wedding photographers are rich?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by ianlee, Jul 9, 2010.

  1. So, since I want to become a professional wedding photographer in the future, I want to know the average salary for the "beginner" wedding photographers and "professional professional" ones. Moreover, I want to know how many clients they get each year, and how much they actually earn each wedding without all the money the spent on prints, books and so on.
    Lastly, I want to ask what kind of photographers earn most money.
    THX SOO MUCH! :)
     
  2. I want to know this too. Please let me know when you find out.
     
  3. By & large it is NOT a salaried position. It's week-by-week, contract-to-contract gig.
    Wedding photos earn zero (freebies, as too often evidenced in this forum) to over $5,000 per gig for the best.
     
  4. From
    http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos264.htm#oes_links
    "Median annual wages of salaried photographers were $29,440 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $20,620 and $43,530. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $16,920, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $62,430. Median annual wages in the photographic services industry, which employed the largest numbers of salaried photographers, were $26,160.
    Salaried photographers—most of whom work full time— tend to earn more than those who are self-employed. Because most freelance and portrait photographers purchase their own equipment, they incur considerable expense acquiring and maintaining cameras and accessories."
    Reportedly, the mean for wedding photographers is around $2,500 per wedding. And remember, weddings, even though they happen year-round, have their season.
    Maybe you'll be another Dennis Reggie, and edge out into the thin air, but odds are against it.
    It also matters where you live. In poorer states, an average wedding budget is a fraction of what they run in places where there is a richer demographic.
     
  5. Where do you live?
    What will the market where you live sustain?
    By "average" do you mean gross or net?
    Is money your driving motivator?
    What percentage of your income do you want to reinvest in marketing and sales?
    What kind of clients do you want to attract?
    What services do you plan on offering?
    How much time do you plan on spending for each wedding?
    Do you plan on having an assistant?
    Do you plan on using a second shooter?
    What level of expertise does your competition have?
    Do you know who your competition is?
    My packages range between $4000 and $7000 or more, depending on options and add-on products that my clients want. But I arrived at those package prices by carefully answering the questions above.
    There is great money in wedding photography but, then again, there is great money in almost any career. However, it doesn't mean that everyone can, or should, make the top dollars. Success depends on a lot of things and if "easy money" is what is driving you, be prepared to fail. Quickly.
    Let me ask you this - would you be willing to shoot weddings if you could never be paid? If you can't do it for the pure enjoyment, you won't be able to do it professionally. Weddings are long days where you come home exhausted both physically and mentally.They are photographically challenging both technically and creatively.
    In the beginning, be prepared to make little money. Join a professional group like PPA or WPPI. What I have learned about the business part of photography through PPA has been invaluable. But it's over $300 a year for dues. But, as a working pro, it's a legitimate expense and a small drop in the bucket. Network with other photographers, offer to assist for free - even though you might not get to shoot. Just assisting a seasoned wedding photographer for a few weddings will help you a lot. Sure, it may be for free but not getting paid is a helluva lot cheaper than having to pay a few thousand dollars for a business seminar where you would learn some of the same stuff (but not see applied in the real world).
     
  6. Oh, and consider this: do you like going on job interviews? Because, as a wedding photographer, every time you meet a potential client, you are on a job interview. Those periods beween shooting clients are filled with bookkeeping and looking for more clients.
     
  7. started my business a year ago, met my wedding goal for the year (10), and my name is starting to get out there, but i have not paid myself one cent yet, as it is all an investment in the business right now. advertising, insurance, books, samples, lenses and other equipment (stuff i NEVER thought i would need but has become essential) take the majority of the money. granted, i don't charge high end prices as i am starting out, but still... (i "make" far below minimum wage at this point in my pro photo career)
    everything stated above, regarding passion for photography, and certainly about meeting with clients as a constant interview process, is absolutely true. there is so much more than showing up for 6-8 hours and taking pictures!
     
  8. I'm rich in spirit, does that count? If not, I'm also rich in dirty diapers and cat hairballs. So there's that.
    Wedding work is like any other photo career, some guys are making 6+ figures and some are barely paying rent. Most are in between.
     
