How Much Do Wedding Photographers Make? Here’s the Lowdown

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If you’ve ever considered working as a professional photographer, you’ve likely considered wedding photography. If you’re wondering how much do wedding photographers make, it’s important to understand all of the aspects of the work – not just what the annual average salary is.

How Much Do Wedding Photographers Make Per Year?

money jar with camera in background

In terms of salary, wedding photographers earn range from $40,000 to 60,000 per year according to Payscale. This is significantly higher than the earnings of general photographers, which are closer to $35,000 per year. On the high-end, approximately 10 percent of wedding photographers make more than $62,000 per year.

Keep in mind, there are many variables that influence your earning potential: location, types of services offered, years of experience. Also, when you are self-employed, there’s limit to how much you can earn, but you need to figure out how to leverage your work and make money off of more work.

Your time is limited – you can only shoot one wedding at a time on your own. It’s important to consider how much you want to make and set your rates accordingly because you’ll reach a point where you can’t increase your earnings by taking on more work.

Another factor affecting income is how often a wedding photographer can work in a given location. It’s possible to have a wedding year-round in some locations, but most areas have a wedding season. This means a photographer will only be working six months, give or take a few, out of the year.

They need to make up for the money they can’t earn during the poor weather months when they cannot work. To make up for this, some wedding photographers “moonlight” in other types of photography during the off-season that can be done indoors.

Though it might seem like attending so many weddings would be glamorous, this isn’t the case. Wedding photographers are on their feet for the entire wedding and ceremony in most cases.

They might need to travel or work in non-conventional environments. This could include destination weddings, courthouse weddings, backyard settings, etc. Weddings are as unique as the couple getting married, so expect many weddings to push your creativity to the extreme!

You will also work with different cultures, and with same-sex couples. Be open to new experiences. 

Knowing what you can earn and what you will probably have as your income are important when considering photography as a business opportunity.

Most wedding photographers are self-employed. This means a lot more is going to go into your success than just taking great photos. You can be the most artistically gifted photographer in the world, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to have a successful photography business.

Any amateur could create a website, post pictures, and call themselves a wedding photographer. This doesn’t make them a professional wedding photographer. The legitimate and successful photographers tend to have professional training or years of experience that substitutes for training.

Many photographers develop their technical skills over years of experience and might have even gotten their start in the business “second shooting,” which means backing up a lead photographer – before going out on their own.

Knowing How to Take Great Photos

Wedding photographers have mastered the art of advanced photography techniques. This enables them to produce the most memorable images of the big day. This also means they know how to work during the day and know where to be and when.

They meet with couples in advance to discuss their approach; they compose shots; they edit the pictures after which might include retouching, they curate the photos, and they might even assemble albums. Some also offer framing services.

Brides hire wedding photographers to capture the perfect moment of a couple’s big day. Their pictures must be technically perfect, but even technically perfect photos don’t make you a great wedding photographer automatically.

Photography is an art and a craft and if you intend to shoot weddings, you are going to take an artistic approach and you must hone your craft.

Keep in mind, even a novice photographer could set up a website and say they are a pro, so you need to invest time in sorting out the true professionals from the amateurs. The successful individuals typically have some photography schooling.

Along with learning the technical aspects of how to use the camera and its accompanying equipment, a professional photographer will need to learn to run a business. Here’s our in depth guide for starting a photography business to help you get started.

Working as a Freelance Wedding Photographer

bride and groom at altar

Most professional photographers are freelancers, which means they are working for themselves. Being freelance, earning potential is linked to reputation, as well as marketing and all aspects of running a business.

Operating a wedding photography business is a lot different than photography as a hobby, so if you are considering entering the wedding photography business, it’s important to take into account the business obligations you’ll also have.

Marketing is a vital investment for promoting your business and maximizing your earning potential. Creating a functional website, as well as promoting yourself on several social media platforms is also important. Be sure to showcase your work where your target audience will be most likely to see it. 

Advertising with wedding planning websites, and promoting yourself with social media that is associated with wedding services is a good way to reach your audience.

The average rate for a one-day photography package is between $2,000 and $3,000, but can be as much as $10,000 in some areas. However, keep in mind that part of that rate will be allocated to business expenses. The more high-end services you offer, and the more jobs you contract, the more you will earn.

There is expected to be fewer professional wedding photographers in the next 10 years because there will be a decline in demand. More and more people are using digital photography, which means it’s easier for a novice photographer to shoot a decent wedding.

Many people will turn to friends and family who have some basic skills or who take pictures as a hobby in an effort to cut costs on their wedding.

Despite the market not being as strong as it might have been, wedding photography is the one type of photography people are still willing to invest in. If you find a niche and you build your reputation, you can count on job security for many years to come.

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