clients and talk to their clients and see the work that was done for them.

    • Jenny
      January 27, 2012 at 12:50 AM #

      Once upon a time, most professional photographers (you know, back in the age of film, when you needed more than just a good eye and some on-the-job-training to do something meaningful) went to school, studied for it, took a lot of classes, etc.
      I’m a wedding photog myself, but the reason we’re not all making it anymore is the fact that we’re not plumbers, carpenters, and electricians (in the sense that we don’t put in the kind of formal education [as an industry, as a whole--I have a degree, and it still sucks trying to do this]), and that makes us, by and large, just really handy people who know how to use a certain set of tools slightly better–and in the eyes of the general public, as we’ve all seen, talent is nice but cash is king.
      We need to work smarter, and most of us in this industry don’t. We just complain.

      • January 27, 2012 at 1:40 AM #

        Jenny, I did attend a 4 year college, with my major concentration in photography.

        I then interned, assisted, continued my education in the form of conferences and workshops and worked professionally in different aspects of the industry for the last 8 years. And in every aspect, no matter what type of photographer you are, everyone has one thing in common, photography as a profession is rough and devalued by many.

        I wasn’t complaining, I was explaining and educating and trying to make a point which was sadly missed by many.

        • Jenny
          January 27, 2012 at 1:46 AM #

          I got your point, completely–and I mean zero offense, but I think you missed larger issues, and your point would have been better made if you had made it more objectively, rather than informed only by passion (and as several have pointed out, with better accounting). I love your blog, so I want to say again, I’m really REALLY not trying to be insulting here, and I apologize in advance if I’ve offended.

      • Jenny
        January 27, 2012 at 1:48 AM #

        And I definitely wasn’t saying YOU were one who “just complains.” I meant, we, at large, in this industry, because if we WERE doing better, we wouldn’t have to constantly justify.

        • January 27, 2012 at 1:56 AM #

          I’m sorry Jenny, I misunderstood your point! I’m just as guilty as some if the people on here who misunderstood mine!! Yikes!!!! ;)

          • January 27, 2012 at 2:46 AM #

            Another thing I noticed, and just felt strongly enough to comment on, was this idea that photographers all create and maintain their own websites. Unless you are web wizz, and a fantastic designer to boot, why not hire the web professional to do it? Like you, they are out there busting their arse for clients too. Spread the wealth a bit and get some expertise in return. Just like you don’t get any richer because some bride got her cousin to do all the photography of the wedding for free, insisting on doing your own website won’t make some web designer any richer either. We should reach out in some way to help each other, if we can.

  168. skyjammerAde
    January 26, 2012 at 11:29 PM #

    Nikki,

    Not sure I could have put it any better. A grand-slam response. For some people, ignorance is sheer bliss. Thank you for taking the time to lay it ALL out.

    Cheers!!

  169. January 26, 2012 at 11:29 PM #

    I would answer her (jocking) regular people get $3,000 at moth for just been sit down in front of a computer and be in Facebook the whole week!! and I do not want to mention what you get at the end of the year for doing nothing :) … just jocking!! of course its a shame some people does not understand the costs involved in photography, Cheers!!

    http://www.luckiephotography.com

  170. Max N
    January 26, 2012 at 11:30 PM #

    Just a final comment, I replied to a few others here earlier.

    I respect talent and the value that people get, however I am quickly realizing, even having a photog in the family, and having a few as clients, most cannot run a business properly. If you love photography, go do photography, but please hire a professional to manage your business for you, or go work for someone who will do it. You do photography, and get paid for it, let someone else deal with all the other stuff.

    If not, then you have to refocus on your core values and what you do. People place value on results, we don’t care how it is done.

    As a financial planner, I price my services on what I feel I am worth, not on how much I need to give myself a living. If I want a paybump, I go out and get one more client or whatever. As long as you are not pricing yourself out of the market, no big deal.

    I recently got married, and your post here proved my thinking, I think the prices most are charging are ridiculously high, when I can get as much talent for $1,500. That is my take on it, go ahead, call me stupid, cheap, and that I don’t know what I am talking about. Go call other people stupid, but guess what, they are your customers and life line. You cannot go around bashing people and calling them stupid, ie, as many of the photographers are e-mailing this person. After bashing someone verbally, do you honestly feel that will put your point across, or paint yourself in better light? Hell no. It will only solidify what the potential customers feel.

    If you want to charge $3,000. you have to present it as such…

    “You can find a photographer out there who will do it for far less than I do, and I know that. I am not the photographer for everyone and encourage you to look. If I am not within your budget, I completely understand that, and here are a few people who are in your price range. Here are my results and why I feel my prices are worth it, and more importantly, here are comments and testimonials from my existing customers as to why they went ahead and hired me as your photographer.”

    That is how you justify what you do. The moment you bring out a BS list of expenses… guess what, you just made it about expenses and from that point on, I am looking for a photographer who can charge lower prices because they do not need a $400 BMW lease and can better manage their business expenses.

  171. January 26, 2012 at 11:33 PM #

    Running a business is expensive. A photography business is no different.

    I think the thing many people fail to understand is that photography is a business, it is our livelihood. They fail to understand that what we are doing is more than what their sister with a nice camera is doing. They fail to understand that when the lights go on and the DJ packs up, that’s when our work BEGINS, not ends.
    These people will always exist, however. Sure, you can educate one or two… but those people don’t appreciate our art anyway… and for every one or two you get to, Canon tells 3 million that their new Auto Modes will make you a pro.

    The solution is to ignore the people that don’t appreciate our art — they aren’t our potential clients anyway. Find those that value quality photographic memories; find those that appreciate artful storytelling; find those that respect the skill, effort, and vision we bring to the table….

    • January 26, 2012 at 11:35 PM #

      … and I forgot to mention — the true value in what we create for people has NOTHING to do with how much the equipment costs to create it.

  172. Ashley C
    January 26, 2012 at 11:41 PM #

    Not sure If anyone else commented on this, but the physical tole a wedding takes on the photographer is important as well. I’ve had many jobs that have included both heavy lifting and 12-16 hour shifts; however, I have never been as exhausted as I was after I shot my first wedding. The next day, I couldn’t use my right hand. I don’t do weddings very often, the pain does get less after the first, but it takes a lot out of you. I have been fortunate to work many angles of a wedding. (Maid of Honor, Caterer, Server, Decorator, Planner) Nothing is nearly as stressful, nor as exciting as being the photographer. I love what you said about paying more for things that only get used for a few hours, yet try to skimp on the only things that last forever. Perfectly put. (And I don’t think 25 hrs is excessive to be editing… Esp. Wedding photography. The bride want’s to look her best, right?)

    • January 28, 2012 at 1:25 PM #

      Not to mention my legs from all the squatting! lol

  173. AnOn
    January 26, 2012 at 11:43 PM #

    Dude, I drive a 2009 Chevy and my lease is more than $400 a month. Walk on with your BMW nonsense. And I don’t believe you’re a financial planner either, or you’d have better sense.

  174. Paul
    January 26, 2012 at 11:46 PM #

    Is this article some sort of joke? Most of the expenses quoted aren’t exclusive to the one job but are long-term investments with the costs split over every job Nikki does for the lifetime of the equipment/software, not just the 20 weddings she does. A pathetic attempt at sympathy.

    • Gloria
      January 27, 2012 at 3:21 PM #

      She didn’t say they were exclusive to one job.

  175. January 26, 2012 at 11:49 PM #

    You Rocked this post.. well said.. thank you on behalf of all us photographers who aren’t quite as eloquent as you with words..

  176. January 26, 2012 at 11:52 PM #

    I agree with you on that your price is fair for weddings, but you are taking the complete wrong approach. Mostly because your facts are so skewed and wrong you are going to give the person an answer that they can clearly write off as false.

    -Gross income. If you are paying around 30% between your State and Federal taxes, I highly recommend hiring an accountant because that is way to high. Especially since you do have a lot of work related write offs. You could probably be around 15-20% when all is said and done. So lets give you the benefit of the doubt and take the higher rate (20%). $40k after taxes.

