Creative professionals battle every day to put a price on their work. Something that is completely objective, no magic formula for and based on feelings. I wish there was a standardized formula explaining how much to charge. We can add up our material cost if we are printing or framing, but putting together a wedding package is another story. A while back, I did a post on the value of your photographer, and I think this relates very well.
So, how do I figure out my costs? I’m defiantly not an expert but I’ll break it down for you… For every wedding I shoot, I have over head costs.
- Assistant wages $200-300
- Album printing cost $300-400
- Travel/Gas/Mileage $20-100 (depends on the wedding location)
- Bookkeeping $50
Not to mention my own time, not just shooting the wedding but responding to client emails, editing, etc..
Here’s how my time breaks down for an typical in town wedding (Grand Rapids area):
1. Initial client email response- 5 mins
2. Client Meeting -1 hr
3. Engagement session- 2 hrs
4. Edit engagement session- 1 hr
5. Timeline coordination with bride and emails to figure out wedding day schedule- 3 hrs
6. Wedding day- 12 hrs with drive time and camera prep (battery charging, lens cleaning)
7. Edit Wedding- 6 hrs
8. Album Design- 2hrs
9. Package and ship USB, album and any prints/canvases- 1hr
Total Time: aprox 30 hrs. That’s pretty much a full work week for each client. Times that by 15-20 clients a year.
Then, there’s all my monthly/yearly costs that happen behind the scenes:
1. Website/Domain Fee- $250 yr
2. Client Proofing site- $150/yr
3. Advertising- (varies) $130/month
4. TAXES- 6% of every sale and then an additional 13-15% of self employment tax per year. I pay about $2,500 in taxes per year
5. Business Insurance- $400/yr
6. Health Insurance- Have you ever tried to pay your own health insurance!? It’s insane- $200-400/month
7. Car Insurance- $400/ year (my car is old and being replaced soon, then my rate will go up)
Total: aprox $15,000-16,000
Are you still reading?
Here’s a picture so you don’t get bored…
Lets figure this out per wedding. My basic package starts at $2,500.
If my over head costs are $16,000/year then I need to book about 6 weddings a year to break even!
That’s not too difficult to do, but lets figure out what I make per wedding, on average…
Base Package $2,500
- $200 assistant
- $20 Travel/Gas/Mileage
- $50 bookkeeping
Total Profit $2,230 plus my time of aprox 30 hrs = $41/hour (not bad!)
But, we still have to add in overhead costs… (dang it!)
$16,000/year divided by (number of weddings per year, hopefully 15-20)
Total: $1000 overhead costs per wedding, assuming I have 15 weddings a year.
$2,230-$1000= $1,230 divided by 30 hrs per wedding = $41/hour
Whew! I’m tired. Basically, what all this very elementary math means:
- I need to book at least 6 weddings per year at $2,500 each to break even
- If I book 15 weddings in one year I will average $41/hr
- If I book less than 15 weddings in one year, I will average less money per hour (and per year)
- My taxes still cost $2,500/year no matter what
- On my basic wedding package, I average aprox $1,230 after over head costs
- That was more math than I’ve done since high school!
Does this make sense? I hope so. I’m not even on the high end of wedding photographers. I hope be there someday. I’ll be completely honest, in 2010 I grossed about $30,000 from my business and for my second year in, I was happy with that. Is $30,000 what I actually got to take home? No. Is $30,000 a good start? For me, yes. I don’t believe in being secretive about my costs or how much money I make.
I hope this sheds some light on why photographers “charge so much,” because really we don’t. We have bills to pay, kids to feed and taxes owed just like everyone else. I don’t fly to private islands every weekend to shoot weddings for celebrity clients. I’m just me. I love what I do. I love creating original art. I love getting inspired by weddings. I didn’t start a photography business to become rich and famous. I started my business because I can’t imagine doing anything else. I am in love with photography and I always will be. Money or not.