Why is wedding photography expensive?

Why is wedding photography expensive – It’s not is the simple answer.  At least if a person is running a business legally it’s not. This blog post is due to some comments on a particular Facebook Page by people who think that wedding photography (and by extension all wedding suppliers) are expensive / extortionate / unduly raise prices because it’s a wedding etc.

This blog post isn’t here to justify my prices by the way.  I don’t need that.  If you are a price conscious bride good for you!  I’m looking for the same.  I want to book brides who want value for money, but don’t mind paying for the value that wedding photography brings.  I’m not cheap either. The costs below are based on my deluxe album collection which starts at £1475

Why is wedding photography expensive?  Becuase We Running a Business

Wedding Photography is a business.  I do this not because I’m some kind of fancy artist but to make money.  I’m lucky I enjoy what I do but essentially it pays my mortgage, my car, my holidays, puts food on my table etc.  It’s my full-time job.

Running a business involves business expenses.  I’m going to call these the Cost of Sales.  Each wedding I run costs me money.  It costs me money to book the wedding and to photograph the wedding.  Each business will be different, but all business have these basic costs.  These costs HAVE TO BE MET in order to make a profit.  If the price charged is less than the cost of sales the supplier makes a loss.

In my cost of sales I have a number of items; some of which I have listed below:

  • Petrol
  • Wedding Fayre attendance
  • DVD’s
  • Website hosting
  • Royal Mail postage
  • Print
  • Pre Wedding Session
  • Secure website hosting of client galleries
  • Business Insurance
  • Car Tax
  • Marketing on Facebook
  • Marketing on Google Adwords
  • Car Insurance
  • Camera Kit
  • New Sample Albums
  • Tyres for car
  • MOT
  • Postage of albums from Italy to the UK
  • Utilities (Gas, Electric, Office phone, Internet, Mobile)
  • Training
  • Software
  • IT (in my case iMac and Mac Book Pro)
  • Accountancy fees
  • Rental of office / studio space
  • Wedding Album (Italian of course!)

Other business (cake makers for example) may have different costs; ingredients for example.  The thing is all suppliers will have these basic costs. In my case, these basic costs add up to around £950.  So before I get a camera out and take a photograph the wedding has cost me £950. Yes – you read that correctly – £950. I’ve is not included my hourly rate in this just yet.  More on that later.

Just to give you an idea; each of my camera bodies (no lenses) costs about £2000.  It will last 3 years.  Every three years I need two camera bodies. £4000 every three years; or in simple terms, I need to find £1333 for camera bodies.  Then comes the lenses, batteries, flash units and all the other-other gadgets of getting photographs like this:

Why is wedding photography expensive – Making a profit

Making a profit is what every business tries to do.  Sort of!!  We want to make just enough so that we don’t pay too much tax.  As a Sole Trader, I pay tax on the profit I make.  This comes out of my personal tax allowance so I try and keep that profit below the allowance.  for 2015 / 2016 tax year the personal allowance is £10,800.  I will only pay tax if my profit is over that amount.

I’m lucky in that photography is actually an expensive business to be in due to the cost of the kit I need to buy.  Add in the cost of wedding albums where clients want those and I will seldom make enough of a profit to pay tax, or when I do pay tax it’s at the 20% rate.  (Yes, the cost of equipment, training, insurance, wedding albums etc is all classed as a genuine business expense.)

I have to make a profit of over £42,000 to pay tax at the 40% tax rate.

Why is wedding photography expensive? Because we run a fully legal business

Some suppliers are NOT running a legal business.  They have a primary job and have a secondary job.  They don’t declare to HMRC the income from the secondary job meaning they don’t pay tax on it. Which means they can charge much much lower rates.  That means they are also ripping off the country – The NHS, Defence, Transport, Education, Pensions, Benefits etc and all the wonderful things that the Government uses tax to pay for. 

What I am saying is that they subsidise their secondary income (the wedding business) by using their primary income; meaning their cost of sales are much lower and can charge much less.  What this really means in practice is that they are losing money, but just don’t realise it.

I’m NOT saying that every supplier charging low prices is an illegal business by the way – by no means am I saying that.

Why is wedding photography expensive – Losing money and not realising it

Yes – you read that correctly.  If you are running the photography as a sideline / second business and you don’t charge enough to cover your business expenses you are losing money.  How does this work?

Take a wedding photography business who offers the following:

  • All day wedding photography
  • Two photographers
  • USB of edited images
  • Only £400

So, let’s break this down.

All day wedding photography = 12 hours on the day usually. 8 am bridal prep to 8 pm first dance.

Two photographers = 12 hours x 2 = 24 hours of work.

USB of edited images…several parts here.  USB costs, postal cost and editing costs

USB cost = £5

Postal cost = £5

Editing costs are tough.  How much editing is done, how many hands editing, how much retouching, skin smoothing, teeth whitening, colour correction, cropping etc.  Let us say 6 hours editing for one person.

