The $500 Wedding?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by steve_levine, Jan 25, 2007.

  1. Today, the local paper here published it's "wedding guide". There are only 1 or
    2 photographers advertising, and one of them is offering services starting at
    $495. At that price, how could anyone possibly make a profit? Or even break
    even? There are but 24 Saturday in the 6 month season. If this person manages
    to book all of these dates, they can gross a whopping $12,000.00.This is gross,
    not net, expenes must be subtracted from this total!

    A part time job flipping burgers would pay more, without all the headaches.
    Unlike burgers, wedding work doesn't rely on "volume" to turn a profit either.

    This isn't enough to pay for a pair of camera outfits and a lap top? What
    about insurance, travel costs, equipment depreciation, and printing costs? Do
    these people know what a spreadsheet is? No wonder all the studios that had
    high overhead, are now "buildings for rent".

    My business is now entirely "referral based". This wasn't an easy hill to
    climb. But luckily I used a realistic business model. Suffice to say, pricing
    one's self at sub $500 will get you no where fast, and you will be broke when
    you arrive.

    The best advice is to not learn on the job at discount prices. This will only
    pigeon hole you into an inescapable low end corner. Find a mentor that knows
    how to do the job, and make a living, and learn from them.
  2. Does this mean you are offering yourself as a mentor for someone? Maybe you should make that offer to your $495 competitor if you feel so strongly about it.
  3. My wife used to work at a McDonalds. I don't think she normally cleared $500 in a Saturday.

    I would guess this gets you a couple of hours of work and pictures on a CD. If you don't spend too much time post-processing, it looks like good work.

    I've seen numerous posts along similar lines. Generally, the wedding photographer that charges $5,000 believes it can't be done for less. The one that uses medium format believes it can't be done properly with 35mm, etc. In reality, there is a full range of costs and quality out there, ranging from free on up. (I don't think my whole wedding cost $500, and the photography was "free", if that helps put things in perspective.)

    The last wedding I was at, had a guy with nice digital gear and an assistant- sounds like your style. The wedding before that was in a backyard with about 10 people present, and the bride's sister did what photography was done- that was the "free" level.
  4. Your right Steve from a solely buisness view point. However, most of these sub $500.00 photographers are fulfilling something way more important than the money earned from their work. They are fulfilling their inner passion for being a part of something so important and expressive. Some learn from making major mistakes and some never recover. I use to think that it was wrong for these photographers to learn and make mistakes at the B/G expense. But, not anymore. I've learned that there are those who preferr these photographers and ultimately it was their (B/G) choice to take that chance. I'm convinced that those who can charge $500.00 are beginning thier path into this buisness and they have another source of income to endure financially. That's what i did and still do....but the point to where i can dedicate full time to this buisness is drawing nearer with each passing year. I think finding a mentor is a great idea, worthwhile, and great advice. However, there is nothing like learning under solo pressure and learning from mistakes. If you can find a B/G that's willing to take that chance for the $500.00 market, i'd say go for it. Just be honest.

    To be honest, if i was getting married and had a budget of $500.00, i'd rather hire someone starting out full of passion willing to work all day than to hire a seasoned pro for a few hours who never left the $500.00 market.
  5. If they spent money to advertise the "$500. Wedding Packages", you can be pretty sure that they will also spend money to have someone sell you something other than the advertised special.
  6. $500 could easily be the "come on" price in the same sense that some car dealers will advertise a low special but then once you add up all the "extras" the price has gotten alot higher. The average actual booking price could be significantly higher. Some studios have good success with "upsells" after the wedding and it's also possible to cover weddings in a way that you can take advantage of reprint sales to family & guests.
  7. I am a photographer that started out at $600 a wedding my first year, crazy I know. My philosophy at that time was to make it so cheap they can?t pass it up, so that I can get my name out there. I never worked for another photographer but I did go to collage for four years studding photography. Needless to say it only took me one year to figure out why photographers charge so much. I don?t care how much a B/G pays there are always those ones who fine something to complain about, and at $600 it was not worth it. My guess is that this is a photographer that is just trying to get his name out there. I bet after a few $495 weddings they will rethink their prices. My price are still low, and well after preparing my taxes this last week, I know that I am in need of a raise. You know, one time last year, I was listing to a radio talk show, and they said that wedding photography was one of the TOP TEN most over played jobs. Boy that made me MAD! Who came up with that, most people don?t relies the time, work, and stress that goes into wedding photography. Don?t get me wrong, I LOVE doing weddings, can?t see my self doing any other job, but it is a job. You?re doing it to make a living and well you can?t at $450.
  8. I think most photographers (as students or just starting out) think that low prices are the best way to attract clients. I did. I also delt with more bridezillas that way as well. Worked my butt off for mean people who did not respect me at all, just loved the price tag. I learned the hard way. Now, my prices are above most in my area (Only one other that offers prices in my range and they still have the bargen package too)...I'm booked for 2007...and with brides that respect my artistic vision, my packages and treat me and my work with respect. There is no haggling, there is no fits of temper, there is no whining.
    Best thing I did was start charging what I was worth.
    You do the same. Network with bridal stores, jewlery stores, talk to people. Have a good website. Charge a PROFESSIONAL PRICE and behave like a PROFESSIONAL!
    It works.
  9. Michelle, you are so right about that respect thing. I had more Bridzillas at $600 than I do now. It might be because I got better but, I really think it because most brides that go cheap on their photographer, are wanting more than they payed for. So what photographer wants that kind of client, not me. I want them to hire me because they love my work and art, not price.
  10. The 'base' price for a wedding is usually exceeded if your work is very good. Some weddings have budget limits, period. (I get a military [retired] paycheck once a month, so I'll not starve __ $300 to $500 for one day of 'work,' and a day or two of putting a small album together is much more enjoyable than taking orders at any fast-food establishment.)

