The Business of Wedding Photography is an extensive subject, best
answered by a team of professional wedding photographers, who also
happen to be star photo.net members. In this article, these
professional photographers have contributed advice and personal
experience gained from running wedding businesses. Not only have they
provided advice on how to price wedding photography packages, but they
also included example wedding photos of bridal parties and wedding
ceremonies. Whether you are just entering the field of wedding
photography, or are a seasoned professional, the tips and insights
shared here should be helpful with your own business.
We asked our panel of experts the following questions:
The wedding photographers contributing to the Business of
Wedding Photography were not required to answer every question in the
series. Thus, on this topic, some found the first question to be most
relevant to their wedding business.
Determining your pricing structure
How did you go about determining your pricing structure?
Williams: I don't depend on wedding photography for my living. I
price relative to my market, and how interested in a specific wedding
I may be.
Wegwart: Relative to the local market for my position and for
the type of client I want to attract.
Bernardo: Our prices are all over the place, ranging from $200 per
hour to the elite package of $10,000. One needs to be flexible and
offer a variety of pricing structures. Some are getting married for
the second, third, or even more times, and do not want the full-blown
Beverly-Hills-Hotel-$350-per-plate-dinner weddings. Often, a backyard
wedding is just fine for them. Our goal is to not turn down
weddings. As a result, we've photographed a wide range of weddings:
from the stars to the Harley-biker-beer-drinker weddings.
Ohara: I price according to what I perceive I want as my
place in the market, and according to what I feel is reasonable for
the services and products I offer.
Mary Ball: My
pricing structure was based on the market I was initially in. As a
newbie, I knew I had to be careful not to overcharge and be very clear
with clients about how many weddings I had under my belt, while at the
same time not lock myself into a "low end" category. I charged about
$500 less than the middle range photographers and offered a generous
reprint allowance. After two years, I started raising my price halfway
through the booking season if/when I saw I was successfully booking 15
or more weddings for that season. Each year as I saw bookings were
going well, I raised my price by $200-$300 mid-booking season. For
instance, I was booked with 15-20 weddings by November for the
following spring/summer and raised my prices for the clients that
called for that spring/summer/fall by as much as $300. After that, I
actually started offering incentives to anyone who booked with me
before December. After December, the prices would increase and that
published on my price sheet.
Later, rather than raising prices once the ceiling had been
reached for what I could charge in my market, I changed
"packages". What I used to charge for an 8-hour wedding became the
standard price for a 6-hour wedding. I had a higher price for a 7-hour
wedding, and would consider an 8-hour wedding but the prices were $300
extra per hour.
Mowery: I see what the market is in my area and go a little
It goes up incrementally every year based on how busy I am. When I was
starting out, I set my rate at $1000 a day, which I thought was a lot
of money. I was just out of college, and the notion of making $1000 a
day felt crazy to me. After a while, I had built up my business and
became very busy. Potential clients told me that they loved my work,
but didn't think I charged enough. For that reason, they didn't want
to trust me for their wedding. So I raised my prices.
Root: I took my cost of living, my equipment costs, the value of
my time and experience, what others in the area were
charging, and what I thought I could get away with and still do the
number of weddings a year that I wanted to do. I mashed all that
info together and made an equation up in my head that spit out a
number. I raise that number a bit each year, particularly when I
start getting too many bookings or calls.
Ascough: I worked out how much money I needed to live on, and then
divided that by the expected number of weddings I would book. I then
added in my fixed costs and came up with my pricing structure.
What to include in a basic wedding photography
What do you include in your basic package for a typical wedding?
For what items do you charge additional?
Bernardo: A basic package includes 6 hours of photographing, a DVD
of images, and a coffee table-style book.
Ohara: I include the images (negatives or files), a print of each
good image, and me--the coverage itself. I charge additional for
prints, albums and any peripheral products I can get that a client
David Wegwart - Denver/CO.
Mary Ball: My
packages include 700+ 4x6 prints in proof albums with order sheets and
everything is numbered for ease of ordering. Clients typically take 6
months to as much as 7 years to order and the orders are usually for 1
to 4 wedding albums and an average of 60 to 250 prints. I also do a
very inexpensive "favorites" album where I pick 30 to 40 of my
favorite prints and put them in story form. The prints are adhered
directly to the hard black board page with herma-fix and I crop them
creatively to fit 2-3 images per page. Others are a 4x6 print on a
page. It is a great visual that has increased my album sales by
showing the couple what an album would look like. The sample they get
is "miniature" and the 4x6 prints are no cost to me as I use doubles
that I get at no extra charge. I would say that 80 percent of the time
the couple and/or parents tell me they want the layout and prints from
the "favorites" album plus additional prints that they love. I also
$100 allowance towards reprints with no time limit for when they can
Mowery: When I actually do my own job [I also work for agencies in
addition to freelancing] it is an a la carte style. I charge for
Erb: I usually include around 6 hours of my time, a gallery of
about 300 or more corrected images (every image is tweaked - I never
post images straight out of camera), a set of prints from the gallery,
and the corrected images on DVD. I charge additionally for albums,
extensive retouching work, extra hours, etc.
Root: I tend to be there for most of the day. Quite frankly, if I
had to just show up and photograph the ceremony and some formals, I
would quit weddings, as those are the least interesting aspects for
me. Unless it is a particularly long wedding, or is particularly far
away, I'll be there through the bouquet toss. It might not be the
smartest way to do business, but it makes the work much more
satisfying for me.
Conrad Erb - Philadelphia, PA
I don't like to spend my time selling albums or print packages, so
I price myself according to what my time is worth to capture the
wedding. I can then hand the clients a CD with images. If they want to
buy some prints from me, that's fine, and I'm happy to sell them. But
rather than holding their hand through an album design process, I can
spend my free time fishing or camping. There isn't much free time in
the summer wedding season around here, so I prefer not to waste what
little there is. I charge extra for a particularly long wedding, if
the clients somehow twist my arm to get me to do an album, if a second
shooter is required, or if I have to travel to get there.
Client's price range
What is the average amount (or price range) a client will spend
on a typical wedding?
Wegwart: In my area, the average of my client would likely be
Bernardo: After reorders about $3000 for the average wedding. The
most expensive photography gig this year was a shade over $15,000. It
wasn't a wedding, but a middle school gig that was a result of a
word-of-mouth recommendation for photographing the principal's
Ohara: About $2000, but that is averaged with some clients who
don't order albums, prints, etc.
That can't be answered easily. A couple can spend anywhere from $5,000
to $200,000 or more. Even my clients vary depending on
priorities. Some will do their own flowers so they can spend more on
photography and others will spend $50,000+ on flowers but only $5,000
on photography. Regardless of my prices, I have done over-the-top
weddings at very expensive venues, or a wedding reception at the local
fire hall for the same price.
Mowery: The average amount spent is about $5,000. That's NYC,
baby! The average client would be $3,000 to $4,000.
Bob Bernardo - LA area disabled
Erb: It really depends on the couple. I have a fairly wide price
range, so I have some couples who are on a much tighter budget, and
some who really want to splurge. When I was starting out, my couples
would spend $300-$1000, and now it is anywhere from $2000-$6000.
Root: I live in a "small town" semi-rural area and prices are all
over the place. I'd say $500-3000 is a reasonable range, with
$1300-1600 being average. An hour south in the "big city", average
prices are more like $2000-3000.