Bride And Groom At Alter

I ran across an old article from 2003 (read the article here) where wedding photography is listed as one of the most overpaid jobs in the US. While the article is dated, I can tell you that same attitude still exists. We hear fairly frequently at weddings a conversation that goes like this:
Random guy – “You make $2500 a wedding?”
Me – “Not really. We don’t get to keep all that money.” (Statement ignored, dollar signs still in random guy’s eyes).
Random guy – “And you do a wedding a weekend?”
Me – “Yea, on average it’s about a wedding a weekend. There’s slow season where we don’t shoot a lot of weddings though.” (Statement ignored. He hears a wedding every weekend).
Random guy – “You guys have got the hookup.” (Meaning he’s considering buying a camera and seeing if he can “rake in the cash” like we do).

Rose Colored Glasses
I’ll have to admit that when we were first getting into wedding photography, I thought this same way, so I’m not blaming the people who are coming up with overly-optimistic numbers. The truth is though, the numbers don’t add up like they do in the best-case scenario. Best case scenario:
$5000 per wedding * 52 weddings a year = $260K

There are quite a few problems with this approach though. First off, how many photographers do you know that have started out charging $5000 per wedding? 0 for me, and I’ve known a lot of photographers. Then there’s the reality that each weekend won’t be booked. There may be enough people who like your work, but the dates brides get married on all tend to get crammed into those nice-weather months. Then there’s the sad reality that even if you did manage to book every weekend with a $5000 wedding, there are all kinds of crazy expenses involved. Retail space, wedding shows, websites, albums, prints, lawyers, accountants, TAXES (don’t get me started).

Back To Reality
When it comes down to the real numbers, it’s not nearly as exciting as the potential. Take a look at’s report on average photographer earnings here. What is painfully obvious is that starting out, photographers make as little as $11K their first year. If you’re on the high end of salaries at 5-9 years, you’ll be making a little over $47K. And after 20 years, the high end average is just above $60K.

From what I’ve seen, this is probably pretty close to right on the money. Photography is not a gold-mine field, regardless of how much it may appear to be profitable from looking at how much comes in from a single wedding.

How Much Per Hour?
PPA did some pretty extensive research into how much the average wedding photographer makes per hour. The average ended up being pretty close to $15 an hour if I remember right. How could that be? There are a few major contributing factors. First, employees. Second shooters, secretaries, and digital editing guys all will require a paycheck to put in time for the studio. Plus, albums can cost $500 or $1000 easy. Plus, it’s easy to miss how much time goes into scheduling appointments (then rescheduling when someone gets sick), the initial consultation, contract signing, the final consultation, drive time, wedding time, editing time, ordering time, album design time – I think you get the point. In the original article, the time was estimated at 20+ hours. If you’re looking at a main and second shooter on the day of a 10 hour wedding, that’s 20 hours right there. I must not have caught the bold font on the “+” side of the “20+”.

So, Are Photographers Overpaid Or Not?
I can’t say across the board whether photographers are overpaid or not. I can tell you that in my estimation, most photographers probably bring home less than what they should for the time, effort, and skill involved. Before adding photography to a list of top overpaid jobs, the writer probably should have done some more research. What may have seemed at first glance like a rip-off to photography customers may more than likely have been closer to short-changing professional photographers.

17 Responses to “Wedding Photography On Overpaid Jobs List”

  1. Devin Webb says:

    really great article again !

    • TJ says:

      Thanks! Out of curiosity, how much time would you estimate you’ve spent per wedding including all the meetings, editing, etc?
      TJ recently posted..Wedding Photography On Overpaid Jobs List

      • Devin Webb says:

        o wow. um, well still new to the wedding scene you know. but Id say with all the phone calls, emails back and forth and the meeting a couple times before the engagement session and editing (included) 4 hours there, then the typical 7+ hours on the job the day of (with driving time) and editing, ordering proofs (Im not even including the album making or ordering) maybe 14 hours total??

        • TJ says:

          The time adds up quick. We were surprised when we actually sat down to add all our time together how much time and how many dollars actually went into each wedding.

          I’ve seen estimates that on average a full-time photographer puts in close to 40 hours for a wedding (that’s for everything included in the wedding package). Crazy!
          TJ recently posted..Wedding Photography On Overpaid Jobs List

  2. Ziemann says:

    Great Stuff! I could not agree more with you. Made me think about a video I came across. It is an animated clip of meeting with a photography client. You will laugh.

    • TJ says:

      That video did crack me up. I think we may avoid a lot of those types of clients because our website lists our prices. It looks like your website does too. I think it makes a lot of sense for both photographer and client to be on the same page before talking about details. Thanks for sharing!
      TJ recently posted..Wedding Photography On Overpaid Jobs List

  3. Brian P says:

    Yea nothing is so easy….. but good article… Of course the best will do good and then of course the people that work in the richest areas will do great too…
    Brian P recently posted..How to Treat a Migraine Headache – Reduce Head Pain

  4. Andy says:

    I have to say i spend more hours than even i realize with weddings. Add up the shooting time the editing time, phone calls, meetings, travel then deduct your albums costs, fuels costs and so on and you will find a photogrpahers hourly wage isnt as great as many people think it is.
    Andy recently posted..Wedding Photography Buckinghamshire- St Albans- Sopwell House – Emma &amp Darren

  5. Ann Karen says:

    I could see, even though I am not a photographer, that having this kind of job is very rewarding. If you see that the overall outcome of the work done is exceptional and the married couple is so happy with the result, I believe is the most fulfilling part of the job.
    Ann Karen recently posted..Does your log home have a name

  6. Lets see, phone and email consultation, first meeting, portrait session, second meeting, photograph wedding, then off to a day with computer and photoshop, digital proofs, proofing review, then design consultation, designing the book, presenting design, make changes to book, produce book, deliver book, etc. How many professional photographers do you know that work less than 80 hours a week?
    Virginia Beach Wedding Photographer recently posted..Eminent Domain Abuse runs rampant in New Holly Township- New Jersey

  7. Dave says:

    Both comment and questions:

    I absolutely LOVE a great wedding photographer. They establish incredible memories. TJ: If your interaction with the wedding couple is usually positive during a day filled with nerves: more power to you.

    Now for a question. Our business is looking to create professional looking food oriented photos and videos. Any tips or places where we could look for more information??
    Dave recently posted..Bartender Stories

    • TJ says:

      Food photography is a completely different beast than wedding photography or any other type of photography. I’d recommend looking for someone who specializes in food photography in your area. I’d probably start with a Google search myself – ie food photographer in my city. You might get lucky and get a food photographer who also does video.
      If budget is a big concern, you might try Craigslist, but you’ll probably end up getting what you payed for.
      TJ recently posted..How To Promote A Photography Blog

  8. Dave says:

    Thanks: Google and craigslist it is….and yep we are looking for viedography also.

    Thanks for such a prompt response.
    Dave recently posted..Bartender Stories