Pricing your wedding photography business might actually be one of the hardest parts of starting your business. And I get totally it! It feels so personal when it comes to your wedding photography business, doesn’t it?
It’s your work, your art and you have to decide what “it” is worth. But it feels more like what are “YOU” worth? Truly putting a value on something you’ve created is tough but so necessary. Don’t worry, you don’t have to do this alone! We put together 5 steps to pricing your wedding photography business just for you!
So, let’s chat about how to price your wedding photography services as a beginner. I want to make sure you are asking yourself all the right questions and truly taking your talent, investment, expenses and time into account.
Pssst, I use wedding photography in most of my examples but this is also relevant for portrait photography.
Let’s start with your talent and experience. You are obviously going to charge less as a beginner photographer and that’s okay!
When I was starting out, I had just graduated from photography school. I had the training and photography skills but really didn’t have the wedding photography business experience.
For my first paid wedding, I charged $150 per hour for 8 hours. $100 for me, $50 for my second shooter. This way if I made a rookie mistake on something then they only paid $1200, which for the Houston area is a very low budget.
$800 was practically nothing considering it took me a full 6 weeks to edit because I didn’t have a consistent editing style at that point. But it gave me experience and from that wedding on, I knew I wanted to photograph weddings!
So if you are just starting out, there is nothing wrong with starting at a very low price point. You have to get experience somehow!
Each wedding I booked, I raised my prices a little bit. About 10 weddings later, I was charging $3,000 – $5,000 per wedding. Now, 9 years later we charge $5,000 to $10,000+.
I share this to say please consider where you’re starting from! If you are branching off from a photography studio and have years of experience, you will be in a much different place than someone who’s just starting out.
One thing to remember if you’re currently building your portfolio, please don’t just photograph things for free for non-portfolio building experiences. Meaning, if you want to shoot weddings, you can’t just photograph tons of headshots or families for free and think it’ll help you create your wedding photography business.
If you don’t know where to find a community, start by reading our top 3 ways to finding your people!
This part can get tough. I highly recommend starting a spreadsheet. I know, I know! This is not the fun part. But I promise you when you are charging what you want to be charging you will thank me! ; )
So grab that google spreadsheet and let’s do this!
You need a line item for everything.
Don’t forget about those annual website fees, subscriptions, etc! How much is that costing you every month or year?
The main goal of this is to figure out your bottom line. How many sessions do you need to book each year to at least cover your costs? Then we can figure out how we are going to make this business profitable, friend! You can do this!
This might be the toughest part of it all. Your time, the most valuable nonrenewable resource. Because of this, time is truly precious. It’s the one thing you’ll never get back or be able to make more of.
And once you have a family, trust me, your time will be worth its weight in gold! So let’s be sure to factor in time when pricing your wedding photography business.
How much time does 1 wedding take you? Start to finish! For example, it looks about like this for us:
That’s 50 hours of work for 1 wedding. 50 hours away from my family so I need to make sure it’s worth my time!
Want to figure out how much you are REALLY making per hour? Grab our FREE hourly rate pricing calculator spreadsheet where you input everything and it will tell you exactly how much you are making per hour for 1 wedding or session.
Now, you need to consider how much you want to make per hour. Once you know how long things take, you can assess how much you want to make hourly.
Don’t forget to factor in taxes. We just assume taxes are going to be close to 35%. So that leaves us with 65% of what we are charging them. Then when April tax time comes each year, we usually have a little leftover as a bonus. But at least this way we are always prepared for the worst.
Because you deserve that! You deserve to be SO excited about your job!
And you know what? So do your clients! They deserve a photographer that is jumping out of bed, so excited to serve them on their wedding day!
Last but not least, you need to take into account your market.
Your location will play a big part in this. If you live in a big city (like us here in Houston), the market is most likely more lucrative than a rural area. For example, Austin and San Antonio prices are a bit lower than the average wedding photography prices here and in Dallas.
Also, who are your direct competitors? Do you have a feel for what others are charging?
You need to learn the market. This doesn’t mean emailing another photographer who has similar work and copying their pricing guide. I promise you this will NOT be a good move for you! Their pricing should be set up for their life, their goals, their needs. Copying anyone won’t help you with what you need!
Let’s say the high end is $10,000 and the newbies are charging $2,500. Now you have an idea of what your current market can handle and will give you something to dream towards.
I know pricing your wedding photography business can be overwhelming but just make sure to consider the big 5 components: your investment, education, experience, time and the market.
Hopefully by following our 5 Steps to Pricing your Wedding Photography Business As a Beginner pricing will be a little less scary.
Consider every investment you make into your business as a reason to adjust your pricing. For example, if you buy a brand new top of the line camera, raise your price!
If you invest in a big workshop or online course that’s truly going to elevate your client experience and photography, raise your price!
When you rebrand and take your website to a high-end level, raise your price!
See where I’m going with this! Every investment you make is taking you one step closer to your goal and that next tier of photographers.
Now, don’t forget to use our nifty free pricing calculator! Download it below! It can be pretty eye-opening! Figure out exactly what you need to charge to be pulling in the hourly rate you’ve only dreamed of! You got this, friend!
Once you use it, let us know! Send us an email or reply in the comments! Can’t wait to hear your answers!
Michelle & the whole Cotton team
P.S. Extra special thanks to my one and only, brilliant CFO, the hubby, Kellan! He put this calculator together just for YOU! So I definitely can’t take all the credit. He’s been the backbone of this business since 2012 and God knows I’m grateful for him!