If you ask photographers what they struggle with the most, nine times out of ten they will say, “pricing”.
It’s a rather taboo subject, usually causing quite the debate in various photography circles. There will always be those photographers who don’t charge enough, and those who charge too much. But how do we really determine what the pricing standard should be? Is there a standard? If not, should there be? I guess that will always be up for debate.
The bottom line is this: Pricing is tough. It’s based on so many factors: Experience, location, popularity, and extra expenses (film, gear, etc.). No matter your level, everyone struggles in this area.
So, let’s talk about it.
“The bottom line is this: Pricing is tough. It’s based on so many factors: Experience, location, popularity, and extra expenses (film, gear, etc.). No matter your level, everyone struggles in this area.” - Julie Paisley
How Much Does it Cost to Do Business as a Wedding Photographer?
First of all, before you can even think about pricing, you need to know your bottom line. How much money does it cost you to shoot a wedding? Have you sat down and figured that out?
The following are the items that rack up costs when shooting a wedding. Use this list to itemize and organize your personal costs. Leave the items blank if they do not pertain to you.
- Second shooter
- Film developing
- Outsource editing
- Client gifts
- Credit card fees
To help you know what you should charge for your services, here is our recommendation on how to divide your earnings for business growth.
For this example, we use a $3,500 wedding, and base our estimates off of the median photography rate for most locations. Figure out much you want to profit (for spending and fun money), and adjust your pricing accordingly.
Once you have figured out your earnings split, you need to establish your budget. How much money do you need to make as pure profit? How many weddings do you want to shoot every year? Use the chart above to help you do the math. If you decide you want to pay yourself 25% of your total revenue, and you know how much you want/need that revenue to be, base your cost per wedding off of that number. Start with the number of weddings you want to shoot and work backwards from there.
It’s important to have a numbers-based system to guide you in figuring out what you need to charge per wedding and how many weddings you need to do each year to generate the annual income that you want or need.
How Much Should You Charge as a Wedding Photographer?
So, what do we charge, and what pricing method do we use? Well, four years ago we changed our pricing structure drastically. This structure is not my original idea, it was generously shared by a fellow photographer, but it has worked for us and was really one of the best decisions we made for our business.
Over the years, we have used package-based pricing; for a short time, we had a base price with available add-ons. These all served their purpose during the time that we used them, but when we moved to Nashville we were faced with a dilemma. All of a sudden, we had to travel for over 50% of our weddings, and the pricing in Nashville was totally different than the pricing of the weddings we did on the East and West Coasts.
Because we traveled, we didn’t want to have several different pricing structures for different locations, so we decided to incorporate a credit-based pricing strategy, with a baseline minimum that clients would have to pay in order to book me.
What is credit-based pricing? Well, it’s not based on my couples’ credit score! (You laugh, but I seriously had someone ask me this).
Here is why it works:
- The bride is in charge. She gets what she wants.
- I can use this to reach a wide range of budgets.
- It’s easy to change and increase the credit fee.
- I don’t limit myself.
- I can set a budget and know exactly how many weddings I need to book a year because I’m guaranteed at least $7500 per wedding.
Confused? Here’s how it works:
One credit is worth $750. We require a 10-credit minimum to book.
Wedding Coverage – 1 hour = 1 credit (8-10 hours recommended)
Sessions (engagement, bridal or post-wedding) – 1 credit / hour / session
Online Gallery with digital files & rights to print up to an 8×10 – 2 credits
Digital Files up to an 8×10 via USB in fine-art print box with 500 4×6 prints
– 3 credits
Fine Art Albums (20 pages)
10×10 – 2 credits
8×12 – 2 credits
12×12 – 3 credits
Matching 8×8 parent album – 1 credit
$800 print credit – 1 credit
Investment: Total credits ___x $750 = $___________
I love this pricing structure because I receive inquiries with a wide range of budgets that I can appeal to without placing a cap on my fees because of a package structure. I can service the $7500 budgets in Nashville, while reaching those 10K+ budgets on the east coast.
I know pricing is always a sore subject, and it tends to be “the elephant in the room”, but you must value yourself, your time, and your talent. Know your worth, and how much time and money it costs you shoot and deliver a wedding. It’s not just the 8 hours on the day of the wedding.
Want to know more about Julie and how she runs a successful hybrid photography business? Click here to purchase her new book, “The Hybrid Photographer” and use the code MASTIN for $25 off.