$25,000 for a Wedding? It's Easier Than You Think!

$25,000 for a Wedding? It's Easier Than You Think!
The market is saturated — true. Competition is driving prices into the ground — sure. But it can be done: generating more income through wedding photography can be achieved. The question is, are you up for the challenge?

First things, first: I have booked multiple weddings charging $25,000. I will share the details of such a booking later in this article, but for now, the point is, if I can do it, so can you. For the purpose of this discussion, I have tried to steer clear of style and technical ability but instead focused on the business part of the discussion. 

Perception of Premium

This one is almost a prerequisite. But first, let’s decode “perception of premium”. You don’t have to be the best. But you have to appear to be one of the better ones. You don't have to be the most expensive. But you would be pricier than the budget wedding photographers. How do you “appear” to be one of the better ones? There are so many ways to appear “premium” in addition to your technical ability. I choose my branding colors carefully, I wear funky pocket squares, I meet my clients in the studio where possible, I offer them gourmet wines and teas, I print their quotes on thicker art papers... you get the drift. These are just examples, but the basic point is, delight your client. And do not appear stingy. Make it interesting by showing that you’ve put thought into your choices, right from the information on your website to your pricing to your album samples to your choice of stationery. To be fair, I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg here. The "perception of premium" deserves an article by itself. 

Big Brand Versus Value Addition

One way to earn big bucks through wedding photography is by becoming a big brand name. Shoot a celebrity wedding, go heavy on the PR and you might have a shot few years down the line by becoming a celebrity photographer yourself. But, that’s a slim chance. You may or may not make it. If you are a bit more risk averse like me and don’t necessarily mind not being a celebrity photographer, then adding value to your clients is a safer bet for adding money to your pockets. Let's explore an example. As a wedding photographer, you’re already putting in significant resources in project management of a wedding. So it might be worthwhile offering partially/fully sub-contracted video services under your studio brand. Sure, offering video services comes with its own headaches (And I’ve written about those in previous articles, part one and two). The trick, however, is to find the right team for your video offerings and retain the project management along with profits within your studio. Sure, the profits might be lower if you outsource or sub-contract, but hey, some extra money is better than no extra money! Some other examples are photo/video booth services or an add-on such as a customized guest signing book from the couple's engagement photos. Remember, it’s all about leveraging your project management influence to get clients to purchase additional services from you rather than from elsewhere down the road. 

If You Don’t Stock It, They Can’t Buy It

You’ve probably heard this one before. I’ve tried this first hand and seen the positive results. Let me give you an example: we decided to trial a premium wedding video product which would include an interview session for the couple and their families (on a day before the wedding) to share the couples’ story, an engagement couple shoot for video at a scenic location and a third shooter on the day focusing on creative shots using drones and slow-motion cameras. This was in addition to the two cinematographers that we offered as a standard offering. We trialed it for one wedding at our own cost and then decided to price it at $10,000. In the first year of this service being available, we sold three without trying too hard and even more clients upgraded from our lowest offering to the mid-range one. It got me thinking about how wrong I was about assuming that people wouldn’t want to spend so much on video. Similar is the case for premium albums. And for same-day-edit videos. When you are scoping out new services or products to offer, remember this: it is easier to charge a bigger mark-up on premium level services and products. And don’t be shy to experiment. 

You Get a Raise for Saying "No"

This is a small yet important point. If you say yes to everything and everyone, your clients won’t respect you as a high-art-maker-with-principles-and-the-looks-of-a-greek-god/goddess. I digress. It’s easy to say yes to shooting group portraits of all the guests at the wedding, or agreeing to give a "special discount", or giving away your raw files because you are desperate to get this client. But you need to hold firm and be ready to walk away from a bad deal for your business. Only then will you be able to command consistently higher prices. 

Make It Work for You

Wedding photography and cinematography is a seriously competitive business. To add to the mix, it’s seasonal in most places on the globe and, roughly 75% of all conventional western weddings take place on a Saturday. So how do you maximize your business with these constraints? I know photographers who have developed an international reputation and shoot in two different parts of the world to keep the projects flowing throughout the year and others who offer lower prices for weddings during the week or off-season. Our studio took on a good chunk of South-Asian and mixed weddings as each such wedding can have multiple events and ceremonies that are not on Saturdays. Find out what combination works for you and then drive that home. The more you can fill your low periods, the more comfortable you will feel in charging premium prices without getting into desperate situations. 

