Why Are Photographers So Expensive?
"Your job is easy, you make $200 an hour to click a button on a camera!"
- My uninformed Friend
There are two sides to photography. What the clients see and what they don't. This can be best demonstrated be visualizing an iceberg. The 10% part that is above water is what the client sees and the 90% part below is what they don't.
Most photographers hear that their wedding prices are too expensive when they charge $1500+ for 8 hours of coverage. Parents usually get sticker shock and send the bride or groom to turn down the photographer.
Some people think that it is because photographers are taking advantage of them on their special day and even famously put on Adam Ruins Everything that wedding photographers price gouge. When in reality it couldn't be farther from the truth. However, these types of claims still paint wedding photographers to look like pharma-bro Martin Shkreli -
With wedding photography, there is a lot going on that the end client doesn't see. It isn't that they always think they are being taken advantage, they just think "That's how it is and there is no escaping it."
Here is what 8 Hours of Wedding coverage actually looks like to a photographers schedule. We will break it down into hours and then into costs per day.
Strictly Hours put into a wedding.
Initial Consultation - 2 Hours
Contract Signing w/ minimal travel - 1 Hour
Planning the schedule of the day - 3 Hours
Actually shooting the day - 8 hours
Culling 1,500-2,000 Photos - 4 hours
Batch editing 300 photos - 2 Hours
Professional retouch of all portraits - 6 hours
Organizing and Exporting all files - 2 hours
Delivering files to client - 2 hours
Assistant - 10 Hours
40 hours of actual time involved
You explain this to a client and they are like...
Annual Costs to Photographer
Annual Marketing - $2,000
Annual Insurance - $300
Annual Website Fees - $1000
Annual Editing Programs -$200
Annual CPA - $900
Annual Online Storage - $240
Total Annual Cost - $4,640
And now to the fun part... Cost of Equipment
Camera Body- $2,000
70-200 2.8 Lens - $2500
24-70 2.8 - $1500
14-24 2.8 (used) - $1100
50 1.4 - $400
85 1.8 - $400
Tripods - $200
Strobe - $700
Off Camera Flash (3) - $600
Editing Computer - $2500
External Storage - $200
Memory Cards (x12) - $600
Modifiers for Lights (x4) - $600
Light Stands (x4) - $240
Extra batteris (x3) - $150
Total Cost of Equipment - $13,690 ( Most of which has to be replaced every two years) so $6,845 Annually.
Let's do the Math!
Equipments cost annually - $6,845
Annual Other Costs - $4,640
Total Annual Guaranteed Loss $11,485.
Each wedding is $1,500 and you can shoot up to 4 a month in the 7 nicer months of the year where I am from. December, January, February, March, April are pretty terrible weather here and not a lot of people get married then. Thats a max of 28 a weddings a year. You may book 75% of available dates if you are good. So 21 weddings.
21 (weddings) x $1500 (per wedding) = $31,500 Gross Income
$31,500 (Gross Income) - 25% for Uncle Sam = $23,625 Net Income
$23,625 (Net income excluding losses) - $11,485 (Guaranteed Loss) = $12,140 Net Profit
40 hours x 21 Weddings - 840 Hours of labor
$12,140/840 hours of labor = $14.45 an hour at only 17.5 hours a week.
So, this is why some photographers charge $2,000-$5,000 a wedding. It isn't to gouge anyone on prices, it is because the amount of work and equipment that goes in to capturing a wedding is extremely high. This is taking in just the minimums, some photographers have $50,000 in lenses alone and $5,000 per camera body with 3-4 cameras.
When we do a family shoot and only charge $250. It is because that reflects the same figures but on a much smaller scale, it isn't because we try to take advantage of people spending money on weddings, it is so we can afford to pay our bills for the services we provide.
This is just one account of why photography is expensive. Every photographer is on a different level. If you need a budget friendly photographer, ask someone who is just starting out. When doing this, never assume it should be free and never assume it will be the same quality as a more expensive photographer.
When it comes to photographers, choose wisely. You usually only get one chance to take the perfect photo and you don't want to leave that to chance.
Most photographers supplement this income with print sales, session add-ons, prop sales, website ads, amazon associates sales, and more.
Thank you for reading and I hope you learned a little bit!
* Special note
These figures are based loosely on my local market and change drastically throughout the world. There are hundreds of different factors that go into play in photography pricing and an all inclusive list would not only be boring, it would just further prove the point that photographers cost a lot, because it costs a lot to produce photography. Some markets can book weddings years round, some photographers book every single weekend, some photographers book several weddings a week. I wanted to focus this on the majorities experience, to get an average experience.