    With every Uncle Bob and a digital SLR in the family, some folks opt for no professional photographer. That way, it seems, is even going to kill the $495.00 guy/gal.
  11. I feel that there will always be a market for true professional photography. Anyone can point and shoot...but can just anyone do the artistic creations that we as professionals do? Yes, we as professionals are having to make some adjustments such as concidering giving resized and sharpened images WITH OUR LOGO'S ON THEM for myspace and private e-mail use to clients...but if it's done right, that can be FREE advertising for the professional.
  12. I am Mr. free or practically wedding photographer you may remember Steve you ripped me a new one on my first photos. I spent 4 months going to every studio, emailing all the best photographers NO ONE will Mentor. Very nice skilled photographers, some spent and hour talking about the business to me but won't let me assist even for FREE. I jumped in and shot a wedding. My flash was inconsistent, and I did not aim in properly on all shots, I rushed shots and should have had them more level, My posing skills were poor, and flower bouqet postions were not the best, but I did the best I could and learned a ton. The couple and family were thrilled, they had no money I received many emails about how they were pleased, mainly because they knew they had a rookie and they know how much real pros charge. The pictures were not stellar but not bad either. I did what I had to do, read books everynight, looked at the best photographers work, printed out copies and made notes I refered too. I am glad they were happy but I am not, I have continued to try more photographers now out of town. When you are thrown in to the fire with the fast pace and everything going on you are just trying to keep up, I had a shortit was to be honest thrilling to me and I survived to be better the next time. I don't want to hurt the industry but rookies can't charge 2k. $500.00 does cheapen the craft but these guys are going to sink or swim and most will sink. It is everyones job from $500.00 to $5000.0 to educate the clients. I told them I have no experience I will do the best I can. If you have the money get a pro. They were gradding cases of beer to their reception when I was supposed to be shooting family, groom and Bride separately. There is a market for $500.00 weddings a need, and guys starting out. If you are at a high level those clients understand the difference, have confidence in your skills and keep on keeping on.
  13. As most of you know, I am doing my first one for free. In the meantime, I am studying like crazy, reading everything I can and playing with my camera as much as possible. Once I get experience I do not know how much I will charge. I have also attempted to ask to be a second shooter/asst, etc but no response other than one guy who just did not have enough work. Also, some only want experienced people and I cant blame them for that. The others did not respond so I assume that they do not want to train their future competition. I guess I will sink or swim. The bride and groom know that I have never done a wedding, but they cannot afford a pro, so if they do "book" me after our meeting this Saturday, I will be so excited. I work so much better under pressure and am willing to just jump in despite all the warnings I have received (Luv ya Conrad : ).... When I was checking around, the guy that did my wedding 6 years ago now charges 3x what he did then. Back then, he only charged $300 for his service and a proof book - the pics are beautiful. Now he charges $995 for a package similar to this. Most in my area charge this amt for a basic service package. I have seen one that charges a minimum of 1600.00 per any weekend wedding . He did my cousin's wedding about 5 years ago when he was just starting out and the pics were not impressive, but now his pics are awesome. He started out doing it for free too and now has a studio. I think there are only 2 photographers in my town that actually have a studio and only 1 that is not in their house.
  14. Everybody has to start somewhere, right? <p>
    There's a market for everything, right?<p>
    I'm sure these $500 wedding shooters are either not offering much for that starting price, or
    have other sources of income, or both.<p>
    Relax Steve L.
  15. Just a thought guys....would any of you that are starting out or charging the low fee's...would you be doing so if digital was not around and you only had to use's an honest question folks.

  16. What means services starting at $495 ? He could be referring to a 2 hour coverage with batch converted low res Jpgs on CD. The final price could be totally different if a client wants proofs on paper, hi-res images on CD, an album etc...
  17. I've shot weddings for free for friends who had little or no money.

    I'm skilled, but I'm not a wedding photog, and I'm honest about that. I don't have much in the way of flash equipment, but it's never been a problem because friends that have asked have married outside.

    I shoot film, and eat the costs. Sure, I rationed the film (in one wedding, I didn't know I was the photog till I showed up), but rationing shots and waiting for the right moment is the basic stuff of film photography (esp. with a TLR Rolleicord, with only 12 shots), so NBD.

    These have been good friends, who've simply fallen on hard times. Luck of the draw that I wasn't down on my luck when they married, and could afford to give. Without donating my talents, they'd have had no wedding photos at all. Instead, they got a mix of good photos on MF film, scanned and burned to CD. Good photos because usually I knew both families, and had rapport with the guest, being a guest myself.

    Low expectations by the b/g, which I far suprassed w/o breaking a sweat.

    I don't believe that any pro photog lost money on what I shot. In each case, the b/g simply would have gone without.

    I get requests from people to do weddings every now and then, maybe once or twice a year, because I've done portraits and done them well. I'm honest about ability and gear (esp. if in a dimly lit church), and if I'm not able to do it we part ways, still friends. Honesty counts for a lot, in biz or in life.

    Summary: some people can spend $5,000 on a wedding package, and some simply can't. I wouldn't fault anybody for not having money.
  18. "Just a thought guys....would any of you that are starting out or charging the low fee's...would you be doing so if digital was not around and you only had to use's an honest question folks.

    Arthur, you are right on the money. I was shooting 35mm weddings in the 80s and was not happy with the risk the bride and groom were at with me not knowing 100 percent what was in the camera or on film when I left the hall. I switched to landscapes and underwater. A few years ago when digital quality was there and I can test my work in progress, I decided to give it another go. First with candid kid portraits, then corporate events, and now weddings. From my first hawkeye instamatic in 67 to my A1s in 81 that I just retired, I will not accept the film risk.
    However, at no time do I do a wedding on the cheap. I am almost 50, shooting a camera for 40 years, have developed excellent people skills and good photographic skills. Every year of experience is in my shot and in my bill, with the exception of special circumstances.
  19. My first wedding 4 years ago was on film. I charged $600 and had about $500 in expenses for the proofing. I thought good, I made a hundred bucks for the day! It only took me one more wedding to realize I was loosing money and working for free. But, everyone does have to start somewhere. Also, there are people out there who will not and can not pay $2500+ for a wedding photographer. These "$500 photographers" fill a place in the market. Do you think a painter who charges thousands for a painting worries that they are selling oil paintings at the department store for $50?

