This section is both for photographers as well as perspective wedding clients.

So, what does it take to be a wedding photographer or to have a wedding photography business?  We get asked that a lot by new photographers, as well as sometimes by guests at a wedding.

Besides the artistic part of it, which we will not discuss, let’s take a look at just how much cost it goes into wedding photography in general purely from the stand point of business.

1.  Cost of Labor (second shooters, assistants, outsourced work, and of course, yours truly) –

A qualified assistant earns about $20-25 per hour.  And we get people wanting to be our assistants for free ALL the time – we will never take someone free for any reason.  A qualified assistant could be a new photographer, a newly graduated photographer student, or someone who wants to help out – their main goal is to assist me and Hazel (or my second shooter) on the wedding day – basically carrying gear, lighting equipment, etc.

A second shooter earns anywhere from $30-$50 per hour or more, depending on experience.  (so 8 hour coverage would usually mean around $400).  Not all assistants are qualified to be a second shooter.  A second photographer has to shoot technically pretty close to my level (artistically is a different issue but technically they have to be able to be proficient – we don’t take students on as second photographers for one thing unless they’re really qualified).

Tony – me – spends about 60 hours per wedding – this includes calls with our clients, the actual 8 hour day of shooting, preparing gear (a few hours the night before), about 20-30 hours of editing and another 5 or so hours of uploading, etc. and delivery.

2.  Cost of Gear (equipment, camera) – Every wedding we shoot, we have over $10-15k worth of photographic equipment with us.  This includes 2 camera bodies for Tony and 2 for Hazel (if she’s there, or the 2 camera bodies became Tony’s backup equipment), a ton of lenses, a few flashes, etc.  There is redundancy (back up equipments) involved.

3.  Cost of Gear (repair) – things do break and will break.  We probably spent at least $800-1000 per year on camera equipment maintenance/repairs/replacements, etc.

4.  Cost of Goods – this includes prints, etc. etc. albums that we sell.  While I won’t give you details of the exact cost, it’s a significant part of the album cost for example.

5.  Business insurance – both liability and our camera equipment.   This is needed for any business.  We spend around $700 per year on this.

6.  Advertising – online, print, etc.   We spend about $5-10k (depending on the year) on it.  We don’t operate like most photography businesses relying on bridal shows – we do a lot of work through word of mouth advertising, etc. so our advertising expenses might be on the low side.  Some people spend upwards of $20k per year.

7.  Rent/Location fee – We do pay a monthly fee for our space.

8.  Taxes – 15% self-employment tax (you pay 7% or so if you work for a company, the company pays the other half, as self employed people, we pay it all… lucky us!) + whatever income tax above that.  And of course, accountant/book keeping fees.

9.  Additional costs (computers, etc.) – this is a variable amount but a computer upgrade will typically cost $2-3k.

10. Incidentals – every wedding is backed up to our RAID6 server at home, and another copy taken to the bank deposit box (so add the deposit box fee) for each wedding not delivered to the client.  There will be two locations for the files in case our house burns down.     The continuation of backups for the files delivered costs money.  While we don’t guarantee it, we strive to have backups for all of our wedding photos that we have ever taken and delivered.

So, after you read this all, do you think a wedding photographer charging $500-1000-1500 per wedding can stay in business very long?   Would you be able to get another copy of your files if you lose it and your photographer went out of business 1 year later?

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