Asked to photograph a wedding, need help with pricing
May 24, 2010 10:58 AM   Subscribe

I need help setting wedding photo pricing.

I may be taking wedding photos for a friend of a friend this summer. I am not strictly a professional photographer, although I have had a number of gallery shows and do get paid periodically for my photos. I haven't photographed a wedding in almost 20 years. Then I was using film and would give them the rolls of film when I was done. Now I'm using digital and want to spend the time cropping, etc after the wedding.

I'm looking for advice on pricing and how to get the photos to them. I'm was thinking of either setting up a flickr for their photos or just burning a disk for them. What would you prefer and how much would you pay for all day photos (ceremony and reception)?
posted by saffronwoman to Work & Money (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What is the going rate for a wedding photographer in the area in which the wedding is being held? Do some google research, or call around to get an idea. You want to especially look at the pricing being offered for photographers who provide digital copies.

What is your time worth? Assume - 2 hours prep/travel, 8 hours day-of, 5 hours after (proofing, cropping, etc). That's 15 hours of solid work for you. Only you can answer what your time is worth; at my state's minimum wage, 15 hours is almost $110. So, that can be a starting number for you, if you need one.

Since you "get paid periodically" for photography, do you have a contract for photography? Or something you used in the past, when you used to shoot weddings? I would recommend a contract, just so expectations are clear on both sides.

Wedding photographers charge anywhere from $150 - $15,000. You want to charge somewhere in the middle. Pricing is a hard question to answer and is incredibly subjective. Here is a fairly decent thread about wedding pricing. You will find much more information through a good google search.

There are many, many ways to online proof. Flickr is a good option. Giving them the photos on a disc is a fabulous idea - do not count on them being able to download the photos from Flickr at a quality that is appropriate for printing. It would be a good idea to include a print release (memail me if you would like, I have one that I use for clients) on the CD.

I think, for an entire day of shooting, plus proofing and basic editing, plus giving away the digitals (so you won't make any money from prints), anywhere in the range of $500 - $1,500 is more than reasonable.

Good luck!
posted by kellygrape at 11:21 AM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

One of my friends did the photography for my sister's wedding. She is an amateur photographer (and a very talented one at that), but she's never done professional event photography. They gave her $400. She didn't need to do any of her own traveling (we gave her a ride to the wedding which was ~$20) and she was fed as a guest.

Good luck!
posted by Lizsterr at 12:26 PM on May 24, 2010

What do they want from the wedding? Do they want printed pictures for framing and giving to friends, or a fancy book? Our wedding photographer had packages that all included wedding books, either of individual pictures framed in pages, or a digital book, with the ability to print full-page, and the photographer would keep the originals with the option for additional prints (at a cost, for her time of enhancing and printing the photos well). Our photographer had her own website set up through some wedding-specific service (which I think over-charged for services offered, so I won't mention them), and only showed us what she thought were the best couple hundred shots out of the few thousand pictures from her and her two assistants. In the end, we opted to buy all of the original images (high quality JPEGs) on DVDs, because neither I nor my wife cared about an expensive photo album, fun though they were, and we wanted to have everything at our disposal.

Have you discussed gifting part or all of your time and/or printing as a gift? You could gift your time and charge for the prints (simplifying the pricing of this), or gifting half of your time? And there might be a local wedding support group (like chambers of commerce for wedding-related specialists), who put on wedding service shows and have one centralized website for local wedding folks. It could be a quicker way to find photographers who specialize in wedding photos.

Not related to price: do you have any assistant(s), or will you be the sole photographer? I ask because 1) you can get some great alternate shots, and 2) have time to enjoy food and company while the assistant(s) keep shooting. Otherwise, if you're the only one, your role shifts from friend to professional, unless they only want photos of certain times/events.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:33 PM on May 24, 2010

Listen I'll be the heavy: make sure they are ok with you screwing up the photos. Unless you are really practiced in how to use flash indoors, can take portraits in any kind of light, etc...weddings are a real bitch. I think wedding photographers are pretty overpriced in general, but it's a pretty challenging job. Shooting in churches is particularly difficult.

