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. Check out our extensive list of Wedding Photographers in Melbourne to help capture your special moments.
With that being said, we are a firm believer in doing your research and knowing what you're getting into (as much as possible) before making a significant 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 to be a worthwhile career for you?
Table of Contents
- 1 How Much Do Wedding Photographers Make?
- 1.1 Salary Varies Depending on Location
- 1.2 Your Experience Level Matters
- 1.3 Consider the Kinds of Weddings You're Photographing
- 1.4 What Are Your Wedding Photography Packages and Services?
- 1.5 How Much Wedding Photographers Make Is Extremely Personalized
- 1.6 How Much Do Wedding Photographers Make: Bring it All Together
- 2 How to Start a Wedding Photography Business
- 3 How Does a Wedding Photography Business Make Money?
- 4 Step 2: Form a Legal Entity
- 5 Step 3: Register for Taxes
- 6 Step 4: Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
- 7 Step 5: Set up Business Accounting
- 8 Step 6: Obtain Necessary Permits and Licenses
- 9 Step 7: Get Business Insurance
- 10 Step 8: Define Your Brand
- 11 Step 9: Create Your Business Website
- 12 Is This Business Right for You?
- 13 What Happens During a Typical Day at a Wedding Photography Business?
- 14 What Are Some Skills and Experiences That Will Help You Build a Successful Wedding Photography Business?
- 15 What Is the Growth Potential for a Wedding Photography Business?
- 16 What Are Some Insider Tips for Jump-Starting a Wedding Photography Business?
- 17 Tips to Maximize Profits for Your Wedding Photography Business
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 USD104,000 per year. On the other hand, Payscale states the average salary to be USD45,000 annually. There's quite a significant 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 want to understand how much you can make as a wedding and 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 found in smaller, more rural areas.
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 that wedding photographers can blame 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 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 matter.
When you're first starting 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 plays into that. If you don't already know the answer to this, do some research to determine the most popular venues/venue types in your area.
High-end, high-budget weddings are typically more lucrative than intimate, backyard weddings. After all, a casual elopement or micro wedding requires 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 USD2,000-USD3,500 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 have 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 and digital ones, which is another item you can charge extra to provide.
How Much Wedding Photographers Make Is Extremely Personalized
The answer to "how much do wedding photographers make?" is highly personalized. Along with the factors we've already covered, you also have to think about how much you want to work as a wedding photographer within a year, how much time you can dedicate to the job, and your business expenses. 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. Looking for the best Wedding Photographer in Melbourne? Check out our ultimate list here.
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 months do you want to work per year?
- How many weeks and 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 making 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 of what your expenses will be in the following categories:
- Second shooter and 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 protect 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 unique, beautiful industry… there's nothing like capturing the magic of a couple in love saying, "I do!"
How to Start a Wedding Photography Business
There are few things more important to a bride and groom than their wedding photos. Each photo takes them back to that special day surrounded by all their loved ones. The wedding photographer is an integral part of the process, there to capture the little moments the couple was too busy to enjoy at the time. Many couples also hire their wedding photographer for the events leading up to that particular day, such as engagement photos and engagement parties.
Learn how to start your own wedding photography business and whether it is the right fit for you. Start a wedding photography business by following these steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your wedding photography business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, appropriately registered, and legally compliant.
Step 1: Plan Your Business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns.
A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a wedding photography business?
Before getting started, you will need to purchase and familiarize yourself with all necessary camera equipment. Keep in mind that it is always recommended to have a backup of most items with you at all times.
You will need to budget for the following items (with approximate prices):
- Various lens sizes
- Miscellaneous equipment
- Computer and editing software
Additionally, you will need to have a well-thought-out, an attractive website built, develop a marketing plan, and lease an office/studio space.
What are the ongoing expenses for a wedding photography business?
In addition to your standard overhead expenses that come with leasing an office space, wedding photographers should budget for the following:
- Website hosting and maintenance
- Accounting software and services
- Editing software
- Business insurance
- Product samples
- Fuel costs
- Marketing materials
- Association fees
- Payroll and taxes
- Workers Compensation
Who is the target market?
Your primary focus will be on engaged couples seeking a photographer for their special day. This will often require you to attend multiple photoshoots, creating a photographic timeline of the engagement. For this reason, many wedding photographers can expand their services to include more than just wedding events.
How Does a Wedding Photography Business Make Money?
Your business will generate revenue from each service you provide. This includes photoshoot(s), album creating, photo printing (includes editing), and meetings. Some offer their services as a package, while others charge a fee-for-service.
How much can you charge customers?
