If you’re wondering, “how much do wedding photographers make, actually?!” you’re not alone. This is a common question I’m often asked by people interested in a career in wedding photography.
Being a wedding photographer is an incredible job that can be very rewarding! As a wedding photographer based in Montana, there’s nothing else I can imagine myself doing.
With that being said, I am a firm believer in doing your research and knowing what you’re getting into (as much as possible) before making a major life decision, such as embarking on a new career.
One of the most important aspects to consider is the financial one: will you make enough money as a wedding photographer for it to be a worthwhile career for you?
To help you answer this question, I’ve put together a guide answering, “How much do wedding photographers make in 2021?”
How much do wedding photographers make?
I’ll be upfront with you: the annual salary of a wedding photographer can vary a lot. For instance, Ziprecruiter lists the average wedding photographer salary to be $104,000 per year. On the other hand, Payscale states the average salary to be $45,000 annually. There’s quite a large difference between those two statistics!
So, which number is accurate?
Well, technically, both are. How much wedding photographers make depends on a variety of factors, such as location and experience level.
If you really want to understand how much you can make as a wedding and/or elopement photographer, you need to consider these items (and more). Let’s take a look at the key factors that determine a wedding photographer’s salary…
Salary varies depending on location
Wedding photographer salaries often vary depending on one’s location. For example, photographers based in big cities and popular tourist destinations often make more money than those based in smaller, more rural locations.
This makes sense: where the cost of living is higher, people often need to charge higher rates. Plus, big cities and tourist hotspots tend to attract destination wedding clientele with larger budgets, so wedding photographers can charge more for these kinds of weddings. Plus, simply living in a more highly-populated area often means more opportunities to find clients.
Your experience level matters
How much you can make as a wedding photographer is dependent on how much your clients are actually willing and able to pay for your services. This largely depends on how much value they see in your work, which is where your experience, reputation, and the quality of your work really matter.
When you’re first starting out as a wedding photographer, you won’t make as much as a more experienced photographer. First of all, there are many areas of wedding photography you’re probably still learning about and getting the hang of. Furthermore, you’ll probably need to work on building your client base over time. Beginner wedding photographers usually don’t have a ton of clients right off the bat. The more experience you have, the more weddings you’ll photograph. More weddings = more money!
Consider the kinds of weddings you’re photographing
Next, your annual salary as a wedding photographer will depend on the kinds of weddings you’re photographing. For example, do you mostly shoot destination weddings? Elopements? Resort weddings? National park weddings?
Ask yourself what kinds of venues you most often shoot at, and keep in mind how your location and experience level play into that. If you don’t already know the answer to this, do some research to find out what the most popular venues/venue types are in your area.
High end, high budget weddings are typically more lucrative than intimate, backyard weddings. After all, a casual elopement or microwedding require very different photography needs than a large wedding at a luxury venue.
What are your wedding photography packages and services?
When analyzing how much you could make as a wedding photographer, you need to consider your photography packages and services.
Most wedding photographers, on average, charge anywhere between $2,000-$3,500 for a single day wedding photography package. A standard wedding photography package includes 8-12 hours of photography, a second shooter, photo editing, and a digital photo gallery (with downloads). Some photographers also include an engagement photoshoot in their packages.
You may also want to include some travel fees in your package rates (i.e., your travel expenses for any location within four hours of driving time), but charge additional fees for any travel beyond that distance. You should also charge extra for additional hours beyond the initial hours in your package rate. Many couples want print copies of their photos as well as digital ones, which is another item you can charge extra to provide.
How much wedding photographers make is extremely personalized
I’m sure you’ve realized this by now, but the answer to “how much do wedding photographers make?” is extremely personalized. Along with the factors we’ve already covered, you also have to think about things like how much you want to work as a wedding photographer within a year, how much time you can dedicate to the job, and what your business expenses will be. These factors will help you determine how much you can realistically make and how much you need to make for this endeavor to be financially sustainable for you.
Here are some questions to help as you consider these topics:
- How many weddings do you want to shoot per year?
- How many weeks and/or months do you want to work per year?
- How many weeks and/or months CAN you work in a year? (Keep in mind when wedding season is, how long it lasts in your area, etc.)
- If you have another job, how much time will you need for that job? How much time can you spend on wedding photography?
- How many weddings do you expect to book per year?
- Will you be doing any non-wedding photography? If so, how often?
Your photography rates
Based on what we’ve already discussed in this article, ask yourself:
- How much can you realistically charge for your wedding photography services based on your experience and the demand for your services?
- How much can you charge for your non-wedding sessions (portrait sessions, maternity, newborn, engagement, etc)?
- Ideally, how much would you like to make as a wedding photographer?
Your business expenses
- Do you know how much you need to make for your business to break even? How about to make a profit?
- Do you know what your business expenses are? (Consider costs per wedding, per month, and per year.) Make sure you have a general idea for what your expenses will be in the following categories:
- Second shooter and/or lighting assistant costs
- Travel fees (gas, plane tickets, etc.)
- Miscellaneous costs for wedding shoots (snacks, food, attire, etc.)
- Photo editing hours (so you can factor that into your package rates)
- Equipment (photography and lighting gear as well as computer gear for editing)
- Insurance (protect your gear!)
- Business licenses
- Money set aside for taxes
If your wedding photography business is your primary source of income, you may also want to include personal expenses such as healthcare, rent/mortgage, and groceries in your calculations, too. In this scenario, you don’t just need to keep your business afloat; you also need to make sure you can live comfortably!
How Much Do Wedding Photographers Make: Bring it all together
Now that you have a better idea of how much you can and want to work, how much you can charge for your services, and what your business expenses are, it’s time to analyze! Based on the areas we covered in this post and the questions you asked yourself above, will you make enough money to cover your business and living expenses? Are you content with how much you would be making?
Don’t forget that building your wedding photography business takes time. Your starting salary will increase as you gain more experience. So, don’t lose hope or feel discouraged if you have to start small! Plus, no matter what, you get to work in such a special, beautiful industry…there’s nothing like capturing the magic of a couple in love saying, “I do!”
If you have any other questions about getting started as a wedding photographer, please send me a message or leave a comment below! I’d love to help you get started with your dream wedding photography business!