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Bridal Resources

Why Is (Good) Wedding Photography Expensive? | Magdalena Studios


As a bride, you’ve likely browsed through dozens of wedding websites, and compared a wide range of fees. I’m going to bet that before you began reading my blog, you probably first checked out my starting rates. We aren’t a drop in the bucket, but to keep creating high quality, authentic images for you and for my future wedding couples, we have to charge the rates that we do.

Most of my clients understand the value of professional wedding photography, but on occasion, I do get requests to justify my fees. Transparency is important to me, so I’m going to “let it all hang out” and give you a sneak peek behind the scenes so you can learn a little bit about why my contemporaries and I charge what we do.


Wedding Photography is a Business—Not a Hobby

Like any business, we have taxes to pay, licenses to maintain, and—this is a big one—hefty liability insurance premiums. Many venues require us to carry our own insurance in case someone trips over our equipment, or we accidentally damage property. We also carry insurance in case something happens—in spite of all of our backups and safeguards—to prevent us from completing our contracts. It’s the rare event when we need to use our insurance, but we pros always prepare for contingencies!

Other run-of-the-mill expenses we need to factor into our fees include:

  • Studio and equipment rental
  • Transportation
  • Shipping
  • Marketing and advertising (including this website!)
  • Office supplies and equipment
  • Accounting and consulting fees

These are just standard business expenses. As technical creatives and independent contractors, we’re always subject to more.

Behind-the-Scenes Work Hours

Your wedding is the best part of my week, and sharing your wedding experience is why I love my job so much. But for every hour a professional wedding photographer spends on a shoot, there are approximately 16,542 hours spent on other stuff.

Okay, I might have the ratio wrong, but sometimes it feels that way!

Here’s an average tally of what goes into each of my clients’ wedding photography projects:

  • Pre-wedding consultation: 2 hours
  • Prepping for your shoot: 3 hours
  • Wedding day: 8 hours
  • Travel to and from the wedding: 2 hours
  • Post-production (editing and retouching): 16 hours
  • Album design: 3 hours
  • Administrative duties: 3 hours

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Equipment Costs & Maintenance

It takes more than a decent digital SLR, a little talent, and a Craigslist ad to be a competent wedding photographer.

  • High-quality professional camera bodies (at least two primary bodies at $3000-$6500 each!)
  • A wide variety of professional-grade lenses
  • Multiple memory cards, batteries, and chargers
  • Professional on-camera flashes and remote lighting
  • Computers with fast processors and superior graphics capabilities
  • Calibrated monitors
  • Current Photoshop licenses and subscriptions (currently $80/month)
  • Multiple external hard drives
  • Protective cases and bags for on-location equipment
  • Professional cleaning of cameras and lenses, beyond regular maintenance
  • Backups for everything! (something most “budget” photographers don’t have!)

We spend tens of thousands of dollars on equipment and software that becomes obsolete or worn out within two or three years, and we can’t afford to buy used gear. Our reliability depends on the quality and condition of our equipment. Besides, it would be awkward if half your wedding guests had better cameras than your photographer!

Experience, Education, and Affiliations

You don’t want your wedding to be your photographer’s trial run. Professionals work for years to achieve their technical and business skills. We serve as assistants or second shooters, we participate in extensive workshops, and we attend lectures and classes.

We’re always honing our skills and mastering new technologies. The time and expense of our ongoing education are reflected in our rates, and again in your wedding images.

Most of us belong to industry associations and adhere to standards set and enforced by our peers. We attend and contribute to chapter and national conferences, and we do our part to promote and sustain our industry’s values.  Professional photographers don’t see their peers as competition; we see each other as members of a community.

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The best album and custom print companies vet their photography clients. It’s true. They’re trying to weed out the “amateurs” or semi-pros who don’t understand production values, finishes, color balance, substrates, and all the things that help them produce products of the highest quality.

I work with the best vendors, and therefore I pay a premium for their services. My “markup” for albums includes the time I spend on design and consultations, shipping, and packaging.

The Best Value for Your Investment

Competitive rates aren’t a cut-and-dry issue. Experienced professional photographers don’t see “budget” photographers as competition, because quality and reputation speaks for itself. The true value of your wedding photography is evident in your final images, your photographer’s trustworthiness and professionalism, and how she enhances your wedding experience.

I believe you’ll see my wedding photography services as a worthwhile investment, and hope I have the opportunity to surpass your expectations!

Up Next: The Unbiased Pros and Cons of a First Look

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And because I love this chart:


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