How much should I charge for photography sessions?

Question by Sandra: How much should I charge for photography sessions?
I am 17 and I need to build my photography portfolio for a class. I have been doing some shoots for free. I have gotten a lot of compliments and I have already been asked to take photos at a wedding for payment. In the area I live in I have noticed some outrageous pricing for photographers. The cheapest I have seen was $ 250 for an hour session and a $ 400 photo shoot just for the wedding without the reception and extra photos. For the reception and 2 hours of extra photos along with the wedding this lady was charging $ 860! I know I am not very experienced and I just think that is ridiculous.. So my question is… How much should I charge for some cheap photo shoots?

Best answer:

Answer by gandrew
Things have changed with the digital age. During my 27 years of photography, we depended on reprints for our profit margin. Now, anybody with a $ 99 dollar printer can make the prints, so that is gone. Your customers probably want a file copy of your work, on what ever media that may be, and that means control of your work is gone. If you give them raw data files you can give it away for cheap, just your hourly time invested if you choose. If you are photoshopping lots of shots for corrections that needs to be charged for your time and skill. In the end, if you give your work away it will be seen as having little value. If you charge for it, the customers value the work. If you charge too much, no one will hire you. That is the fine line all pros walk. Go to wedding expos at the mall, talk to exhibitors and learn.

Know better? Leave your own answer in the comments!

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6 Responses to How much should I charge for photography sessions?

  1. Poshboy16 says:

    Charge cheap amounts first. Gradually increase the price as you get more experienced, and get more known.

  2. Eric Lefebvre says:

    “I have noticed some outrageous pricing for photographers”

    You don’t know what the hell you are talking about.

    Let me just give you a basic walk through the costs of running a photography business.

    Let’s take your 400$ to shoot a wedding ceremony. I’ll assume 2.5 hours of shooting.

    1 – Business costs.
    Businesses have costs to operate … things like professional liability insurance, rent on a studio, paying an accountant and lawyer, marketing, phone, internet, web hosting, office supplies … so on, so forth.

    These are costs that an EMPLOYER normally pays but you see … a photographer is typically SELF-EMPLOYED so HE has to pay for these costs himself. For example, I spend 4000$ a year just on marketing. Do you, as an employee at a 7/11 pr whatever pay for 7/11’s marketing out of your paycheck? I didn’t think so.

    So we have all these costs that we have to cover and the money for that has to come from the contracts we sign. Each business will have different costs so for our argument here, I’ll say 1/3 of every contract goes to pay for the business.

    So for your 400$ wedding we have 1/3 going to pay for business costs or 133$

    400$ – 133$ in business costs leaves us with 267$ .

    2- Service/Product specific costs.
    Then we have shoot specific costs … things like travel, the cost of the final product, having to hire an assistant, special gear rental …

    These are costs specific to the package or service you are offering. If the bride and groom wanted an album included in the price well my cost for an album is 130$ that’s what it costs me to produce it.

    One of the costs is gas spent traveling and wear and tear on the vehicle. I’ll assume very little travel on this one … no going to the rehearsal.

    travel to meet the clients to sign a contract: 50km
    travel back from meeting: 50km
    travel to the church: 50km
    travel from the church: 50km
    travel to the meet the couple to hand over final product: 50km
    travel home: 50km

    So 300Km in total … at 0.50 per km (standard rate for business and government) we are looking at about 150$ in travel costs.

    This is money we need to put aside to cover gas and repairs on our car … this isn’t the same as someone using their car to go to work because they have other options. They don’t typically HAVE to have a car to work., they can bus, carpool … you can’t do that as a wedding photographer. For a wedding photographer, you car is as much a tool as your camera.

    So 267$ – 150$ in travel costs = 117$

    Now in terms of final product, for this example let’s assume the photographer is an idiot and giving away a high resolution disk. Doesn’t have an assistant and isn’t renting gear … I’ll ignore the cost of making a disk (around 4$ ) for simplicity sake.

    So we are now left with 117$ .

    3- Time shooting does not equal time worked.

    The time worked on a project is way more than the time spent with a camera in the hand. A typical 10 hour wedding for me is a full weeks worth of work but le;ts look at your 2.5 wedding hour example.

    15 minutes talking to the couple on the phone and booking a consult
    30 minutes driving
    1 hour meeting
    30 minutes driving home
    2 hours testing and preping gesr (charging batteries, testing lenses and camera, packing bags)
    30 minutes driving to the church
    2.5 hours shooting ceremony and some formals
    30 minutes driving home
    30 minutes backing up the files on multiple backups
    1.5 hours post processing
    30 minutes updating backups
    30 minutes driving to a meeting
    1 hour meeting
    30 minutes driving home
    15 minutes doing paperwork for the contract

    Total time for this 2.5 hour shoot? 750 minutes or 12.5 hours.

    117$ / 12.5 hours of work = a hourly wage of 9.36$ an hour or just above or below minimum wage (depending where you live).

    Yeah … I’ll surely be putting my daughter through college on that kind of money!

    My 10 hour wedding package starts at 1500$ and that’s BEFORE prints and my profit margin still isn’t great.

    “How much should I charge for some cheap photo shoots?”

    I can;t answer that for you … you need to sit down and do a proper business plan … factor all your costs and insure that you are both covering your costs and paying yourself an acceptable salary at the end of the day.

  3. American Idle says:

    I wouldn’t dream of doing a wedding on my own until I had spent time working as an assistant or second shooter. Weddings are some of the trickiest shoots because, lighting is generally poor, and you don’t have control over it. It’s your job to capture memories that CANNOT BE RECREATED. If you screw up, or your equipment fails, what are you going to say? It’s too important for them to take any chances, unless they literally don’t have enough money for a photographer. Also, the gear needed to properly shoot a wedding is far above what most 17 years olds have or could afford.

    Honestly, most 17 year olds than THINK they are good, really aren’t. You could be the rare talent, but without seeing your work I can’t judge. Family, friends, and the average Joes are not the best critics, as these are the sort of people that think Instagram is photography and are impressed by almost anything. Impressing those who know what they’re talking about (photographers, artists etc.) is an entirely different thing. I can bang out a few songs on the piano, and the average Joe would probably think I know what I’m doing, but a musician would instantly pick out my many mistakes. I can change the oil and perform basic maintenance on my car, but I’m not about to call myself a mechanic and start charging people. You see what I’m saying? There’s a learning curve. Unless you’re a prodigy, and you have set up a legitimate business, 17 is too early to start charging people. Keep learning, expanding your portfolio, work an entry level position in the field, and maybe in a few years you’ll be ready.

    I would volunteer to take pictures – just for the experience. If they turn out, I’m sure the bride and groom would be happy to have them as well. But I would encourage them to hire a seasoned pro that can guarantee results.

  4. Andrzej says:

    Calculate the time required and use your desired hourly rate…

  5. Joanna Reichert Photography says:

    I find it outrageous that you think wedding photographers charge ‘outrageous pricing’ for their services.

    Was going to answer but Eric beat me to it and I urge you to put aside any self-righteous emotion and read what he’s written.

  6. Tim says:

    Those amounts are ridiculous.

    There is no way a photographer could ever hope to stay in business by charging such a ridiculously tiny amount. They are basically losing money to work.

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