It’s a common question for newly engaged couples to have – why is wedding photography so expensive? It’s a bit of a loaded question for a number of reasons but mostly because “expensive” really is a relative term. What one couple thinks is really affordable wedding photography, another couple may think is ludicrously high. I’ve been a wedding photographer in Toronto for nearly a decade and a half and I’ve seen countless photographers try to enter the market at a variety of prices and each and every one of them has been told, at some point, that they’re too expensive. You can’t really nit-pick dollar for dollar, but overall, wedding photography does seem to be a high ticket item compared to other wedding day expenses, so why is wedding photography so expensive?
#1 – It’s not us, it’s you
One of the biggest complaints from couples is “why is wedding photography so expensive” but honestly – it’s not that expensive. Names 2-3 photographers who drive around the city in a Tesla, have a 4+ bedroom house, and spend their off-season vacationing in the tropics? I surely can’t name any and I’m guessing neither can you. The fact that some couples think that wedding photography is “so expensive” is actually a false narrative.
For some reason, a lot of people think they know what the price of wedding photography should be. This is called ‘anchoring’. You get a number in your head and you stick with that number because it ‘feels right’ when in reality, it’s not based on fact only on feelings.
Wedding photography has gotten a reputation for being expensive without a lot of folks taking the time to really understand why the cost is what it is. So for the rest of this article, I challenge you to have an open mind and be willing to learn more about why wedding photography is so expensive before forming your new anchor.
#2 – Weeks worth of work
Just because a wedding photographer is working for 10-12 hours on a wedding day doesn’t mean that there isn’t a hell of a lot more time being input before and after the wedding day. Depending on how involved your photographer is, your wedding can be up to 2-2.5 weeks of full-time work for them.
Now… think about how much you make at your job every 2 weeks (before taxes). A photographer has a salary too and that salary is going to be about half of their package price. Why half? Because the other half goes towards paying for all the stuff I’m going to mention below.
When you adjust your thinking and realize that no more than 50% of the package price is the person’s salary and you’re essentially employing them for 2-3 weeks, it makes the number a bit easier to understand, right?
#3 – The gear
Have you seen the cost of professional cameras and lenses these days? Camera bodies can easily be $4,000-$6,000 per body and each lense has a similar price. Add to that the dozens of memory cards, backup systems, computer systems, and all your lighting gear? It’s a hefty price tag and each item needs to be replaced every few years as not only technology evolves but as the moving parts become worn.
While not all wedding photographers have an office, the technical gear still creates a hefty overhead for the company and plays a factor in why a photographer’s prices are what they are.
#4 – The other people
Wedding photographers may work solo on the wedding day, but it doesn’t always mean that there aren’t others involved. It’s not uncommon for wedding photographers to have assistants with them or even second photographers. Some have team members who sort through, cull and editing the photos, others have team members who help with correspondence and sales and others have outsourced some tasks (like social media or blogging) to other professionals. These people all need to be paid, so a portion of the package price gets put aside for that too.
#5 – Invisible costs
Gear isn’t the only expense a photographer has. If you’re asking why is wedding photography so expensive you also have to look at the invisible costs; the things that aren’t always tangible like a new camera or computer. Photographers are also insured (typically with a multi-million dollar liability package) and pay for various subscriptions to ensure they can manage their business. It sucks that pretty much every software out there is on a subscription service now but that’s life – and that’s part of the expenses. In addition to all those pesky subscriptions comes the continued education. Education is necessary if you want to keep improving not only your skills but your client’s experience. The minute you stop learning is the minute you become dated as a photographer.
#6 The pandemic
Let’s get super real for a hot minute – the pandemic has suffocated a lot of small business and photographers are not immune to the effects. Most photographers lost 70%+ of income for the 2020 year and depending on where you like and what your 2021 restrictions were like, at least another 40-50% loss in 2021. This money is going to be made up for over the next few years. Not only will photographers have to make the money they need to pay their rent and put food on the table, but they will need to fill up their savings accounts again as most had to drain all savings to make it through the worst of the pandemic.
Remember when the world was all about #SupportSmallBusiness and sticking it to Jeff Bezos? We need to keep that energy up because the small businesses that were lucky enough to survive the pandemic will need your support and understanding when it comes to our prices so consider that before asking for a discount.
Bonus: Why Is Wedding Photography So Expensive?
A lot of articles say that wedding photography is so expensive because “it’s a luxury” and luxury brands don’t need to justify their prices and I couldn’t possibly roll my eyes any further back into my head as I read those blogs. Yes, wedding photography is a luxury – but weddings overall are a luxury. You don’t need to have a wedding to get married – that’s why micro weddings are so popular! Just because something is a luxury service doesn’t mean that everyone is opting for luxury pricing. Many wedding photographers are transparent about their costs and choose to education others rather than perpetuating the myth that wedding photographers just like to gouge your hard-earned money.