    I think if people don't want to pay my prices, they don't have to. If they want to pay $500, let them. I have set my prices to be what I feel I need to make. If they don't want to pay, fine. But, my philosiphy might be different than a wedding photographer who needs every job they can get to pay the bills and put food on the table. That is not my case.
  20. If you advertise in the newspaper, you are looking to shoot volume and you are not going to get very high end customers (for the most part.. not always but for the most part).

    No one doing a wedding for $500 is going to CLEAR $500. Fact is, if you work for Mcd's for 8 hours you will CLEAR about $50 (after deductions). Shooting a wedding for $500 won't CLEAR you a lot more... and the pressure is enormous!

    Here is an example of beginner expenses:

    $6,000 for camera, back up camera, lenses, flash, case, cards etc. (and I am going light here and some of this is being purchased used).
    $1500 for computer and $1000 for software.
    Car expenses at 60 cents a mile to and from...
    Insurance at $500 a year
    Reputable clothing for $XX???
    TIME (yours) 8-10 hours for the wedding and another XX??? hours at the computer (this is where I love film.. sorry.. LOL)
    INCOME taxes (take off 25% and set it aside cux the tax man cometh)
    SECURITY TAXES (take off 15% because you get to pay both the employee and employer shares).
    There is more but this gets your started.

    The $495 wedding photographer isn't claiming a thing and if the tax man cometh is going to be paying more out than it cost to shoot.

    Remember, for all the love of photography, this is a BUSINESS.

    Do you see where this is going? You cannot shot weddings even part time for $495. You need all this stuff even if that is for 2 hours (and I am willing to bet it is not). You can say you could book 2 or 3 a day for 2 hours each, but not many photographers get that luxory and the season in NY is short!

    It is fine to learn. I suggest learning for free and being very honest about experience levels. Finding someone to assist can be a challenge. Remember, a photographer is hiring not only an assistant but his future competition. Most know this.

    I was fortunate in this business to have had the advantage of assisting two good professional photographers. One of these two was the better photographer (had greater spread and depth of knowledge and experience) and he actually charged less than the other one.

    I don't do weddings anymore. I can if I wanted to, but I don't want to anymore. I like the results and delivering the photos, but I really do not like receptions and I really don't like riding herd on a group of drunken groomsmen/guests/wedding party etc who consider and open bar akin to winning the State lottery!
  21. I never really understand why such strong opinions come out with this topic. So what if someone offers $500 wedding packages. Honestly, there are so many people getting married I'm sure lowball budget photographer as well as you will have a great wedding season. Also, the couple who spends $500 is not EVER going to spend 5+ times that to another photographer. No matter how many times you warn them lessor prices = less quality work, less experience etc. They have a budget and they're going to try to stick to that.

    As for overhead costs..gear choices vary, we have not spent near $12,000. 2 cameras, 2 tele zooms (one 'L), 10-22, 50 1.8, 28-75, flash (need one more) and a laptop which I also use for another business. So far all of this has cost under $6,000. Mind you all is not top of the line and some is used but you see the point.

    I even read an article that said David Jay started doing weddings 5 or so years ago charging 1,000 and he now makes 10,000 a wedding. Interestingly enough, he's clearly not worried about sharing his knowledge or helping to improve other photographers either...he speaks at many workshops and seminars,etc.

    I always wonder to myself if posts like this are truly thinking of the poor couples who cannot afford a photographer and may get lousy wedding photos, concern for the budget photographer who is working too hard and charging too little, or is it 'oh no, another dang budget photographer is in my area and going to take away business from me'.

    I am new to the industry and taking all the learning routes mentioned above, books, classes, practice..practice..practice. Lots of portrait/location sessions. Our wedding photographer is going to allow us to shoot with him so we can get experience and portfolio material but that is only for a couple of weddings and then I else do we get experience but offer some budget wedding packages? I have sent my portfolio to several local photographers who were advertising the need for 2nd shooters or assistants. I was honest with them and told them I was fairly new and working on my own business as well. No responses.
  22. For most doing these jobs its a second income. They are making some money from their hobby. Often they shoot burn to CD and give it to the B&G. The B&Gs that book these photographers are shopping on price and often don't have a big budget. For someone that has a day job where the wages are not very high making an extra 500 for some time shooting and burning a cd is quite good for them and helps them to make ends meet.
  23. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Mr Levine:

    I am the first to state that the best road for a beginner comprises learning photographic theory at college, being apprenticed, and assisting at a number of weddings prior to shooting one`s first Wedding under a solo contract.

    Most likely the advertisement to which you refer, does have `packages` that are cheaper than yours, (and mine).

    But the wording you quoted `services staring at $495` may simply refer to a one half hour formal sitting for wedding party at the studio en route to the reception, with a 10 x 8 print. Or, depending upon the advertising laws in you precinct, it may mean the $495 is to get a photographer to turn up, everything else is extra!

    My guess, as is your assumption, is that it is not; but rather $495 is for a basic package at least at the Service.

    But we are both business people are we not? And, it seems from posts on this forum at least, if either of us is asked an honest and sincere question we respond with advice that we believe will assist.

    But it appears this business running the `cheap ad` is in competition with you, as many businesses are with my company. Many of our competitors sell their product for much less than us, it is not my concern.

    If your spreadsheet reckons that this business will be out of business in six months, then perhaps there will be another equally as unskilled at business to take its place. After 5 years, utilizing this dynamic alone, your business could have growth PLUS.