Wedding photographers charge anywhere from USD2,500 to USD10,000, depending upon the package's specifics and the photographer's experience. Packages include a set amount of time, generally eight hours, while additional time is charged hourly.
How much profit can a wedding photography business make?
Once you have signed enough clients to pay off all your equipment, you will start to see a real profit in your business. If you charge USD2,500 per wedding and shoot two weddings per month, you have generated a revenue of USD5,000 per month. Staffing additional photographers will help generate additional revenue and increase your business' profit.
How can you make your business more profitable?
To ensure a more profitable business, consider implementing the following strategies:
- Offer additional services and goods, such as framing and accessories
- Have a team of photographers, each that have different specialties
- Offer your services at events
- Consider taking family photos as one of the services you offer
- Host photography webinars and community classes
What Will You Name Your Business?
Choosing the right name is essential and challenging. If you operate a sole proprietorship, you might want to use it under a business name other than your name.
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's essential to secure your domain name before someone else does.
Step 2: Form a Legal Entity
The most common business structure types are the sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), and corporation. Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your wedding photography business is issued. Two such reliable services:
- Four-point Seven out of Five Stars ZenBusiness (USD39 + State Fees)
- Three-point four out of Five Stars LegalZoom (USD79 + State Fees)
You can start an LLC yourself and pay only the minimal state LLC costs or hire one of the Best LLC Services for a small, additional fee.
Recommended: You will need to select a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
Step 3: Register for Taxes
You will need to register for various state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
Step 4: Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk if your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and another financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
- Open a business bank account
- This separates your assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' costs all in one place. It also builds your company's credit history, which can help raise money and investment later on.
Step 5: Set up Business Accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
Step 6: Obtain Necessary Permits and Licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines or even cause your business to be shut down.
Wedding photographers should require clients to sign a services agreement before starting a new project. This agreement should clarify client expectations and minimize the risk of legal disputes by setting out payment terms and conditions, service level expectations, and intellectual property ownership. Here is an example of one such services agreement.
Certificate of Occupancy
A wedding photography business sometimes has office space. Companies operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws, and government regulations have been met.
If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord's responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord can obtain a valid CO that applies to a wedding photography business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. Suppose your place of business will be renovated before opening. In that case, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business' location to ensure your wedding photography business will comply and obtain a CO.
Step 7: Get Business Insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company's financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with other risks. If you're unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it's a great place to start your business.
Step 8: Define Your Brand
Your brand is what your company stands for and how the public perceives your business. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
In this industry, word-of-mouth referrals are your most powerful marketing tool. While some consumers will answer an ad in the newspaper, most are more apt to seek out community recommendations. Once you have completed the required services for a client, follow up with them and get feedback. If they're satisfied, tell them about your referral program. Many customers have no idea how much of an impact this can have on your business.
Referrals don't have to come from just past clients—network within the community, developing relationships with cake makers, wedding planners, and venues. Offer a finders fee of 10-20% per client and always refer new clients to them whenever possible.
Social media sites such as Instagram are also a great way to gain exposure for your photography. Additionally, there are several business listing websites you could sign up for. Before partnering with one that charges a hefty fee, research their reputation and check how many views they get per month. Once you have met their guidelines, the International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers will allow you to apply for membership. If accepted, you will gain access to several resources, including an online "best wedding photographer" locator.
Consistently stellar customer service is critical to your business's survival. Weddings can be stressful times. Ensure you answer your client's questions promptly and keep in contact with them throughout the experience. If the wedding couple's customer service experience is subpar, it will not matter how much they love their photos; they will tell their friends about every struggle.
Step 9: Create Your Business Website
After defining your brand and creating your logo, the next step is to create a business website.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it's out of their reach because they don't have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen considerable advancements in the past few years that make the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn't delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating an essential website straightforward. You don't need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
- Using our website building guides, the process will be painless and straightforward and shouldn't take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
Is This Business Right for You?
Individuals who have gained firsthand experience in the photography profession and are confident enough in their skills to venture out on their own will realize tremendous success in this business.
What Happens During a Typical Day at a Wedding Photography Business?
If you consider opening your own wedding photography business, clearly define your professional goals and vision, both for the company and as an individual. Do you prefer to hire a staff of photographers, or will you be out in the field, capturing those perfect moments? How active of a role do you plan to take in the day-to-day tasks?
Most of the events you shoot will take place on the weekends, leaving you the weekdays to attend meetings and handle office duties. While each day will vary, they will include the following tasks:
Meeting with potential clients to discuss their needs, the services you offer, and pricing. Once hired, you will often have at least one more meeting, where you will further discuss their vision for the wedding and additional photo shoots.