What Did My $25,000 Invoice Look Like?

This was a mixed wedding across two days. The first day had the main wedding ceremony. The second day consisted of another ceremony and the reception in the evening. The client had also booked an engagement photo-shoot along with our premium video service (described above).  

  • Photography - $14,000

    • Second Shooter for both days

    • Engagement Shoot 

    • Guest Signing Book from Engagement Photos

    • Premium Wedding Album + Parent Copies

  • Cinematography - $11,000

    • Drone + Slow Motion Shooting for half-day

    • A half-day Family Interview Session for the ‘Love Story'

    • Same-Day-Edit Film

  • Approximate Costs: $8,000

    • $3000 for Photography: Equipment hire, second shooter, light assistant for the engagement shoot, albums, editing

    • $5000 for Cinematography: Everything 

These are some of the areas you can focus to increase your income through weddings. I find the business of wedding photography as fascinating as the photography itself. If you are a wedding photographer/cinematographer, what have you done or are doing to increase your income? Please share any thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

Nesh Soni's picture

Nesh Soni is an award-winning wedding, commercial and travel photographer currently based in London, UK.

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'but my brother-in-law has a nice camera and makes good photos of his kids, he said he'll do it for 300 quid'

Those clients would never be your $25,000 clients anyway 😊 So good riddance!

Will do it for 50.

Nesh, to make $17000 after your expenses from multi day Indian wedding with both photo+video and all described above is actually not that much. I do photograph 4-7 multi day Indian weddings and I know my video friends who do video and what they charge so this should be a bigger number in long run IMO... Of course you get budget obstacles in the way but for serious clients these numbers should not be a problem if you live in a city where spending is a common way of living :) Happy shooting.

Thank you for the comment Jozef 🙂 It was a two day (1.5 days to be precise) wedding and the rest were creative shoots that we sold. And you are absolutely right! There are clients out there ready and able to pay much more! This is precisely what I’m trying to say: $25,000 is not that high a number and therefore more photographers should get used to charging that and believing that they can charge that.

I only do High End Weddings. Never that 1k junk. Not worth it. Always turn them down.

That’s the way to go Mark 👍🏽

Hey fellow Air Force brother. I spent 20 years (72-94). I read your bio. I was expecting to see a wedding photographer. All I do is weddings and seniors now, so I learn a lot from others.

I don’t get it, I looked at your profile expecting to see high ends shots, but saw nothing on Instagram and 2 wineries that you own on LinkedIn. Do you have examples of your high ends shots?

Hey Bill & Chris, sorry my website is currently being revamped and so I've pointed to my travel blog. However, if you wanted to see some of my other work, I've now uploaded some images on to my FStoppers profile, just for you :) Also, I can assure you that although it would be nice to have that kind of money, but I do not own any wineries :D

Hi Nesh, my comment was to Mark actually. Thanks anyway

Equipment hire should be absorbed by the photographer, not charged to the client IMO.

That’s not true for a $25k wedding. Or job for that fact. The client of a large shoot almost always pays for equipment rental.

You could do it either way in my opinion. However, either way, I'm just highlighting that there might be a cost associated with hiring equipment that you might have to either charge the client or absorb it yourself.

A lot of industries offer equipment/kit rental as a separate line item. I see a lot of freelance DP’s who charge a rate for themselves and one of their kit. I think a lot of people starting out forget that the thousands of dollars that they have invested in equipment prior to going into business still needs to be looked at as a recoupable expense. You can bet that the $50 headshot or $1000 wedding photographers aren’t factoring in the $10k in gear they buy each year (paid for with day jobs).

Nothing should be absorbed... unless you are a charity or this is a hobby. Business is business. A professional should charge a rate of their choosing, plus all billable expenses and virtually everything is a billable expense. Even lunch!

Yes daily expenses, lunch etc but I think, and I am a working professional photographer, that it's reasonable from a client's perspective that a photographer should already own a set of equipment capable of covering most jobs. For jobs which may require some additional or unique equipment then yes, that should be billed to the client. Again, this is my opinion so try not to get aggressive in your responses.

But weddings 🤦🏼‍♂️

Where can the 25K outcome be seen?

The bigger question is.... Did the client pay this $25,000 invoice?