    -70% of the time your home is used for your personal use ($7200 *0.30). You can’t contain all the costs in your home. $2160. = $37,840

    -You are really going to factor your car into the equation. Almost every person has to travel to and from their job about 300 days out of the year. Your 20 weddings would maybe at up to 70? I’m not adding your car (which $400 lease?!? do you have bad credit? this is extremely high for a lease and not fiscally responsible for a person with a $50K salary). $200 in car insurance?!? I pay $180 with a performance car. Do you get into a lot of accidents? Even when I had my fully loaded BMW X5 I was paying $160. You should max be paying $120. I would check what you have on there, maybe raise your deductible if its at $250 to $500. 100/300k in insurance should be more than enough, this also would include daily allowance of $50 in car rentals. If you are still this high I would shop around, because that is astronomical. Again I’m not factoring your car into your equation because it is unreasonable. I’ll give you the normal drivers allowance for residence (averaging IRS rate for 2011) $0.5325 a mile. Your calculation for gas is $840 for the year. That’s $42 a client (840/20). Average car can get about 350miles per tank. Avg tank is around $30-45 regular to fill up. Where are you traveling to?!? I would give you the depreciation possibly, but since you use it more for personal use (90% sure), it completely negates all legal accounting depreciation)

    -For gas I will give you 200 miles per session at the avg rate (200*0.5325): $106.50 = $37,733.50

    -Insurance seems a little high since I pay about $500 for my house. You don’t have to insure yourself for the venue. The venue has insurance. I’m not going to contest it though. =$37,233.5

    -$30 a month for hosting??!? If you want I will recommend you a host that will handle your hosting needs all for a cool $52 after taxes every year. This includes domain name registry and unlimited up/down to the server every month. I pay $38 for a host that manages a site that gets over a million hits a month, I don’t think this site sees that much exposure. (not saying it to bash, but only to show the grossly over payment for hosting. Hell I’ll host you for $500 if you want to pay that much, for all the same benefits you have now) $60 for hosting (giving you more just to make the math easier) = $37,173.50

    -Not contesting the advertisement as I don’t know how many you’re applying to: $1,000 = $36,173.50

    -Health insurance, I also wont contest, but I’m not positive if you only do just weddings or if you do other photo shoots on the side. (If so you have to take a percentage away from this). One other thing I’d also recommend looking into another provider because you could get full coverage at about $180-$220 price. I know I had to do it for my own company when I was rolling solo. $250*12 = $33,173.50

    -Not contesting the second photographer, not my realm of business $200*20 = $29,173.50

    -I’m ignoring your shoes. That’s absurd. I don’t write off my dress shoes because I need to dress to code. The gov’t wont recognize this as a write off; neither will I.

    -$2,500 a year for high speed internet?!?!? I can get the triple play locked in for the year every year for $102 a month after taxes and fees. When I purchased the business class internet it was $52 a month by itself. (Triple pay $1,224/3=$408; or $624). Are you running a T1/T3 line into your house? That is grossly inflated. (Giving you the higher amount $624) = $28,549

    -I will only recognize the lawyer and accountant because they are true write offs, but the accountant you would hire anyways (but I see the business need). $500 = $28,049

    -Seminars $440 = $27,609

    I’m not going into the equipment because that has a prolonged useful life of a few years. I would remove blogging about the wedding and posting pictures on facebook because really that’s more of a promo tool for you. $300 for a printer seems a little excessive since you can get bundles now and if you are buying a $2500 Mac Apple normally throws in a free printer anyways (which should last you 3-4 years). I assume you upgrade every 3-4 years since you upgrade everything else. How many times do you have to buy filing cabinets it sounds like a one off expense/infrequent expense. $250 a hard drive: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136471 here is 1 for $179.99. This price is actually a lot higher than normal because of the flooding in Thailand which took out a lot of the hard drive makes plants.

    I just got to the bottom where I see you take on other jobs so this whole evaluation doesn’t really get a fair break down across most things because you do other gigs. I write this back for several reasons. You are presenting this as you are speaking for the photography community. You are giving so many skewed facts that a person with common sense will see right through it. What happens then; well exactly what you don’t want to happen, people thinking you are over charging. This whole rant was to prove where your expenses go, but the only thing that was proven was that you are bad at business and are grossly over paying for things. I don’t write this to be mean at all. I write this in hope you go out and do a little research to save your money; or heck I’ll take you on for accounting because I see a lot of write offs and could bring your over all taxes paid down. I was/am a small business owner and I’m not saying I’m the best, but there are a lot of things you can do to improve your over all costs. I would start actually with the $400 car. Why are you leasing if you drive so much. Check out Honda’s site, they have a CRV for $270 a month for 36 months, first month free (tack on $2000 for taxes and dealers fees, probably less; and you are looking at about $325 a month for a nice fuel efficient SUV 26mpg avg). $900 back in your pocket every month already.

    • January 27, 2012 at 12:46 AM #

      every year** not month. there a few other corrections, but this was a quick type up with poor spot checking, sorry for the errors.

    • January 28, 2012 at 9:20 PM #

      As it was stated earlier here in comments, official poverty line in PA is $22050/year/person. Any comments? It might be OK with me, since I have something like $20000/year ($15600 salary, everything else is from side jobs and untaxed), but I’m in Moscow, Russia, not in Erie, PA.
      I’m not a small business owner and Russian government doesn’t insist that photographers should pay any taxes, since there is almost nothing to tax in our incomes anyway, and very few people are bothered if we are legit or not. Not a problem anyway in a country where even if you got busted by taxmen, you can get away shooting wedding of some official’s daughter or son for free. My photojournalist salary is taxed (standard 13% income tax), and whatever I earn doing side jobs, I get in raw cash.
      Also, here we almost never bother with legal stuff, courts and insurance.
      I don’t drive and don’t have a car (no point in a city with planet’s 9th worst traffic jams and quite effective subway), I don’t give a damn on fancy clothes, so that in the US I might be labeled as “trailer trash” at best. My clothes just have to look more or less neat and be extremely durable, that’s all. I don’t remember a situation where I was required to wear any kind of formal dress, presidential events included, neither my colleagues are. I even don’t have a dress suit in my wardrobe.
      Also, I’m single, not too picky about food, apartment and utilities cost me $220/month, complete with broadband, cellphone, landline and everything else. My current computer is slightly tweaked Core i5 hp ProBook 6440b, and I don’t like Lightroom, so I live with Photoshop CS and ACR plugin.
      So life is cheaper here in many aspects, but prices are lower too. Where American photographer charges $1000, we are lucky to charge $300, and equipment here is more expensive (although cheaper than in UK).
      Standard rate is $30 to $90 per hour of shooting (everything else is included, prints aside, people usually want it all digital) for PROFESSIONAL, depending on event and how smart the customer is. To get it, you have to get through herds of wannabe photogs with Canon Rebel/Nikon 3000/Pentax k-x kits (or happy fresh 5D Mark II+24-105 owners), who are willing to shoot for free or for food (literally) and dream of “wedding/event/celebrity/news photographer career” (hey, kids, there is no thing like “career” for photographer, especially in the news! Today you shoot president in Kremlin awarding the famous movie star, tomorrow you shoot illegal immigrants beaten by policemen).

      Free $99 hp printer with iMac is good for schoolkids and students to print their projects, but not for pro photographer prints. And using inkjet is at least two, if not three times expensive than printing at professional photo lab. You can use third-party paper and non-geniune inks, but that REALLY affects quality, whatever you can hear about that.

  177. Michelle
    January 27, 2012 at 12:03 AM #

    I sent her a reply as well only I wasn’t quite as nice as you.

    You know, I agree with Nikki’s reply to your post wholeheartedly! But I do have a bit of advice to offer. If you want a cheap photographer look for a college student. You will sacrifice quality and most likely work ethic as they don’t have literally hundreds of weddings under their belt but they will be cheaper. And then when they make a mistake and your pictures are off color, too dark or God forbid lost from their memory card, you will need to call a professional to attempt to fix the problem. I get about 3 calls like that per year and I charge those folks double. Happy wedding planning!

  178. January 27, 2012 at 12:10 AM #

    I love that most of the “fancy Photographers” did read it. And called her out! I love your post and agree 100%!!! You get what you pay for… you want to spend $100… go right ahead, but again, you are going to get what you pay for!!!

  179. Mary
    January 27, 2012 at 12:10 AM #

    I understand where you’re coming from, but I just have to say…. by definition gross income is BEFORE taxes! We all pay taxes!! Plus, since you only work 4 months of the year, why don’t you do something else the other 8 months. Most of us work year round in order to make $50,000 GROSS income and we too work our butts off. I don’t think the Craigslist Bride was too far off.

    • Leasing is dumb
      January 27, 2012 at 12:31 AM #

      Totally agree Mary and why in the world would you lease a car? Total waste of money.

      • Alisa
        January 27, 2012 at 1:26 AM #

        Mary you are so right. She makes 50,000 in 4 months when in the past 4 years i havent even made close to that total.

      • Lolacaust
        January 28, 2012 at 1:00 AM #

        Leasing a car is practical in many situations. Cars are liabilities and are always depreciating in value, plus the older they get, the more subject they are to costly maintenance fees. So if you plan to keep a car for many years after you’ve paid it off, then that is certainly ideal. If you want to always drive a less than 3 year old car and not have to worry about maintenance costs or depreciation, leasing will work out about the same as buying a new car and trading it in for another new car after 3 years, if you get a fair lease deal. The incentive for leasing is that it results in lower monthly payments which allows people to drive cars they normally wouldn’t be able to afford. I would much rather pay the same monthly rate to lease a brand new Cadillac (like I am at the moment) than constantly be buying/selling 3-7 year old vehicles.

    • Gloria
      January 27, 2012 at 3:22 PM #

      She didn’t say she only works 4 months of the year. And the company you work for is paying all the overhead for you. How would you like to have it deducted from your paycheck?

