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In-Depth Budget Breakdown for Wedding Photography

written by: Rose Smith•edited by: Tricia Goss•updated: 5/18/2011

Every professional photographer needs to develop a budget. Find out how to create a wedding photography budget breakdown for your photography business and how to average costs to determine the minimum to charge for a wedding package.

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    Establishing a concrete spreadsheet detailing costs is critical to the bottom line. To earn a decent profit in a wedding photography business, full-time photographers must charge enough to cover all costs and provide a full-time income.

    Charging the right amount benefits both you and your customers. Couples want to hire photographers who will turn one of the most important days of their lives into a permanent memory. They are willing to pay good money for quality photos.

    Wedding photography is hard work. You must lug heavy equipment to different locations, put up with bridezillas and nervous grooms and manage crowd control for larger wedding parties. You must charge enough to make this process go as smooth as possible and provide spectacular photos to boot. Excellent wedding photographers can typically charge two to four times their costs. To mark up your services correctly, you need to know all your costs--down to the paper clips.

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    Cost of Doing Business

    The Cost of Doing Business or CODB, covers more than the Cost of Supplies or COS. CODB covers your supplies, your overhead, travel expenses and labor costs. A Cost of Doing Business Spreadsheet needs to include the following:

    • Labor
    • Rent
    • Utilities
    • Business subscriptions
    • Equipment costs
    • Office supplies
    • Legal fees
    • Software
    • Printing fees
    • Travel expenses
    • Advertising
    • Professional memberships
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    Calculating your labor costs correctly involves charging for your time and anyone else's who is on your payroll. That means charging for all the time used to perform the job proficiently such as your initial meeting with potential customers, the time spent going over the contract, any practice time involved and the post-production meeting.

    Many photographers hire an apprentice to help carry equipment and assist in setting up shoots. Even if you hire a family member or an apprentice you don't pay, you still want to factor in the cost of hiring an apprentice. If there comes a time when your apprentice is not available and you have to hire an assistant, you will be paying them out of pocket. This is one reason so many small businesses go out of business--they forget to factor in all the actual costs. Paying out of pocket starts to add up quickly when you are running a business.

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    Rent and Utilities

    If you rent a studio outside your home, you must factor in the cost of monthly rent and any utilities such as gas, electricity or water charges. If you work out of your home, you can add a percentage of your mortgage and utility fees to the Cost of Doing Business.

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    Business Subscriptions

    A wedding photographer may subscribe to wedding photography or photography magazines. You can also include the cost of any professional photobooks or tutorials. Subscriptions also include the cost of a monthly cell phone bill used for business and any monthly Internet fees.

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    Factoring in the cost of photography equipment--tripods, cameras, lenses, film, filters--are obvious. What most wedding photography budgets fail to include are the cost of computers, printers, fax machines, cell phones or postage machines. All equipment used to run your wedding business must be included.40101zmcnmsqjop 

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    Office Supplies

    This is where we get to the paper clips. All office supplies need to be included, such as computer paper, office paper, printer cartdriges, staples, staplers and paper clips.

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    Legal Fees


    To get an iron-clad contract that protects you against providing your services and getting sued over a technicality, consider hiring a lawyer or paralegal to draw up a contract between you and your consumers. Make sure to factor in any legal cost into your mark up. Don't conduct business without a contract--not even for close friends. It's one of the quickest ways to end a friendship if something goes wrong. The risk isn't worth it.

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    Cost in any photography software you use to help with weddings. Also add the cost of business software such as payroll software, or billing software.

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    Printing Fees

    Printing fees include photography prints, but also the cost of printing any marketing brochures or any other professional printing fees.

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    Travel Expenses


    You will need to factor in the cost of the vehicle you use to get to and from your photography locations. If you use the family car, it is best to estimate the percentage of time you use it for business, add up all maintenance and monthly payments and calculate that percentage to add it to your costs. Use that same percentage to factor in the cost of gas for business travel.

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    New weddings are planned all the time. Therefore, professional wedding photographers must have an ongoing advertising budget for flyers, brochures, booth fees at bridal events, business cards, and online advertising such as a website or sending online press releases.

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    Professional Memberships

    Include professional photography or wedding associations or any memberships to business associations.

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    How to Calculate


    Once all the costs have been documented, it is time to calculate how much to charge customers. For equipment, average the cost over the estimated time the equipment will last. A $1,000 computer that last five years or 60 months, costs almost $17 a month. Labor can be averaged on the hours spent on each wedding and the hourly pay of you and your workers. For a one time advertising or legal fee, such as a lawyer's fee for writing a contract, divide the cost by 12 months.

    Let's use an example of a wedding photography budget breakdown that has business expenses of $2,000 a month and an average of three weddings per month. This photographer would need to charge a minimum of $1,400 per wedding. That covers all costs and allows for a markup of two times all costs, which is typically divided by the minimum number of weddings per month. According to Cost Helper, the average budget wedding photographer charges about $1,000. Moderate wedding photographers charge between $1,000 and $3,000 and luxury photographers charge $5,000 to $10,000.

    Whatever you decide to charge, make sure it covers each and every business cost you have and allows you enough of a markup. Strive to become a well-fed photographer rather than a starving artist.

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    Kornphotos,, Raising Capital for Small Business, December 20, 2009,

    Rosen Georgiev,, How Much Does a Wedding Photographer Costs?,



    Jonathan Fitch,

    Michele Meiklejohn,

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