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pricing for a wedding, beginner to weddings but not professional photo

Josh Schutz , Jun 05, 2009; 01:49 p.m.

i have been petitioned to do a wedding this summer, but i have no idea what to charge. this is my first wedding. but i have worked for a newspaper, and i have shot a number of events. i have been to school, and have been shooting for 8 years now, and i have been employed in photographer off and on for 6 years. i am by no means a beginner. but i am new to wedding photography. i consider myself more of a landscape and fine art photographer. i have some credential and a bit of weight to my resume (at least more than your normal 'i'm a photographer too' dad with a camera).
the wedding is 4 hours long in their backyard. they are 'on a budget' as always. i don't know them, my dad works with them. i'm thinking about charging them $400-500 to just shoot the wedding and give them a disc of photos. as far as post processing goes, i was thinking of charging $50-75 an hour.
could i get some feedback on this. what would you charge.
also, is there a 'shot list' of standard wedding shots that you have to get. and where could i find that.
thanks for the help all


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Betty Lowrey , Jun 05, 2009; 02:21 p.m.

It depends on what your time is worth.
I charge $900 for 4 hours and a disc. People seem okay with it.

Craig Shearman , Jun 05, 2009; 02:42 p.m.

If you're never shot a wedding before and it's not similar enough to what you already shoot to ensure that you will do a good job, then I wouldn't charge anything at all. I would shoot it for free and give them a disc (after you've edited to eliminate anything you wouldn't be proud of). That way you're out nothing but your time. If the results are good, you can say you've shot a wedding and have the beginnings of a wedding portfolio. If they aren't good, then no one can say that you've ripped anybody off. It sounds like you're already an accomplished photographer but shooting landscapes that sit still and weddings where everything is constantly moving and few things can be repeated if you miss them are very different. I don't think it's right to charge for something until you've got it down cold and can guarantee that you can deliver to the clients the results they are paying for.

William Porter , Jun 05, 2009; 03:01 p.m.


You might want to reconsider. Seriously. Wedding photography is about as different from landscape and fine art photography as skiing is from riding a bike.

The first couple of weddings I did were done for free. I had decades of experience with photography before I started doing weddings, and for the couple years prior to starting in weddings I'd been photographing both sports and events like receptions, galas, First Communions and graduations - pretty good practice for weddings. But there's nothing quite like a wedding. Everything is moving. The people you're dealing with are frequently feeling fairly stressed. The pressure is on to get everything right - no second chances.

If you're going to charge, $400-$500 sounds reasonable, in my opinion. One of the first weddings I charged for, I did for $400. That was just the wedding ceremony and formals - no reception. But again, it wasn't my first wedding. I think it would be wise to talk to the bride (or client, whoever it might be) and explain your experience as positively - but as honestly - as possible: You're a knowledgeable experienced photographer, but have never shot a wedding, and as a result you are willing to give them a good price.

As for the cost of post-processing: I know some folks charge per hour. The problem with that from the client's perspective is that it's pretty iffy. I know that sometimes I can work with a raw file for 2 minutes and feel like it's really well "developed," and other times, it takes closer to half an hour. Up until now I've been including processing of the photos I select (150-200) as part of my fee. I'm reconsidering that policy and might start charging just for the shoot and presentation of quick proofs. Changing my policy because I have found that my clients seem to be impatient to see the the photos. I think I'm going to start simply wedding out the totally bad shots (test shots, etc), and put unedited proofs online. Then I'll probably charge a flat rate per photo for post-processing, something like $5 or $10.

Is there a list of standard shots? You bet. There are many books on the subject and I urge you to get one as soon as possible and read it carefully. Glen Johnson's book is quite good and pretty thorough; Bill Hurter's "handbook" is also good; and there are many others. But if you Google "wedding photography" you'll find a ton of stuff, including a number of articles that will be very helpful.

At your local bookstore (or card store, or bridal store, or crafts store) you may find one or more books aimed at brides, and these usually have a chapter on photography. I picked up a paperback a couple years ago that had very long list of possible photos in it. I studied the list, pulled out the ones I thought I could strive for and shot my first weddings with that list in mind (and on paper in case I forgot). I usually discuss the formals with the bride and groom in advance and go with a printed list of relatives and bridal party so I can work as efficiently as possible.

