Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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I've been asked to shoot a wedding for money, which would be the first time that I've had such an opportunity. I've taken pictures at three prior weddings, two as the main photographer, but not while getting paid. (For the two where I was the primary photographer, well, they really just didn't care much about their pictures, so...)

Anyways, how does one go about figuring out a decent price to charge for a wedding? I should add that while I wouldn't mind doing this every now and then, I probably wouldn't shoot a ton of weddings, so I don't want to subscribe to some service to tell me how much I should charge.

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Will you just be taking pictures or making prints and albums also? –  kacalapy Jan 21 '11 at 23:43
    
I guess that will have to be negotiated as well... Hmmm, this is more complex than I realized... Sigh. I'll probably make an album or two for them, and give them some credit to buy pictures at my website, but other then that, well, I'd have to think some more... Anything that can help me figure out pricing, well, I'd like to hear it! –  PearsonArtPhoto Jan 21 '11 at 23:44
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Make sure you've carefully considered the "should I do this" question; see e.g. photo.stackexchange.com/questions/3467/… –  Reid Jan 22 '11 at 3:11
    
@Reid: I've considered it. And it's not the first wedding I've shot, it would just be the first one that it'd really count... –  PearsonArtPhoto Jan 22 '11 at 3:24
    
I'm doing the same this year, but for a cousin, so it's a freeebie. Not to mention, it's also a good excuse to buy some better lenses... ;) –  John Cavan Jan 22 '11 at 3:52

5 Answers 5

up vote 21 down vote accepted

NOTE: To some extent my answer is 'US-centric' being as I've never had to price my photography in another country. If you're not in the US, your mileage may vary.

Never, ever base your price on what other photographers in your area are charging. You have no way of knowing what their expenses are, and thus you have no way of knowing what their profit margin is. You can price yourself according to your competition and easily end up making zero profit, or even losing money, because the numbers that your competition uses will not take into account your expenses, your cost of goods sold, the value of your time, etc.! Do the math instead. It's not that hard, and that way you'll at the very least know what your time is worth.

The key with pricing for retail photography is to build in enough cushion to cover your time, expenses, taxes, and profit. There are lots of 'slow and accurate' ways of doing this which I highly recommend you use if you're going to be doing lots of retail photography (because slow and accurate does a better job of taking time, expenses, and taxes into account and by doing that you generally end up with a more accurate appraisal of what your profit will be, and the ability to adjust your pricing accordingly). If you're not planning on doing a lot of retail photography there is a "quick n' dirty" formula that you can use in order to make sure you are more-or-less covering the basics:

( T + G ) * P = Quoted Price

T = The cost of your time: how many hours you expect to spend working multiplied by how much your time is worth. Make sure to consider all the hours you will work... Taking pictures, editing pictures, making albums, ordering prints, etc. This is an 'all inclusive' number, and not taking into account all the time you will spend is the fastest way to screw yourself and ensure you lose money on the quote, so make sure to factor in everything and then add a margin, just in case.

G = The wholesale cost of your goods: simple addition of all the goods you are planning on offering your client, and any out-of-pocket expenses (hotel, batteries, etc.) plus the sales tax rate on retail goods, if you are required to pay sales taxes in your jurisdiction.

P = The profit you expect to make: This number should be no smaller than 3, and (unless your client is uber-wealthy) shouldn't exceed 4. These are 'generally accepted ballpark' numbers that are often used for 'quick estimation.' Technically speaking you can throw in whatever number you want, but if you go less than 3 (here in the US) you run the risk of not being able to cover the income tax hit (you are paying your taxes, right?)

I've been shooting weddings and portrait photography for more than 15 years now, and I find that my 'quick and dirty' calculations get me within 10% of my 'slow and accurate' calculations without exception for anything less than about $10,000 in total fees.

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+1 Good stuff and its general business advice really. I've owned a small business before and you really have to price according to your costs. Its good economics! –  rfusca Jan 22 '11 at 1:48
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Jay, you really are an extremely valuable asset to this community. Thanks for helping us newbies out:-) –  PearsonArtPhoto Jan 22 '11 at 1:59
    
Thanks guys! I'll keep writin' 'em as long as people find 'em useful! –  Jay Lance Photography Jan 22 '11 at 4:38

With a nice leather bound album on metallic paper, a large print like 20 x 30, a medium 8 x 10 the photographers in the NY/ NJ area charge on average $1,500 just to give you an idea of prices. Some charge way more but have a following and may not be available on certain dates.

EDIT: that price is for 4-5 hours of shooting. i would imagine a wedding is a full loooong day event. so make sure you set expectations if you dont plan to get shots of them getting dressed, reception, after party, the wedding itself...

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Good, I feel about right for what I asked then:-) –  PearsonArtPhoto Jan 22 '11 at 0:08

I suggest to look at how much other photographers charge, and then think about how would you position youself agains them. That should give you the idea of the price range that the client can be expecting.

Of course, as you correctly point out your fee should cover your expenses and some profit as well.

Other way is to find out the budget for whole wedding and adjust your price according to that (for example, if they pay $1000 for flowers that are going to fade the next day, you should not get $700 for photos that will preserve the memory for a lifetime).

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How do you go about finding what other photographers charge? –  PearsonArtPhoto Jan 21 '11 at 23:54
    
Around here it's pretty common to put it on one's website. It can be different it the US, but I found at least erinmichelle.net/#Info/Pricing –  che Jan 21 '11 at 23:59

My thoughts are as follows:

  1. Figure out how much of a profit I want to make from the wedding, based on the amount of time that I'll be away, etc.
  2. Add in expenses. This includes travel, hotel reservations if far enough away, the cost of renting equipment (I need a backup camera, and possible some different lenses then I have now, so...). This should also probably include taxes, and some nominal charge for use of the equipment that I currently own. I should also probably toss in a few albums to the client, which the cost of printing them will fall into this budget.
  3. Some of the expenses might be negotiable, so I'd discuss with the client what they want, to determine what gear I need, etc.
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Put an add in craigslist in your area requesting a wedding photographer for the type/level of wedding you would like to shoot (ie do you want to shoot $2000 weddings or $8000 weddings). And get a ballpark price from several photographers for what they offer.

I also highly suggest shooting as an assistant w/some local photographers and ask them how much they charge.

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That seems kind of... not nice. –  mattdm Jan 22 '11 at 0:27
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I'm not advocating starting a long back and forth conversation, that would be not nice, but just getting several photographers initial (likely canned) email quotes would be very informative. –  Shizam Jan 22 '11 at 0:40

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