  180. January 27, 2012 at 12:16 AM #

    I am not a photographer, but I work with them very often. I am a Wedding Entertainment Director/DJ/Master of Ceremonies. Brides do not understand what is important for their weddings and receptions. They can’t help that they are ignorant (not stupid) and don’t know the right questions to ask, nor the correct answers to get. For the reception the entertainment is what the guests remember about the party. If it sucks, even the finest photographer in the world cant photoshop smiles on the faces of 200 guests. Photography is important to capture the fun that the DJ creates. Both are important to save these memories for life.. I get calls all the time expecting me to work for 300 to 500 for “just the music”, but I charge from $1200 to $1800 and 100% of my clients give me rave reviews and referrals. Just like a professional photographer, a professional DJ has very similar expenses, and it is TALENT THAT MATTERS. Not just the pictures or the music. Too many “people with cameras” and too many people stealing music from the internet and claiming to be “DJs” when they are just hacks. I feel your pain.

  181. January 27, 2012 at 12:31 AM #

    Very nice response! However, it appears you should charge more than $3000.
    God bless

  182. Liza Smith
    January 27, 2012 at 12:36 AM #

    OMG!!! I am reading all these comment and can’t believe how mean people can be!

    Is the dress really worth $5,000!!! It is only fabric and jewels sown together. Are the flowers really worth $7000. We can pick those for free outside. Why pay for all the food since within a few hours we will need to make a run to the restroom! Make the groom wear a t-shirt and jeans since we all own a pair. And the venue….you can get married at city parks for FREE!!! The entertainment can be some wedding piñatas!!! Whoo Hoo!!

    This is a ONCE IN A LIFETIME CELEBRATION AND NO ERRORS NEED TO BE MADE!!!!!! OMG!!! its not your backyard BBQ or a potluck dinner. I am so sure if any of the professionals are not on top of their game, all of the haters on this blog would be so quick to SUE!!!

  183. Jenny
    January 27, 2012 at 12:37 AM #

    Unfortunately, in the modern age, where the cost of high quality digital cameras continually declines (because as soon as the new model comes out, you can score the current one for super-cheap), while the tools to edit/embellish just keep getting easier to use, talent is really being taken out of the equation to a great extent. Not to denigrate the effort and skill that we as photographers put into it, but we’re working in a market that really isn’t working with us– we’re being replaced by filters and actions and cheap DSLRs, in a world where every stay-at-home-mom or college student (wanting to appear interesting) just decides to buy a camera and make a facebook fanpage, declaring themself a photographer. That may sound oddly specific, but take a good, long, hard look at the people you know in the industry who are doing this now, or claiming to do this now.

    What we want: to make a living, to satisfy our creative desires, and to be able to justify what we cost.

    What really happens: we get undercut, because the general public doesn’t have the most discriminating eye when it comes to qualitative differences in what photographers do, or what “photographers” do–and there is always a stay-at-home-mom or bored college student who can do what we do, only cheaper, sacrificing something in the way of quality of course, but lacking all that overhead, because they don’t feel the need to get all their ducks in a row with accountants and lawyers and business licenses, and most clients nowadays don’t care anyway, because we may want $2500 to do the job, but they’ve got a cousin or sister-in-law or friend’s little brother who has the same camera we do, who will do it for $1000 or cheaper–and these people can’t tell the difference anyway, because they’re not looking at your careful usage of photoshop, they just want a picture of that special day.

    How to stay competitive: Be good enough at what you do that you’re earning enough that you don’t have to justify yourself. And if you’re not earning enough yet, push harder–and if you can’t take the sacrifices, don’t do it. But let’s be honest: none of us have the right to complain about the state of this industry, because we chose to work in it, knowing what it costs us, knowing what the world is really like, and knowing that, for the large part of our prospective clientele, we could be replaced by a college girl in skinny jeans with a D-40 and her bestie with just an iPhone 4.

    Technology makes art easier, but that’s not really always a good thing, if you’re trying to make a living at it.

    • Jenny
      January 27, 2012 at 12:40 AM #

      Remember when professional photographers all mostly went to school for photography? Those days are long gone.

      • chloemoorephotography
        January 27, 2012 at 1:19 AM #

        I did! And NYU was NOT cheap….

  184. Chris
    January 27, 2012 at 12:39 AM #

    The one thing I asked of my wife when we got engaged was that under no circumstances would we skimp on the photographer. We would skimp on the clothes & the ring first if need be. I had mentally prepared for like $5000-$7000 for a photographer. It came in WAY under that thank goodness. But we did not compromise on who we got. We went with the photographer we wanted. After narrowing it down from 20 some portfolios. She gave us FANTASTIC shots (quick shout out to http://jennygg.com/ for those of you in the Seattle area) and I’m glad for every penny we spent.

    Especially with photography you get what you pay for.

    • chloemoorephotography
      January 27, 2012 at 1:18 AM #

      Good for you Chris! Your priorities were in order! (except for maybe the ring…..haha that DOES last longer than just the wedding day :-)

  185. adam
    January 27, 2012 at 12:49 AM #

    I get ur point i really do. I know why photographers charge what they do and i appreciate your work. That being said, u cant just list all ur expenses and purchases as a deduction from ur yearly earnings. Im a nurse, i bring in about 50 k a yr. I can start deducting things like my car. After all, i drive it to get to work. I pay insurance, have the internet, etc…. But i dont say that subtracts from my salary.

    I get what ur tryin to say, but ur argument lost all validity the longer i read. And , if u dont feel u make enough money, consider doing more than 20 events which really isnt many at all. This is with all due respect of course so dont take it as an insult, i just think ur being unrealistic.

    cheers,
    Adam

    • Gloria
      January 27, 2012 at 4:43 AM #

      To put this in perspective (and this goes for anyone that has posted on here that works for a company and gets a steady paycheck and has said the same thing you have) let’s say you get paid separately by each patient and it’s your job to sell yourself and get them to hire you. You have to pay for your medical office, medical supplies, lawyers, utilities, insurance, advertising/marketing etc. How many patients would you have to book under your care to pay for all of that and still be able to take a profit home to pay for your mortgage, utilities, groceries, clothing, health insurance, gas, car, internet? And how about possibly even putting a small bit into savings or retirement fund? When you start accounting for every penny you have to spend to keep your business running (including paying for a car and gas to get back & forth to work and special shoes to wear so you’re not in pain at the end of the day) it’s not hard to imagine your living expenses “paycheck” dwindling down to nothing. Now imagine people saying your rate is “WACK” because really all you do is just hang out at the nurses desk and get things for them when they need it and they shouldn’t have to pay you for 8 hours of your time since most of it you’re just hanging out at that desk. They should only pay you for the few minutes you see them every few hours because you’re not doing any other work when you leave their room. Or that they’d rather not pay you your outrageous rate because they have a friend who is a pharmacist who can give them some medical care for free. Or to have people tell you that it was your choice to purchase these best medical equipment and that you didn’t have to spend so much because your standard of care should can be solely provided by your knowledge, not the kind of equipment you use. Would you still say that the gas or wear on your car isn’t part of your business expenses? Or the internet you pay for to order medical supplies isn’t a business expense either? Or the hideous shoes you have to wear so you’re not in pain when you come home after being on your feet for 10 hours straight shouldn’t be an expense? And how would it feel to have someone tell you if you don’t feel you make enough money, consider booking more patients. I mean how hard can that be?

      Maybe you work for a medical facility and they’re the ones that do and pay all of this for you. Did you ever stop to think that it’s possible your salary would be double or triple if they didn’t have their overhead to pay?

      Personally I respect and value what any legitimate professional does. In your case, I can’t treat people for any kind of medical condition. I’m not a nurse, I didn’t go to school for that. I’m not an accountant, I’m not a musician, I’m not an MLB or NBA star. I’m a photographer. It’s what I went to school and trained for. It’s how I put a roof over my son’s head, and pay for the food that feeds him and to put clothes on his back. You’re specially trained and I wouldn’t even pretend to know what goes into your work day. I do know that it’s more than just popping in and out of someone’s room giving people shots and taking temperatures. I couldn’t step into your job tomorrow and do what you do, just as I’m sure I couldn’t hand you my camera on Saturday and have you show up at a wedding and expect you to deliver beautiful wedding photographs to my bride while shooting everything on manual, not the little green automatic button. I don’t think there’s anything unrealistic about her letter at all. I don’t think it’s fair for people to decide what is or isn’t realistic in someone else’s profession unless they’ve done it all from A to Z.

      • Martin Pronon
        January 31, 2012 at 12:31 PM #

        Well put

  186. chloemoorephotography
    January 27, 2012 at 1:09 AM #

    As a wedding photographer, I can attest that most people are blissfully unaware of how much money goes back into the business and therefore think we have “unfair” prices or that we must be rich if we charge $3000 for 10 hours of work. On the contrary, I have less expendable income than every single one of my non-photographer friends. Also, don’t they know that we’re not shooting weddings every single day?? The maximum amount is pretty much 4 weddings per month during the wedding season and even then, you need a lot of assistance to keep up with that post-production.

