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Wedding Planning

Is Wedding Photography Expensive?

I wanted to write this for a few reasons.

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Firstly ~ After +10 years as a full-time wedding photographer, I hope some of this will help anybody thinking about making photography their full-time job.

Secondly ~ To help couples understand why there is such a difference in prices out there so they understand what they are getting and can make the right choice to suit their situation.

In 2019 the average paid to a wedding photographer was £2,700. within that, there is a huge price range, from the +£10,000 “rock star wedding photographers” to the £150 “Facebook weekend warriors”. Such a huge price range can create some confusion so let’s try to figure out what’s going on.

Just Another Business.

Pretty much every business out there works around a similar structure. This is a very simplified explanation but essentially right.

Cost of being in business + raw materials + profit = Turnover.

Turnover divide that by the number off units you make/sell = cost of each unit.

Where most of us get it wrong.

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If you buy a bottle of water, you are not paying for the liquid inside the bottle.

The liquid in the bottle has very little to do with the price you pay.

The liquid in the bottle has the potential to make the sale more profitable depending on what it is but don’t be tricked into thinking you are paying for the water.

This is why many businesses fail, They think they are selling (or pricing). for the product.

Let’s use the example “San Pellegrino water” and for this example, imagine that San Pellegrino is an independent company only making this brand of bottled water in 1-litre glass bottles and selling them for £1.50 a bottle.

The £1.50 you hand over for your water isn’t paying for the water.

What you are actually paying for is:

  • The company Head Office.
  • The manufacturing and processing sites.
  • Every employee’s salary, pension and sick pay.
  • Every vehicle the company owns & leases or maintains.
  • Marketing campaigns.
  • Shipping related costs.
  • Taxes.
  • Supermarket shelf space.
  • Raw materials – Bottles, caps, labels and the water.
  • And a bunch more stuff that would make this list too long to read.

You’re probably thinking “hang on, I just want a bottle of water, why am I paying for all those things?” but without all the stuff above, that bottle of lightly sparkling water wouldn’t be sat on the shelf in Tesco.

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The good news is that paying for all this is a lot cheaper than paying somebody to bring you a bottle of water from a spring in Italy.

It all works because of the volume or “economies of scale”. San Pellegrino sells around 1,000,000,000 units a year “1 billion” and at £1.50 a bottle £1.5billion isn’t bad for selling water.

Their Cost of business + Raw Materials + Proffit = £1,500,000,000 Divide that by the 1billion bottles sold = your £1.50 a bottle. The water makes very little impact on the price.

If they went the same process and only missed putting the water in the bottle the cost of business would probably change by less than 1p. Surprisingly the biggest impact on the price would be the reduced shipping cost because the bottles would be lighter.

So every time you buy anything, remember you are not buying the thing in your hands but a percentage of what it cost to get that product into your hands and the percentage comes from the number of times they put that product into somebodies hands.

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So, Is Wedding Photography Expensive?

The model for wedding photography is a little simpler, there’s generally no head office or fleet of vehicles and these days it’s becoming normal not to have a full-time studio.

We’ll have a look at some of the cost in a minute but first I’ll touch on the different business models of the full-time wedding business and the “make a few extra £ at the weekend”

Professional vs Side hustle.

It’s not very often that I get the response “HOW MUCH???!!!!” but on the occasions I do, it’s normally because of the expectations set by those on platforms like Facebook where good hobbyists are looking to make a little extra money at weekends offering to shoot your wedding for £150.

And that’s good, a little extra income from your hobby is fantastic and it gives options to people who may not have the budget or don’t think about their wedding pictures as being important.

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If you are running a business and wedding photography is your full-time work then you need to take a much more structured approach to how you price each wedding.

The hobbyist may have their camera, a nice lens or two, run a pretty Facebook page so any money made on the side is great, 10 weddings and they may have an extra £2,000 in their pocket.

“This is when you are buying the water”.

Often once they turn full time it all falls apart because the figures don’t stack up any more. They still cost based on selling water and don’t come up with a business structure.

But I hope this helps anybody thinking about dropping the day job and making photography their full time business.

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The Cost of Being in Business.

If you’ve had any business experience or remember anything from economics classes you’ll know that there are costs involved in running a business. Some examples for a wedding photographer are things like.

  • Main Equipment (Cameras, Lenses, Lights, Computers).
  • Additional Equipment (Lightstands, Memory Cards, Batteries, Transport, Phone).
  • Adverting & marketing.
  • Web Site.
  • Insurance.
  • Studio (if they have one).
  • Training.
  • Getting a Wage.
  • Paying Tax & NI.

Business Costs.

I won’t go into each but things like equipment, tax, website, insurance, marketing and training account for around £15,000 each year based on an average turnover and 25 weddings a year.

Equipment.

Equipment always breaks at some point, it doesn’t matter if you spend £100 on a camera or £10,000 at some point it will stop working. I learned this on my very first wedding.

When I started in 2009 I trained and was a second shooter/assistant to 3 photography studios. Halfway through the very first wedding, I was involved with the camera I was using just stopped “err 30”!

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Malcolm who I was assisting just threw me his car keys and said: “in the boot, grab another”. That minute of my panic and his calm ready to go solution has stuck with me.

At any given wedding I’ll have around 6 camera bodies and a collection of different lenses I can get my hands on within minutes.

I will almost always have two maybe three cameras on me throughout a wedding. and the same goes for any other critical equipment like flashes.

So every year, some equipment is replaced, updated or repaired. I build those costs into my annual business budget and that forms part of the £15,000 mentioned earlier.

