Whether you’re considering starting up a photography business and wondering what the real costs actually are… or if you’re a bride who wonders whhhhyyyy photography can get so pricey… I’ve put together a list (with links) of my personal expenses (so far) to visually show you what all goes into a photographer’s expenses and hopefully shed some light on the reality that there’s actually a lottttt that goes into pricing wedding packages, how much you’ll need to save to start up, and to show you how to price yourself accordingly!
For starters, there’s 3 different types of costs in business that I’ll be going over: Startup, Monthly, and Per Job. Pretty self explanatory, but “startup” will be paid once, then you don’t have to pay that again… “monthly” are costs that recur every single month… and “per job” costs are paid with every job you book. It’s important to take each one into account when you’re figuring out what you should be pricing your services at.
I’m hoping this all-inclusive list helps you guys get a better understanding, plan for what you’ll need, and price what you’re worth so you can live a more creative and less stressful life!
STARTUP COST — Total $12,389.99
The biggest moment of any business is when you actually make the decision to just go for it!! I would suggest slowly accumulating these items (rather than buying all at once like I did lol!!). I’d also suggest to PLZ not buy knock off brands to cut initial costs (example: buying a Sigma, rather than a Canon), because you WILL end up paying more in the long run anyways and a business ran with “quality” in mind first will grow a lot further than someone trying to make a quick buck. I would also personally rather buy things brand new, rather than be worried if something will crash on me during a wedding from buying it used… but that’s just me lol!!
Main Camera Body (Mark iv) $2,799.00
Backup Camera Body (Mark iii) $2,385.00
Canon 50mm1.2 Lens $1,349.00 (gives a better background blur)
Canon 35mm1.4 Lens $1,699.00 (best lens for wider shots)
Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT Flash $479.00
(2) Rechargeable batteries $36.00
(2) CF Memory cards $160.00 (get the good ones… you don’t want these to fail!!)
Camera bag $300.00
My camera strap $9.00
iMac Desktop $1,149.00
Apple MacBook Air $1,099.99
(3) External hard drives $285.00
Website template $300.00
Misc. software $200.00
Office supplies (planner, paper, ink) $100.00
Business license $10.00
Business cards $30.00
**2/2/19 — edited this list to include a laptop (necessary for traveling, a better flash (I learned the previous one actually sucked haha sorry guys!), and a better Main camera body (because it was time to upgrade)!! But you’ll technically only need one camera and one computer to get started — these are just for when you upgrade to 2!!**
**6/24/19 — editing again to include the Canon 85mm1.8 Lens $349.00 and the Black Leather Dual Harness I just bought for weddings for $130… but I’m not gonna add these to the “startup total” because you technically don’t NEED these to “startup” these are just add ons :)))) Then there’s the Canon 70-200mm2.8 as my next wishlist item lol!!**
MONTHLY SERVICES — Total $2,628.00
So I guess not everyyyy photog is going to need some of this stuff… but I def do!! Lol Spotify to keep me sane when I spend hours upon hours editing, Audible to keep me learning/growing, and Premiere Pro for those video bride babes!!xo
You also might want to look into a Client Management Software like HoneyBook or accounting software like Quickbooks… I personally don’t use these because my business background taught me the archaic excel spreadsheet way (which I LOVE because I’m a nerd lol!!), but these services are super helpful and I’ll prob end up buying them soon too anyways lol!! ***Update: I caved and bought both Honeybook and Quickbooks now and they SAVE MY FREAKIN LIFE I SWEAR!!!!!! You don’t have to do it right away… but when you get busier…. this is the first thing you should invest in lol!!
Premiere pro (for videogs) $21.00
Website hosting $25.00
*Annual Education — Total: $6,000.00 / 12months = $500 monthly
Again, not every photographer will invest in their education and growth… but I personally 100% believe in spending money so you can make money… plus traveling, meeting other photographers around the world, and connecting with/ learning from the best of the best makes this job thattttt much more fun and worth it!!
*Annual Business Savings — Total: $5,000.00 / 12months = $417 monthly
So this includes things like the 2nd camera body I want (mine is a crop sensor that I didn’t even link because I don’t want you to buy it lol!!), new lens, smaller camera bag for weddings etc. There’s always going to be a better lens to upgrade to, workshop you’re dying to go to, or just something new to add to your list of equipment… make sure you’re saving up so you can buy them and keep up with your competition!
*Monthly Life Expenses — Total: $1,550.00
This is pretty much all I need to survive… including rent, bills, gas, food, misc, personal savings… etc. Anything above that goes into the “thriving, not just surviving” fund lol!! (I honestly am very aware that my personal expenses are low compared to anybody else, considering it’s just me and my puppy… it’s okay if yours are more… price according to what you need for you lol!)
Per job — $400
This includes my fee to pay a second shooter, client gifts, Starbucks on the way (lol!!) etc.!
Startup Cost: $12,389.99.00
Monthly: $2,628.00 (for the sake of this exercise I grouped education, savings, and daily life into monthly expense)
Per Job: $400
Sooooo let’s just say you saved up the startup costs and now only pretty much have to worry about making around at least $3,000ish per month, including per job costs, to break even.
If you’re pricing wedding packages at $1,000 each… that means you’ll have to work AT LEAST 3 weddings per month to break even (36 annually), then anything additional will be “thriving money”… which would legit mean working a wedding every single weekend and editing your life away every single week day (aka: no. lol) — I also want to add that this is totally okay and doable when you’re just starting out… but if you continue doing this you WILL burn out and that’s not fair to your brides.
But if you’re pricing in the more $3,000ish range per wedding, then you only HAVE to book at least 1 per month to stay afloat (12 weddings annually, plus the super fun engagement sessions, of course!!).. and everything else is extra!! This means being less creatively burnt out, pouring more of your heart and soul into each and every bride’s experience, having more time to learn and become better at your craft, more styled shoots/collabs, #fresnophotog community meetings/events, and living an overall happier life with more time focusing on your friends/fam and health!!
I know pricing yourself as a wedding photog can seem like an overwhelming task… but if you take the time to really write out everything you spend money on, your survival necessities, and your goals for growth on a physical list so you can see it all in front of you… and then price yourself based off of that number (and your worth!!)… then I promise, it becomes less scary and you’ll be more confident in the value you provide to your clients.
…Another factor in pricing is taking into account how much you’re booking and how busy you feel at your current rates (personally, I know for me right now I’m completely over booked… which is a great thing!! But if that’s you too… it probably means you’re able to up your prices… lol!).
And finaaallyyyyy, remember about taxes girlfriend! That’s 30-40% of your revenue gone to good-ol Uncle Sam. So PLEASE keep this in mind when you’re planning out your revenue goals and set the money aside someplace safe where you won’t spend it and get yourself into trouble! But alsooooo remember that you can write off pretty much everything you do now lol! Did you set up a photoshoot on your family vaca to Europe? Cool, write it off. Did you reply back to emails on your Starbucks run? Cool, write it off. Did you buy a cute home decor piece for a styled shoot but now you’re gonna actually use it in your home? Cool, write it off…. you get the point 😉 And Quickbooks will track all of that for you so it’s super easy come tax season!!
I hope you found this helpful and understand a little more now about photog expenses and pricing yourself!! Legit had so much fun typing it up.. it felt like I was back in business college class lol!! It feels great to finally implement what I learned in school to help others and I’m totally an open book when it comes to helping you guys if you have questions I can answer!! :)) xo