    I know that for my wedding, I will most definitely invest the most money in the photographs that will last forever rather than just one day….my future daughter will NOT be interested in wearing my outdated dress, my guests will probably NOT remember how much money was spent on the cake, and I doubt that my guests will be offended if I don’t drop $20,000 on the perfect venue BUT I would be really sad to know that I don’t have a photo to remind me of my husbands face as I came down the aisle or my dad giving me away.

    But really, when it comes down to it….If you are hiring a passionate, talented photographer who you feel comfortable having next to you on the biggest day of your life, you will be saving yourself from a major headache and possible heartache. But at the same time, this is a free market, if you feel a photographer is overvalued, you don’t have to hire them!

  187. Tanya
    January 27, 2012 at 1:13 AM #

    Thank you for your response to the “craigslist bride.” While yes, photographers should get paid because of their TALENT and because they are worth it, keep in mind that talent could not shine through without the tools necessary to achieve our vision. Overhead expenses must not be forgotten, because this is part of being a photographer. Plus lets not forget the time we spend shooting, editing, communicating, downloading, and etc. It proves the point that we are not getting paid $3000 a wedding but when broken down it is about $12.50 an hour. At $12.50 an hour, that talent is undervalued. I think that is the point that Nikki was trying to make, that photographers REALLY don’t make $3000 per wedding. I appreciated your point of view Nikki, and enjoyed reading your response.

  188. January 27, 2012 at 1:18 AM #

    Bravo, darling, bravo!

  189. January 27, 2012 at 1:33 AM #

    While I appreciate and share your frustration with this particular bride’s ignorance, I agree with some of the above comments which said that a photographer’s overhead is irrelevant to the client. They don’t care that we have to buy insurance or printer ink. Clients pay for our time and talent as photographers on their wedding day. If they cannot value our experience and artistry, then there is likely nothing we could ever do to change their mind. As my mother always says, “if an explanation is necessary then none will do.”

  190. January 27, 2012 at 1:43 AM #

    Great post, Nikki – BRAVO! …well said.

    This reason is exactly why I say to new, in fact even to established photographers, that it is imperative to figure out all the costs of owning/operating a business like Nikki did, and charge for your time, service, talents and products accordingly. Wedding photographers should all be starting out above $4k just to eek out the barest minimum of profits, and in fact should be above $5k to for bare survival. If we all stopped worrying about what our competition charges and charged what the true value of our work is worth, the industry wouldn’t be such a difficult one to make a living in, and our clients might better understand and respect the industry more. It’s an age old issue.

    The industry is in a big mess because we all have allowed it to happen. My comments are just the tiip of the iceberg of the problem.

    When you were a new wedding photographer, enthusiastic with love for what you do and a shiny new camera, you had no idea what to charge for the work you were doing – it happens all the time. You decided to charge low to get your foot in the door and get clients. You got your clients, had your ego pumped up (it’s an addictive field) from your “success”, then raised your prices a bit, but you still weren’t sure what to charge for a wedding and now had no time to figure it out, because you were in the thick of wedding season, and you just kept going to keep up with the demands of the job. Let’s not forget how demanding this work is on us: physically, emotionally, creatively, etc.

    If your work is worth it, RAISE YOUR PRICES. If you have a family, a house, a car, a business and HOPE to retire some day, RAISE YOUR PRICES. If you get mad at me because I am speaking the truth based on the sixteen years of experience I have in the industry, RAISE YOUR PRICES.

    If you don’t value yourself, or the work you do, no one else ever will. And if you need help understanding this, email or call me. I can help you with this.

    RAISE YOUR PRICES!
    XOXO, Joanne Bartone Photographer
    ZenPhotoRetreats@gmail.com

  191. January 27, 2012 at 1:43 AM #

    I charge what I’m worth. “Worth” ultimately being determined by what the market is prepared to be. If I charged $50K a wedding and people hire me that would be what I was worth.

    What some random bride to be thinks somewhere out in Internetland thinks makes zero difference to the economics behind it all. She doesn’t want to spend $3K, then she doesn’t have to.

  192. January 27, 2012 at 1:48 AM #

    PS: Dear “Mary says: January 27, 2012 at 12:10 am”
    We DO work all year. Four months may just be the time we shoot weddings, then there are albums to design, orders to fulfill, side jobs of family/senior portraits.

    It is a GROSS MISCONCEPTION that photographers work only a few months or weeks out of the year. I would ask you to refer to the latest STAPLES commercial: Dave – here’s the link:

    This is EXACTLY what it’s like to be a sole proprietor of a photography business. We. Do. It. All.
    :-) xoxo, Joanne Bartone Photographer

  193. January 27, 2012 at 1:56 AM #

    LOVE IT!!!! GREAT POST!!!
    I just did my daughters senior pictures. :( Beautiful and sad!
    Her best friend loves them. My daughter asked if I would do her bff’s as a favor. I told her I would only charge her $75.00. Normally I charge around $300. for a senior session. She agreed then told me that she wants the same thing my daughter had, 6 locations, outfit changes, and hair styles to match. I said I would do it. She decided it was too expensive!!! UGH!

  194. January 27, 2012 at 1:58 AM #

    well said :)

  195. January 27, 2012 at 2:08 AM #

    What a great response and I share your frustrations. Im not a photographer though I run a web development business. I think alot of people that are not in business have this impression that business owners are rich and we have all the time in the world. I liked how you highlighted the extra things, like marketing, accounts, your tools of the trade. Though putting all of them aside, your IP, the things you know that separate you from the amateur jobs. I can’t count the number of times I have been told that X and Y’s brothers cousin can do it for them.. Only to have those same people coming back in a couple of months when things haven’t quite worked out..

  196. January 27, 2012 at 2:13 AM #

    Thank you for taking the time to address the misconception that just because your a wedding professional your trying to fleece people from their hard earned money. I’m a wedding entertainer and we often hear the same rhetoric about our pricing and their quotes from other entertainers.

    While your argument is spot on, I feel that we as wedding professionals are missing out on a point that is equally important. We’re planning our weekends sometimes 2 years in advance and sacrificing our family time, potential weddings of friends not to mention spending the weekends with our kids.

    Another thing to consider is how EASY it is to become a “photographer or Dj”. Anyone who buys a wide body camera or a laptop and headphones is suddenly a wedding photographer or dj which can lend one to a flooded pool of choices for the brides who’s appearance after becoming engaged looks eerily simliar to a dear in the headlights with all the choices.. What’s the difference between a $500 photographer and a $3000 photographer. NOTHING by a print ad or a website. SO…Those of us in the wedding industry have to make a stand and endorse quality vendors based on talent & professionalism.

    Sincerely,

    Chris Hintz

  197. January 27, 2012 at 2:30 AM #

    wow! thank u so much for this blog post. I commend you. I too saw this ad and it infuriated me. I some folks need to research it instead of posting on CL for attention.

  198. Vanilla
    January 27, 2012 at 2:32 AM #

    I could not agree more with the original Craigslist poster. The rates on wedding photographers are outrageous. As far as your financial break-down – we all have bills to pay. You chose your career path and you get the pleasure of doing something you love everyday.

    • January 27, 2012 at 4:54 AM #

      exactly…that’s her CAREER, why the hell should she give her services away for free, Vanilla? A mechanic doesn’t fix my car for free just because I give him some sob story that he charges too much. Just because we get to do what we love everyday, doesn’t mean we should charge less for it. It’s our livelihood, ergo, we have to be able to make a living off of it.

      • gloria
        January 27, 2012 at 6:08 AM #

        Exactly! I suppose it would be acceptable to Vanilla if her boss cut her salary because they thought they were paying her too much. And if she told them she has bills to pay they could justify a pay cut by saying “you chose this career path, you’re doing what you love everyday and because of this we don’t have to pay you what you think you’re worth. Hey, we all have bills to pay.”

  199. January 27, 2012 at 2:33 AM #

    Nikki….well put!!! People don’t understand what it takes to provide them with quality photos! If you’re ever near, let me buy youva drink!!! ;) I think we both need it!

  200. January 27, 2012 at 2:35 AM #

    Reblogged this on Photography by Michelle Etwaroo and commented:
    I came across this screen shot of an ad a disgruntled woman posted on craigslist while searching for a “cheap” wedding photographer. if anyone has ever wondered why photography, specifically wedding photography, is so expensive please read on. This ad has lit the wedding and portrait photography industry by storm. I wonder if she “gets” it now. Thank you Nikki Wagner for responding to this woman in a dignified and detailed way.

    -M

  201. January 27, 2012 at 2:44 AM #

    awesome. just plain awesome. expenses are overwhelming, and clients just don’t understand it. but how could they? they are not photographers! thanks for explaining! i will definitely share this!

  202. Shannon Riley
    January 27, 2012 at 2:47 AM #

    Bravo! Bravo! Bravo! I have chills and massive amount of respect for you and your amazing words!

