I am an amateur photographer as far as event photography is concerned. I have done private event shoots only for my family and friends (weddings on two occasions and few new born and other small events).

Last weekend, I was invited to do a wedding photo shoot for an office colleague in local Bay Area, California. Apparently, they did not find any professional photog on a short notice, so they called me as they know I am a good photog.

I spent about 6 hours at the event in total and additional couple of hours in post-processing the pictures. I showed them some selected pictures and they loved them. They do not want any prints or albums. They just want soft copies of the selected photos. And now I have to tell the total price of my service.

I am not really sure how much I should charge for this event. Any help in suggesting how I should go about determining the price of this service would be appreciated.

I don't know if this will help but here's what I shot with: Canon 5D MII, Canon 24-105 f4 IS, Canon Speedlite 430EX II and on the spare Canon T3i, Canon 50 f1.8.

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    \$\begingroup\$ What did your contract say... oh wait. Well you didn't get sued yet, so I would deliver the images, and start over next time. \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 2:57

6 Answers 6


Wow, are you hosed. You tell them the price before you start. Its too late now.

Traditionally, wedding photographers made all their money off prints. If you give them soft copies, you cut yourself out of that profit stream.

Bay Area, NYC, Chicago, etc. I wouldn't consider doing a shoot unless I got at least $100 per hour for my time. Plus I'd want more to cover my expensive equipment. So something like $750 is what I'd start with.

All that is water over the dam. Its too late for this one. Ask for $250 and be ready to accept less.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Yep. At this point I'd simply call it a gift to the bride and groom and consider this experience. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 2:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks Pat. I guess I don't have much to ask here then. Next time I will be careful to form a contract before starting up. \$\endgroup\$
    – ashtee
    Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 5:17

I am somewhat surprised by all the answers that the OP is basically screwed. The lack of contract is a double edged sword, so the newlyweds have the same problems if they are not willing to pay a fair price for the pictures since they did not negotiate up front either.

The OP may be able to walk away without giving them anything if they refuse to pay a fair price for the pictures. They also do not have a contract stating that they would get the soft copies, so the OP is perfectly within their rights to sell them prints, especially if that is the norm in the area.

In addition, since this was on short notice, a premium can easily be added to the cost since it was stated that the couple could not find another photographer available. This is basic supply and demand.

Of course, none of this addresses the issue of how it may affect his working/personal relationship with his colleague, that is something that only they can take into account.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 Is this relationship important? Will they affect your future prospects? Don't ruin your reputation for an extra couple hundred bucks. Ask what you think is fair and explain it in hourly wage if needed ($30-$80 an hour) and back off some if they have a problem with it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Xeoncross
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 17:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Xeoncross OP says "an office colleage". \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 19:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, I addressed that relationship in the last line. The value of that can only be determined by the OP. \$\endgroup\$
    – Robin
    Commented Dec 13, 2012 at 19:57

For reference I paid $1600 for around 50 photos in the cheapest book the photographer had to offer. We could select photos from 1000 for review, out of which a lot of them were duplicates, closed eyes, weird faces and pictures of trees, pots, and vases. He was only there for the ceremony, and 30min photo shoot with us afterwards, and my wife's getting dressed, a total of 2-3 hours with driving. On top of that he was very rude most of the time, for which he later apologized.

Gearwise, he carried 5D (dont remember which mark) and 60D, one with L telephoto zoom 70-200 and one with L standard zoom.

So in terms of gear yours is inferior to the "professional" (in the lens department), but it is very difficult for you to be worse in the way you acted and the photos framing and picking the right moments to snap.

We won't get the photo digital files, so the physical book is all we will have from those 1600$ along with our bad memory of him being there. We paid before the wedding.

So the main question is what does physical book vs digital files translate into price differences? The book is an expense for the photographer and takes some time to plan, while the digital files give the customer a vast freedom. You spent more time at the wedding itself. Let's say the book incl time is half the cost.

$800 remains.

