Updated: Oct 18
Have you ever asked yourself "why is wedding photography so expensive?"
Well, a wedding photographer doesn’t just turn up and take photos. There is a lot of time (and expense) that goes into creating those images that you cherish and want to put on your walls and mantelpieces. To help you understand, and not many photographers will be this transparent, here's a breakdown of my typical wedding process and my business expenses.
Emails: From the initial inquiry, to consultations, sending contracts and invoices, planning engagement sessions, discussing timings and desired photos, delivery of your sneak-peak images, and final gallery delivery. On average 20-30 emails per wedding = 2 to 3 hours
Booking, contracts & invoices = 1 hour
Engagement shoot (inc editing) = 4 hours
Pre-Wedding Consultation = 1 hour
Planning & final preparation = 1 hour
Traveling: to and from the first meeting or venue scouting (if I've not shot there before), travel to the engagement shoot, wedding. Depending on how far all the locations are = 2 to 8 hours
Shooting = 5 to 14 hours
Editing: 8 to 20 hours
Gallery preparation and delivery - 1 hour
Total = 26 to 44 hours per wedding
Travel expenses: to and from the venue, any meetings, engagement shoot location etc. Hotel stay if required.
Business Insurance: Most venues require me to have public liability insurance up to £5 million. Then there's insurance for all my equipment too. My current policy is £521/year, this rises every year (typically above RPI)
Internet connection & phone: To reply to all your emails, and upload your images, and contact you when out and about, and on the day if needed = £540/year
Online Gallery and Client Management software fees: Hosting your memories in a beautiful online gallery, and making sure everything you need is in one place = £480/year
Editing software: my subscription to Lightroom & Photoshop costs £180/year
2 x Cameras + 1 back up
3 x Lenses, and 2 backups
Flashes, and backups
Memory cards + backups
Batteries + backups
Top-spec editing laptop/PC
Hard drives, and backups
This list is by no means exhaustive, but covers the main-bulk of my gear.
Altogether my equipment is worth around £12,000 and will need replacing/upgrading every 3 to 5 years = £2,500+ per year outlay.
Training/workshops: To keep my skills sharp, learn new techniques and keep up to date with new technology to make sure I am offering the best product I can for my couples. For example, I took a course in June that cost me £259, one in August that cost me £185, and one in September that cost £90.
Skills & Experience: It has taken me thousands of hours of training and practicing to be able to do what I do. Like anybody who goes to university or trains in a certain field, you expect to be paid more highly based on your specific skills and experience.
Advertising: Last year I spent £620 on online advertising, I expect this to be higher next year as previous client referrals will be lower than desired due to, well, 2020.
Printed material: leaflets, business cards, etc £200/year.
Taking photos is only around 10-20% of the work. Around 50% is time spent editing, and the rest is split between traveling and admin.
My estimated business costs run at nearly £9,000/year. So an average of around £250 per wedding based on shooting 36 weddings a year.
To put this into context, my 2021 Platinum Package (10 hours coverage/35 hours total work on average) works out at approx £25.70/hour, with my take-home pay after expenses being around £18.50/hour. Meaning I earn around £650 for effectively a week's work.
And remember, most photographers are self-employed, meaning we don't have the benefit of company pensions, holiday or sick pay.
I think this is great value for someone with my specialist skills - how much per hour would a solicitor charge you for instance?
So, what is a "reasonably priced" wedding photographer?
A phrase I hear bandied about often is that wedding photographers are often not "reasonably priced" and "overcharge" - after reading this article perhaps your opinion of what is good value, and "reasonably priced", has changed?
Don’t get me wrong, we all have to start somewhere! I shot my first wedding for £400. But I also didn't have the spec of gear I have now, my insurance premium was lower etc, I was lacking in experience and have honed my skills since.
The average price for wedding photographer based on a full day starting package is £1,590
Before you decide to book a ‘cheap’ photographer, ask yourself this: why are they cheap? Are they cutting any corners? Are they insured? Are they using the right equipment? Do they have backup equipment should anything go wrong?
I understand that sometimes people have a limited budget. But the saying "you get what you pay for" frequently rings true in life, and wedding photography is one such time. You might have a friend or relative who’s an amateur photographer or know a photography student but choosing someone inexperienced is a risk not worth taking. It is recommended that you spend around 10-15% of your overall budget on your wedding photographer, more for small weddings and elopements.If it means saving an extra £5 per week, less than the cost of a couple of high-street coffees, from now until your wedding to get your dream wedding photographer, wouldn't that be worth it?
After all, your wedding photographs will be the only thing left once the flowers have wilted, and the cake has been eaten - so make photography a priority, and invest in your memories.