  203. Vincent
    January 27, 2012 at 2:49 AM #

    Excellent break down. Perspective is usually not as good as the truth and I think you have handled this in a very ethical and sound business manner.
    To all of those who claim the “bill” break down and how it should not be involved in the cost, a little lesson in business. You pay what you pay at any business, small or large, because you are covering a portion of overhead costs. If you weren’t paying that percentage, the camera that is $2,500 would only cost the base production cost of say $1,000. However, the company making the camera would see massive losses because they wouldn’t be able to keep thier factory running or the R & D portion which creates the new products, operating. Therefore putting the company out of business.
    One less business in the market makes product availability go down and demand go up which in turn makes the prices rise, basic micro & macroeconomics, called the law of demand.
    Again, very well written and spoken.

    • Stevey W
      January 27, 2012 at 1:18 PM #

      A little lesson in business. Daily items (like shampoo/shoes) aren’t part of the business; therefore she has over estimated her cost. Lets not get into the fact she is managing her money poorly or the fact most the items listed can be capitalized for several years to come.

      You may want to retake a ‘basic’ economic/finance class again.

  204. Angela Burton
    January 27, 2012 at 2:53 AM #

    Well said, the only thing I want to add is you get what you pay for!

  205. Erin
    January 27, 2012 at 2:58 AM #

    No offense to Robyn, because yes… You can take excellent portrait, nature, macro photographs with $2000 in equipment. But how many shutter clicks have you put that camera through in it’s entire life? 10,000? 20,000? 50,000? As a wedding photographer, it’s not unfathomable to go through 2,000 shutter clicks at ONE wedding (depending on the length)… Multiply that times 20 weddings a year plus another 40? portrait and engagement session with probably 500 clicks each. In one year, a pro can put their camera through 60,000 or more shutter clicks. And that camera gets used for several years. I know plenty of pros who have had to have their shutters replaced after a couple of years of this kind of abuse.

    And that $800 (I’m guessing) in lenses you have? Sure, they probably span the same range of focal lengths that my $8000 in lenses covers, but do you ever shoot in a dark church or banquet room or after the sun has gone down without flash or without a tripod? Have you ever tried to photograph MOVING people?

    I’m sorry… I’ve had starter cameras and lenses before and yes, I made nicely composed and exposed pictures with them. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been encouraged to do more with my photography, such as photographing high school sports at night under really crappy lighting or taking pictures at corporate events. But after even 1 or 2 jobs like that with cheap equipment, I realized the need for cameras with better ISO performance and larger sensors and faster frame rates and weather-sealing and better noise reduction and so on. And the need for faster glass with fixed apertures and image stabilization and quiet focusing.

    You can’t compare the pretty pictures you’ve taken of flowers in a nice garden in full sun with photographing a bride walking down the aisle of a dark church where no flash photography is allowed. Sometimes you aren’t allowed to “creatively” place her where you can make the most of the situation… You have to photograph her where she is. I’ve always made it a point to be as unobtrusive as possible in the wedding, scheduled portrait times aside… And that means being prepared for the worst case scenarios, not trying to adapt your environment to the limits of your equipment.

    As for Photoshop Elements… When you have to sort through, color correct, adjust exposure, soften skin, clone out blemishes, etc, etc to more than 1,000 photos in one sitting, then you tell me if Lightroom and Photoshop aren’t worth the money. Oh and don’t expect to handle that volume of photo editing on a slow as molasses 3-year-old economy line PC either… Unless you want to be editing for a week. Editing 1, 2, 10 photos at a time is one thing… You don’t want to open and edit 1,000 or 2,000 photos one at a time.

    I’m sorry, but it’s this very mentality that is giving all the pro photographers out there a hard time about their prices. The people that have hired me that are NOT hobbyist photographers are much more appreciative of my time and talent and equipment and understanding of the price of my services. It’s the ones with their own Rebel or 40D at home and a couple of zoom lenses (with variable apertures… Not that they know what that means) who don’t understand why I’m going to be any better than they are or why I have so many expenses when “digital doesn’t cost anything!” If your flower or landscape or kid picture doesn’t turn out/is blurry/whatever… No big deal. If my pictures dont turn out – regardless of the circumstances – its a HUGE freaking deal as there is no do over. And that’s why I have expensive gear and backup equipment and insurance and so on – because I’m expected to provide a guaranteed result. Guarantees don’t come cheap.

  206. January 27, 2012 at 3:05 AM #

    i feel you…its a very reasonable price for a wedding photography..plus the pictures can be kept for generations and from that 3000….i think those pictures will be PRICELESS in decades…altho im doing architecture..when clients kept complaining bout fees and all..its a bit sad when they dont even consider our sleepless night finishing it and cracking our brains to do it….Like ur response and points…cheers….

  207. January 27, 2012 at 3:26 AM #

    Nikki, Thank you so much for writing this. I am a amateur photographer and was upset by her post. I appreciate that you broke it down for her. I am lucky in the sense that my photog job is a side job and I have another job to pay the bills but I hope someday that changes. :-) Thanks for standing up for all of us photogs!

  208. photosbylesliefaye
    January 27, 2012 at 3:38 AM #

    Well done! You really do kick-ass. And it is clear that you do not do your job half-ass.

  209. January 27, 2012 at 3:39 AM #

    Well said Nikki! I was actually typing a response to her when I saw that your blog was being shared on Facebook. You took the words right out of my mouth (or rather, keyboard! lol). No one thinks about the time we take away from our family and friends to give them perfect wedding photos. Makes me think of a comment made some time ago…”Your camera takes nice pictures.” “Thanks, your mouth makes nice compliments.” Everyone thinks that the camera does all the work and we just upload and go with what we end up with. Bravo!

  210. Al
    January 27, 2012 at 3:58 AM #

    First I’d like to say, I have nothing but respect for anyone who has enough confidence and takes a chance to be self employed. I think there should be something said for talented individuals who want to carry out their passion in what they like to do but…I honestly feel her response is blown way out of context. The reply to this obviously ignorant post on Craigslist was very exaggerated. Anyone who goes out on the limb to start a small business understands the risks involved. The majority of small business’ don’t last because of the time and cost associated with the start up cost of building up client database and also keeping up with changing technology. To say this photographer is trying to “make ends meet” makes me sick. The list goes on and on about what’s needed to be a photographer but lets be honest, these are not costs which are calculated into every years expenses. Things like hard drives, computers, editing programs, cameras, lenses, blah, blah are all INVESTMENTS, not operating expenses. These are not reoccurring items that are paid every year to make your business run. Investing in your business is what will make your business grow because without investing in your business you won’t have the latest mega pixel camera that sets you apart from others. To write this letter and to balk or complain about making 50 grand in four months is appalling. Are you aware what the average salary is in the United States?! Yes I understand your networking, advertising and everything else the remaining months but come on. If you can make the money your making, reinvesting in your company, paying your bills and doing what you love, then don’t make it out to be like your getting the short end of the stick.

    • Totally...
      January 27, 2012 at 9:01 PM #

      I would get on board with them being investments if they lasted forever. But they do not. Sure, she can not expect to make back all of her ‘investments’ into her business with one two, a year’s worth of clients. But if they don’t earn her back her money and money to live, then are they really ‘investments’ at all. No one would buy an ‘investment’ that didn’t pay off.

    • Totally...
      January 27, 2012 at 9:03 PM #

      And seriously when will people start comprehending that what she’s saying is that while it SEEMS like she’s making 50k in 4 months, if you just look at gross income, she is not. That’s not the reality of owning a business…. Gross and Net, very different.

  211. Jeb Wilson
    January 27, 2012 at 3:58 AM #

    Absolutely amazing post…. Thank you for standing up for all of us photographers…

  212. January 27, 2012 at 4:05 AM #

    Excellent!!

  213. January 27, 2012 at 4:09 AM #

    Reblogged this on tiffanylynnphotography and commented:
    So. True…

  214. Kevin
    January 27, 2012 at 4:29 AM #

    Well…50K a year is pretty nice. I make 39K a year, need high speed internet, a cell phone for my job, and a lap top with the same processing power to do document reviews, database manipulation, etc, as the iMac. I have to drive in to the office, get new shoes at least once a year, new slacks every once-in-a-while, pay taxes, etc…You can’t claim ALL of those things as deductions, however what you CAN do is write ALMOST all of those things off on taxes, if your accountant is actually worth the money you’re paying them. End of the day, the same expenses that you have, I end up paying as a non-self-employed person. While I do disagree that $3K is NOT outrageous, given the additional hours in the post-processing, as well as in scoping out the venue, etc…I do think that your explanation has little to no validity to it. The only point is this: You get what you pay for. That’s all that needs to be said. Many of the photographers I looked at for my upcoming wedding were charging in the $1500-$2K range, however I looked at their samples and NONE of them jumped out at me. There was nothing special about them, and in fact, it’s NOT what I would want to remember my ONE day by. So all I’m saying is, revamp your argument and make it actually applicable, and figure out what your tax deductions are. As a self employed person, you have the ability to deduct things that WE non-self-employeds don’t have. Don’t be offended over a CL post, it’s CL.

