A lot of people, especially soon-to-be-married couples and non-photographers, argue that wedding photographers charge too much for the wedding photos. The most common argument is that since all photographers do at the weddings is taking pictures with their fancy cameras, and because “everyone can take a picture” photographers are ripping people off if they charge thousands of dollars.

Are they really charging too much? Not at all if you ask me, and I’ll explain why.

What the Work Entails

First of all, wedding photographers do more than just taking pictures. A good wedding photographer have to provide consultation to the clients and advise them on details of the weddings, then coordinate with the wedding planners to make sure all the important things are on his or her radar. Before the wedding, the photographer would have to discuss with the second photographer to make sure both the bride and the groom are covered at all time so not a single moment would be missed.

Photographers have to stay alert and anticipate any memorable shots that need be captured during the entire wedding and reception, and that is more mentally and physically exhausting than most people think. Afterward, photographers spend hours editing the photos, and the process is far more sophisticated than just pushing few buttons. Typically, the wedding and the reception last for a few hours, but photo editing could take more than 40 hours for a total of up to 50 hours of work.

What Goes Into the Cost

The cost of maintaining a photography business may be more than you think, and here’s a simple breakdown:

  • Taxes – Taxes vary from state to state, but is generally between 20%, if the state does not collect income tax, to 40%. Sometimes the startup cost may be tax-deductible, but that is not nearly enough to offset the entire costs.
  • Operations Costs – Professional photographers are also small business owners, and they have to do their own marketing including webhosting fees, advertisement cost, tradeshow fee and more. As their own bosses, they also have to pay for their own medical insurance and life insurance.
  • Business Insurances – Aside from medical insurance, photographers may take out insurances on their gears against thefts or losses. Some photographers may also have insurance that covers their clients’ wedding, that if required they can recreate the entire wedding just for the purpose of photo shoots.
  • Gears Maintenance Costs – Gears, especially the lenses, need to be regularly serviced to ensure the quality of captured images.
  • Gears Replacement Costs – Believe it or not, cameras do have certain life expectancy, which is measured in shutter counts, and need to be replaced before it breaks down.
  • Hiring Second Photographer – Most of the time, you need to have a minimal of two photographers so both the bride and the groom are covered. The second photographer usually does not get involved in photo-editing, which is why they get paid less.
  • Finished Products – This include the actual cost of getting the images printed or burned into a physical media, package them and mail them to the clients.
  • Others – Costs like transportation costs, studio rental costs, seminars/classes, and attorney fees are often incurred as well.

It may seem that photographers make a lot of money, but in reality they usually just breakeven. As a matter of fact, most of the wedding photographers I know have day jobs where they make most of their income, and use the profit generated from their photography business to fund their photo-taking hobby. Only the most talented and skilled photographers get to work full-time and generate their incomes solely from photography.

The Market

More than once have I heard people saying how their $400 photographer is amazing enough and a $3000 photographer is a “wack.” Honestly, if they are happy with the quality of work of the $400 photographers, and they don’t see any real difference between those photographers and the $3000 photographers, then they should purchase the services of the $400 photographers. The good photographers charge $3000 per wedding because they are in high demand, and when demand goes up while supply remains constant (a photographer can only do so many weddings in a wedding season), the price goes up until it reaches economic equilibrium, maximizes profit for photographers. That is how the free market works.

There are people who get very satisfying results from the cheap photographers, but that only happens rarely. More often than not, the works done by cheap photographers are just laughable.

Tricks to Save Big

One way to cut cost on wedding photography is to fly photographers in from other areas. Since markets differs region by region, a professional photographer based in one region may be a lot cheaper than someone else in a different area. If you’ve done your homework and plan it right, the total cost may be reduced by several hundreds of dollars after you pay for lodging and transportation for the photographer.

If you do not care about the quality and really need to cut the cost down, you may also hire an amateur to photograph your wedding. Amateurs are cheaper because they lack the experience that a professional have, are unable to dedicate the same amount of time to hone their skills, and do not have the cash to invest in good gears. You may get lucky that the amateur you hire is really talented, but in most cases the quality is lackluster at best.

I would not advise you to cut cost on wedding photography. After all, it is the only thing you get to keep once the wedding is over, and I wouldn’t want you to trust it to someone who would do it cheap.