Note: I’m not a wedding photographer. Just a guy who likes photography who thinks about doing it professionally every so often – then thinks better of it. But I do run my own business so I like some maths.

You want how much to take some pictures at a wedding?!

Well, if your photographer is in line with Canada’s national average, it’s about $2200.

And that’s the average. If you want them to stay through the reception and dance, you’re probably going to be closer to $3000-$3500.

If they’re above average experience and quality, more than that.

It’s a little crazy, isn’t it?

Do you ever think all the wedding photographers have got together, made a monopoly, and rigged prices together to get it so high.

When you hear how much they make, it may tempt you to buy a $500 dSLR camera, setup a website and Facebook page, grab a couple wedding gigs, and start printin’ Benjamins (or Bordens in Canada) like there’s no tomorrow.

But before you do that – or just get pissy and hate all the wedding photographers out there – let’s look at a couple things that might help you understand.

1. Training – it takes a lot of practice to become a professional

Photography isn’t something you just decide one day your going to be good at. You may have an eye for it, but it’s also immensely technical and requires a lot of training, reading, and research to get the concepts and stay up with the trends.

Now you need to get out there an practice, practice, practice to become good.

I’ve spent hundreds of hours this year – not to mention hundreds of dollars – on learning more about photography. It takes a lot of time.

2. Gear – it costs a lot of money – like a lot, a lot

At the average of $2200 a wedding, a wedding photographer would need 8 weddings before they would even cover the cost of their gear.

If I decided tomorrow I was going to be a professional wedding photographer and bought a fairly standard professional kit that would be in most professional’s closets, here’s what I’d be looking at for the basics:

$5000 – 2x professional dSLR camera  bodies
$6500 – 4x professional lenses
$1000 – Basic lighting kit and stands
$2500 – iMac for editing + software
$1000 – Memory cards, photo storage, bags, and straps
$1000 – Insurance

$17,000 Total

And that is without even going that crazy. And I haven’t booked a single gig.

3. Advertising – how do people find you?

I may end up with a couple of gigs through friends you know or referrals, but there’s a lot of wedding photographers out there. I need to get into the mix so I have to spend more money on getting a website, advertising, going in wedding shows, or other ways to try and find some brides.

That’s maybe another two weddings I need to shoot to just cover the cost of these expenses.

4. Limited wedding season – you don’t get 52 weekends a year

Wedding season is about 12-16 weekends. Maybe I can pick up another couple around Christmas time. But it’s not like I have 52 weekends a year with a ton of people getting married. If there’s 100 people in a town getting married in July/August, I bet there’s 8 in March.

So if I do really well and want to give up every single summer and fall weekend, I could maybe book 20.

The money ain’t flowin

Congratulations to me, I’ve booked 20 weddings, but I needed 10 to just cover my costs. I now have 10 to make a living on. With the average, I’m going to make $22,000 this year from weddings.

Ok, but the first year is tough with all the gear. Well, the advertising, insurance, and some of the gear costs won’t go away next year.

Maybe I make $36,000 in year 2. Gee, rolling in the dough.

So I need to find other gigs to just make rent.

People complain about paying $250 for a family photo shoot and they all want them on Saturdays (aka wedding days). Let’s say I do 30 of these on Sundays and some weekdays. That’s an extra $7500.

I’m now making $43,500.

It’s a respectable amount of money. But good luck getting a mortage and raising a family on that kind of money.

But isn’t it still a crazy amount of money for the time?

You might still be thinking that the photographer shows up for a couple hours and makes $1000/hour. Well, remember all the things above and how much time goes into managing your own business to even get to this point.

But that aside, chances are, your photographer probably spent a good chunk of time the day or week before scouting the location and getting ready. Then, they’re up early the day of getting ready, packing up all their stuff, and spending the majority or all of the rest of the day with you on your wedding taking pictures.

Now they have 1000-1500 images that they have to take home, go through, curate and edit. This is where the real time is. If they’re delivering you 150 images, they could easily spend a couple days editing those photos. So they’re down from $1000/hour to well under $100/hour.

And you pay a plumber more than $100/hour.

And these are creative professionals that spend a lot of other time researching, reading, practicing, training, and staying up on the latest stuff to deliver these quality images.

Oh, and they’re also small business owners that have to do their own accounting and taxes.

Not to mention the fact of how much pressure it is to shoot something like a wedding with the possibility of ruining the memory of someone’s special day.

In Conclusion

So. In Conclusion. Wedding photographers – or photographers in general – are not making crazy amounts of money.

A huge amount of time and investment goes into the few hours that you end up seeing them work.

photo credit: Rachel & Tim-326 via photopin (license)

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