  215. CCC
    January 27, 2012 at 4:37 AM #

    Honestly, i just had my wedding a few months ago, and i only paid 800$ for a wedding photographer and the photos are absolutely stunning and 100% professional. My photographer owns her own small photography business and is able to make all her ends meet by charging LESS than most photographers for weddings.. insuring her MORE business. She realizes that lots of money is going out for a wedding.. and that to be reasonable about costs is most important.
    That being said, i understand all the overhead costs that go into owning a small businesss as i own one myself. But to sit there and say you have to charge 3000$ for your time, equipment and talent is just absolutely false. First of all, most pro photographers already have spent years accumulating lots of equipment before starting their business.. and i know photo equipment lasts for a LONG time if taken care of properly. Ive got a pentax camera from the 70′s that still works perfect.
    Also you can look at someones sample portfolio all day long, that doesnt mean they are going to produce the same quality of photos for you on your wedding day. Most portfolios are also an accumulation of all the BEST photos a photographer has taken over the years, doesnt mean every photo that photographer is gunna take will be gold. That factor of the unknown is what makes people skeptical as to spend that amount of money on photos. And another note, most photographers do NOT charge 3000$ for a photographer session if the word ‘wedding’ is not tacked on. For example ‘take the photos for my husbands 50th birthday party”? Its still 6 to 8 hours plus worth of work, but will be HALF the cost. People know that others are willing to shell out big bucks for most weddings.. the average wedding totaling no less than $30,000 respectively. So stop lying to yourself about your ‘talent’ and realize we live in a capitalist society, and if we can charge more for something.. based on just a word.. we are going to. Thats how our society works. How many ‘pro’ photographers out there charge 3000$ but dont have a lick of ‘talent’ in their bones… what does that say about the business of photographer as a whole? You dont need talent to charge big money.

    • Totally...
      January 27, 2012 at 8:16 AM #

      Your photographer may have more business at a lower cost, she’s also probably run ragged, IF she’s paying her costs. Many ‘momtographers’ actually have a second party (read husband) picking up the majority or all their living expenses, so they are just paying for their extremely expensive hobby.
      Just because a photographer accumulated a lot of gear out of their own pocket prior to starting a business means that when they’re using that gear they accumulated on behalf of their client they can’t pass on those real life costs? That’s a good way to kill a business. A very, very small portion of each client payment can likely even be afforded in her business plan to go towards gear. Other businesses may take out loans to get their start up capital, or save up for it, but included in the cost of your services you must either have enough to pay each month on the loan so you don’t default, OR you just realize if you paid out of pocket for your capital ahead of time that you are not making an actual profit for years.
      Wedding photographers put a LOT of wear and tear on their gear. Wedding photography is also a lot more stressful and time consuming in pre- and post than other ‘events’ that are not weddings. If I shoot that birthday party, I won’t have the kind of consultations, the nervous bride, the FAQ’s and the finishing services like albums and slideshows to nearly close the degree as a wedding. People expect more from their wedding photographer than the 50th birthday party photographer… and YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR!

    • Joe Barr
      January 27, 2012 at 12:32 PM #

      This is actually the best sensible reply of them all. The rest is mostly self-congratulatory, self-reinforcement talk. Everybody knows that as soon as the word wedding is mentioned the price goes up exponentially for every single item. That includes the photographer.
      Your cost analysis is based on the fact that ‘wedding season is only 4 months a year’. That is irrelevant, as a business owner you shouldn’t pick a line of work that actually pays something for only 1/3 of the year, that is plain suicide and not very smart. So complaining about that is a non-starter. That is equivalent of whining that you cannot make ends meet by working only 4 months out of an entire year, nobody is going to give you any sympathy about that.

  216. michael
    January 27, 2012 at 4:51 AM #

    I’m loving this, but I’d like to add that as a professional photographer we compete with a lot of non-pros, people with cameras that “dabble” in photography and therefore charge a lot less than a full time photographer. I understand that what I’m about to say may be far fetched, but would you be comfortable paying someone less to draft up legal documents or perform dental work because you feel that they charge too much and the whole fancy office or high end equipment is not worth it? As a professional photographer/artist we also have years of training, thousands of dollars of equipment and are charging to guarantee that a bride/groom will get what they want. The range in prices should reflect the style, ability, artistic vision and experience of whomever it is being hired.
    It’s very insulting when some random person complains that photographers charge too much for a wedding. We are artists, entrepreneurs, imagemakers, passionate, and willing to give up a huge part of our lives in order to capture and immortalize one of the most important days of someones life. You get what you pay for.

  217. January 27, 2012 at 4:56 AM #

    Has anyone who emailed the Bridezilla received a reply…I’d be interested to know if she’s gained some common sense from the responses she’s received….

  218. Ashley Harvey
    January 27, 2012 at 5:09 AM #

    $400/yr for an online, offsite backup solution? I am an IT consultant and happy to offer you some free advice. Email me if interested, I can help you cut that down to almost nothing.

    • January 27, 2012 at 3:43 PM #

      I would be interested in what you have to say about backups. I was using Mozy, but at $100+ a year it became too expensive. Feel free to contact me or share.

  219. Akil Ifill
    January 27, 2012 at 5:17 AM #

    I’m a Photographer here in Barbados and this was a lovely response Nikki. I charge $700 Barbadian dollars which equates to $350 USD! and people still want to beat down the price and the quality and finish of my work is on par with the guys 5 times my price!

    They still ask why wedding photographers are so expensive and we don’t have fancy labs here nor binding companies for books, everything has to be done by the one person, the books have to be brought in!

    I do weddings because I love them! I love wedding photography! I would do it for free but I have a family to feed and often times people do not respect us artists! This is what we are! This is who we are! We eat, sleep and dream about capturing another human being’s memories for life!

    People don’t respect that. How many people owe doctors money? Very few, but many of us have been short-changed as wedding photographers, simply because people don’t see a rationale behind the price.
    And while even video is fantastic which I do as well, nothing beats looking at a picture because it captures emotions, memories, events, action and life into one moment in time. The best photographers capture all of these things in one shot!

    Fantastic responses everybody.
    Maybe I will move from Barbados to work elsewhere for an increase but I love what I do!
    Continue pressing onwards guys. Don’t stop!

  220. January 27, 2012 at 5:23 AM #

    PERFECT reply Nikki. Brides really need to know the responsibility of a wedding photographer. You detailed the financial aspect perfectly. Thank you on behalf of all wedding and portrait photographers. :)

  221. Farley Buckets
    January 27, 2012 at 5:32 AM #

    50 grand for a month of work sounds pretty boss to me.

    • Gloria
      January 27, 2012 at 3:15 PM #

      That’s not what she said.

    • Heng
      January 27, 2012 at 7:29 PM #

      Going through life not having to comprehend things sounds pretty boss to me as well.

  222. T
    January 27, 2012 at 5:36 AM #

    Sadly, I think I may actually know the person who wrote that Craigslist ad. It sounds like her, and she actually asked me if I would shoot her wedding for her since all those years ago I shot her senior portraits. I got out of the photography business and became an illustrator, so I told her no, I simply don’t have the equipment. She knows why it costs $3,000, but she expects that someone will magically appear and be willing to do it for peanuts. My wedding photos, album included, ended up costing somewhere in the ballpark of $5,000. They are worth every penny. They are the most beautiful photographs I’ve ever seen, and we will cherish them forever.

  223. Chuck
    January 27, 2012 at 5:47 AM #

    38 years ago, I managed to find a photographer to do my wedding who was going to do me a great favor and save me lots of money. We finally got all of our run-of-the-mill wedding photos two weeks after our first anniversary! This guy had great equipment and photographic skill, but lacked an eye for the event and more importantly, lacked a business skill and sense of service to his customer.
    Where I thought I was getting a “deal”, I was truly getting ripped off.
    One always gets what one pays for!

  224. January 27, 2012 at 6:09 AM #

    Your response is fabulous! I’ve explained this to other people before. I’m sharing this everywhere. I get most people don’t know what goes into a photography business. But we charge for a reason, most aren’t just being jerks. And I love that you pointed out that with all the money they spend this will be what helps them remember the day and emotions and feelings. That’s always been my biggest argument. Thanks for writing this, it will be very informative for many people.

  225. Mike
    January 27, 2012 at 6:33 AM #

    THANK YOU!

  226. Hannibal Solstice
    January 27, 2012 at 6:34 AM #

    I don’t know who you are Nikki, but I think your the bomb!!! I’ll def be checking out your work and re-posting this, thanks!!!
    Hannibal – Red Clover Photography

  227. Shawn Van Daele
    January 27, 2012 at 7:22 AM #

    I wish I could hug you.

  228. January 27, 2012 at 7:39 AM #

    I was lucky enough that my husband were willing to share the cost more than 4 times the lady was complaining about for our pre-wedding and wedding pictures with axioo (axioo.com).. That pays for 3 days shoot in Japan, 2 highly personalized books, canvas prints, giant memory box, of course wdding day pics.. However, the most valuable from their services are professionalism, cost. service, creativity, fun memories through the process… The price is all worth it…

    Sorry to say we were too cheap to include their video services… If not we would be a much happier groom and bride..