I'm pretty good at weddings and have done quite a few, but did end up missing the ceremony!!!! for a friend's wedding they were paying me to photograph (missed communications and error on the brides part about location, but it's really my job to make sure that stuff doesn't happen). I was in school at the time and didn't have enough time to prepare travel info beforehand like I normally would. Luckily there were a number of other photography nerds in the audience and it was well covered, and we are all still friends, but it could have been bad.

Short answer to your question, for me, for the headache, the running around and the fact that you if you are doing your job you won't really enjoy the wedding, $1000 is minimum. But I've stopped doing weddings, particularly friends weddings, because I want to enjoy myself and talk to people, not run around working.

That said I learned a ton about photography doing weddings.

Hope that helps, sorry if it didn't.
posted by sully75 at 12:47 PM on May 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

We paid around $2200 for our professional wedding photographer. That was for 6 hours of coverage, I think, and included no prints, but did include an art book (though we haven't received that yet...). We also fed our photographer as a guest.

I think $1000 is entirely reasonable. I agree that you should get something in writing, and perhaps get some money up front. The other thing I would suggest is to meet with the couple before hand if you can to get an idea of the kind of photos they want for their wedding, and perhaps have them draw up a list of photos that they want taken.
posted by laura_carter at 1:11 PM on May 24, 2010

Wedding photography is a lot of work. It's hard to get paid what's fair for your time if you're not established as a pro. It's even harder when you're doing it for a friend or even acquaintance who likely expects a deal. Plus if you aren't a pro wedding photographer, you may have personal reservations charging a pro rate because you feel inadequate.

In any case, the decision really must be based on what YOU feel is fair. As mentioned above, the actual amount of work during a wedding day can easily be 8 or more hours, so your fee should be at least enough to make that worth your while. Post-processing is another factor altogether, although from your wording I get the impression that this isn't your focus ("cropping, etc" does not come close to covering what modern post processing techniques include - most pros spend hours painstakingly editing images in Lightroom/Photoshop to squeeze the best quality out of their shots). If you intend to do serious post processing, factor at least as much time as you spent shooting the wedding for post - and charge accordingly.

I've done a number of weddings, but I still don't call myself a "pro wedding photographer", simply because it's not my bread-and-butter nor my passion. Still, I've recently increased my rates. Whereas I used to do weddings for friends and family for a few hundred bucks (sometimes as little as $100), the amount of work and care I put into it is worth much, much more. Now I charge what I feel is fair for my time (actually, still not as much as I feel is fair), and if people don't want to pay that, then they can find someone else. Having a website with a price list helps immensely; I no longer have to sheepishly justify my rates to them over the phone; instead I direct them to my site and they can compare my packages, review my work, and decide for themselves if they want to pursue me.

Another consideration is what services you're actually going to provide. Burning photos to a disk is traditionally a no-no in the pro world, because pro's charge the client for reprints, so they don't want to give away the master copies and thereby give the client the freedom to print elsewhere [and for less]. So typically a pro will charge a base rate for the photo coverage, and then charge for prints at a given rate (or offer packages), and then charge a hefty fee for the master copies (easily $500 or more). Then there's albums - if you plan to assemble an album (or a screen-printed photobook, my personal preference), that's even more time and expense that you'll need to add into your fee.

With these factors in mind, I recommend offering a tiered pricing plan and letting your clients choose what services they want (or are willing to pay for).

But anyway, this is a lot of text when what you want to know is numbers. Here's a screenshot of my wedding price list from my website:

(text link if the image embed fails)

You'll note that I broke it down into packages to take the pressure off me - if they want all of the services, that's great, but they'll have to pay for all of them. Used to be I would do everything (photobooks, etc included) for a mere $500 or less. This was for hours and hours and hours of work. Ugh.