  9. The best way to make a small fortune is to start with a big one.
    ;)
     
  10. I think you should think more about how to become a photographer, a good one.
    Thinking only about money and more money ... it's just the wrong start!
    Good luck!
    PS: Don't forget to live your life! :)
     
  11. I started and still am part-time. I have small children, and I get to spend their childhoods with them, and still do what I love on the weekends. It gives me a part-time job during the week, so I can be at the school to volunteer, for emergencies, field trips, etc. When I work, I work HARD. It's a vague question, and most people take years to go full-time; there is so much to learn in so many areas. Lighting, marketing, photoshop, sales, etc. It's vastly more complicated than I realized when I started, that's for sure!
     
  12. If money is your priority, then look somewhere else.
    I think that photography is very deceptive. It's very easy to be a good photographer. It's much harder to be pretty good or great or even to earn a decent living. It's a tremendous amount of work and requires a lot of energy.
    Honestly, there have been a few times when I wished I had never been introduced to photography. It's those times that I think that if I had put the same effort into another career, like finance, I'd be really well off by now. I'm pretty sure that I'm not the only one here who has felt this way, but I'd be surprised if a lot of others would actually admit it.
    However, photography isn't without its rewards and I currently get a lot of satisfaction from the snaps I take. I've seen a lot of amazing things, met some great people, and overall, I've had a pretty interesting career. My wife and I do well enough (she's not a photographer). We have a nice apartment, in a good neighborhood, and we travel a bit. I just wish I could afford something really nice, like that smallish house on Fire Island.
     
  13. Rich and Professional Photographer is an oxymoro n!
     
  14. I know that I'm pretty deep into that bottom 10% under 16k/year, but I am not really shooting with the goal of making a living...and good thing, too. That said, I do as many weddings as some very good photographers - but I charge (and make) much less with each wedding.
    I have not heard of it being an easy OR lucrative job for most. The select few who are good enough at both business and photography can live off of it, and the rest tend to supplement their income by other means or end up homeless.
     
  15. Fashion Photography is the highest paying but you need to know someone and be good at it. Ex-employer does this in New York and he makes between 75-100k a year. He has been lucky and was able to purchase a Digital Hasselblad with one photoshoot. The guys is rude and seems to drawn in the clients.
     
  16. A little OT but there's a joke that goes, "what's the difference between a large pizza and a commercial photographer?"
    A large pizza can feed a family of 4.
     
  17. Most likely you will need to work another full-time job to survive. You won't get rich in wedding photography alone, in fact you will be asking your parents for to borrow money the first few years. You need to do other types of photography, such as sports and schools.
     
  18. OK, here's how to make a good living as a professional photographer and make a nice salary: become a tenured photography professor at an Ivy League University.
    Now, since there's quite a few folks who are vying for the very very very few positions, you will need to become a vampire or some other immortal being. The vampire is probably the best choice because then you can knock off your competition and eat too.
    Then this is how to become a millionaire photographer: photograph musicians or other artists who are just starting out. One day, hopefully, they will become a cultural icon and you'll make millions off of the royalties and as icing on the cake, other photographers will consider you to be "great" - all because you were at the right place at the right time. Just look at the folks who caught Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Hendrix, etc... The photos sucked by the photogs became millionaires!
    It doesn't matter if the photo is horribly lit, bad composition or anything. And if you can them when they're a bit trashed - well, that image will send a kid to college on it's own! The photo of a trashed Janis Joplin with her nipple hanging out made the photographer rich just from that one.
    Of course, when other rich and shameless see you as the photographer to go to, they will come to you for photos and so and so till you have a body of work that just mints money!
     