    Peeps can say axioois overpriced..but they should pay attention to their marketing effort in Jakarta and the largne number of graphic designers, photographers, etc. in their team.. That my friend is not cheap to have even in Jakarta..

  229. January 27, 2012 at 7:49 AM #

    After reading your post, what I have to say is, THANK YOU. Great Article.

  230. January 27, 2012 at 8:04 AM #

    This is extremely well articulated. I really appreciate the breakdown and really, this is a great way of educating those who are not aware and you did it with grace and class. Thank you for putting yourself out there and speaking the words that many photographers are thinking and feeling. =) You ROCK!

  231. Kayte
    January 27, 2012 at 8:05 AM #

    I like the backup you gave for all your reasons. However, as a grammar and spelling Nazi I must mention my sadness when seeing many ‘professional’ photographers who do not take things such as grammar very seriously. I know it’s not your profession, but I feel as a small business owner there should be correct spelling and grammar, especially simple things such as your vs. you’re. I see these mistakes (among many others) on business websites and Facebook more often than I care to admit.
    Again, I agree. Photographers do an amazing job and are well under paid for the job they do. I just wish the grammar was a bit better in the sense of being a small business owner. I realize this is a generalization, but it is a generalization that I have yet to see refuted.

  232. January 27, 2012 at 8:31 AM #

    Yup, even to run a one person small business takes a significant pile of cash to be successful. I know it well and I’m just now ever so slowly making some gains.

  233. January 27, 2012 at 8:39 AM #

    another great explanation!
    support from kay – photographer from small town of malaysia.

  234. Jennifer
    January 27, 2012 at 8:41 AM #

    I am not a photographer but I totally agree with you, Nikki, and I give you alot of credit for not going with your first impulse and deciding to be professional instead. For all of those of you that are saying she shouldn’t include her cameras, software, etc because those are “investments”, try telling your doctor/lawyer/mechanic you shouldn’t have to pay him/her so much because most of their equipment is an investment and doesn’t have to be replaced every year. Yes, shoes ARE a valid expense. My fiancee is a mechanic and has to buy shoes that are oil-resistant, slip-resistant, electrical shock-proof, steel-toed, flexible, and comfortable (not easy to find) several times a year because they wear out quickly being on his feet 9+ hours a day. He doesn’t own his own shop but still has to buy most of his own tools, which are not cheap. Most people think I am exaggerating when I say he has $24,000+ in tools and still has to buy more to keep up with changes in parts.

    People seem to think that if they can do simple things themselves, they can do the difficult things as well. Just as having a point and shoot camera doesn’t make a photographer, knowing how to change a car’s oil doesn’t make a mechanic. A couple of guys came into the shop my fiancee works at one day, wanting their truck fixed, said the shop was too expensive and went home to do the job themselves. They ended up getting the wrong part and broke the truck even more. They brought the truck back anyway and ended up spending twice as much as well as making three times as much work for my fiancee. They were still upset about the price and thought it should have been less than the original quote despite the extra time and damage caused by their ignorance. Judging from some of the posts here, it was the shop’s fault for being so expensive and the guys should have gotten the discount because the shop doesn’t have to pay anything as mundane as electric bills and internet used for the business since everyone has to pay those bills. All business have operating expenses, be they a huge corporation or home-based, whether or not you agree that they are valid.

    Talent and experience also factor VERY heavily into the cost of photography the same as any art. If that was not the case, you could buy an Ansel Adams photo or a Picasso painting for about $100 since that is about what the materials are worth. I may be wrong, but I thought the point of her response to the original Craigslist bride and this posting was to try to explain to this bride in specific, and people who feel the same as the bride in general, that professional photography is a legitimate business with expenses and prices are not just pulled out of thin air. I am sure most people would not dream of telling an accountant or a lawyer or any other professional how they should run their business and what does or does not factor in. If this bride just wanted to vent, she should have done so on her personal blog or social-network of choice. Not a site that people buy and sell products and services. I am sorry for being long winded, but I think this is a shining example of one of the biggest problems in our world. People want amazing quality at dirt-cheap prices and if it can’t be done, it is the business’ fault.

    • Mandy
      January 27, 2012 at 7:20 PM #

      Business expenses are not the same as personal expenses. Example: Your fiancee’s employer rents (or owns) a place to live. This blog poster rents a place to live. They are both personal expenses, yet the blog poster includes her rent as a business expense. The difference from a financial standpoint is that your fiancee’s employer owns (or rents) the shop they work in, in addition to his home. This is something he needed to buy strictly for his business and creates overhead which justifies cost inflation for his services. The blog poster does not have a second building to operate her business from, therefore, no overhead is created and it should have not been included in the list. I can make a similar argument about several other items in the list. Not to mention she falsely represents her earnings by subtracting 1 year of expenses from 4 months of work. So that’s where a lot of the criticism is coming from.

  235. January 27, 2012 at 9:10 AM #

    Seriously, you’re amazing for making this MUCH appreciated clarification!! ~ your fellow wedding photographer :)

  236. photographer in london
    January 27, 2012 at 9:48 AM #

    Really excellent response. I find people are CONSTANTLY looking for a “cheap” photographer to take pictures. Cuz thats all it is…just pictures! And I always have two points to make:
    1) You get what you pay for. If you pay for amateur, you will get amateur! If you’re fine with that, then no problem! 2) Photographs are a luxury, not a necessity – despite what we are deluded in to believing. And although in my opinion they are a necessary luxury, that does not mean I will drop my prices, and be out of pocket so that you can afford that luxury! I TOO have bills to pay and mouths to feed! Not to mention the tax man that demands to be fed as well…….

    All in all loved it. Hope more ppl out there besides just us photographers read it and realize they’re actually getting a bargain!

  237. January 27, 2012 at 11:02 AM #

    Hi Nikki
    I read with interest your reply to the craigslist advert, I am also a small business owner and my business is showing brides and grooms how they can still have the wedding of their dreams without spending a fortune. So you could say that I can really see this from both sides.

    What I try and explain to my brides is that when you are planning a wedding you have to decide what is important to you and also you need to work within your budget. There is no point going into debt for your wedding, if you can afford it great, if not then you need to find a different way of doing things.

    So if great wedding photos is important to you then brides need to work out what is the most they can afford on their budget, and they have to find a wedding photographer that they love. Quite often brides are paying for the wedding photographer for less hours to keep the costs down. I know most brides would love to be able to afford the best of everything for their wedding but quite often they can’t.

    A number of my brides have wedding budgets of $2000 – $5000 for everything – wedding dress, photographer, catering, flowers, cake, the whole lot, so I can understand how frustrating it is for brides to find everything within their budget. But these brides are probably not going to be able to afford $3000 for a wedding photographer, they will be the ones that will find a photographer for $300 with no editing on the photos and a disc of images that they can then print out themselves.

    The bride in the craigslist advert is frustrated, that is no excuse for the advert, so try not to be offended by the post but she probably needs to look at a more budget option for her own wedding. And there are good budget photographers out there.

    I know that the service and the photographs that you will provide will be amazing and there are still lots of brides that can afford you and will love their wedding photographs. Sadly not every bride has a lot of money to spend and they are the ones that will need to be creative.

    There is a space in the wedding world for all sorts of weddings; small, big, expensive and budget.

    Best wishes

    Suz

  238. Andrew J. frigging Newman
    January 27, 2012 at 11:42 AM #

    Oh come on. What a weak argument. Everyone knows that cell phones have the best cameras ever these days, the tiny LED light is more than enough flash, it’s the bride’s pure inner beauty that makes her look good, photos just compose themselves, and Photoshop has the “make it look good instantly” button. And you don’t even have to pay for Photoshop. My cousin knows how to get all that stuff for free.

    There’s no reason to pay someone $3,000 for something I saw some guy do on a youtube video once, and he did it in, like, in 90 seconds. Especially not when you’ll be doing it out of your garage. Your garage??? Seriously? My cousin lives in our garage. I’ve seen what he does when he’s “working” in there. It’s gonna cost me a lot more than $3,000 to replace the walls and the carpeting after he moves out. Besides, I took my step daughter to this photographer’s studio in the mall once. That photographer had a neon sign outside and everything. And he must be really good because he has studios set up in a bunch of malls at, like, EVERYWHERE and he only charged me, like, $200 for some head shots. Now, everyone knows using a camera is exactly the same, all the time, no matter what you’re doing. So since this guy took a few pictures in a very controlled environment and every sci-fi movie shows you that you can zoom in on a digital photo infinitely (somehow these two facts are related in my brain), that must be all the rationale I need to know that you’re only going to work on my photos for, like, 3 hours tops.

    This blog was clearly written by a clueless photographer that is just getting ripped off with overhead costs and is too lazy to find a real job for the other 8 months in the year. I’d suggest lowering your prices or getting a neon sign… like the one they have at the mall.

