“Why pay a photographer to photograph a wedding, when your cousin has a nice camera and will do it for free?” Questions like this are common questions photographers receive when meeting with clients. And on the outside, it looks expensive, especially when added to the other costs of a wedding.  But would you pay a mechanic to fix your car who has a fancy tool collection but doesn’t know how to use it? Or perhaps an electrician for your home who just picked up a new ohm meter, but only knows how to turn it on? So, why does a photographer charge the way they do?

photographer rates

The reality is that photographers are not highly paid. When it comes to headshots, we get this as well, “that seems expensive if you are only giving me one or two pictures in return.” The reason people think this is expensive is simple –  they think by the hour which is how most people get paid. So, if I’m charging someone $80 dollars or more for a one-hour photography session, they think is good money. And it would be if I had 8 hours of photography sessions each day. The reality is, I might go days without any sessions scheduled at all or maybe just one or two, and during those days I am making no money. So that $80 is stretched out to cover the hours I’m not photographing someone.

First a wedding. My cheapest wedding package is $1,100.00 for 8 hours of coverage. And to be clear that is cheap compared to a lot of wedding photographers. But yes, it will cost more than your cousin or that random person you found on Craigslist.

$1,100/8 = $137.5 per hour.

A decent amount per hour, you might be thinking. But, for an eight-hour wedding, plan an additional 20 hours processing images, creating albums and books, client meetings etc.

$1,100/28 = $39.2857 per hour.

$40.00 an hour is still not too bad, right? Absolutely, assuming I’m shooting weddings each weekend or even a minimum of one a week. But that I shoot maybe one or two a month in the summer and in the winter, will often go months without shooting a wedding at all. Even while earning an income from family and portrait photography there will be days I’m literally not earning money at all, while still having to pay studio rent, rent at home, and the other costs of living and running a business like paying the share the government wants. It is also nice to eat on occasion.

One thing to think about when planning your wedding is, what is going to be there 20, 30, or 40 years from now. The flowers that you spend thousands on will have wilted. The cake will have been eaten. And the odds on your daughter wearing that dress at her wedding are slim. What you have left is each other, the wedding rings, and the pictures.

Let me finish with this question. When was the last time you saw a photographer rolling up to a wedding in a Ferrari? Never, right? Photographer don’t make a lot of money, and we would respond that we don’t do it for the money. If we lived in a world where money didn’t matter I would probably still be a photographer. However, we live in a world where money does matter and food is not free. So please, when it comes to photography, support an artist and hire a professional.