How's your flash technique? If you're used to shooting with available light, I urge you to throw yourself immediately into flash. You said the wedding's in their back yard. Unless it's very early in the a.m. when the sun will be low or unless you're sure it will be a nice overcast day, you may still find yourself using flash. And if the wedding is in the mid-afternoon, well, heaven help you, unless there's plenty of shade.

If this is a one-off and you are just doing this for a friend, you really might want to reconsider and urge them to hire an experienced photographer. Shooting a wedding is quite stressful for the photographer, very exhausting. Good luck.

Aimee Pieters , Jun 05, 2009; 03:54 p.m.

Regardless of what you charge, give them a firm price and deliver great digital files. You have not control over the printing process, so make the files the best they can be. If you don't and the prints look lousy, no one will ever ask them who made the prints, rather who took that picture? Good luck...-Aimee

Josh Schutz , Jun 05, 2009; 04:36 p.m.

i know that the landscapes and fine art are drastically different worlds. earlier on in my photography, i shot quite a few galas, events, and now that i think about it, i did do some wedding stuff. but that was more of bust my camera out for some shots for my friends. there were a number of shots that i saw that i didn't take because the paid photographer had the right of way. i'm quite confident in the fact that i can get the shots if i am given the mobility and opportunity to do so.

even if i have never done a full on wedding by myself, i am not going to do it for free. i have been working within the field of photography for 6 years now. for a first wedding i will absolutely give a very discounted rate for the lack of experience. when i was in school, i was told to never under sell myself. when you do that you are not only selling yourself as cheap photograher with cheap photos, but you are also bringing down the industry as a whole. wedding photos are expensive for a reason, because they are not easy to do. a lot of people don't take into account what all of my equipment and schooling costs. let alone the cost of my time to do the shoot and travel.

so this is what i have decided on. i'm going to give the bride a couple of option. the first option is $600. this includes the shoot of the wedding, formals, and reception, as well as all post processing and possession of all photos taken. the other option is $300 to shoot the wedding, formals and reception. they would get all of the photos taken in their raw form (not RAW format). i would then sit down with the bride and groom show them some shots that i have post processed and what i can do with them. i will have them look through all the photos and have them pick out ones that they would like processed. i would then charge them a rate of $50 an hour not to exceed a grand total of $600. i find this to be very reasonable pricing for my experience.

as far as shooting in different lighting situations it's an afternoon wedding, which is ideal. while working several newspapers i used a lot of on camera, off camera and bounce flashing. if need be i will also bust out my speedotron lights for the formals. for the formals do photographers use studio lights. or would it be more advantageous to keep it simple and mobile.

one thing that i will have to do is get my monitor calibrated. i have looked at my photos on other screens and seen how off mine is. and if they are going to print out their photos i don't want the final product to be compromised.

thanks for the help everybody, especially william. you have given me the most useful advice.

Thomas Beaman , Jun 06, 2009; 01:53 a.m.

I think charging $400 or $500 is fine for a first wedding, but do the job of a photographer charging $5000. It sounds like you have plenty of experience shooting events and other styles. Use your landscape photography to your advantage. Being a landscape photographer, you know a lot about light and how it works. Use it...........Marcus Bell, who is one of the best wedding photographers in the business started as a landscape shooter.......and he shoots every wedding with 95% natural light. And like Aimee said, make sure that the files you are giving away will make amazing prints. Bad prints means bad word of mouth. Good luck with the job.

Rusla Safin , Jun 06, 2009; 02:38 a.m.

of course a wedding set is not like a landscape session. but most important is the feel of a shot and how it is framed.
Josh, i've had a look at your pics - you have skills no doubt. so i would not worry about being a newbie and charge average price (for you).

you just have to remember some crucial moment you are not allowed to miss and that's it.
wedding shooting is not more complicated as a regular reportage from that point of view.
but remember- it is the bride who often insist on photography and who wants to look most beautiful.:)

Art Tatum , Jun 06, 2009; 02:36 p.m.


Craig Gillette , Jun 06, 2009; 05:19 p.m.

"i don't know them, my dad works with them." What does your dad think about charging them? What's he discussed with your or them? Did he suggest you weren't going to charge anything, wouldn't charge "too much" - whatever that may be, or would be an experienced wedding photographer? If you should mess up or their expectations be way out of line, what's going to go on with the existing relationships? While many people work fine with family and friends, it's not unusual that there are real problems when there is something beyond the usual "business" relationship.

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