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.