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Why Are Wedding Photographers So Expensive? A Breakdown of the Costs to Photograph a Wedding

One of the most common misconceptions about wedding photographers is that on average they are overpriced. Wedding photos are the main tangible keepsake from your wedding day (other than your spouse….) and many couples believe that this is the reason behind the high price of wedding photography. Despite their obvious sentimental value, there are so many costs which go into producing wedding photos.  Many couples wonder why full time professional wedding photographers often charge $3,500-8,000 per wedding.  In order to support oneself as a full time photographer, this is necessary.


Most couples immediately think that if they spend $3,500 on a photographer should account for the number of hours the photographer works photographing the wedding day, so $3500/8 hours = $437.50 per hour, right?


Not right.


For calculation purposes I will be using a nice round number of $3500 which is a little below an average experienced wedding photographer in the state of California (and below where I start).  An average full time wedding photographer who does their own editing will work anywhere from 15-30 weddings per year, so I will use 20 weddings per year as an average.


Time spent working on a wedding from start to finish:


-1 hour consultation

-4 hours in emails and communications

-1 hour final meeting

-6 hours wedding day preparation- preparing gear, communicating with other vendors/coordinator, researching, visiting the venue, writing timeline, planning with second shooter

-4 hours average travel time to and from wedding- driving, arriving at venue early in case of emergency, parking, etc

-8 hours wedding day photography

-2 hours backing up wedding photos

-25 hours culling, sorting, editing, exporting, and uploading wedding photos

-1 hour creating wedding slideshow

-1 hour posting to blog, social media, and client gallery

-1 hour creating client package of finished product

Total hours involved in a wedding: 54


Expenses (budgeted average costs for a $3500 price):

-$400+   for a second photographer

-Sales tax @ 8.75% in Santa Clara = $306.25

-Self Employment tax, 13% = $455.00

-Income tax, apx 15% = $525.00

-Liability + Equipment insurance (total divided by 20 weddings per year), $25

-Health Insurance, (total divided by 20 weddings per year), $90

-CC processing fee: $105.00

-Gas/travel: $50.00 aprx.

-USB+ Packaging + shipping , $50.00

-Other expenses not calculated into this total: Gear, computers, transportation, software, website fees, studio space overhead, banking fees, worker’s comp insurance, accounting fees, membership fees, advertising, permits, city business taxes and fees, etc.

Total: $2,006.25 in expenses per wedding


Total wedding profit: $3,500 – $2006.25 = $1,493.75

Hourly wedding photographer profit: $1,493.75 divided by 54 hours worked = $27.66 per hour, or $29,875.00 per year take home.


Weddings are expensive.  Wedding photography is expensive.  But, when you take into account all of the work that goes into a single wedding for a photographer, the expenses,  the quality of the work, and the value of the product you are receiving it makes a lot more sense why wedding photographers are priced the way that they are.  Additionally, if a wedding photographer is going to have a business which can support their family full time and withstand the test of time more than a few years, they will need a take home pay of much more than a mere $29,875.00 per year- which is why you will see prices of experienced wedding photographers in the neighborhood of $4500-8,000.


Wedding photographers all have one thing in common: They are incredibly passionate about what they do. Any who aren’t quickly leave the industry after realizing the stress level, expense, long hours, and how strenuous working a 12 hour day with 20-30 lbs of gear on you is.  I love what I do so much.  So much, that I left a very stable, well paying job which I also loved, to take a leap and dive into the wedding industry.  I have met so many wonderful people along the way and am so grateful for all of the opportunities I have received.  I love what I do, but it is definitely a very hard job.


If you are planning your wedding, as you are determining your budget keep in mind not only what all goes in to your wedding photography, but what you will take away from it. Book someone who has enough experience, gear, insurance, and knowledge.  Book someone you connect with personally, and feel comfortable around.  Book someone you can trust with your memories, and trust in their advice and expertise.  Wedding photography may appear expensive, but all things considered it will be worth your investment in a professional.


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