If you are not familiar with the wedding site, visit the establishment to feel for lighting and identify ideal areas for shots.
- Prep for photoshoots
- Travel to each location
- Edit photos
- Meet with your client to share their photos and identify which ones they would like to order
- Send images off for printing and wedding book creation.
- Routine maintenance on photography equipment
- Educate yourself on the latest photography trends
- Attend networking events in the community
- Develop and maintain your marketing strategy
- Delegate responsibilities to your admin and team of photographers
For some artists, it's challenging to maintain a balance between their creative tasks and administrative duties. If this balance is something you struggle with, consider employing someone to take on the responsibilities that disengage you.
What Are Some Skills and Experiences That Will Help You Build a Successful Wedding Photography Business?
The ability to capture fantastic images is critical to the survival of your company. Individuals planning on entering this field are encouraged to spend at least a year working as an assistant wedding photographer. Working under various photographers with different styles and specialties would also enhance your skillset. This experience will help you:
- Define your style as a photographer.
- Build your confidence.
- Assemble a portfolio.
- Develop a personal style for communicating with your clients.
The Weddings and Portrait Photographers International (WPPI) hosts several annual conferences worldwide to advance your skills further.
Between networking, meetings, and photoshoots, a majority of your time will be spent with people. Therefore, strong interpersonal and communication skills are also necessary.
The service you are providing is an art. Artists are in a continuous state of improvement, ready and willing to learn the latest technique or accept constructive criticism. This should stand true for every aspect of your business. If photo editing is not your strong suit, consider taking a seminar and working with the various software systems. Watch online tutorials and subscribe to photography magazines and online blogs.
As mentioned, some artists struggle with maintaining a balance between their art and the business aspect of their company. If you do not possess strong business acumen, consider taking a course at your local college or hiring someone to manage those duties. When friends and family come to you asking for a discount, remind yourself this is a business, and you are here to make a living.
What Is the Growth Potential for a Wedding Photography Business?
This industry realized a higher rate of growth than most over the last five years. Forecasts up to the year 2021 indicate an expected annual growth rate of 3%. These patterns express the maturity of the industry and ability to grow, with high market demand, regardless of the economy's health.
Your business' growth will, ultimately, be defined by the effort you put into building it, as well as the demand in your area. Before opening your business, research the photographers in your area. What are their specialties? How does your style stand out from the competition? If you have a team of photographers, what makes their style unique?
One of the most significant resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need. Having a support network to turn to during tough times is a significant success factor for new business owners.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We've gathered necessary and valuable information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you're a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by our partner Startup Savant's women.
What Are Some Insider Tips for Jump-Starting a Wedding Photography Business?
Professional wedding photographers offer the following advice:
- Always have backups of your cameras and flashes, at the very least.
- To have consistently great pictures and minimize editing time, get into the habit of shooting in manual mode.
- Remember that this is a business that requires you to wear many hats.
- Keep in mind that, in most places, the wedding photography business is seasonal. Get creative with different ways you can offer the public your services during the off-season.
- Ask your clients a lot of questions. This is how you get a feel for what they are looking for out of their wedding photos.
- How and when to build a team
- Even if you decide to start your business as a solo photographer, you will need at least one assistant. Many photographers hire an apprentice or intern who works at a reduced rate (or for free) in exchange for school credit or professional experience. Just make sure each team member is skilled at communicating with clients and maintaining an air of professionalism that properly represents your business.
Tips to Maximize Profits for Your Wedding Photography Business
Mini-sessions are a great money maker during the holiday season because so many families are excited to send out holiday cards. A mini-session can mean different things to different photographers.
Sell Holiday Cards
After the mini-sessions are photographed, a fantastic follow-up money maker is to sell holiday cards. Here are a few tips that will undoubtedly help you maximize time and minimize effort.
- Use your professional lab's templates.
- Offer only a few options or two revisions.
- Sell custom-designed cards, but charge appropriately.
Sell Digital Files
However, if you were a photographer who didn't want to mess with selling holiday cards to my clients, open up the opportunity to purchase digital files for clients. Keep in mind the amount of money you'd typically make via print orders and holiday orders when pricing your digital files. At Vogue Ballroom, we have compiled a list of the Best Photographers in Melbourne to help you choose who captures your magical day.
Sell Parent Albums and Brag Books
The holiday season is the time to sell presents to your clients! Not only do prints make great gifts, but labs like Miller's Lab offer a ton of excellent products that both show off your images and make gift giving easy.