But they do get files, what should you charge for those? $300? Price is now $1100

You are using consumer grade lenses on the same camera body as the pro. What is that worth to the customer: $200? Total price: $900

Do you have a photo store to pay mortgage and accounting on and run hat needs to be funded this way? No: subtract the 20% overhead (20% is the usual overhead given by public funding agencies to companies): $720

Are you planning to pay tax of this amount like the pro, or put it in your pocket? If no tax: $533 (assuming 35% tax)

Resulting Price: $533*

*) given some assumptions of a subjective value of some things, but I think my approach is an example of a price estimation procedure, that takes you through some points of considerations that you should take into account.

Now.. this is what you could tell up front. After the fact you are left at a disadvantage.

If you haven't given the photo files yet, you can adjust the amount you will give them based on the fraction of x/500 , or consider it an investment of your future career (if you are going for that), and ask for a symbolic amount of $250.

You could start by asking them how much they are counting on. Maybe they will just go "we were counting on 300 bucks", if you were not going to be invited anyway. If you were invited anyway, they might think it was free.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Downvote: tell what you think is wrong with my procedure of estimating a price; identify value to the customer and expenses that needs covering, add and subtract from a reference price? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 15:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 a;most 2 years on. It's a considered answer and adds value and thinking material. I don't see it deserving the downvotes. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 9:45

We hired a family member who is trying to get his professional business off the ground. He charged $500 for the day, plus $250 for a photo CD including rights to copy/share/print. That was a steal; the next lowest bidder wanted $1000 for the day, required us to buy a precompiled album (included in that $1000 "sitting fee"), wanted an additional $200 for a photo CD with DRM and would not release the full photo rights to us for any price. The obvious differences are "family" vs "complete stranger", "newbie pro" vs "established corporate identity", and "photographer" vs "photographer and artistic production consultant".

There is a lot of back-and-forth inherent in this. On the one hand, a professional photographer is an artist, and is paid for the product of his work. He also uses those products to entice other clients, and as such he has to retain some control over the images. On the other hand, the product of that work has to be worth something to the recipient, and clients nowadays want the digital format so they can post the wedding pictures on Facebook, Tumblr, Flickr, Photobucket, Shutterfly etc.

I totally agree with most other answers; a contract should have been negotiated up front, specifying the itemized prices, anything the client is required to pay for and what you are required to provide for that payment. However, that's for mutual protection; you're out your time to take the pictures (and any equipment you rented for the event), but if they don't pay you a price you can live with, their wedding pictures consist of whatever anyone snapped with their cell phone camera or P&S when they weren't busy wiping their eyes, eating, drinking, dancing etc. They want the pictures, you want a fair price, I'm sure you can come to a reasonable agreement. If they sue you, it will get ugly as most legal fights do, but don't give in; there's no contract, they haven't paid you, so you're not beholden to give them anything. Legally speaking you might as well have been an invited guest taking pictures for your own collection.


You may have encountered the greatest challenge in photography: asking for money after the job is done. I make it a point in my professional dealings to have the "money conversation" right up front, never later than the second conversation. Otherwise it's almost always a losing battle to get fair compensation.

To answer your question directly I would suggest taking Pat Farrell's price point of $100/hr, cutting that in half (because you didn't work it out before hand AND because it's your 1st wedding) and approaching them with that figure. You may also want to charge an "electronic usage" fee for the photos. Tough sell though as weddings are more of a work-for-hire gig. Still, giving up digital images is a sure fire way to secure your loses and is bad for the industry as a whole. Now they can print as many prints at Walgreens as they want, email as many friends and family as they want and worst of all their friends will expect the same when they get married.

Good luck.


I would suggest to think of the future: do you want to do more shoots? Think about that in your choices.

You could agree that this time you do not charge anything but you use the photo's in your portfolio. This way you could earn money over the photos. And see the loss as money spend on learning.

And learn from it. As told by others before. Agree upon a amount before you start. This way you could see it as an investment.


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