As far as businesses go the cost of entry is not that bad but it is far from cheap, I’ve started putting together a “Wedding Photography Gear List”.

I’ll update it as time goes on but you can get an idea of the value of the equipment you’ll need to buy, maintain and replace.

Taking a Wage.

You’ve got to get paid. Many people want to work for themselves because they want to make more money. I do it because I want more freedom and flexibility in my life.

Back when I worked for somebody else I made quite a bit more than I do now, but now my life is richer and that’s more important to me.

If you are planning to be self-employed in any field one of the first things you should consider is how much do you want to earn.

Taxes

Who was it that said the only things for certain in life are death and taxes? When you are working for somebody else all that tax is taken out for you but when you’re self-employed you need to keep something aside to pay your tax and national insurance each year and don’t forget to put something aside for your pension too.

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How Many Weddings Will You Photograph?

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Again this is a personal choice. I set my business around 25 weddings a year.

That doesn’t sound like many but, each wedding represents about a weeks work once you take everything into account and the general business activities fill in the rest of the time.

Weddings in England are very much focused in the summer and on a Saturday and there’s only about 13 of those.

About 80% of my weddings are in that 3-month window between June and July. So that averages at 1-2 weddings a week.

I know photographers that do +80 weddings a year but in the summer they are going from one wedding to the next and can’t be giving their clients their best work every time.

The quality and service I give to my couples is very important to me that’s why I made the decision to cap my bookings at 25 early in my career.

The winter is quiet and I save money from the summer to keep me going. This is the time I sort out my business paperwork, marketing plan for the next year and I can do that anywhere so it’s also time to travel.

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Figuring Out Your Price.

Once you know how much you want to pay yourself, what it is going to cost you to be in business and how many weddings you want to photograph it’s easy.

Take all your annual cost of being in business add the wage you want and divide it by the number of weddings you want to photograph each year and there you go, that’s your price per wedding.

How Photographers Calculate Their Prices.

This is a little rough and ready calculator, it doesn’t take everything into account but as a quick guide, it will work well. (I had some problems with the live version so I’ve added some examples).

It allows for tax based on your salary, expenses related to the number of weddings per year and some of the fixed costs mentioned earlier like equipment, insurance and marketing.

The “Total Turnover” is the amount of money the business will need to generate each year to give you the salary you have chosen.

The average UK salary was £35,000 in 2019 so I’ll use that to start with.

Anual SalaryNumber of WeddingsPrice Per WeddingTotal Turnover
£35,00010£4,900£49,000
£35,00025£2,100£52,500
£35,00050£1,200£60,000

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Next, let’s take a look at a part-time salary. Maybe your partner is going to continue to work and you are just planning on topping up the household income.

The average UK part-time salary in 2019 was £12,000, so we’ll run the same figures based on that.

Anual SalaryNumber of WeddingsPrice Per WeddingTotal Turnover
£12,00010£2,100£21,000
£12,00025£950£23,750
£12,00050£580£29,000

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Of course, the aspiration for most people is that if they are self-employed they can move into the +£100,000 or more.

The calculation is based on more midlevel weddings. If you are charging +£10,000 for wedding photography your overheads will be significantly higher so all these figures will be higher but it’s just about how the figures relate wedding packages to business costs and giving you a wage.

Anual SalaryNumber of WeddingsPrice Per WeddingTotal Turnover
£100,00010£13,000£130,000
£100,00025£5,500£137,500
£100,00050£2,800£140,000

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Now take the other side of the scale, the hobbies photographer who will give you a good rate. They have a full-time job so their camera gear is paid for from their day job and they bought it because they like taking pictures of their children or dog.

They have no business overheads like insurance, websites, marketing and they take cash so no need to pay tax.

I see these all over places like Facebook quoting between £150 – £500

Anual SalaryNumber of WeddingsPrice Per WeddingTotal Turnover
£1,50010£150N/A
£3,75025£150N/A
£2,50010£250N/A
£6,25025£250N/A
£5,00010£500N/A
£12,50025£500N/A
£35,00070£500N/A

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Anybody charging £150 to photograph a wedding is not running a business, They’d have to photograph 200 weddings a year, to make any kind of a wage.

That’s an average of 4weddings a week and if you consider 80% of weddings happen in the 3 months of summer that’s nearly 2 weddings a day, 7 days a week for 3 months.

The tipping point is generally around 25 weddings at £500 and earning around £12,000 when most start to consider making the switch to full time.

The problem is the jump to the UK average wage of £35,000 is 70 weddings a year and that’s before you start to consider basic business costs.

Summary.

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I love the diversity within the industry, it means there’s something for everybody and every couple has the opportunity to have photographs to remember their wedding day.

Somebody told me a long time ago that “Quality normally isn’t cheap and cheap normally isn’t quality”.

As a general rule that’s a good guide but I have also learned that a high price isn’t a guarantee of high quality.

I have seen some amateurs with beautiful portfolio images and I have seen photographer charging more than £10,000 for a wedding who’s pictures are nothing special.

There are wedding photographers working at all budgets, offering many different levels of service and quality.

I’m not going into the difference between them here or how to spot quality over fluff but I have another article that will help you decide who is the ideal wedding photographer for you to work with and how to avoid ending up with poor quality images or worse getting ripped off.

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Also Take A Look At.


Photography by Bryan.

Call: 07955 888 761

Email: wedding@bryanfarrell.co.uk


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Or Instagram Here ➢

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