  239. Lucas
    January 27, 2012 at 11:45 AM #

    I’ll start by saying that I agree a professional photographer is a good idea. We hired an amateur one, but my parents sprung for a pro. The difference in the two sets of pictures was noticeable and makes them worth it. So I do agree they are worth what they charge.

    With that said, I was less than sympathetic to this expense list. The math is insulting.
    “Wedding season only last about 4 months here, so I photograph an average of 20 weddings
    per year for an average of $2500 / wedding.”
    “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”
    So taking your most generous numbers, we have 10 hours at the wedding + 25 hours editing =35 hours per wedding, times 20 weddings=700 hours per year worked.
    a 40-hour a week job (with 2 weeks of vacation) is 2,000 a year.
    So you are working about 1/3 of what a full time job is.

    You then goes on to say,
    “[I] take on many family portraits, senior portraits and corporate
    jobs in order to make ends meet.”
    Oh poor you for having to work more than 1/3 as many hours as the rest of us. You work those things, and you get paid money, which goes to things like taxes and rent, etc.

    A professional photographer is worth it because you’re paying for a level of skill and equipment on hand. Just like a doctor can charge more per hour than someone who once took a first aid course.
    But saying that you works 700 hours a year and has trouble making ends meet begs the question, “what do you do the other 8 months out of the year?”

  240. January 27, 2012 at 12:07 PM #

    There are WAY too many responses on here, but I wanted to applaud you for your well thought out and concise reply.

    Someone may have tackled this already, but i’d just like to say that we’re not allowed to have a sick day either. Well done!

  241. Yik Yak
    January 27, 2012 at 12:31 PM #

    I would HAPPILY have 8 months per year OFF and still make $50k!!!

    • Mark L.
      January 27, 2012 at 8:16 PM #

      She’s not making $50K/year, her business. What she makes is $50K minus all the business expenses.

  242. January 27, 2012 at 12:43 PM #

    This has been blown up on the internet from photographer to photographer and I just want to thank you for putting a good word out for us. You took a lot of your time to gather all of this information about your costs and expenses and were willing to share it all with us (total strangers or future clients). It takes a lot of guts, and I’m glad you stepped out and “told her.” ;) Have a blessed day!

  243. January 27, 2012 at 12:43 PM #

    Why do I have a feeling this Bride will end up with a talented photographer just starting out who will work his butt off and do a great job, yet she will still complain? You got it right Nikki, well done!

  244. January 27, 2012 at 1:05 PM #

    All I have to say is AMEN!!!! I am posting this to my FB page right now!

  245. Lolacaust
    January 27, 2012 at 1:20 PM #

    I love this flawed logic photographers use when it comes to pricing. I’m going to go into work today and tell my boss I want double my current salary and then cite ever single monthly expense I have for justification. I lol’ed when you listed your rent as justification for your prices. A certain amount of inflation is understandable due to the cost of running a business for things like marketing and your gear, but $2,500 for what, 4 solid days of your time, is absurd. That’s almost $80/hr. If you could effectively acquire consistent work throughout the year, you could potentially earn $160k/year at that rate. I know you probably have a high-and-mighty attitude about the work you do and you probably think you’re very skilled, but can you honestly tell me you should be making 2-3 times more than first year doctors, lawyers, and computer scientists? Because by charging $2,500 for 4 days of your time, that’s essentially what you’re saying. If you’re having a hard time surviving on $50k over a 4 month period than it sounds like you’re having a problem with your personal finances, i.e., buying a $2,500 Mac when a $700 PC would work just fine for your needs. Keep up the good work saving the world with your pictures – I’ll pass and find someone who’s willing to work for a reasonable price.

    • Totally...
      January 27, 2012 at 8:53 PM #

      Perhaps your boss can double your salary, but then he will also keep an accounting of every sheet of paper you use, every pen, charge you for your portion of the electricity, charge your for your portion of the companies expenses. Probably would amount to the same thing. Yes you take some overhead out of your salary, like gas to and from work, but not nearly to the same degree as a small business owner.

      • Lolacaust
        January 27, 2012 at 9:34 PM #

        The problem with the blog post is lack of distinction between personal and business expenses. Rent for your primary residence is not a business expense, as she would be paying it regardless, yet she cites it as justification for her client bill totals. She also deducts 1 year of expenses and sunken costs from 4 months of work, which makes her perceived annual earnings misleading by saying she has to survive off $7,000/year, yet does not include income she receives from the work she’s doing the other 8 months of the year.

        Your reply to my comment was appropriate, but my comment was satirical, so I hope you understand that we are both on the same page about cost inflation due to business expenses. It’s just that this post is very poorly thought out and almost does a better job justifying the Craigslist complaint than defending photographer fees.

  246. January 27, 2012 at 1:31 PM #

    Reblogged this on MrS Opera Singer and commented:
    As a fellow photographer who is still working her way up I thought this was a very good read. It helped me feel a bit better about repricing my services this year.

  247. mark
    January 27, 2012 at 1:34 PM #

    iF you are paying 30% in taxes like you say you need a new accountant. the mileage you drive for work, buying new equipment, your phone, website, et al. Are are tax deductable expenses. Hell if you are advertising on your car there’s a way to get most of the cost of. that deducted too. So give yourself a raise by getting a better tax advisor

    • Amanda
      January 27, 2012 at 4:22 PM #

      By law, small businesses pay 15% small business tax, 15% federal tax, and 5% state tax on their income. My certified CPA that I met with last week (who is very qualified) explained it.

  248. January 27, 2012 at 1:59 PM #

    A note on talent: Aside from the costs of owning a kitchen and running a restaurant. Some places will charge $8.50 for a steak dinner, and other places will charge $35 or more for basically the same ingredients, so there has to be some factor of talent, experience, track record, etc, brought to the table.

    However, if a person is on a hamburger budget, they shouldn’t really be expecting a $35 steak, or even a $8.50 steak. If all they can afford is a hamburger then she’s got to either rethink her priorities and save up for a steak, or just buy the hamburger and stop complaining about the cost of steaks. After all hamburger is basically just ground up steak, and if you close your eyes real hard you can almost imagine your eating a steak.

    • January 27, 2012 at 3:47 PM #

      Love this!! Seriously:) I think so many of all these comments are really bleeding over into one another, it is most definitely a combination of work costs and talent. You can’t just choose ONE to sell, you have to have both to be selling great photos with a higher price tag.

      The original break-out may be a little off, considering it’s only applying ALL those costs to one single wedding season, however, it’s justified still the same. The craigslist poster has NO clue how much photography equipment costs, nor how much time actually goes in to creating those incredible images. When the wedding is over, our real work begins.

    • LogicalConsideration
      January 27, 2012 at 4:05 PM #

      You really have no clue about different cuts of meat and the affect that scarcity has on price, do you? Filet mignon is so expensive because it comes from particular part of the cow that is small in relation to the size of the animal. Hamburger is usually made from the most plentiful parts of the cow of which there is a higher quantity and lower quality so the price is far lower. Yes, you CAN make a hamburger from the finest steak, but people rarely do because due to the way hamburgers are prepared and cooked, you wouldn’t notice THAT much of a taste difference. Even between steak places there is definitely a difference in quality even when you are comparing essentially the same cut of meat. That’s because there is a methodology to the grading of meat, even of the same cut. Here are the grades. It is harder (and more expensive) to raise beef that qualifies for the higher grade:
      U.S. Prime – Highest in quality and intramuscular fat, limited supply. Currently, about 2.9% of carcasses grade as Prime.[11]
      U.S. Choice – High quality, widely available in foodservice industry and retail markets. Choice carcasses are 53.7% of the fed cattle total. The difference between Choice and Prime is largely due to the fat content in the beef. Prime typically has a higher fat content (more and well distributed intramuscular “marbling”) than Choice.
      U.S. Select (formerly Good) – lowest grade commonly sold at retail, acceptable quality, but is less juicy and tender due to leanness.
      U.S. Standard – Lower quality, yet economical, lacking marbling.
      U.S. Commercial – Low quality, lacking tenderness, produced from older animals.
      U.S. Utility
      U.S. Cutter
      U.S. Canner
      Utility, Cutter, and Canner grade are rarely used in foodservice operations and primarily used by processors and canners.

      P.S. Another apparent failure of logic/conceit in a majority of the posters is the belief that all wedding photographers are artists and that all artists are good. No. Some wedding photographers happen to be artists, but not all. In fact, most are better termed “technicians”. Photography can be art. But the artistic part is almost exclusively in composition. The rest of it is technical (exception when you use unexpected camera settings or lighting for some specific visual effect, but for weddings, most brides don’t want “unusual” or “weird”; they want “standard” and “traditional”). There is little composition in wedding photography. The poses, whether they be of 1, 2 or many people, are all almost identical in every single set of wedding pictures I have ever seen. The location can vary some, but 95% still fall into a tiny handful of types of location (place of worship, garden, park or beach).
      Now, when you are NOT working a wedding and are shooting photos on your own time or someone has commissioned you to do so, you MAY be an artist. But the fact that you use photography to create art does not mean that everything you do with photography is artistic.