So you’ve got a camera and a hell of a lot of ambition.  You’re ready to jump into the world of wedding photography but you’re stuck on something… what should a new photographer charge?

Having been in the industry long enough to see several waves of new photographers enter the industry, I’ve seen a dangerous trend that is not only growing but seems to be growing exponentially.

What is that trend?

It’s the trend of new photographers who seemingly pick a number out of nowhere and say “that sounds about right” when it comes to what to charge.

Knowing how to price your photography for profit is really not that complex.  It doesn’t take years of business school to learn how to do it.  What it does take; however, is forethought and respect for your industry.

Respect for the industry is absolutely a factor in learning how to price your photography packages.  Picking a random price out of nowhere and sticking it on your packages is not okay for many reasons; but the one I feel is most important is that it’s devaluing the industry as a whole.  Most of these “slap it together” pricing models actually result in the photographer working for less than minimum wage and they don’t even know it!  Some will say “it’s just a side-job for now” or “it’s a hobby that’s becoming profitable, any money is good money” but I ask you… what about those who are in the industry because it’s their passion and their livelihood?  Do you really understand what you’re doing when you slap a totally unreasonable price tag on a photography package and start advertising?

Think of it in a non-photography setting.

You work at an office job.  You get paid about minimum wage.  It’s not a lot, but you know that after a few years of experience, you’ll get the raises you deserve and you’ll eventually make enough money to not have to eat ramen noodles 4 times a week.  Then a new person shows up for an interview and says to the boss “You know, I’m be okay working for half of what you’re paying your current employees.  I’m new, it’s no big deal.”  If you were the existing employee would be okay with that?  Absolutely not.  If you were the person being interviewed, would you really offer yourself for so much less money?  Would you do that just to try to get a step in the industry?  No – you wouldn’t.  You would want at least a minimum wage (knowing very well that minimum wage can be difficult for some to live on based on certain circumstances).

So why is it okay for a new photographer to put together ridiculously low prices and start advertising?

It’s not.

If you want a more thorough explaination of how to price your photography we’re written about it before, but if you want a super rough breakdown, here it is.  What I’ve written below is based on my experience mentoring and educating other photographers for several years.  While these numbers may not represent you 100%, it should be a pretty close ballpark.

  • Average hours shooting the engagement session (including travel): 3.5
  • Average hours culling and editing engagement session: 5
  • Average hours shooting a wedding (including travel): 12
  • Average hours culling and editing said wedding: 40
  • Average hours doing paperwork/meeting with client, etc: 4
  • Total working hours: 64.5 hour

Now, charge at least minimum wage.  In Ontario, minimum wage is approximately $10.50 per hour at the time of writing this article.  That means that for your basic hours worked, the total would be $677.75

But wait a minute… running a business is much more than that.  You have costs associated with running your business.  You have to pay for Pixieset/Smugmug subscriptions.  You have to buy USBs not to mention pay for a website, business cards, new gear, education, insurance (you better have insurance).  Those are hard costs that you have to add in.  And don’t forget the tax man.  Whether this is a hobby or not, you better be claiming the income on your annual taxes because running a business is something you should be doing legally and never “under the table.”

Your profit is usually only 1/3 of what you should charge.  The other 2/3’s accounts for expenses and taxes (sometimes even more if you’re offering albums or second shooters depending on your expense breakdown).  That means that whatever you want to make per hour should be multiplies by 3 in order to achieve the bare minimum of what you should charge.

Let’s do the math… $677.75 x 3 = $2,031.75!!

Yep, you saw that number correctly.  A new photographer – one who is brand spankin’ new in the industry with the most minimal of experience is still entitled to be making at least minimum wage.

Even with making minimum wage, that new photographers should be charging just over $2,000 for an average full day coverage with images on USB.  It will be more if that package contains extras like a second shooter, an album or prints.

So what should new photographers be charging?  They should be making at least minimum wage which means an average package would be around the $2,000 mark if they are running their businesses properly.  As you gain experience and get a “raise” every year, your prices will go up accordingly to your new desired hourly wage.  By the time you’re making around $15/hour your packages will retail for closer to $3,000.

So what does this mean for all those photographers who are charging $1,000 or $1,500 for their services?  It means that you’re not only working for substantially less than minimum wage, but you’re also contributing to the de-valuing of photography that is ever increasing in the industry.  There’s no doubt that you look up to many photographers in the industry; you find their work inspiring and beautiful and strive to be like them.  In lieu of being their facebook fan pages #1 commentor, show that you respect them in a different way.  Charge a reasonable minimum for your services so that our industry can be valued for what it’s actually worth.


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