A Friendly Pricing Breakdown

Tana Helene Photography

Tana Helene Photography

So there’s a little something that’s been on my mind I just have to share. I read this article once about a photographer in the wedding biz admitting that prices were insanely inflated in the entire industry. Maybe in LA and New York, but in Detroit and the little nooks of Michigan, I’d like to set things straight that this simply isn’t true. Or maybe I just work with small business owners who have realistic pricing. I’ve done some math. I’ve crunched the numbers and I’m not only here to defend myself, but I’m here to defend all of my friends in the industry.

Bear with me, because this is a long one…

I’ve chosen to use photography as an example because I’m insanely passionate about wedding photography and I think it is the number one investment you should make (after you’ve hired me, of course!). I also think it’s extremely important to note: choose a local, small business owner. I’ve seen the work put out by the big brands who have a million photographers and DJs working for them and it’s not a personal experience AT ALL. Not to mention, their work is sub-par at best. Just don’t do it.

Tana Helene Photography

Tana Helene Photography

Getting on with my point... My pals in the photography industry have put in the work by attending (expensive) workshops all across the country and watching all the videos. They’ve played with the difficulty that is natural light and mastered the ability to capture pure moments of love and connection. I’m not talking about those people who pose you and snap a photo at Sears. I’m talking about the magicians of photography. I’m talking about when you go to their Instagram feed you can feel the passion between the people they’ve captured and you want to BE them. PSA: If you don’t feel that way about your wedding photographer’s photos, you need to reevaluate what you’re investing in. Wedding photography isn’t just a fancy detail that’s nice to have.
It’s a serious investment ensuring you will love looking back at the most perfect day, captured in the most perfect way.

Let me break it down for you. Would you rather have McDonald’s cheeseburgers at your wedding or grassfed, locally sourced angus prepared by The Burger Expert? We all know the answer (and I don’t even eat meat). No one is serving McDonald’s at their wedding (unless you’re really laid back, in which case, hire me now). Do you think the experienced burger guru is getting paid the same as an entry level fry cook at Mickey D’s? Notta. The Burger Expert probably started at McDonald’s and worked their way up the ladder through time and experience.

Okay, enough about burgers. Your photographer may completely shock you when they tell you that your wedding day is going to cost $2000 for at least 10 hours for two photographers. Most photogs these days have a second shooter and if they don’t, they need to get one. Capturing each of your faces when you see each other for the first time isn’t possible with one camera.

K, so… You start really talking with your photographer roughly one month out before your wedding. If you don’t have a planner or coordinator, who assumes that role? Guess who! Your photographer. So now they are also building a timeline for you and reaching out to various vendors to assure you’re all on the same page.

Let’s say you want your first look somewhere amazing. Well, if they’ve never been to the area or venue before, first, they are going to want to come check it out, see how the lighting is, see what could potentially be a good backdrop, and scope out surrounding areas that may be more your style so they can make suggestions.

Tana Helene Photography

Tana Helene Photography

Tana Helene Photography

Tana Helene Photography

Then after all of this pre-planning which probably took at least 15 hours of their lives between initial meetings, emails, phone calls, and driving around, now on the day-of they have to guide you down the aisle, wrangle your unruly wedding party, remind you when it’s time to do your first dance, and keep you on track so you can have a successful and care-free evening, there’s an extra 10-12 hours.

When all of this is said and done, they’re probably going to fry their eyeballs off staring at a computer mulling through thousands of photos, trying to determine which ones are the absolute best and then editing them meticulously. Can you imagine staring at a computer going through thousands of photos in detail for days on end? My head hurts thinking about it.

Tana Helene Photography

Tana Helene Photography

Small business owners still have overhead costs that come out of their pocket - office equipment like computers, printers, paper, staples, toner, paper clips. There’s also wi-fi. You can’t have your own business in 2019 and not have the best wi-fi. Your cell phone bill isn’t reimbursed and you have no complimentary office phone to use. If there isn’t parking at the event, that $20 parking fee gets paid by someone, probably not you, the client. All that good stuff comes out of their hard earned paycheck.

On top of ALL that, owning your own small business does not afford you the amazing benefits you get at a “normal” job. There is no insurance, no sick leave, no vacation time, no 401K, and no simple W2 to file at the end of January.

Consider this, many of us book between 15 and 20 weddings per year. At $2000, that’s a total of $40,000, assuming you have 20 clients. That’s not a glamorous salary, and it’s certainly not when you’re paying for everything out of your own pocket. And it’s definitely not if you’re sharing that with another person.

So let’s break that down hourly. Let’s say all together, with pre-planning, day-of madness, and editing, your photographer spends 45 hours on you and your wedding day. Let’s say they are a husband and wife team so they split that evenly. That’s a whopping $22 per hour. You have paid your beloved photographers $22 per hour to curate a lifetime of memories for you. There are people punching a time clock who hate their jobs and don’t invest that much time, effort, thought, or soul into their work who make $22 an hour.

So really, are we asking that much? I don’t even want to get started on how undervalued planners are. We spend countless hours working with couples, whether it be full planning or month-of, and our pricing is often less than a 12 hour day with two photographers. I did a break down of my hours the other day and determined I’m making anywhere from $17 - $26 an hour. Our lives aren’t as glamorous as you may think and we aren’t trying to take your money and run. We are in this industry because we are passionate about you. We are passionate about love and the institution of marriage and we want to make your day one that you can remember in a beautiful, fun, relaxed, and endearing way.

So if you’re considering a planner, photographer, or large vendor for your wedding day, consider their value. Think about the heart and soul they put into their work and how it shows not only in their newsfeed, but in their personalities. Think about the lives you are changing because you decided to support a small business owner. Consider everything they put into it before you question their pricing or ask them to do it for less than they deserve.

The End.

Kayla Dunn