Wedding photography is a wonderful career and you can make a wonderful living at it. It affords you a lot of freedom because 3/4 of your work hours are completely flexible. It’s exciting, creative and fantastically fulfilling when you see tears streaming down your bride’s face when they see their photographs for the first time. Sometimes the groom gets a little misty too!
One of the more challenging elements of being a wedding photographer is there’s this paradox – a large chunk of the population thinks our prices are scandalous, while the reality is most photographers struggle to scrape a living.
So, what’s the minimum a wedding photographer needs to charge to survive? Forget thriving for a second. Let’s see what it takes to simply scratch out a basic living.
I’m going to use my town – Peterborough in the UK, as an example. The average income in Peterborough is below the national average, but it’s £24,000 per year.
The cost of running a photography business professionally is generally between £30% and £60% of your gross income.
Your gross income is the total money you bring in before you spend anything. So, if you did 20 weddings and charged £1000 each then your gross income would be £20,000. Your costs would therefore be between 30% and £60% of £20,000.
30% of £20,000 is £6000. 60% of £20,000 would be £12,000.
So, you’d probably be left with between £8,000 and £14,000 if you photographed 20 weddings in my example.
Why are the costs so high?
You might be thinking 30-60%! Surely not!
Well, here’s a tiny portion of what I spend on just a few of the things I do:
- Website subscription: £200 per year
- Insurance: £450 per year
- Mobile phone: £354 per year
- Equipment: £1200 per year
- Petrol: £1500 per year
- Marketing. £1000 (based on 5% of gross income. Most businesses spend between 5-15% of their gross income on marketing)
- Email system for automated follow up: £190 per year
- My photography and business education (yep – I’m always pushing myself to be better): £1000 per year
- Spam filter for my email: £40 per year
- Product samples: £1000 per year
- Stationery (print cartridges, paper, stamps etc): £500
- Batteries: £200
That’s £7634 for just a few things off the top of my head and I’ve not even started on the cost of materials like wedding albums, prints and framing for my clients.
Of course renting a studio and hiring staff is a whole new ball of blancmange!
You can see how it adds up pretty quickly.
Venture aren’t ripping people off, it’s just most people don’t understand the costs and time involved behind the scenes.
Once you start to make your way in the photography world you realise that you HAVE to charge a decent amount to survive.
So, what’s a decent amount?
Well, in my example the photographer earned £20,000 gross income, but was left with around £10,000 once you’ve factored in all the costs. So, for every pound they earned they lost 50% in costs. Eek!
Therefore, a photographer who gets paid an average of £1000 per wedding is likely to need to photograph 30-40 weddings to earn enough to survive. Not thrive, survive. But there’s a terrible cost…
There are only about 30 weekends in the wedding season – April to October. You’d have to work every single weekend for 7 months of the year. Plus, it’s not easy to book a wedding every weekend. Trying to fill the last few dates is like trying to sink the last boat in a game of battleships!
Plus, don’t you have a life? If you don’t have a life, then don’t you have a wife? Drum roll please! But seriously, don’t you want some weekends for your friends and family?
Personally I prefer to do between 10 and 15 weddings a year (up to a maximum of 20) and charge more per wedding than most people in my area by offering a better service. It’s about effectively differentiating yourself from your cheaper competition. I’ve actually written a book on this. Feel free to grab it below:
I supplement that income with family portraits using a bulletproof marketing and sales system that regularly gets me orders of over £1000. You can check that out here.
Finally I use my baby plan to ensure the cold, dark, wet Monday mornings in January are still booked up.
Earning some nice pocket money is easy in photography – but you’ve got to think like an entrepreneur to earn a decent living at it. That’s what we help our members with every day in the Get Pro Photo Club membership site.