How much wedding photographers earn in 2021 (Survey Results)
Ever wondered how much a professional wedding photographer earns to shoot a wedding? That’s what I set out to discover earlier this year, with a short survey to broach a rather taboo topic…
Obviously, an anonymous survey comes with a lot of grey areas and assumptions, especially one that seeks to reveal something as personal as earnings.
Assumptions aside, this is a broad overview of the wedding photography industry here in 2021.
Let’s take a look at how the data was collected, then check out the results.
How the data was collected
I was keen to keep the survey as simple as possible, to ensure a) the maximum number of respondents; and b) the minimum amount of confusion.
The questions I chose to ask were as follows:
- What country do you shoot weddings?
- How much do you charge per wedding? (On average.)
- How many weddings do you shoot per year? (On average.)
This obviously ignores a lot of variables, but nevertheless, it still gives a broad representation on what the average photographer earns to photograph a wedding in 2021.
The ‘number of weddings’ question helped weed out responses that didn’t meet the criteria of photographers who were shooting at least 10 weddings a year.
This number is rather arbitrary, but the assumption here is that if a photographer only shoots 5 weddings a year for example, they’re probably not doing the job full time, so have the ability to charge significantly more (or less) than a full-time wedding photographer.
Also, if a photographer is shooting less than 10 weddings a year, one could assume they are just starting out in the industry, and thus are more likely to charge less than average.
Finally, this survey obviously doesn’t take into account the wedding photographer’s expenses.
With the questions sorted, the next goal was to get as many respondents as possible.
Over a 3-month period, I pushed the survey out to multiple locations, including to Shotkit newsletter subscribers, to More Brides and LIT customers, to the Facebook Page/Group, and to multiple other wedding photography related communities.
I also paid for some Facebook ads to extend the reach of the survey a little further, and encouraged sharing of the survey as much as possible.
The reaction was generally very enthusiastic – as wedding photography is such a competitive industry, we are all interested to learn how much our counterparts are charging!
Since the survey was 100% anonymous, I like to think this would have encouraged honest and accurate responses – the assumption here is that some might view the cost a photographer is charging to be somehow indicative of his/her abilities, so making the responses anonymous, removes any ‘ego-factor’.
Due to the lack of sufficient responses from photographers based in other countries, I had to limit the survey to the USA, the UK and Australia.
It’s interesting to see that out of the 3 countries examined, the USA leads the way as the most expensive country to hire a wedding photographer, followed by Australia, then the UK.
Obviously, due to the discrepancies in the number of respondents in each country, the data needs to be taken with a rather large grain of salt, but the results still provide a broad overview of the current climate of the wedding industry.
Why do Wedding Photographers Charge what they do?
If you’re planning a wedding, or perhaps you’re thinking about getting into photography, I think this question warrants a short discussion.
After all, earning around $3,000 for a day’s work does sound appealing – depending on how quickly the post production is handled, the hourly wage is probably on par with some lawyers and doctors out there!
Obviously, no photographer books weddings every single day of the week, so that attractive ‘hourly wage’ quickly dissipates into something far less attractive. However, whichever way you look at it, shooting weddings can be a great way to earn money.
For an outsider, it probably seems like daylight robbery to charge what we do. After all, most of the time there’s no actual physical product being exchanged – it’s hard to put a price on a digital file, no matter how precious the memory.
So why is the average price to hire a wedding photographer what it is?
The cost of doing business for the average wedding photographer seems to be quite similar across the board.
Costs include equipment, insurance (public liability + equipment), education, advertising/marketing, software, website hosting, file storage, travel, and in some cases, the various costs associated with studio space and staff too.
Time-wise, while clients are only seeing the photographer on their big day, all the emailing, phone calls, invoicing, post-production and final delivery all add up. Outsourcing some of these tasks can save time, but the flip-side of course is yet another expense.
With business costs remaining relatively similar across the board, and behind-the-scenes time being something that generally reduces as we become more efficient, what causes the variation in what wedding photographers charge?
In a word, experience.
The guy you’re tempted by who’s offering his wedding photography services on Craig’s List for $500 is best avoided.
He’s likely either: a) working full time at another job and is just ‘experimenting’; b) shooting his first wedding; c) somehow shooting hundreds of weddings to make ends meet, aka churn and burn.
Whatever the case, his experience, or quality of experience is probably close to zero.
Like any profession, the more times you do something, the better you get at it.
The best wedding photographers aren’t just better at what they do because of length of service, either – they continue to invest in themselves with education, and in their gear to ensure they’re using the best tools to achieve their vision for their clients.
Also, it’s worth mentioning that ‘experience’ in this case doesn’t only relate to pushing the shutter button…
Knowing how to anticipate important moments; sensing where to place yourself to remain incognito; the ability to efficiently manage large groups or bossy brides’ mothers; being able to come up with a photo ‘opportunity’ in the harsh midday sun in the middle of nowhere – all these things come with experience, and a desire to constantly better yourself at your art.
Wedding photographers should be able to charge more, based on their experience. The sad reality is, however, that due to the huge amount of competition, this isn’t always possible.
The photographers consistently charging $6,000+ to shoot a wedding have established themselves well in their market, no doubt through years of experience and hard work. They are however, as the survey shows, in the minority.
Wedding photographers are a dime a dozen – seriously, we’re everywhere. The barrier to entry of this industry is incredibly low – get yourself a decent camera and a few lenses, and you’re free to charge whatever you like to shoot a wedding.
Whether you’ll do a good job is anyone’s guess, but my point is – us wedding photographers are stuck in a hugely competitive market, and we work our asses off to do what we do. Physically, mentally and emotionally.
Don’t get me wrong, this is one of the best jobs in the world. Earning good money by making people so happy they cry – that’s priceless.
…but I also believe that the majority of us are paid in accordance with our efforts, our experience and our responsibilities. Being in charge of documenting the most precious day of our clients’ lives – now that’s a big cross to bear.
Final Questions | Over to You…
Will the effects of COVID-19 lead to a drop in the prices that wedding photographers can charge their clients?
Or will wedding photographers be able to continue raising their prices based on inflation?
Let me know what you think in the comments.