I’m not a business expert, I can’t say that I have an MBA or that I’m even entirely sure what MBA stands for. What I can tell you; however, is that over my years as a Toronto wedding photographer, I’ve learned (through trial and error) how to price a photography package. Although trial and error may not be the most effective way of learning a lesson in the competitive world of wedding photography, it was a humbling experience when I noted failures but it also made me work even harder to learn more, apply my knowledge, and surpass my previous hurdles.
I’ve also learned talented people like business advisers, financial advisers and accountants are amazing people who have a lot of advice and helpful tips for you as you’re growing your business. Find these people, connect with them, develop relationships with them and make them a part of your team. They will help you succeed.
But for now, let’s dial it back a little bit and talk about the super basic breakdown of how to price a photography package. This is an article geared towards newer professionals who are just entering the photography industry or those who have a very limited business background. I will be using numbers and math here folks, so if you’re in need of a coffee go and get one now.
Okay – got your coffee? Good. Let’s start looking at the anatomy of a photography package.
Part A: How much can you actually work in a year?
The average person works 40 hours a week and gets 2 weeks holidays per year – I suggest using this as a benchmark for this project because you ideally want a reasonable workload. You shouldn’t have to work 80-hours a week to turn a profit and if you do, something’s wrong!
If there are 50 weeks in the year that you are working and you’re working 40 hours a week, you should be working for a total of 2,000 hours a year.
Now here’s the tricky part – you need to estimate exactly how long it takes you to perform your duties. I suggest using your largest wedding package as a guide for this exercise as your largest package is typically based on your absolute minimal hourly rate. Below is an example of a total breakdown (yes, even in minutes!) of every single task that goes into the average wedding photography package.
- Initial emails and correspondence: 30 mins
- In-person meeting + travel time to/from meeting place: 75 mins
- Processing contract, banking and adding important dates into calendar: 45 mins
- Email correspondence before engagement session (answering questions, choosing location, etc.): 30 mins
- Prepping for engagement session: 20 mins
- Driving to + from engagement session: 60 mins
- Shooting engagement session: 1.5 hours
- Culling + editing engagement session: 4 hours
- Uploading galleries: 1 hour
- Mailing out USB/Scheduling time for client to pickup USB: 20 mins
- Creating engagement blog post: 45 mins
- Email correspondence before wedding day (answering questions, etc.): 30 mins
- In-person meeting before wedding day: 60 mins
- Prepping for wedding day: 20 mins
- Shooting wedding day: 10 hours
- Culling + editing wedding photos: 40 hours
- Uploading galleries: 1.5 hours
- Mailing out USB/scheduling time for client to pick up USB: 20 mins
- Creating wedding day blog post: 1.5 hours
- Final wrap-up of admin work, banking, etc: 60 mins
- Approximate total time: 68 hours of workload, per wedding
It’s important to factor in all of your admin time, travel time or any other time that is necessary for you to complete tasks related to your work. It’s also important to remember that the example above does not factor in the time it takes to make albums or create custom prints. If you include albums or prints in your packages, the complexity of this project will increase as you also need to factor in the time it takes to create those products as well as the cost of the product itself. I’ve recently written an article about what to charge for wedding albums and I suggest you give that a read over if you’re planning on adding prints or albums into your packages.
So based on what we already know, you should be working 2,000 hours in a year and each wedding takes approximately 68 hours to complete. Let’s do the math: 2,000 hours / 68 hours per wedding = ~29 weddings per year
In order to work a full work week of 40-hours, you’ll need to shoot 29 weddings a year.
Remember, at the beginning of this article, when I said that this was going to be a super simplified version of a breakdown in order to help you understand the basic breakdown of a photography package? It’s simply because at this point in time I’m not factoring in the time during the week that you’ll spend marketing, networking, working on your social media or taking care of any other administrative duties. As a business owner, there are things you need to do other than just shoot and edit weddings – but I’m trying to stay as basic as possible for the sake of simplicity in this article.
Part B: How much money do you want in your pocket at the end of the year?
The amount of money you charge your client is not 100% profit. In fact, you’ll probably only keeping 1 dollar for every 3 made. I’ve previously written about the cost of wedding photography and have broken down the price of a wedding package into expenses versus profit. You’re welcome to read the article but for the sake of keeping this already-lengthy article as short as possible, you should assume that 1/3 of what you charge your client is actually your profit, 1/3 goes to taxes and the other 1/3 is for sustaining your business (paying for websites, gear, software, advertising, etc.)
The average income in Ontario is about $50,000 per year, before taxes, so let’s use this as our starting point. You don’t want to set yourself up to make less than the average as this will create unneeded struggles for you and your family. Planning for success is the first step in achieving success.
Ready for a little more math?
If the cost of your wedding photography package = (1/3 business expenses) + (2/3 profit & taxes)
And if the (2/3 profit & taxes) = $50,000 then (1/3 business expenses) = $25,000
Add this all together, and your gross income as a photographer should be $75,000.
If you’re working 2,000 hours per year and if you want to bring in a total of $75,000 per year, you need to charge a minimum of $37.50 per hour of your time. (If you didn’t catch the math on that one, it’s $75,000/2,000 = 37.5)
If your largest wedding package, the one where you will be working for your minimum hourly rate, requires 68 hours of work @ $37.5 per hour, you should be charging $2,550 for that package.
By taking a look at the number of hours you can work in a year as well as setting financial goals for yourself, you can easily determine what the minimum amount you need to charge for a wedding package should be.
Every photographer has a different workload associated with weddings. Some photographers don’t do much in the way of post-processing and can save a lot of time there (although their images may reflect this) while other photographers choose to hire a third party company to do their editing for them at a minimal cost. Other photographers also include albums and/or prints as part of their packages and it’s important for the time it takes to create those products as well as the material cost of those products to be factored in the equation, too.
Deciding on how to price your photography packages can be very challenging and quite complex and some may argue that this article is overly simplified. While it’s true that this article is very, very simple it is meant as an introduction to the concept of breaking down pricing to meet your needs and I hope that all of you are now motivated to learn more about the process on your own and will make the right decisions when pricing your work.