  19. I've been taking photos for about 45 years now. I can recall in the past I'd often show my photos to co-workers at my civil service work site and would get comments "you should be a professional photographer". I always laughed it off, and never had any aspirations to do photograpy for a living.
    I have made some decent money with my photography, doing part time weddings for about 25 years, taking and selling photos at area car races, and submitting to model railroad hobby magazines. I looked at this income as helping me pay for my camera gear and hobby toys; I probably made more than I spent over the years.
    So my photography hobby never took money from the family budget, making it guilt free. I never wanted to be a pro photographer, having to depend upon what business I might get to feed and shelter my family. I had a steady government pay check coming in every two weeks, and it provided for our living expenses. After 35 years as a civil servant, I retired at age 57 with a paid for house, a bunch of toys, a new car, and a decent pension. I doubt if I could have done equally well as a full time photographer. I might have, but it was too much of a gamble with my life and that of my family.
     
  20. Some people think I'm rich ... that would be an overstatement in this economy where most have lost a substantual portion of their life-long savings.
    But I'm not hurting like some ... however, I make it clear that what I am fortunate to have most certainly did not come from doing wedding photography ... that is for darned sure.
    I made my money in advertising as a creative executive. Put two kids through college and provided a nice lifestyle for my family. I'm now a full time photographer and do not make much more than when I did it part time. But it is a decent suppliment to retirement savings and pensions ... plus it provides a nice creative outlet while keeping you sharp and on the ball ... all while making other people happy.
     
  21. Ian, if you are first starting out, I'd say get a regular full-time job and then on the side assist and 2nd shoot as much as you can. See if you can do this assisting and 2nd shooting for people who command the types of pay you would like to make. Ask to learn a great deal about their BUSINESS MODEL. The best suggestion I'd have for you is do this in one city, and then move to another and let them know that is your intention, so they are more likely to share their practices with you so they know you won't turn around and become their local competition.
    There are plenty of amazing photographers who make next to nothing, and many mediocre photographers who land 5K+ jobs. The difference here is how they manage their business and their people skills. Read all the photo.net posts on business practices. For example, how you present your hi-res digital negatives, the medium, the presentation box, etc. These are the little touches that make big differences. Get books on posing people too. As much as every bride says she wants photojournalistic photos these days, they still need those posed shots for their family members to have on their mantles. Tricks for making everyone look their best in shots go a long way. If the bride feels she and everyone else ended up looking dumpy in those group shots, you aren't going to get the word of mouth rep you need to be a success, even if your ring shots are the most breathtakingly beautiful and artistic shots in the whole world. Also observe the lead photographer's demeanor with people. Ask if you could even go along with him or her to a client meet and greet. Learn about their workflow as well. How they go through things on LightRoom may seem like something you can just figure out on your own, but time is money, and spending eons color correcting every single shot before you put it up online rather than making the bulk of them look good and getting them up there makes a big difference in your ending hourly profit rate.
    Lastly, although frankly I should have put it first, if you are getting into wedding photography just because you think it makes money, don't. This way of looking at it will shine through and people HATE feeling like they are just getting taken. If you really LOVE what you do, it shines through, and people will want to book you for higher rates than those that just are looking like they are there because they have to be there. You can't really fake this. Good luck!
     
  22. If money is your main motivator, photography is not the best choice for a profession. My own experiences are confirmed by the figures from Luis G above. The average photographer earns less than the guy who sweeps up in the NYC subway. The photographer probably has a more varied and interesting life, but if you want money, janitors do a little better. And they don't even have to supply their own broom.
     
  23. I'm thinking it's better to have a job with a regular paycheck and save your weekends for wedding photography. When you get to the point where you find that your running out of vacation days and sick days to cover your calendar for other photo sessions mid-week, then quit your day job. Unfortunately, I have not reached that point yet.
     
  24. I neglected to say there are also many phenomenal wedding photographers that bring in $5K a wedding, and some that even charge as much as $12K-20K for a wedding, and are totally booked up believe it or not. But, I doubt those people got into the business for the money. They are exceptionally talented individuals.
     
