For some unknown, unwritten and apparently universal reason there are some pretty hefty misconceptions about wedding photography–I’m taking it upon myself to debunk the myths in hopes that you’ll learn something you hadn’t considered before when it comes to what it takes to run a wedding photography business, specifically in regards to pricing.
There’s some school of thought out there that wedding photography is crazy lucrative, and a surefire way to get rich quick. I can understand that idea, because the initial price tag might seem high–especially if you think, “It’s just ONE DAY!” If photographers really did pocket the whole price you see for just one day’s work, yeah–I’d think it’d be a pretty sweet gig.
As a disclaimer: this post is not meant to be complain-y at all. Every business costs money to run, and if photographers don’t like it, they don’t have to go into this business! It’s just that for some reason I’m encountering a lot of people who think wedding photography is an easy money maker, automatically ridiculously profitable, and that photographers have somehow gotten together and decided they want to rip their clients off. When you understand more of what goes into all this goodness, you can appreciate that (most) photographers aren’t trying to swindle you out of your hard-earned cash, sleazily selling you products and services “you could get for X amount of dollars cheaper*”–they’re just trying to make a living at something they love, like everyone else.
1. Hidden time spent.
Most people I talk to seem to think that the time photographers spend on a typical wedding just includes the day of the wedding and the time it takes to edit the photos. Even if this were true, that would be about 15 hours as a low estimate (10 hours wedding day coverage with 5 hours editing time.) Of course this varies for everyone, but roll with me here.
The hidden time wedding photographers spend answering emails, phone calls, texts, in consultations, prepping for sessions likely included in your wedding day package (like an engagement or bridal session), location scouting, driving to and from sessions and the wedding, blogging/facebooking/social media-ing sessions and the wedding, prepping photos for print, placing orders, and designing albums isn’t accounted for. Then there’s even more blurry stuff like the time it takes a photographer to prepare mentally, physically, and creatively for a wedding. How do photographers compensate themselves for that time? It’s getting stickier, huh?
The time costs listed above don’t include any general business TLC time, like accounting, marketing, or continuing education. These things can take up oodles of time that photographers again have to ensure they are compensated for so their business remains profitable.
(By the way, can we get rid of the stigma that it’s shameful to have the goal of making your business profitable? If it’s not, you’re not running a business: it’s just a really expensive hobby/charity.)
If all this time isn’t enough, what about vacation, sick days, insurance? Not built into the job.
2. Actual costs.
There’s the cost of gear, prints, software and albums, yes–which adds up very quickly as photographers are most likely bringing $4,000+ worth of gear to your wedding (and that’s without software or any prints or albums). It’s easy to say, “Oh, you make that back in one or two weddings!” But that would mean that those weddings yielded zero profit, and most likely the photographer lost money shooting the wedding (gas, wear and tear on the car, the cost of making and mailing a disc of images, prints, an album, etc.) Not to mention the time we just outlined that was apparently time spent working completely unpaid. For free. Now, there’s nothing wrong with working for free. Nothing. Wrong. It just means you don’t have a business, you have a hobby.
Other costs lots of people might not think of? Laptop. Website (design, maintenance, updates). File backup. Online galleries. Packaging. Gear repair and replacement. Taking credit cards. Promotional and sample materials. Oh, what? This photographer wants to attend a workshop to sharpen his or her skills? $1,000 is a (very) low estimate for a workshop from a professional.
We haven’t even gotten to the biggest one yet: TAXES. Taxes eat up such a ridiculous chunk of the initial price tag you see–many photographers set aside 30% of their profit to send off to The Man. Yep, 30%, peeps.
And none of this accounts for services photographers might need to hire others for, like an accountant or designer or an assistant or a second shooter.
So even though many photographers don’t have the overhead of a storefront, they are still running a business and have to manage all the costs that come with it.
*I have to say just a lil’ something about the “I can get the same thing for cheaper” mentality when it comes to wedding photography. YES. You’ll find someone cheaper. So go ahead and do it! I’m not trying to be nasty–really, do it. While this post talks about the sheer time and cost of running a photography business, it doesn’t even touch trying to put a price tag on a photographer’s talent and vision. I’m absolutely mystified when I hear stories of people saying, “I found a guy with a nice camera who will do it for $300. Will you do it for $300? You’d still be getting paid!” It may technically be the same service, same amount of wedding day coverage, whatever, but you get what you pay for. It’d be like emailing Picasso and saying, “I found someone with a really nice paintbrush and a cool canvas who will do a custom painting for me for $300. You’d still be getting paid!” HAH. =) If you want a photographer who knows the value of his/her work, is professional and has really incredible vision, you need to be willing to pay for that.
I hope this insight into the nuts and bolts helps!
I was inspired by this post, which I highly recommend reading.