    We refer to what we do as professional? To me this implies a curtesy and responsibility to assist the beginner with advice, and to offer assistance where possible; but a profession is not elevated above the simple matters of commerce and business, as your comments points out: we must make a profit to stay in business and a professional businessperson can identify the line between the two.

    The conclusion you finally draw implies is that all those offering discount prices are leaning on the job: not so.

    Many offering discount prices are simply your competition as they are mine. As competition in the market place these businesses must be respected and included as a potential threat to your business model, as I consider the same as a potential threat to our business.

    That said, thus far, in our marketplace, we have seen many `discounters` come and go over the years. They last about one year at the most, or hang on, as a part time operation. It is not my concern if these businesses make money or loose everything.

    However, this does not relinquish my responsibility to answer honestly, if asked, as to what I consider what the best path to walk is, when starting out; which I outlined in my first paragraph.

    There is too much stress in business as it is: and whilst understanding the passion and intent of your post; let them run the advertisement. From where I view it, it can only benefit your business.

    Chill man,


  24. Just a thought...

    Couldn't this also be an agency type operation? Give the poor photographer $250 and keep the rest. Then book 10 weddings every Saturday. Use high school kids... I know people working in chain portrait studios for 8 bucks an hour that would love the raise.

  25. lb-


    Do these people know what a spreadsheet is?
    uh, do you?
    I've never seen a useful spreadsheet that calculated using incomplete data, which is exactly what you're doing here. you really have no idea what that person is selling or their overall situation. the $495 rate could be for tuesday bookings only for all you know.
    At that price, how could anyone possibly make a profit?
    you assume the $495 fee is supposed to make a profit. it could be a loss leader to get people in for print sales etc. it could be someone with an established photography business looking to break into weddings and shooting at cost. who knows, but the single data point of $495 isn't enough to draw a useful conclusion from.
    I understand (from this post and many others) that you're upset about low cost wedding photographers in your market, and I'm going to assume the reason you're upset is that your bookings are down and business isn't so great (otherwise why would you care). While I think it's a positive thing to come here and vent, I have to ask, are you taking any other, more proactive steps toward increasing your bookings? you have a wealth of experience and excellent images, it would seem a shame for you to waste your energy wallowing in indignation about some ad in the paper.
    good luck!
  26. Well, you can't make a living at that rate, but it could certainly be decent additional income if
    you work another full-time job and just offer a shoot-and-burn package.
  27. I shot my first wedding for free. But it was only to get started and allow myself to look at a wedding from a different perspective. For my second wedding I charged $700. I am not sure how much I want to charge for my third wedding (haven't finalized one yet) since there is a varied amount of opinion out there. I guess that I will just use my instinct until I get to a "referral based" status.
  28. There are several reasons for the latest phenomena in low charges.
    One is the perception of "digital convenience", which assumes the camera, not the photographer, takes the pictures. The other is that not everyone can afford a Mercedes. People are going to get married whether or not they can afford it. They will find the cheapest ways to get the event done and that's all they care about. Not everyone wants the big lavish fairytale wedding. Yes brides are emotional, but they also are dealing with something which may be beyond their control, money.
    People who are willing to spend $500 on a wedding photographer do not generally have the same expectations that a person who will spend $10,000 does. Yes, there are a few who do and they are called undeducated customers by most of us here. It is necessary to set expectations when starting out as well as when you have some experience.
    A lot of folks are happy to give the responsibility to a student for $500, knowing they won't have the greatest around but feeling like they will have something to represent their event in pictures. This is a big gamble for them but if they are willing to accept the consequences, they have a right to do so.
    I think most of the people who are in the wedding business would agree that if you see people wanting to spend only $500 on a photographer for their wedding, they probably aren't in your target market.

  29. "There are only 1 or 2 photographers advertising, and one of them is offering services starting at $495. At that price, how could anyone possibly make a profit? Or even break even?"
    Show up, shoot for an hour, go home, spend 1 hour in post, order $40 worth of proofs, and call it a day. They may not have business insurance or backup equipment, and after their expenses, they may keep $200 (or more) for three or four hours of work. That's not so bad to some people.
  30. Hi Alex

    "Arthur, you are right on the money. I was shooting 35mm weddings in the 80s and was not happy with the risk the bride and groom were at with me not knowing 100 percent what was in the camera or on film when I left the hall. I switched to landscapes and underwater."

    Yes reason for the question I posted...because I felt the some way even though at the time I had enough knowledge behind me. Without sounding like I am having a go at digital...I feel that a lot of new starters are just hobbyist that want some pizza money as you say over there, but further to this...

    "I am the first to state that the best road for a beginner comprises learning photographic theory at college, being apprenticed, and assisting at a number of weddings prior to shooting one`s first Wedding under a solo contract."

    I agree with WW comments and in my case did just that. I remember some time ago whilst in Australia attending a APP meeting...the great concern that was aired by the pros as to the regards to the image that the profession was going through because of the unexperienced, unqualified 'backyarders' as they called them back them....due to the large amount of disgruntled B&G that wanted to kill someone when they saw the poor results. Granted they got what they paid for...the $500 basic pack...with 200 5x7s. The Pro's went to the extent that they put fall page adds in the trade mags to educate the public at large not to 'paint all the wedding photographer with the some paintbrush' as such.

    I do about 25 wedding a year these days and all are from referrals as I tend to do more commercial work....but sadly I must say that I tend to get a lot of couple wanting help after the harm is done to fix their photographs...sorry if I am being politcally un correct....but I believe that there should be some kind of minimum requirement that a starter should have and that the B&G should ask for apart from a pro looking dig camera.

  31. To clarify things ,I called them and didn't lie. I told him I was another photographer, and asked what the $495 included. He delivers (approximately) a 300 print album of 4x6 prints, and sells the digital files on CD, including all day coverage to the client for $495!

    IMHO, It is far better to hire yourself out to some low budget hack, and cut your teeth on their reputation. This way you can go on your own with a skill set, an unsullied reputation and the freedom to price into the middle of, not the bottom of, the market place.

