Why so much for wedding photography?

I am tired of clients declining my services in favor of hiring a family friend or a company that doesn’t care about them or their needs for $750.  I am tired of feeling like I have to defend my prices to myself and others.  I am tired of feeling the weight of the financial burden of being a self-employed photographer.

The fact is, the joy of being a self-employed photographer is that I mostly get to work from my in-home studio and I’m doing what I love, but the woes are many.  I work until a job is done and when a job is done there is always one in line right behind it (this means 9-5 begins to look ideal as I often spend 10+ hours a day and a lot of weekends working).  While I work clients are calling upon me to finish faster despite the fact I’m still well within my deadline.  And with all of this I am scraping by to pay the bills because December – March is the SLOW SEASON.  This means $50 – $200 portrait sessions are attempting to pull the weight of all our bills (roughly 10 – 40 of these would satisfy that need), but there are business expenses to be looked after as well.

So, now I seek to educate my readers in hopes of more considerate client to photographer dealings. I hope I don’t sound angry or mean because I am not, I am just disheartened.

Before I divulge, thank you so much to my brides and other clients who love and appreciate who I am and what I do.  I am ever so grateful to you and the joy your support and encouragement brings me and my family!

Why so much for wedding photography?

This first section of data was taken from a blog by Nikki Wagner because my statistics are in a significantly lower price bracket but I still have these expenses and needs and yet I still get complaints.

“Dear Bride,

I am a wedding photographer in the Erie, PA area. Wedding season only last about 4 months here, so I photograph an average of 20 weddings per year for an average of $2,500/wedding (which totals about $50,000/year).

  • That being said, I am a small business owner, so I pay all of my taxes, totaling about $15,000/year, which leaves me with a gross income of around $35,000
  • Of that $35,000 I pay $600/month in rent for my small house and garage which I converted into my studio (which is where I would be editing your wedding images).$35,000 – $7,200 = $27,800
  • Then I have my car, which I would use to get me to and from your wedding, which I pay $400/month for the lease, plus $200/month in car insurance. $27,800 – $7,200 = $20,600
  • To get to your (and my other brides) wedding consultation, second wedding pre-consultation, the wedding itself, and to and from the printers I spend $840/year in gas money. $20,600 – $840 = $19,760
  • I also have $500/year insurance in case you sue me, or if any of your drunk guests would happen to break any of my equipment. $19,760 – $500 = $19,260
  • You also probably found me through my website, which I pay $30/month for hosting, and another $30/month so that you can view your photos online and share the images with your friends and family. $19,260 – $720 = $18,540
  • Or perhaps you found me through my advertisements in the newspaper or local bridal magazines, or a bridal show that you attended that I paid to have a booth at. $18,540 – $1,000 = $17,540
  • I also pay $250/month for my own health insurance in case I were to get hurt at your wedding. $17,540 – $3,000 = $14,540
  • I pay $200/wedding for a second shooter for your wedding, so that you can have more images and different angles, as to make sure you get the best images possible at your wedding. $14,540 – $4,000 = $10,540
  • I also need to have a new pair of shoes ($100) every season because my shoes get worn out and dirty from season to season. $10,540 – $100 = $10,440
  • I need high speed internet so I can upload all of your images online, my home phone for my business and my cell phone so I can communicate with you. $10,440 – $2,500 = $7,940
  • Oh yes, and I also pay a lawyer to make sure my contracts are iron clad and an accountant to make sure that I am paying all of the taxes I need. $7,940 – $500 = $7,440
  • Sometimes I attend workshops and seminars to teach me how to better my business, and make my client happier (that would be you), as well as keep up on the trends and learn new techniques so that I can make sure you have the best quality images available.

That would technically leave me with about $7,000/year to feed myself, buy groceries, pay for my heat and electricity, clothe myself, etc. But, usually I end up reinvesting whatever I have left on upgrades and new equipment.”

-stats from Nikki Wagner

Now for stats by me…

For your wedding I bring my high quality professional equipment to ensure your wedding images are the best I can make them.

  • I have two Canon 5D Mark II cameras (I keep both strapped on me all day to ensure if one fails I have a back up) = $4,000
  • I also have high quality lenses to capture your low light special moments:
    Canon 85mm f/1.2L lens = $1,200
    Canon 50mm f/1.2L lens = $1,440
    Canon 35mm f/1.4L lens = $1,330
  • I have lighting equipment to give you great family pictures:
    Light stand, light box, external battery packs: $1,000
  • I have brilliant flashes to capture all the moments at your reception
    Canon 580EX II = $650
  • I also have multiple battery backups and memory cards and a bag to carry everything in = $1,000+

After spending 8-10 hours at your wedding, I then come home to my home office and spend about 20-25 hours editing your images, creating your album, blogging about your wedding, posting pictures on Facebook, ordering your prints and burning your DVDs.

