I was having a drink with a friend a few weeks back and he asked me what my rates were for weddings. I told him that my average rates come out to $1400 for an 8 hour wedding (I do adjust rates based on what the couple requests 😉 ).
He was a bit shocked at the high hourly rate (approx $175 per hour), specially when I told him my rates are actually low to middle end in the city.
“I wish I made that type of money for 8 hours of work”
So I took the discussion further and explained to him what else I do for the wedding. I broke it down into 3 sections and kept it strictly to the hours put in for a wedding shoot. I didn’t get into the whole artistic, seeing the light, having a style discussion
Everything before the actual wedding. This includes:
- back and forth emails with the couple (1 hour and sometimes more depending on the couple)
- face to face meeting with the couple (2 hours)
- face to face meeting with my assistant / second shooter (1 hour)
- scouting where I will be doimg (2 hours). Where do I go if it rains? Can I get the couple into their favorite gallery for a portrait? How to I maximize my time with them as I know it’s usually cut short
- gear preparation (2 hours). All my lenses, bodies, flashes are cleaned and tested. Memory cards are cleared and formatted. Batteries charged. Itinerary printed. GPS set with coordinates.
2. The day
The wedding day usually doesn’t start or end at the same time
- arriving early at the bride/groom’s house. The last thing I want is to be stuck in traffic so I plan to arrive early. (1 hour)
- I don’t think I’ve ever been to a wedding that is on time (8 hours of wedding shooting)
- I often stay later than the end to ensure I get the images the couple wants. Could range from 30 minutes to an hour at no extra charge (1 hour)
3. After the big day
My work continues when I get home
- uploading and backing up ALL images right as I get home (1.5 hour)
- edting a few images to send asap to the couple. I started doing this 3 or so years ago where I send a few nice shots the night of. Couples appreciate seeing quick results and it also allows them to share professional pictures on their Facebook, instead of first seeing all the blurry phone photos their friends take (1 hour)
- editing the rest of the images. Between myself and my assistant, I usually end up with 2000 images. Which are sorted down to 300-400 for the couple (sometimes more, all depends). Each image is edited individually for composition, cropping, light, black/white or colour or other, etc. A bunch are taken into Photoshop for further processing. I estimate my post work to 1.5 times the time I spend shooting the event. So an 8 hour wedding is 12 hours of processing.
- gallery creation, adjustments, blogging, getting paid balances due (2 hours).
So an average 8 hour wedding is actually about 30 hours of work. So that $175 hourly rate is more along the lines of $45. Factor in that I’d give my second shooter say $300, my take home is $36 an hour. Without mentioning my cost for insurance, gear upkeep, training, software, marketing/business… and that I like to actually take a vacation (I don’t get a 4% for vacation 🙂 )…. I think I should raise my rates some 🙂
But really, this is just to give people an idea of the time most professionals spend on a shoot. I used a wedding as an example, but it’s similar when doing family shoots or even shoots for musicians. Preparation, shooting, editing. So when you see that Craigslist or Kijiji photographer who charges $500 for an 8 hour wedding with 2 photographers, think about what preparation they are doing, the upkeep to their gear, the service they will give.
Yes, it can be expensive. But at the end of the wedding day, when the cake has been eaten, the dress has been stored, the flowers gone… the only thing you have left to make you go “awwww” are your photos.