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Why is wedding photography so expensive?

It might be sticker shock to you when you are looking for a wedding photographer to find that their prices are not hundreds of dollars, but THOUSANDS of dollars.

"What possible way could wedding photography be so expensive when everyone has phones and best buy sells a DSLR camera for like $400-$700?"

In fact, according to

the average cost for a wedding photographer is $2,814.

However, in cities such as San Francisco and New York, wedding photography prices are closer to $4,000. You can generally expect wedding photography prices to range from $2,500-$10,000 depending on the photographers experience and/or offerings.


Now, I'm no scientist, in fact, I'm not a mathematician. But I went through my entire list of gear that I bring to a wedding, every piece of equipment that I use personally and I wrote them down.

The list was an entire page long. Everything from the camera costs, to business costs to babysitting during the wedding was accounted for.

Obviously, every professional photographer spends varying amounts depending on their gear and their business needs. For some, no editing fee is needed, because they edit in-house.

For others, less expensive gear is used. Some live in Kansas, where price of living and demand is significantly lower compared to New York or San Francisco. This is why every pro quotes differently.


I've been in the business for 7 years now, so through the years, I've added gear, equipment, software, systems and education. For a less experienced photographer, less things have been added to their list of items.

So here is a rudimentary list of items off the top of my head. Again, there are so many different ranges of items due to experience level, preference and needs.

So honestly is just a jumping-off place to talk through the THOUSANDS of dollars that photographers have to spend to even have a business.

So please don't get mad at me if not every pro has these items, or you see a big window of cost. Again, it all depends on the person and their business.



Average cost of gear being brought to wedding: $10,000-$20,000+

(This includes, multiple cameras, lenses, flashes, lighting, stands, softboxes, etc.)


Other items needed for editing after the wedding: computers, software and backup drives: $5,000+


Other expenses to even get in the wedding and be a legal business:

Insurance: $600+ a year, license and other fees: $125+

Website, admin costs per year: $1,500+


Assistants, babysitters, second shooters, admin assistants or others that help so that photographer can come and shoot: $100-$700+

Outside Editing or culling of images: $400+ (if needed)

Education to know how to shoot a wedding: years of experience, countless hours of learning, practice or schooling -anywhere from $0-90,000 depending on method

Products and packages to deliver to client after wedding worth in value: $50-$2,000+


Okay, so we talked a little bit about gear. What about the hours working the actual wedding.

If the average wedding photographer is working a mere 10 hour wedding day at $2, 800 a pop, then that means that they are making $280 AN HOUR right? Wrong.

There are so many behind the scenes things that happen, before, during and after the wedding to make it beautiful.

The Average time meeting with client prewedding, shooting the wedding, shooting the engagement shoot, marketing, traveling, setting up, preparing, editing or packaging products after a wedding:

60+ hours of working for ONE wedding. So now the wedding photographer is making $4.60 AN HOUR.

So let's say that for the sake of argument, the average wedding photographer business is worth $16,000 (according to the moderntog). Does that mean that after the photography gets all of their gear to set up, that means that they are set for life?

Did you notice that none of the items and expenses on this list actually helped the photographer to live, support a family, raise children, or even pay rent? We've already established that owning a business is very expensive. But what if you have a family and kids.

Can photographers support their families after all the expenses to running a business? Most can't unfortunately.

So, now that you know how much of wedding photographers spend to own a business, and now that you know the average amount of work it takes them to make your wedding gorgeous, maybe what we should be telling ourselves is that we aren't paying them enough.


Christal Marshall is a mom of three, photographer, videographer, homeschooler and just a straight hustler.

She was voted top 20 wedding photographers in VA in 2016 and 2018. She has been featured over 40 times in various different publications.

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And you wonder why wedding photography is so expensive!

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