New to Wedding Photography, How Much Do You Charge?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by shuncheung, Mar 21, 2004.

  1. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Fees for a wedding photographer can vary a lot, from below $1000 to
    over $5000 and way beyond, but those are the categories I see from
    some web sites. For those who are starting out, what is a ballpark fee
    they should charge? What are the factors they should consider, such as
    the duration of the ceremony, etc.? E.g. you should charge more if you
    need to be there for 10 hours vs. 3 hours.
  2. You could try phoning 3 or 4 local studios and see what the going rate is in your area.

    Next on your list, go to a local community college (or the nearby Small Business Administration office if you are in a fairly large city) and see if you can get any start-up small busines information. Or sign up for a course or two in establishing a business.

    Then, based on your expected profit and skill level, you are in position to establish a 'rate' to charge your wedding customers.

    Good luck!
  3. Shun.

    Gerald's advice about phoning local photographers to get a general price is a very good idea. The rest of his advice depends on your business experience.

    Regarding the question of a 3hr vs. 10 hr wedding. Unless you are shooting just the ceramony, I doubt you will ever get a 3 hour wedding gig. Whatever the case you want to create a series of package deals that are not based on the time, but what images, frames, album, etc... the couple will receive in the end. Put an upper limit on the time that encompases in fine print somewhere, and charge extra for extra time. You will find that if your upper limit is 12 hours, someone that comes in for a 3-4 hour ceramony will look at your pacakge deals first. They may not ask for a discount. If they do then you negotiate.

    Just make sure you know your true cost for each component of each package deal. Only negotiate on the $$$ you are charging for time taking the photograph.
  4. There are alomst as many ways of pricing wedding photography as there are wedding photographers. Many use packages. As far as time goes one package would have 8 hours of coverage, and anything beyond that gets added at some hourly rate. A more expensive package could have unlimited coverage. I would discourage 3-4 hrs of covereage, with high hourly rates, because you probaly aren't going to be able a second gig for the day, and you'll be tied to the low priced short one. In the beginning you'll be more inclined to shoot just about anything, for just about anything, but be careful not to establish a reputation as a "cheapy" shooter in your area.
  5. Sounds like good advice (from Bruce). My experience is that weddings
    are a 1 a day gig, here's why.

    Prep time prior to going 1-2hrs
    travel to bride up to 1 hr
    Brides home prior to church and travel to church 1 to 1.5 hrs
    church 1 hr,
    formals 1 hr,
    travel to reception .5 to 1 hr
    reception 2 - 4 hrs (or more it they want it),
    travel home 1 hr,
    clean up and put away
    (I'm usually too pooped to do much more at that point) 1 - 2 hrs.

    total time 9.5 to 12 hours ... that's a day in my book ;{)

    Less than that and you are gyping your client out of something,
    and trying to do 2 means the second one will be "not your best".
    loose - loose

    book to read - "Start your career as a freelance photographer" Tad Crawford, Allworth Press under the ASMP co-publish

    Reading it will make you sleep well (or put you to sleep anyway ;{)
    but most of it seems to be good common sense. It's got a whole section
    on figuring out how to charge, read the basics and apply what you need.

  6. I just started to explore the EP-Online referral service (event Photography Online) for wedding and event photography. I've sent out about 12 proposals with attached photos, and a services resume.

    I now charge a basic fee of $1000 for the wedding shoot (which is very low in my area), $200 for a pre-wedding portrait, and I even include the negatives in this package.

    I just received an e-mail from one of the brides who posted a photographer request on EP-Online saying she didn't realize that wedding photography was so expensive, even after I offered to do the job for $850 since it was a half day event.

    To get better information about fees, I did a Google search under "Wedding Photographers" and printed out many web sites where fees were listed, from my area. The average was about $3,000 per wedding.

    Hope they have better luck than I am having.

    I'm also thinking that most of the couples using EP-Online are looking for a rock bottom budget bargain!
  7. doesn't attract a very large number of higher price range clients.