  • I edit your photographs using a 27-inch iMac computer = $2,500.
  • I edit your photographs on Adobe Lightroom ($200) and Adobe CS5 ($400).
  • I buy custom DVDs in bulk for $300
  • I archive all of your photographs on a 2TB external hard drive = $220.
  • I also have office expenses as far as buying paper, staples, envelopes, packaging, filing cabinets and files, etc…
  • I also spend time and money ordering your prints and albums, paying for shipping, going to the post office etc.
  • Lastly, but certainly not least, I am fully educated with a bachelor’s degree and that came at a price of $300,000 +


All of that being said, I’m constantly pinching pennies, and take on many family portraits, senior portraits and any thing else I can get in order to make ends meet.

Photography is my passion and my livelihood, and it is also expensive. Yes, it seems like a lot of money for one day, but one day isn’t all I spend on you or on my business. I know you will spend thousands of dollars on a wedding dress, flowers, a venue, and on catering which you are going to have for only one day. The photographs I give you will be the only thing you have to remember of that one day for the rest of your lives.

I do feel insulted every time a bride scoffs at my price.  I hope you can see why in light of the full description of what my financial life looks like.  I understand every bride has their budget.  So brides, please know when you set your budget to factor this information in when deciding how much you will spend on your photographer and know that we are in charge of your memories of this special day of yours.  And please know that there are people behind that camera and though our goal is to serve you we do have feelings.  When you insult my work or my price I take it personally because I do consider my photography art and art comes from the heart.


Kaia Calhoun

Blog post inspired by Why Wedding Photographers’ Prices are “Wack”

Musings of a Musician’s Wife: the good and the not so good of wedding photography


As a wedding photographer I come across a great variety of weddings from the fancy over-the-top sort to the handmade and on the farm type.  Being that weddings have consumed my attention this month I have had them on my mind a lot.  These weddings become a part of my life for a while because of all the emotions I see throughout the day and because of the emotionally charged atmosphere I take on some emotions myself.  More specifically, I particularly remember the best moments of the day… and the not so good.

The not so good

Divorce is bad.  But it becomes painfully obvious at a wedding as I arrange and rearrange families for various additions and subtractions of people to satisfy everyone’s ideal wedding portrait.  I love making everyone’s dreams come true, but there is always something sad to me when the rearranging is not so the bride and groom can have treasured pictures with the whole family and any individual members they want but to get all the broken sections of family.

Guest paparazzi.  All the point and shoot cameras brought into a wedding become my battle grounds for getting pictures of the bride and groom.  My deepest wish is to have a wedding with no other cameras but my own so I don’t have to compete for attention and don’t have to fight against other people’s flashes and cameras hanging out in the middle of my perfect point of view.

The hand.  This happens most at receptions, some more, some less, but the hand to the camera… please do not do it.  All I can think in moments like that is “but I am doing this for the bride and groom.”

An angry bride.  It’s just scary.

The good

Wedding sermons.  I love wedding sermons.  They never get old to me and it is always a wonderful reminder for me to refocus my attention on the things that matter in my own marriage.

The bride’s grand entrance.  To this day I am on the verge of tears every time a bride walks down an aisle, especially if the groom is crying.  There is something about that moment that stirs up all the good there is to be had in the world and plops it right in front of me.  Nothing else matters in that still moment but the bride and groom locking eyes and everyone else believing in love, even if just for a moment.

Worship.  Josh and I didn’t have worship at our ceremony, but if I were to do it all over again I totally would.  During worship at the ceremony I find myself on the verge of tears yet another time.  If the moments the bride spends walking down the aisle are beautiful, the moments she and her man spend worshipping together on their wedding day are beyond magnificent – highlighting God during the day that marks one of the biggest commitments.

Physical transformation.  I love getting to watch all the women in the bridal party go from bed head and wrinkly comfy, clothes to glamorous princesses.  Sometimes when I later connect with various members I’m confused when I see them dressed in their street clothes as I catalogue them in my brain as the princess I last saw them as.

Perhaps I will add more to this collection over time but, for now, these are the few that have been running laps in my brain.