Now, I feel those rates are pretty reasonable. I'm also quite sure that true pro wedding photographers - i.e. those who make their living doing this - charge significantly more than this in most instances. But I've learned over time that you're not doing yourself any favors by charging next to nothing - unless you're really brand new at photography and not charging what's fair for your level of output.

All this being said: If you're just doing this as a one-off and have no intention of making it a regular (or even semi-regular) thing, you might be more reasonable in your rates. There are a lot of variables that only you can decide. But in the end, my advice would be not to cheat yourself - put the onus on the client as to whether they're willing to pay what you're worth.

As far as proofing, Flickr is fine. I use SmugMug, which is similar but a little more pro-oriented IMO. They offer Pro accounts which (for a yearly fee) allow you to sell your photos with your own markup rate, so you can make profit off the prints like I mentioned earlier. It's easy as pie and you don't have to mess with running your own shopping cart, etc. Plus their pages are immensely customizable; many pro photog's simply use their SmugMug page as their website. It's very convenient, and if you have regular paid work, well worth the money ($120/yr for the highest level account, I think).

Also, I'm not sure if you're on Facebook, but it might be worth setting up a page for your photog business. EVERYONE is on FB now, and it's a surprisingly popular way for people to share event photos (such as weddings). If you have your own page, you can upload the proofs there and send the gallery link to your client, who will repost it to all their friends and family. If you have a print store (SmugMug, etc) you can easily turn those visits into profits by linking to your main site for print purchases.

So yeah, lots of things to think about. It all depends on how you view it, really, and how far you want to take it.

Oh, and always have backup gear :)

Have fun!
posted by sprocket87 at 2:18 PM on May 24, 2010

Erm, my pricing link was broken. This is it.
posted by sprocket87 at 2:19 PM on May 24, 2010

Are you sure that this is a paying gig? There is an implication in 'for a friend' that friends do things for free for their friends.

If you would have expected an invite to this wedding in any event, you will appreciate that taking this on will mean losing a lot of participation a guest will have.

I'd carefully check out the 'free photos' possibility, and then think about whether I wanted to be the pro photographer at the wedding, or a guest. Or a guest with a camera, one of the many who (presumably) would be happy to contribute their photos to the wedding album.

Good luck.
posted by GeeEmm at 5:23 PM on May 24, 2010

I don't know these people, they are friends of a friend and do expect to pay. So yay! Money!

I will have another camera back up and extra memory cards, so that's covered. But no assistant, it's just me.

Luckily they are having the wedding and reception outside in August. So no flash is needed (another yay - I hate flash photography).

I have done weddings in the past, I used to charge $300 for the whole day - bride dressing, wedding, formal photos, and reception. Then I would give the bride and groom the rolls of film, which of course means I had no power over cropping or anything else. But that was 20 years ago and I'm assuming my price would have gone up even just a tiny bit. I'm a big fan of photoshop, so I'd like now to have some control over the end product.

I'd never heard of SmugMug, I'll have to check that out. It may be a good option for this and other gigs (bands, portraits, etc...).

I don't know if they are expecting a book of any kind. It's an alternative/cheap wedding, so they may just be thrilled with getting an affordable semi-professional.

I did google prices and they seemed to be all over the place, that's why I'm asking here. Just wondering what people here would say about pricing.

After reading all of these I'm thinking that I'll give them a range between $500 - 1000 depending on what they expect from me during the wedding and from the post processing.

Creating a facebook page for my photos is a great idea, once summer's here I'll have more time to do that.

Thank you all for your help and comments - I really appreciate it!

posted by saffronwoman at 9:43 PM on May 24, 2010

Just a note.. even if it is outside, I would still use a flash for portraits unless it's overcast (or even if it is). It will help get rid of unflattering shadows across the face (especially if the sun is high in the sky.. you wouldn't need it so much near sunset). Google "fill flash" for examples.
posted by starman at 10:47 AM on May 25, 2010

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