    Most of the job requests seem to be sub-$1000 range.
  8. Josh,

    I agree. I think it may even be more like sub $500!

    When I started doing wedding photography in the late 1980's I worked primarily through leads and referrals from work associates. Now that I'm retired I find it difficult to find potential clients. I'm going to ask a question regarding this problem.
  9. Let me throw this in the mix. Like any other service provider, we are not immune to changes in the industry and or economy. Photography has changed a lot and it will continue to change. The initial group of consumer cameras (like Polaroid’s) where designed to just take something of a basic photo. At that time you had to really know photography to take great pictures and also to be able to afford the equipment. The release of auto focus and auto exposure cameras made it further easier for your consumer. And add on affordable SLR and now everyone wants a part of the action. And to top it off. Now we have the cherry on the cake. DIGITAL cameras at 999.99. Get a digital camera and photo shop and all of a sudden you are a PRO photographer charging $500.00 a wedding because for one thing you are not printing the photos you are more than likely making them available at a online gallery and secondly you are saving money on film and everything else. So the story shall be as such. The only way at this point that you can stand out in my opinion is to shoot the good old medium format and cater to the higher clients or to provide just great customer service and hope that people pay the bucks. I know that some here will tell me that I am wrong but this is the trend I see. The economy is also not helping . You got budget driven weddings now. No longer are a lot of people driving a lot of luxury cars and having 15,000 weddings. Now it is read Modern Bride and learn how to pay $10 dollars a plate rather than $30. You know that the stock market is no longer hot, We are in a mini recession and that the phones at Dell are no longer being answered by some American citizen but rather a guy in INDIA making $5,000 a year. So my point is this. Price yourself at what you think you deserve and hope that the next guy with the Canon Rebel Digital is not going to under cut you by $500.00. (hope this post did not sound to negative. But as the famous talk show host in ATLANTA would say “I AM THE PASTOR OF THE CHURCH OF THE PAINFULL TRUTH”)
  10. I would visit the work of other photographers. Compare yourself. Note their prices.

    If I were starting out, I would stay for the entire wedding.
  11. Shun- You have received many good suggestions, however, probably not the most important. You must like people! I have been photographing weddings for over 20 years. The reason? I love it! Prices will vary from city to city, but the photographer must have a great personality or you will only be picking up the left-overs and be considered "low scale." Do not under price yourself or ability to make a couples day special!

  12. Shun,

    I started working in photography by going to a local studio and doing no-cost apprentiship part-time in the studio. I then did weddings as an assistant (paid), then started doing work as a hired gun (what used to be called a freelancer) for several studios. After a few years of that I went on my own.

    The great benefits of this were learning what I was worth, what I did well, and most importantly improving what I didn't do well by having a mentor and friend in the business.

    If the objective is to build a career, I'd suggest this route. If the objective is to just earn money... don't do weddings, go work for sears in the kiddy photo booth, less aches and pains and happier customers.

    To answer your specific questions -

    Ballpark fee - what you feel it costs you to work, plus what is costs for your product, adjusted to the value you are going to offer, and what the local market (every city is different) will bear. If I work in my town it's $900 for the coverage, plus additional for the album and final product delivery. If I work 20 miles east in a larger city, the coverage goes up to $1200.

    Factors - a wedding is a full day, even if it starts at 5:00pm, until
    you learn the business well - STAY FOR THE COMPLETE EVENT or until the bride says "go home".

    Deliver excellent personal service, make the bride happy, make yourself invisible if possible, be the master of ceremonies if need be, orchestrate when needed, be sure to understand what needs to be photographed, be on time or early, stay late, be friendly courtous and pleasent to everyone (you never know who will be your next client).
    Make sure you equipment is top knotch and have a backup.

    Remember - weddings are people in stressful situations so people skills are as important as photography skills, they don't know what they are doing so you must...

    Now put all that together, and figure out what it is worth to you to do that... that's what you charge.

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