    What if McDonalds tried to triple their prices? Once you become known as $500 Steve, it is hard to move upwards from there. When a referral calls and they hear the new tripled price, you are all done. You now have to re-invent yourself to the next level. Which asks the question "why did I sell my skills for so cheap in the first place"?
  32. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    A side note:

    Artur Wrote:

    >I remember some time ago whilst in Australia attending a APP meeting...the great concern that was aired by the pros as to the regards to the image that the profession was going through because of the unexperienced, unqualified 'backyarders' as they called them back them....<

    I bet I was at that meeting too.

    I almost used the term `backyarders`, but did not assume others might know the term intimately.

    The backyarders still come and go.

    Yes Mr Levine, it is SO SO difficult for the low priced discounters to ever raise their price, here in our market place too.

    But that is a free market place for you; I am happy where our business is placed.


  33. Why would someone spend $50K on a Jaguar? Because they can, I suppose. Does the Jaguar dealer cry foul when a Toyota is sold?
  34. I can see how people can live off of $500 weddings. If you look at what most of them offer, they pretty much just offer the CD/DVD of the images and leave it at that. Thats roughly $4 per wedding. If they offer proofs as well, that will eat up some of their profit, maybe $100 or so.

    Now lets look at equipment...

    They can get by with Digital Rebels ($700 or so each) or similar prosumer SLR's. As many know, its not the camera that makes the pictures. Thats $1200.

    Lenses: Renting lenses is an option, but a very pricey one. If they were to get 3rd party lenses they could save a few hundred dollars. Lets say they get a 28-70 and a 70-200 (both 2.8) and a backup.. $2500

    Computers: They most likely will skimp on the computer part of the business. In fact, I use an emachine (owned by Gateway) that I have upgraded and saved about $400 by doing so. We will say $600 or so for the computer. $500-600 for software... $1200 total

    CF cards: Sales occur all the time and you can pretty much buy them for nothing now if you find the right sale. I recently bought 2gb cards from Best Buy for $35 each.. 6 2gb cards $210

    Equipment costs: $5110

    Now if they do 40+ weddings a year at $500, they will have at least $20,000 in sales. It wouldnt be too hard to get 40 weddings at that price in a fairly populated area. Now what many of these places do is hire other photographers to do weddings for them... Now here comes the tricky part...

    If the owner hires them as an employee, he must pay income taxes, Social Security taxes, etc for that employee. Now if the owner hires him as a subcontractor, the photographer would be responsible for the taxes, not the owner. However, I believe that the subcontractor can only work for the same person 5 times per year, otherwise they are considered an employee.

    So if the owner does 40 weddings a year, hires subcontractors to do 40 weddings a year (at $250 per wedding) the owner would pocket roughly $30000 per year. Not too bad, but certainly not enough to live on alone. Thats why many of them have other full time or part time jobs to supplement the photography income.

    So it can be done..
  35. my #1 principle: wedding photographers are not morally entitled to make any set amount of money or profit or revenue.

    if we were farmers or factory workers, perhaps, but wedding photography is a luxury service industry, and anyone someone can't cut it, I'm sorry, but you can't blame your competition.

    >At that price, how could anyone possibly make a profit? Or even break >even?

    Maybe they shoot winters, too. Maybe they don't want to make a profit - maybe they want experience.

    >This isn't enough to pay for a pair of camera outfits and a lap top?

    well, $500 is certainly enough to pay for two Olympus OM-1 cameras, a 50mm 1.8, a 135 2.8 and a 28mm/35mm 2.8, and two vivitar 283/285 flashes.

    one wedding and their gear is paid for - plus they have pretty good glass!

    no computer needed.

    throw in another $30 for 3 rolls of portra film and $50 to process and print the three rolls, and they are in busienss!

    >What about insurance

    they skip it.

    >travel costs

    they book local jobs.

    >equipment depreciation

    taxes and paperwork? they don't worry about that.

    >printing costs

    if they shoot 3 rolls at a wedding, no problem.

    >But luckily I used a realistic business model. Suffice to >say, >pricing one's self at sub $500 will get you no where fast, and >you >will be broke when you arrive.

    Steve - you use YOUR business model. When I was starting out, I charged $500 for a wedding too.

    At $500 a wedding, I'm sure they will book 20 weddings in a year. after that year, they realize:

    1) hey, I suck at weddings and I ruined the memories for 20 couples. I am out of business.

    2) hey, I love it, but my pictures suck. My clients won't pay more than $500 because I shoot everything at f11, 1/125th at a second with direct flash. too bad Steve Levine still rakes in the dough b/c his pictures are so much better, I can't even compare.

    3) hey, I am great at weddings, and my work is just like Steve Levine, so I'm going to charge what I'm worth. (They become your competition, which is a natural part of the economic cycle.)

    But really, why are you complaining? I don't know how much you charge, but I'm guessing that the $500 a wedding clients can't afford you anyway.

    > The best advice is to not learn on the job at discount prices. This > will only pigeon hole you into an inescapable low end corner.

    I agree that people should not be learning on the job! But I disagree disagree about the pricing suggestion unless you are in small city/rural area. I started shooting for $400 a day with the setup I named above. I shot 15 weddings this way, all with good results, until I realized that my skills were much better. I quit working for a company as a subcontractor and started booking my own gigs, and people were happy to pay me $1000 once they saw my work. this was in washington DC where a good photographer can charge a lot more than $1000. Now most of my bookings are $2500-$3000 and no one has a problem with that. In fact, I booked one couple at $1000, her brother at $1500, and her 2nd brother at $2500. no problems there.

    >Find a mentor that knows how to do the job, and make a living, and >learn from them.

    I agree with that!

    To $500 photographers out there - I was once one of you, and $500 weddings still boil in my blood, so go for it! (as long as you, goodness gracious, know what you are doing technically and bring two cameras to the wedding!).

