"You're undervaluing yourself; your photos are excellent—definitely ask for more!"
"Well, that's already quite expensive. I wouldn't pay that much for photos when I can snap them with my phone..."
"And how do you plan to make a living out of it?"
I discuss pricing with friends, colleagues who are photographers, and occasionally with clients. Since the moment I decided to turn photography into a business, even if initially just as a side hustle, I knew that pricing my work would be a struggle. I always had trouble estimating my worth even in regular employment, so the idea of putting a price tag on something as subjective as photography furrowed my brow.
And because I understand that many creatives struggle with valuing their work, I'll try to jot down a few observations as a (not only) wedding photographer. Perhaps it will help future newlyweds who, amidst the wide array of wedding photographers, are bewildered and unsure why someone charges ten thousand while another charges fifty.
Before I go to a wedding
Certainly, the time spent at the wedding and editing photos is the main (and most enjoyable!) part of every assignment. However, this journey is sometimes quite thorny and time-consuming. It would be great not to worry about advertising, to gain clients solely through recommendations and clicks from the first page of Google. Unfortunately, I'm not there yet (although maybe this article will help me a bit, haha), so for clients who don't come to me through recommendations, I have to fight in the ruthless arena of online marketing.
Once upon a time, after I finished my studies, I dabbled a bit in the field of online advertising, but it's been a long time, and I can't say it comes naturally to me. And what does it involve for a wedding photographer?
Setting up PPC campaigns for Google
Associated keyword analysis, regular evaluation of results, devising the most suitable strategy (that won't cost me a fortune and occasionally brings in an interested party)
Regular social media content management + campaigns
If this operation is successful and a client reaches out, it is followed by email communication (which may not ultimately lead anywhere), contract preparation, and a pre-wedding meeting. These are hours that a wedding photographer must factor into the final price, or else they would either overwork themselves or not cover the rent, at least in Prague lately.
The Real Work of a Wedding Photographer
Regarding the wedding itself, maybe just one observation. Personally, I haven't encountered it, but sometimes one comes across the opinion on the internet that a photographer goes to a wedding just to snap a few photos, taste the buffet goulash, and collect a hefty reward. There might be a few such cases in our field (probably like anywhere else), but I believe that if it were true, it would be immediately evident in the photos. If you hire me for a full-day wedding shoot, you have my 100% attention for a solid 12 hours and often even longer when the party gets going, and you want those wilder shots.
The photos in my portfolio that led you to choose me would never have been created if I weren't constantly vigilant at the wedding and anticipating what might happen. Not to mention that if I stood around at the wedding with a bored expression, chewing on schnitzel most of the time, you probably wouldn't recommend me further. The fact that everyone at the wedding feels comfortable in my presence, and I don't disrupt this festive day in any way, I consider it part of the service I offer.
This brings us to the post-processing, which ultimately takes up a significant amount of time—the album from a full-day wedding often takes several days of work. Although editing software is becoming more sophisticated and saving us more and more time, not to mention the emerging trends in artificial intelligence, so hopefully, some time can be saved in the future. Creating the final gallery also takes a while, although thanks to the professional service Pic-Time, where I prepare photos for my clients, it's a joy.
Years of Experience
Perhaps the most challenging elements in pricing are a photographer's experience and confidence. I see them as inseparable. Sure, you can have a photographer with an inflated ego who hasn't even shot their first wedding yet and already considers themselves a world-class master with a few likes on Instagram. But I mean healthy self-confidence and the belief that the work a photographer produces will meet a certain standard under any conditions.
Before I decided to make a living through photography, I spent countless hours with a camera in hand on the streets (you can find my street portfolio here). I was always impressed, especially by the documentary style; street photography captivated me entirely. So, I practiced capturing everyday moments by carrying my "Fujin" with me all the time. When I lived in Budapest for two years, I hardly put the camera down. Apart from documenting daily life, I transformed my apartment into a small studio, where I learned to work with light.
I shot my first few weddings for free or significantly below market rates. But it was mainly to build my wedding portfolio because, thanks to the experiences I had gathered until then, I was already quite confident in what I was doing at weddings.
Here are two of my favorite photos from my first wedding shoot.
When raising my prices, I always wondered if I could afford it, if I would stand out in the competition, if it wouldn't be too much. Now, after several years of experience, I simply know that I deliver exactly what my clients expect from me. I know that my photos work, that clients are happy with them, and I receive exclusively positive reviews. I know that I fit in at weddings, that newlyweds will feel at ease beside me, and that I always do my utmost to contribute to the wedding atmosphere. Thanks to this, I've reached a point where I am comfortable with my prices and can justify them not only to clients but primarily to myself.
Price of a Wedding Photographer: Numbers in Conclusion
Let's be honest, pricing creative work is tricky. So, how should one interpret the prices of wedding photographers? If someone charges less than 15,000 CZK for the whole day, it's very likely that photography is not their main source of income, or perhaps they lack confidence in their photos. The net profit, after accounting for all mentioned expenses (and I haven't even mentioned the cost of photographic equipment and its maintenance), simply won't be enough to sustain a living.
Up to around 30,000 CZK, you'll find professionals who make a living from photography, have experience, know what they're doing, and essentially, it comes down more to your taste and the photographic style of the photographer. Of course, this isn't set in stone, and it's always better to verify a few basic things: Does the photographer sign a contract with you? How do they communicate with you? What references do they have? Do they have a consistent style in their photos? Do they show photos from the entire day in their portfolio?
Beyond 30,000 CZK, you often encounter more well-known photographers, where you're paying, similar to any other "luxury" product, for the brand. This doesn't necessarily mean that their photo style must suit you, but with such photographers, you should have the assurance that you're inviting an experienced professional to your wedding.