  25. Beginner wedding photographers begin as assistants for 2-3 years. They watch, they listen, they ask questions.
    They also have other jobs, they have no social life, they work 12-14 hour days on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
    They make squat...but that squat, is an investment. Because they watch how someone who does make a living does things, how they work, how they interact, and how they obtain business. Do they just open the door and explain everything and you just do it and get your house in the Italian Alps? Of course not. But the best will teach, and what they teach isn't just in dollars,quid,or euro. They give the knowledge of how to maintain the most important element of your business, your creativity.
    However, great creatives are most often horrible business people. They don't know how to market, network, research, or follow through. Yes your images are what get seen and you are judged by them. The way to get your image seen however is the trick, and how to go from eyes on the image to email in your box will vary no matter where.
    It sounds like you are asking a question that should have a direct answer. There isn't one. Vail said it succinctly and others more broadly, if you just open the door and put a camera strap around your neck you could get some work. If you charged $1000 per wedding for just shoot and burn, you could probably get 100 clients for that first year once the word was out. But that second year? you were so busy doing everything that first year you didn't have time to court the next years clients, so you can't do better, raise your rates or practice your craft. For some, $100K per year would be great, and I could start tomorrow and earn that.
    But I don't want 100 weddings, and I want a lot more than $100k. Am I rich? far from, but after taxes and deductions I'm comfortable.
    However I do have several things that allow me to do all these things, and the most notably is no children, and a SO who works odd hours as well. So I don't miss out on time with her.
    So what about you Ian.
    What are you willing to DO to get rich?
    (I really like the work for free response)
    Good luck
     
  26. Bruce, great point! I had to laugh at your analogy and I have to agree with you!
     
  27. Wedding won't cut it for making 100,000K a year. However, school photographers, sports photographers, and the really good modeling photographers, maybe those product photographers, can make anywhere from $100,000 and even millions.

    Ever try photographing something simple as a watch, or even those camera ads for Canon and Nikon? Those product photographers deserve every penny they make, which can be millions.
     
  28. Rich means something different to everyone. Nowadays, if you have a job you are considered rich by the government, because you are the ones paying taxes. If you can support your family by shooting photographs chances are you are not just doing weddings. Remember that there are mostly weddings on weekends with only a few small exceptions. There are only so many weekends and there are only so many weddings you can personally handle. It isn't just a day's work. If you are a brilliant marketer you may be able to establish a company of photographers and book hundreds of weddings, but even so there is a law of diminishing returns.
    Weddings are a personal thing and if you are doing more than you can efficiently process with a high degree of satisfaction, you will eventually lose clients or book less. Or, be forced to lower your prices and that evens it all out. You either do lower priced weddings on volume or you do fewer at a premium price. Either way, you are not making the big dollars.
    I balance out my work with weddings, portraits, and events. It is important to have a steady cash flow for any business and if you don't plan your budget accordingly, you will spend way more than you make - or worse - more than you can potentially make.
    It is getting harder and harder to start out because everyone can buy a good camera and the perception is that good cameras make good pictures. No matter how hard we try to educate people, they still believe this to a large extent. With so many new photographers out there competing on price, it is harder for established photographers to maintain their client base.
    If I were to advise anyone today who is looking forward to a career in photography, I'd tell them to keep it as a hobby but get another job to be financially safer.
    There are many great photographers out there earning some big dollars but my guess is that they are not new to the business and it took them many years of struggling to become major players in the game. Yes, it can be done, but the odds are not in your favor.
     
  29. I will have to do this in £ but you can get the general idea.
    Book 35 wedding at £1500 (average) = £52500
    Upsell 35 x £200 after wedding= £7000
    Albums Cost 35 x £400 = -£14000
    Total =£45500
    This would be an average simple wedding photography business after about three years of growth. The key is low overheads. Low marketing costs. low equipment costs (don't keep buying new cameras) and work from home.
    £45,500 - £5500 Overheads & Direct Costs
    =£40000 before tax
    You could grow your business through years 5-8 and reduce marketing costs due to couples recommending you to their friends and family. You should be able to increase your fees slowly due to high demand.
    Hope this helps, its not my business figures but it gives you an idea
     
  30. These days, any type of photographer are "poor!" I started five years ago and was making decent money. With the price of SLRs dropping and every one owning one, it is hard to find work. I gotten low ball small many times that it is very upsetting at times. For example, I quoted a fair price for 8 hours of coverage, the bridge came back and told me she found someone that will do for $400.00.
    If you are going to start, I suggest building a client base now.
     

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