    If you can do what I do for $500, and you can make a living out of it, go for it b/c that means I am doing something wrong.
  36. If you plan to shoot weddings full time for $500 I hope you do a lot of them.

    Health insurance costs are huge. The last quote I saw was for $9,000 a year and it had a pretty good out of pocket and deductible.
  37. With this approach, I don't believe that one is necessarily painting themselves into a corner and forever being locked into $500 a wedding.

    Talent always rises to the top.

    I booked three at close to that price in less than a month. They weren't local, and it was unlikely I would have booked anything else in that time. Also, they are beautiful brides at scenic locales and will add nicely to the portfolio material.

    I expect business to really pick up in the fall, and look to an August bridal fair as my "official" launch.
  38. >>To clarify things ,I called them and didn't lie. I told him I was another photographer, and asked what the $495 included. He delivers (approximately) a 300 print album of 4x6 prints, and sells the digital files on CD, including all day coverage to the client for $495!<<

    So many of you are thinking of this as a full time job for every photographer. One of the best in the business back in the 80's told me you will NEVER become rich doing Wedding photographer, you can make a GOOD living, but NEVER be rich. He then stated, it will be the part-time shooter and full time employee with benefits, that will become rich. I followed this statement for my 28 years of shooting weddings in Orlando and worked full time at the local newspaper. At 48, I semi-retired and moved from the 'stress capital of the USA' to a small town. Here I still shoot some $500 weddings, actually $550 is my minimum but remember to add in the additional orders and they turn into $750 to $1000 weddings.
    Big whoops, so the guy offers $495 wedding, even if he prints the images out at Wallyworld, he is still netting $390 after album and CD. If he's got a full time job with bene's, he's feeling fine. Doing more than 1 a day, and he's really feeling fine.
    Reap what you sow, digital has brought this too the Wedding market in far greater numbers than film ever did.
  39. I know there are many thousands of people who paid $500 for a used car.

    The car died within a year after costing them money on repair in addition to the original cost and the insurance followed by the cost of having it towed away. Ug.

    How much are a couples wedding photos worth ... is this the question that needs to be asked?

    Many couples just can't "see" the value of the photography and that's ok yet I find myself wanting to urge the bridal couple to consider the impact good wedding photography can have For a Family in years to come. You don't have to buy the BMW of photographers but one could buy proven quality in their wedding photography.

    The photographs become a wonderful foundation for the relationship and for the children and future generations. Some relationships end but the sense of roots and family is never-ending and it's important to humans in general.

    How long did that used car last and where is it today?

    The truth is that I started out very affordable but I spent four years practicing and gathering the right equipment and shooting the first wedding as an unpaid second shooter. Life is Good. The market will be what the market will be and that's the way I like it so I encourage the new photographers but also inform them of the importance of preparation for the mission at hand: a wedding is not to be taken lightly and one should take the responsibility to be ready with the correct equipment and to do continuing education (like reading this forum and it's fine members who patiently educate as well as continue to learn as new information comes out).
  40. There appear to be two schools of thought regarding wedding photography pricing. First is the consumate professional who must and does have the best equipment, experience and skills to get high paying jobs. The second, the emmerging photographer who MAY have the basic equipment and skills to do the job, but definately needs to acquire more equipment, experience and possibly even style so that they can charge more.

    To respond to comments like Artur's that ask would you charge $500 if you shot film? My answer is perhaps, (especially because digital has a much lower cost than film). Did Artur shoot his first wedding for $4,500?

    If I am trying to become a doctor, lawyer or other professional I would invest over $100,000 in my education and work sixty hour weeks for little more than $30,000 per year (14.63/hr) while I acquire more skills and the other tools to then charge more. Over time I will hopefully recoup my cost and move on to significantly higher income.

    With regards to putting up with "Bridezilla's" I would notice that is a result of a failure on the part of the photographer to clearly define the scope of work, or to give an unrealistic impression of what the bride will get for the money. How many photographers show their very best images, ones that have been significantly retouched and masterfully printed to clients who can't or are not willing to pay for such services?

    I guess the real upshot of $500 weddings is that they are the minimum wage job equivallent. It's easy for established wedding pro's to say you need to charge more, but not so easy for those who are still learning the craft.

    There are not many (if any) internships for photographers, and if there were wouldn't the interns do most of the work for very little or even no pay - just like doctors? So can't we agree that doing $500 weddings is like a doctor serving an internship or going to college - albeit the school of hard knocks!

    There will always be a need for low cost wedding photographers willing to trade time for prints (does TFP sound familiar) just like emerging portrait/fashion photographers and models willing to trade time for prints.

    I have thousands of dollars of equipment and routinely give away my work so that I can enjoy my hobby - Photography.
  41. Good point Mark Harrington.....but after getting the proper first solo under contract wedding was charged at $AUD2800.00

    I now don't go under 3200 euros per wedding...but yes you do have a valid point. In regards to getting rich from this trade...well I knew one Australian photographer who moved over to the states as the market got too small for him in Oz just to keep up with his life style...yes he does have a Ferrari and now works out of Chicago...and most of his trainees have moved on to bigger and better pay packets...

  42. My goal is not to get rich, but to be able to pay my bills and make a little more to put into savings. I do this FIRST of all because I love being a photographer. If I didn't love it, there is no amount of money on the face of the earth that would make it worth my while to shoot a wedding.
    But I do love it, and I charge according to my skill and experiance.
    Most photographers don't mentor because the mentored become the compeition. can't blame them for that!
  43. From a purely economic viewpoint the package doesn't seem that bad for the photographer. You don't need great equipment to get a photo you can print with good quality at 4x6 - a consumer DSLR and a cheap lens will do fine. If you don't already have the equipment, you can pick it up for probably $500 including flash - maybe a bit more if you toss in extra batteries and memory cards.

