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Business of Wedding Photography

a guide by photo.net wedding photographers, November 2007

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Topic #5: Pricing structure

Jeff Ascough • Mary Ball • Bob Bernardo • Conrad Erb • Michael Mowery • Nadine Ohara • Josh Root • David Wegwart • Marc Williams

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:

  1. How did you go about determining your pricing structure?
  2. What do you include in your basic package for a typical wedding? For what items do you charge additional?
  3. What is the average amount (or price range) a client will spend on a typical wedding?

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?

Marc 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.

David Wegwart: Relative to the local market for my position and for the type of client I want to attract.

Bob 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.

Nadine 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 was 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.

Michael Mowery: I see what the market is in my area and go a little higher.

Conrad Erb: 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.

Josh 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.

Jeff 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 package

What do you include in your basic package for a typical wedding? For what items do you charge additional?

Bob Bernardo: A basic package includes 6 hours of photographing, a DVD of images, and a coffee table-style book.

Nadine 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 asks for.

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 give $100 allowance towards reprints with no time limit for when they can use it.

Michael 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 everything.

Conrad 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.

Josh 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.

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?

David Wegwart: In my area, the average of my client would likely be around $3,250.00

Bob 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 wedding.

Nadine Ohara: About $2000, but that is averaged with some clients who don't order albums, prints, etc.

Mary Ball: 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.

Michael Mowery: The average amount spent is about $5,000. That's NYC, baby! The average client would be $3,000 to $4,000.

Conrad 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.

Josh 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.

Next Topic #6: Wedding Photographer Contracts


Text contributed by: Jeff Ascough, Mary Ball, Bob Bernardo, Conrad Erb, Michael Mowery, Nadine Ohara, Josh Root, David Wegwart, Marc Williams, ©2007. Edited by Hannah Thiem. All photos are copyright the photographer, and may not be used without written permission.

Article created November 2007

Readers' Comments

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Hannah Thiem , January 25, 2008; 02:10 P.M.

These are just a few opinions on a very broad topic of pricing structure models for a wedding photography business. We appreciate any comments, additional insight, and photo samples.

Rosina DiBello , June 17, 2008; 09:27 P.M.

All brides need to see the perceived value of their photographer before they can mentally put that price tag onto the service. There is more to it than just sitting with a bride an reviewing prices... You have to let them know that their investment includes: artistic talent, technique, years of experience, and hours of editing, etc.... LINK REMOVED - ACCORDING TO PHOTO.NET POLICY

Carroll Hanks , June 30, 2008; 03:56 P.M.

Just a quick comment on a trend I see in wedding photography and elsewhere - that is tilted photos. Example the one in this page. What is the purpose in the tilt? Occasionaly a tilted photo adds to the esthetics, but in most cases the photographer does it for no apparent reason. To me it is just a sign of sloppiness in not making sure the camera is level or taking the time to straighten in editing. Just my opinion.

Shannon Hollman , September 25, 2008; 04:29 P.M.

this is one of the hardest parts of the business for me. thanks for the information that you provided. since i'm pretty new to the business i currently have my prices low, but next year i'm going to have to reevaluate!

Avinash Tavares , October 08, 2008; 09:13 A.M.

Our studio is less than a year old. Customers usually want to know our prices over the phone. To get them to the negotiating table, we price our services "per photo" : Rs 100 ( 2$) and Rs 200 ($4) per photo (minimum 300 prints). If they agree, we ask them to visit our studio and market our packages. At the end of it all we the customer cannot resist paying us around $1000 for our services which is the highest in Goa(India).

Rizwan Dar , May 12, 2009; 09:39 P.M.

Digital has totally revolutionized the wedding photography business. Now there are more photographers shooting weddings than ever. I primarily base my prices on the number of hours spent, the distance of the location and what the couple wants in the end. For 2009 I have charged $500 for 4 hours while $900 for 10 hours. All images provided in high resolution on DVDs along with an online photo album. Prints and Albums / Coffee Table books extra.

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Percy Wegmann , December 29, 2009; 09:12 P.M.

I enjoyed this article - the panel format is interesting and I think it really highlights how wedding photography pricing structures can vary quite a bit depending on the photographer. Approaching this from the perspective of helping consumers understand what to expect to pay based on their needs, I've created a tool to get instant estimates for wedding photography on Bidtective. It uses statistical techniques to generate an estimated package price based on specific features and requirements. Since actual prices vary a fair amount based on intangibles like taste and popularity, the provided estimate includes a range of prices. Right now I only have data for Austin, but I hope to expand this soon.

miguel Balan , April 26, 2012; 08:13 P.M.

I've been a wedding photographer for the last 8 years I typically include 8 hrs coverage in my photography packages,my prices could be anywhere from $2,500.00 to $3,500.00 usually a engagement session is included due to the high competition in my area,but we still work with the low budget couples and the back yard weddings ,a good timeline help us to stay in scheduled and teamwork with the Dj and wedding coordinator is all ways a must.

please free to visit my site www.imaginephotographysite.com

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Matt Elliott , June 11, 2014; 05:50 A.M.

World financial issues are making brides and grooms look at their wedding day spending even more and so my philosophy is to have a range of packages to suit all budgets. Of course make sure your hourly rates are set and don't budge on those. Start your packages with the basics of shooting and delivering files but then as you go up in prices, add products like photo books, thank you cards, parent's books, framed prints etc etc. A lot of money can be made with add on products. Here's an example of we do here in Australia: Wedding Photography Packages.

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