Why Photographers Charge the Way They Do
“Why pay a professional photographer to take pictures of a wedding, when your cousin has a nice camera and will do it for free?” Questions like this are common questions photographers receive when meeting with clients. And on the outside, it looks expensive, especially when added to the other costs of a wedding. So, why not save a few bucks on the photographer? But would you pay a mechanic to fix your car who has a fancy tool collection but doesn’t know how to use it? Or perhaps an electrician for your home who just picked up a new ohm meter, but only knows how to turn it on and press the button?
The reality is that photographers are not highly paid. When it comes to headshots, for example, the statement I occasionally hear from potential clients is, “that seems expensive if you are only giving me two pictures in return.” The reason behind the perception of this being costly is simple: individuals tend to approach it on an hourly basis, similar to how the majority receives their compensation. If I’m charging someone $80 dollars or more for a one-hour photography session, they might think it is good money. And it would be if I had 8 hours of photography sessions each day. In truth, there are days when I may not have any sessions scheduled, or perhaps only one or two, and during those times, I don’t earn any income. So that $80 is stretched out to cover the hours I’m not photographing someone.
Looking at weddings: My cheapest wedding package is $1,100.00 for 8 hours of coverage. And to be clear, that is cheap compared to a lot of wedding photographers. But yes, it will cost more than your cousin or that random person you found on Craigslist.
$1,100/8 = $137.5 per hour.
A decent amount per hour, you might be thinking. But, for an eight-hour wedding, I need to plan an additional 20 hours of processing images, creating albums and books, client meetings etc.
$1,100/28 = $39.2857 per hour.
$40.00 an hour is still not too bad, right? Absolutely, assuming I’m shooting weddings each weekend or even a minimum of one a week. However, I shoot maybe one or two a month in the summer and in the winter, will often go months without photographing a wedding. To be clear, my approach involves limiting the number of weddings I photograph, as my focus primarily revolves around studio portraits. Photographers who specialize exclusively in weddings will shoot more weddings that I do throughout the year. Even though I generate revenue through family and portrait photography, there are still days when I experience a complete absence of income. Meanwhile, I must continue to cover expenses such as studio rent, home rent, and other essential costs associated with operating a business – including the share required by the government. And, of course, the occasional indulgence of a meal is a welcome necessity.
One thing to think about when planning your wedding, is envisioning what will endure and remain significant two, three, or even four decades down the line. The flowers that you spend thousands on will have wilted. The cake will have been eaten. And the odds of your daughter wearing that dress at her wedding are slim. What you have left is each other, the wedding rings, and the pictures.
Let me finish with this question. When was the last time you saw a photographer rolling up to a wedding in a Ferrari? Never, right? Photographers don’t make a lot of money, and we would respond that we don’t do it for the money. If we lived in a world where money didn’t matter, I would probably still be a photographer. However, the reality is that we live in a world where fiscal considerations hold significance, and sustenance isn’t provided for free. Hence, when it comes to the realm of photography, I urge you to support an artist and engage the services of a seasoned professional.