    Running costs are extremely low. Print your 4x6s at snapfish, and you can get them for 10 cents apiece. A CD is another dollar. If you can get an album for $19, that's about $50 for the whole lot. Even if you figure gas, electricity for computer time to correct the prints, a few bucks for advertising, and a more expensive album, you can probably still keep expenses to $85. This leaves you with $410 net from a $495 wedding. If you spend 8 hours shooting the wedding, that's $51.50 per hour, which is ten times the federal minimum wage.

    It's not a living (since you can't work more than about one day every two weeks), but as a small supplement to a regular job, you could do a lot worse, and the day rate is a lot better than McDonald's.
  44. Sure the person can be making alot of money! :) <BR><BR>They might be using a friends or parents car; living at home; having free meals.<BR><BR> They might buy all their film or digital camera gear out of state to skirt the local sales taxes. <BR><BR>They might also be total self supporting and be from another country have have a better gut sense of living thrifty than a typical fat American. <BR><BR>They might be doing all their digital printing at home with no clues as to actual costs. <BR><BR>They might use the 500 price to attact folks and the typical wedding might be 2 to 3x more,<BR><BR>You are as only smart as you dumbest competitor if your business is a commodity. <BR><BR>If you they are going under you might be pulled into the vortex too. :).<BR><BR>In college and living in a dorm my cost structure was radically cheap; I walked everywhere and had no car even, no insurance.<BR><BR>Another chap with a cost structure 1/10 of your own has a radically lower break-even point. He/She might have a used camera and computer; be a guru with lighting and people and really do better work too. Folks with a bloaded high operating cost are going to laugh a prices that others often are making a good buck at. <BR><BR>Unless you really know the other chaps costs it really not easy to guess at his profitabilty.
  45. It's sorta funny to me. This is one of 3 things:
    1: Someone who didn't really do all the numbers, and will expense himself out of business.
    2: Someone who did the numbers, has other sources of income, and hey, an extra $500 for 'free' doesn't hurt. They are likely not well equipped, experienced, etc.
    3: A business that is playing pricing games. Yeah, for $500 we'll be there for 1 hour, and give you 20 4x6 prints, but if you want our platinum plan, blah blah.

    My bet first it's 3, then 2. 1 is a possibility (look at the number of businesses that die in 2 months).

    Either way, it sorts itself out. If it's 1, then they go away. If it's 2, they'll attract customers who would hire "Uncle Bob" otherwise. If it's 3, well, that's capitalism...caveat emptor!

  46. Patrick ; there are also wedding photographers who are younger and dont do ANY PRINTING. There is none of this "old mans" expenses to figure for printing. They just sell the CD with all rights to the bride and groom; and go one to another wedding job. <BR><BR>Your lower cost shooter might be nibble; not messing with albums and printing and reprinting either. <BR><BR>Or they might be bonding with a local printer to do the printing and get a cut of the action. <BR><BR>Older more established folks can often be clinging to a different older business model that a new shooter doesnt do.<BR><BR>In printing I have seen this trend increase where the job is sold lock, stock and barrel with the only delivered goods is several CD's.
  47. There's a cafe in Paris that has Picasso's on the wall.

    When Picasso was starting out, he traded paintings for meals.

    What does a Picasso cost now?
  48. >>1: Someone who didn't really do all the numbers, and will expense himself out of business. 2: Someone who did the numbers, has other sources of income, and hey, an extra $500 for 'free' doesn't hurt. They are likely not well equipped, experienced, etc. 3: A business that is playing pricing games. Yeah, for $500 we'll be there for 1 hour, and give you 20 4x6 prints, but if you want our platinum plan, blah blah.<<

    Hello Patrick, I see you are from my old home town. You name is not recognizable to me, maybe not mine to you either. How long have you been shooting there?
    Shot in Orlando for 25 years, part-time and yes, I had $500 weddings AND higher packages, so I would have to say I was #3, although I offered much more time and prints than your scenario, plus there were additional orders. Certaining not #2 being I came to each wedding with 3 to evently 4 medium format cameras, 3 flash units and 2 battery packs. Hardly what I would call underequipped. Back then, I was probably looked down on by some of the Studio Photographers because I shot for less and worked out of my home. That was probably the worst problem those Photographers had to face back before digital. With the advent of digital, more Uncle Bobs have come to the fore front and along with fair to good equipment, again are undercutting prices and providing a product to the people who are looking for cheaper coverage. Life has gotten expensive and anywhere they can cut expenses, they will. Unfortunately, even Wedding Photography is facing this problem. There is alot of folks out there and by my last look at the Orlando phonebook a huge amount of Photographers. I think Orlando had two phone books for Bellsouth coverage when I left, have they managed to go to three yet?? LOL
  49. Kelly/David:


    I'm actually one of those folks who only shoot digital (D2X/D1X). Yes, you can reduce your operational expenses that way a LOT (especially since I don't 'do' books or prints for my customers). But, still, you have fixed expenses (like finding/closing customers, insurance, mileage, meals, etc) that eat stuff up. And good equipment isn't cheap...

    I'm also one of those 'weekend' photogs some folks rail on, but for me, $500 is below what I consider a reasonable income for my time, all factors considered.

    I've been doing photography for over 25 years, when the only 'automatic' function was exposure (getting a Canon A1 with a LED display was high tech). Did a bunch of events/weddings, enjoyed the experience, and had folks try to convince me to go fulltime, but basically I already had a pretty good career, and basically shooting film for something as critical as a wedding made me not enjoy it, because I always had this nagging worry about that 'latent' image. I also hated not being able to really visulize the output, so I mostly shot Kodachrome (I didn't want to do my own printing). Folks who still shoot film will decry this, but it's what I felt. Digital allows me to verify I have an image, so my comfort level is much higher, and of course I still have the skills needed before 'auto everything' became popular...

    I also have 30+ years experience in the computer industry, so the intersection of computers and cameras is a natural for me.