So we have a total number of hours at 30 hours plus £10 physical costs from a price of £400

£400- £10 = £390

From that £390 the photography business needs to pay business costs…new cameras, new lenses, new batteries, new flashes, training, website, travel costs, business insurance etc. AND pay a living wage to the two people doing the work. So they end up using the other job (usually a full-time job) to subsidise the cost of the photography.  They will be telling their partners, wives, husbands etc that they are investing in the future, art and all the other crap.  Essentially they are costing their household money when they do this.  If that photography business doesn’t make enough profit to buy a new camera when the other one breaks… the money has to come from somewhere doesn’t it?

The numbers just do not add up…

A new professional-level Canon / Nikon camera (Canon 5D Mark 4) costs around £3.5k; both of those photographers should have two each as a minimum. £14k in camera costs every three years is £4666 per year on cameras or £338 per month. Even if those two photographers split the £390 equally that’s only £195 per month.  So they need TWO weddings a month to just pay for the cameras, let alone lenses, flashes, insurance, website, travel costs etc WITHOUT MAKING A PROFIT.

  • Business insurance costs me £400 per year (or one wedding to the example above).
  • Fuel costs for me are around £4000 a year (or 10 weddings to the example above).
  • Software costs are a measly (!!) £300 per year (or just under one wedding on the example above)
  • Website hosting (high speed, professional, backed up etc) is £360 per year (or just under one wedding on the example above)

So you think about it.  £400 for two wedding photographers.  Do the numbers add up or are this couple running a sideline business and cutting more corners than a circle? Are they insured?  Do they have backup cameras? Do they have backup IT? Do they have multiple off-site backup storages for your wedding photographs going back every year they have been in business?

Does that example sound too good to be true?

Why is wedding photography expensive – The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that to run a small business legitimately takes time and effort and costs money.  It take long hours that are seldom included in the cost of sales.  The hours worked are seldom, if ever, thought about by YOU the client.  You see the finished article and think “I paid all that money for just that!”

“…just that” in my case involved around 12 hours attendance at your wedding. On my feet all the time.  One break when you’re sitting down at your wedding breakfast, and even then I’m backing up my memory cards and quickly editing the photographs to give you a slide show for the evening. It takes me around 50 hours to fully edit a wedding; to give 450 hand edited and retouched photographs.  It would have taken me 3 hours to meet with you first before you booked.  It would have taken my 12 hours to photograph and edit the pre wedding / engagement photography session. It would have taken me 12 hours of design work on your wedding album.  If you are good at maths (and I’m not; I used a calculator!) you will notice all those hours add up to 89 hours.

Remember my cost of sales list above?  I didn’t include the hourly rate, so let’s do all the maths stuff and figure this out:

  • Price of wedding – £1475
  • Cost of Sales – £950.

Price of wedding minus Cost of Sales = £1475 – £950 = £525

£525 / 89 hours = £5.89 per hour.

The minimum wage for 2016 is £6.70.  Including all the work, hours, cost of sales etc I earn less than the minimum wage.  I’m sure you can understand why suppliers running legitimate business get upset!

So tell me.  Is £5.89 per hour to get photographs like this worth it…

Why is wedding photography expensive – Simplified

Yes, this is a simplified breakdown and maybe the costs are not 100% accurate.  They are however a damn good indication of my true cost or sales  /doing business.  Everything I claim for under that cost of sales is allowed by HMRC.  I file my tax returns in time etc etc.  In short, I follow all the rules for running a small business.

Why is wedding photography expensive – It isn’t

This isn’t a rant about my (extremely!) low hourly rate by the way.  I’m not doing this job to make my millions; which is a bloody good job really. I’m doing this job because I like it.  I’m good at it. I get to choose who I work with (yup – you don’t book me; I allow you to book me).  I’m doing this job because of the lifestyle it gives me.  I’m self-employed.  I can take time off mid-week and chill out.  I can choose to spend more hours in the office / studio and take a day off when I want. I can walk the dog for hours.

In short, I’m not doing this because of £5.89 an hour.  I’m doing it for me, and in my world, that means more than money. I can pay what I need to pay and get by.

If you are getting married and like this post, like my work, don’t mind paying me £5.89 an hour then please consider getting in touch for your wedding photography!

If you are running a wedding photography business and like this post and want to know more about the whole aspect of running a business, being more creative with your camera etc then consider signing up for one of my workshops.

I have a FREE download available that helps you sort out your Cost of Sales vs Price you Charge. Click here to download it FREE

Bristol wedding photographer Andrew Miller. Covering Somerset, South West Bristol and UK Andrew Miller Photography Logo Signature Logo
Why is wedding photography expensive
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Why is wedding photography expensive
Bristol Wedding Photographer
Why is wedding photography expensive
Andrew Miller
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Andrew Miller Photography