A little wedding math

Why does wedding photography cost so much? I hear this question a lot. And not just from prospective brides, often it’s from the general public who perceives that it is expensive. While I agree it’s expensive in terms of what it costs compared with, say a Taco Bell value meal, it’s not expensive when you figure all the costs involved. Let’s just say that out of that $4,000 you spend on photography for your big day, the photographer isn’t exactly walking away with a lot.

Doing wedding photography right is an expensive proposition. Setting aside the equipment ($1,400 lenses?!), taxes, training, travel, office, insurance, hardware, software and millions of other little expenses that eat away all the profit, let’s look at one particular segment, marketing.

We recently did our big bridal show for the year. We paid $1,300 for our booth. Add to that around $750 in costs for brochures, prints, books, etc. Add another $300 or so in other expenses to get it going. I’ll be generous and not add anything for our time or the travel and meals for the show. We have a total of $2,350.

At the show, we booked two weddings. While I fully expect to book more from calls over the next few weeks, let’s just say those two were the only weddings we booked from it. At that point we would have spent $1,175 per customer in marketing costs. By any measure in any business that is an insane amount of money to get a customer. Let’s say we book five more off the show. That’s still $335 per booking. That’s more in line with marketing costs for the auto industry. And I promise, even in hard times, the auto dealers make far more money than photographers do.

Add to that all the previous costs of doing business we didn’t price earlier and you have a very slim margin on what seems like a lot of money. So while you may feel like you might be spending a lot on photography “just because it’s a wedding” know that the costs involved in shooting a wedding right are incredibly high as well.

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