    I had a bunch of other 'life experiences' that kept me from photography, but decided to get back into it. Doing wedding/events and stuff is a way for me to generate extra income (and help justify some of my expenses). I for sure don't need it today for a living, but at $500, by the time you really boil down the 'hidden' costs (beyond that 6 hour day shooting the wedding), I just consider my time (and skills) worth more than that.

    I'm pretty sure this 'floor' of 'semi-pros' has always existed. IMHO, digital has dropped the 'floor' because of the reduction in 'fixed' expenses (film/printing). And, 'auto everything' has reduced the risk to the inexperienced...or so they think... I'm continually amazed by the folks who book a wedding and then ask "what do I do next..." for something so important to their customers.

    BTW: I've been in Orlando area for about 18 years, moved here from San Antonio.

  50. I plan on doing the 500 dollar wedding this year. For those of you who are telling me to go to school or assist someone.. Yes, that is the perfect way to get in the field. But it doesn't mean it is the easiest or most plausible.

    I assisted last summer with a photographer who turned out to be a high priced thug who not only treated me like a lower then minimum wage thug, but also as a slave. I worked for him, carried all his lenses and even tried shooting my own pictures and netted 75 dollars for 6-8 hours. I was happy to do it for the experience (despite the fact that he was not willing to teach, I had to figure out everything for myself). He eventually jipped me of the 75 dollars for the last wedding and since then I have no been able to find someone else who would let me assist or 2nd shoot. I have one person who has shot 300 weddings who might help me out, but I think I have to just go on my own here.

    I am fairly good.. People have told me that they love my pictures, and I have done research and practiced for about a year. I spend my days researching and building my business plan and nights working part time at UPS. Unfortunately, for me to get halfway through the photography program at the local college I would need to go to school for 3 years and give up my 2nd job. And the cost of this would be tons of debt for something that won't help me much (because after reading as many books and practicing as much as I have, I have learned alot.)

    So assisting/2nd shooting is out of the question and school is out of the question. So that leaves me with the dreaded 500 dollar weddings. You guys are very discouraging of this, but some people have to start out at 500 dollar weddings. Do I plan on staying at this price? No.

    I don't have 6,000 dollars for equipment. Right now I am looking at starting out with a d80 and my d50 backup (I know, uh oh.,.. different camera backup).. a tamron 17-50 2.8 (probably use an 18-70 for a year as a backup or if I can afford it another 17-50 hopefully) and a used 80-200 2.8 Nikkor. I have flashes, extra batteries, 12g in SD cards and I am getting a better tripod. I am also getting a sekonic light meter, and will end up putting out about 2.5-3 grand in expenses for my first year. Now how many of you are going to tell me here that my 500 dollar business model is faulty and my gear is under par and that I shouldn't even bother. How many of you are going to tell me that I am under prepared and that I should spend half of my life becoming fantastic so I can then break into the market 300 dollars higher at my minimum package?

    I learn from experience.

    My intention for shooting these 500 dollars isn't to turn a profit. In fact after my first year even if I book a fair amount of weddings, I plan on being in debt. But my plan is to be out of that debt within 3 years and turning some sort of profit. This is why I am starting out like this, doing weddings (and senior portraits).. Because it allows me to keep my part time jobs (with benefits woohoo) and still do this until I can turn a profit and create a product that will sell itself.

    I charge 500 dollars because I have no choice. I am going in to learn and to make a good product, and despite being grossly unprepared as you say I plan on going in and over the expectations of the b/g, because that is how I work. For those of you who want to tell me that I am ruining the market or that I am destined for failure, you may be right.. but boy do I hope that you are wrong.

    By the way, I hope I didn't sound too cocky in this post, because in reality I am afraid.. scared to death even of starting my own photography business.. but at the same time I am so excited that I can hardly contain myself.
  51. Just some thoughts... I think you can make $500 doing portraits for a whole lot less work.... and for far less than $6000 startup.

    I saw a Bronica SQ kit with two lens and multiple back go for $350.

    A Leica M3 and a 90 Cron can be had for less than $1000.

    Same with a D70 and 85mm f/1.8.

    FWIW... I worked for a pro that does 70 weddings last year and always complained about money.
  52. Joseph:

    The world is full of folks who said it couldn't be done, when others proved it could. Good luck!

    A few thoughts (NOT FLAMES!)
    1: Insurance to protect you. What happens if someone trips over your tripod, or the film/images get lost/damaged? You could end up paying the rest of your life... Consider joining like PPA or something to get it. This really is important.
    2: Insurange for your equipment. If it's stolen, you're out of business. Check where you have your home/renter/car insurance. PPA also has a policy. Kinda a good idea.
    3: Set it up as a business, get a CPA to help. You gotta have licenses and pay taxes, otherwise the govt will find you and fine you bunches (you gotta figure out how you pay taxes as a 'employer'). This is local and state... A CPA can help get the paperwork done and explain what to do.
    4: insurance for your health. If you're the 'sole provider', and you break your hip, you won't be able to work, and the hospital bills will kill you (ok, that's a joke). You're young, you can do without it (you're thinking), but just think a moment first... Yeah, PPA can do this too...and I'm sure others.
    5: What's your 'break even'? Add up all the 'things' you gotta pay each month (rent, meals, haircut, girl, insurance, etc). Add your 'operational' expenses (gas to visit client, gas to wedding, print costs, whatever). A good guess... now, if you make less than this, you'll starve. Figure you pay say 20% in taxes (that may not be right, but whatever, your CPA can tell you what % to use). That means you get to keep $400. Divide that $400 into the 'break even'. That's your 'nut' of how many deals you need to do each month, or you need to find other ways to supplement your income.
    6: Advertising - how do you find customers? You gotta figure that out, so you can make your nut... Can't give too much advice here, since it depends. Network a lot (friends, friends of friends, etc).

    Hope this is at least a little bit of a help. Again, go for it and good luck.


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