Why Are Wedding Photographers So Expensive?

Statistically, couples spend about 12-15% of their total wedding budget on their wedding photographer. The average wedding in the United States costs $26,645, which means a couple will spend about $3,200-$4,000 on their wedding photographer. Now these statistics really don't explain WHY a wedding photographer will cost that much, so let's take a look at the costs associated with a wedding photographer...

From the client perspective it may look like a photographer works about 12 hours between the consultation, the wedding coverage, and the travel time in between all that. If you divide it up, it would average around $300 per hour. That seems outrageous right?! If only that were the truth about the amount of work hours and total costs associated with a wedding photographer.

A Wedding Photographer's Work Hours

A wedding photographer actually spends quite a bit of time per wedding client they work with. Here is a quick list of how a typical wedding photographer will spend their time:

  • Initial inquiry communications + travel to consultation + consultation time ~ 2 hours
  • Follow up communications + booking + communication leading up to wedding ~ 2 hours
  • Communication for Engagement session + style help for session + travel + Engagement session + editing time ~ 6 hours
  • Help creating a couple's wedding day timeline + contracting with a second photographer and assistant ~ 3 hours
  • Getting equipment ready for your wedding day (charging batteries, packing camera bag, etc) ~ 1.5 hour
  • Travel to and from wedding location + your wedding day coverage (based on 8 hours of coverage) + loading your wedding images onto the computer and backing up on an external hard drive and cloud storage + editing your wedding images ~ 30 hours
  • Loading your images onto a USB or into an online gallery and communications about delivery of your images and asking for a review of their services (since we thrive on good reviews!) ~ 1.5 hours

If we add all this up, an average wedding photographer will work about 46 hours per wedding client, which averages to about $80 per hour. That doesn't seem as outrageous as the perceived $300 per hour, but considering the average hourly rate of pay in the United States is $18.04 per hour, surely a wedding photographer's pricing could be cheaper right? Well, we haven't taken expenses into account yet so let's look at that next.

A Wedding Photographer's Expenses

  • Business license + Business Insurance (liability, equipment, and indemnity) ~ $700/year
  • Health Insurance ~ $5,615 (average annual cost of healthcare in U.S.)
  • Attorney's fees for contracts ~ $500
  • Website + hosting + advertising + editing software + client management system ~ $2,900/year
  • Camera equipment (which photographers typically update every 2-3 years) ~ $12,000
  • Editing equipment (computer, photo editing monitor, calibrator, editing tablet, etc) ~ $2,150
  • External hard drives + cloud storage for wedding images ~ $400
  • Product samples (ie. sample photo album, canvases, framed prints, etc - which get updated every year to every other year) ~ $600
  • Second photographer and assistant pay ~ $700/wedding
  • Gas and vehicle maintenance to get to and from the consultation, the Engagement Session, the wedding location, and to deliver USB ~ $200/wedding
  • Custom USB + other products included in the wedding package (ie. leather photo album with embossed cover, canvas or framed prints, etc.) ~ $800/wedding
  • Credit card fees ~ $100/wedding

When we average out the annual costs and divide it by 20 (which is an average number of weddings a wedding photographer will photograph a year) and add the per wedding cost in that leaves a wedding photographer with about $800 of total profit per wedding. When you divide that by the average 46 hours a wedding photographer works to ensure each client gets the best service, that leaves an average wedding photographer with an hourly rate of pay of around $17.39.

Now this analysis isn't a cookie cutter calculation for every wedding photographer, because every photographer has different circumstances. Some work more weddings in a year, others work less; some have a dual income with their spouse, others solely rely on their photography income; some have more expenses, others have less, etc.

A Photographer's Motivation

In a nutshell, most wedding photographers aren't rolling in the dough with every wedding or even in a year. So why do we do what we do? Because we have a passion for people and photography so money isn't our motivation. I personally love getting to meet new couples and hear their love story and I am honored each time a couple chooses to have me capture the day their marriage begins! Yes, as a wedding photographer I do need to make money, but I can honestly say that I chose this career because of what I get to do, not because of how much money I would make doing it.

Choosing the Right Photographer for YOU

Choosing a wedding photographer can be an overwhelming task, but when you know the right things to consider and ask when deciding, you'll know exactly How to Choose a Wedding Photographer that's a perfect fit to your dream wedding day vendor team!

Krystal Craven is a licensed and insured professional wedding photographer in the San Francisco Bay Area, CA.

Krystal Craven is a licensed and insured professional wedding photographer in the San Francisco Bay Area, CA.

Are you or someone you know getting married in the San Francisco Bay Area? I'd love to be considered as the journey to search for a wedding photographer begins! Feel free to contact me and we can schedule to grab some coffee or do a phone or video conference to see if I'd make a good fit as your wedding photographer!


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