Wedding photography seems like such a dream job!
You’ve probably seen wedding photos pop up in your social media feed, in magazine, on popular websites and other places – and it’s getting you really curious to see if it could work out as a possible career path for you to take with your life.
The idea of being a wedding photographer is incredibly tantalizing – you get to be there for couple’s celebrating an amazing day, take beautiful photos, travel to new places, and set your own work schedule (when everything works out just right!).
To get to a place of success, every aspiring wedding photographer will find themselves caught up with similar questions like…
- How much money can you make as a wedding photographer?
- How much does the average wedding photographer make?
- Can you make a living as a wedding photographer?
- Is wedding photography profitable?
- How much do wedding photographers make in a year?
- How much do wedding photographers make per hour?
- How much do wedding photographers make per wedding?
So, we’re here to talk about that all important topic nobody likes to talk about in the wedding photography industry – money!
Make enough of it – and you can turn your passion for photography and weddings into a career path that is completely unique and filled with experiences you won’t be able to replicate in any other job.
Make too little…and you’ll end up living the lifestyle of a struggling artist, which isn’t as fun as it seems in the movies.
It may surprise you to learn that wedding photographers have the potential to make a lot of money.
Let’s get to answering some of your big questions!
How much money does the average wedding photographer make?
A quick search online will come up with a lot of conflicting salary estimates for wedding photographers.
Here are a few examples:
- Zip Recruiter says $100,000 in the USA
- Glassdoor says $35,000 in the USA
- Chron says $62,000 in the USA
- Payscale says $45,000 in the USA
The problem with these salary estimates is that they don’t take into consideration the types of jobs available to wedding photographers. There are some photographers who just like working for other companies as assistants and 2nd shooters, and their earnings are going to be much lower than someone who sets off to start their own wedding photography business.
With our experience as wedding photographers who have, together, brought in revenues over 7 figures – we can give some more nuanced insight on what you should expect depending on the type of role you are looking for:
Average earnings for wedding photographers just working as 2nd shooters for other photography businesses – $12,000 to $24,000 a year
Second shooters typically accompany wedding photography business owners or their lead photographers to document wedding days in more of a support role. While specific job requirements will vary (sometimes greatly) from company to company, this is generally viewed as an “easy” gig and a great way to get experience in the wedding photography industry.
Some experienced wedding photographers may also take on extra gigs for some quick and easy money. Second shooting opportunities typically do not require extra work like culling or photo editing, so you simply go to the wedding, shoot, and share the files with the company your shooting for…and you’re set!
While second shooting weddings is popular for photographers just getting started in the industry, many experienced photographers also use 2nd shooting as a way to supplement their income, make connections with other photographers, and have a lower pressure way to be creative during a wedding day.
Throughout the USA, 2nd wedding photographers are typically paid $50 an hour, work for 8 hours per wedding, and will photograph between 30 – 60 weddings a year.
Average earnings for wedding photographers just working as lead associate photographers for other photography businesses – $24,000 to $48,000 a year
Lead associate photographers are generally hired by more established wedding photography companies that are no longer reliant on their owner photographers documenting every wedding. In many cases, you may become a defined member of the company’s team.
As a lead photographer, you will have the most responsibility on a wedding day to capture the most essential shots including special requests by the couple, family photos, and other essentials.
Throughout the USA, lead associate photographers are typically paid $100 an hour, work for 8 hours at a wedding, and will photograph between 30 – 60 weddings a year.
Average earnings for wedding photographers who run their own businesses and photograph their own weddings – $75,000 to $150,000 a year.
The most lucrative career path for wedding photographers is starting their own business.
This route requires more effort upfront but can pay off significantly for those who are really passionate about doing this as their job.
Throughout the USA, wedding photographers who run their own business typically will photograph 25 – 50 weddings a year and charge ~$3,000 per wedding (on average). The hourly earnings rate works itself out to be around $375 per hour.
Wedding photographers with solid business skills and good photography can charge much more than this!
With our wedding photography businesses, our average package sales are around $8,000 and have additional sales on albums and physical print purchases that average around $2,000.
That is an average of $10,000 per client in revenue.
With just 25 weddings, we are able to bring in $250,000 in earnings!
We created Shoot & Thrive to be the ultimate resource for photographers looking to get into weddings or refine their current businesses so that they can make all the money they want.
A major key to this success is unlocking the potential in your website to bring in more traffic, more leads and more bookings. If you need help, we offer done for you services to help you take care of your SEO and blogging needs to get the results you’re looking for.
Can you make a living as a wedding photographer?
The simple answer is – yes!
We are examples of wedding photographers who have translated our passion for photography into a career that we love, that also pays the bills. If you haven’t already, you can learn more about us and how we can help you make that dream a reality, too!
Getting back to the question at hand…
CNBC put together a great breakdown of how much a single person needs to make in each of the 50 US states. While the living requirements vary from state to state, on average a person needs to make around $30,000 to cover their living expenses.
Of course, this figure will vary from person to person, as the only thing that really matters is your specific circumstances.
For wedding photographers (or aspiring ones) running a business, we highly recommend starting out by understanding your financial life.
Make a budget and run your cost of doing business (CODB for short) to get started.
Your specific life situation might also impact what you truly need to make as a wedding photographer. For example, a single person will likely have different needs than someone who is living with a partner that is also working full time.
In our view, jobs for wedding photographers range from part time income (suitable for supplemental income) like assistant and 2nd shooting opportunities to full time income that you might make as an experienced lead photographer for another company or as a business owner yourself.
Is wedding photography profitable?
Yes! For many wedding photographers running a business, it is very profitable.
After the first year in business, where you’ll end up spending the most to get the most needed camera equipment, your business expenses can be pretty low if you are able to limit unnecessary expenses.
All of the money you earn after these expenses is your profit – and it’s the money you get to do with as you please!
A few things we love doing with our profit…
- Invest in retirement accounts
- Home upgrades
We bet you’d love to run a profitable wedding photography business too!
If you’re having a tough time, we can help you with that!
How much money can you make as a wedding photographer?
When we started writing this post, we set out to answer this question. Ultimately, wedding photographers have a lot of control over their income opportunities.
We have talked with many wedding photographers who have struggled to bring in an income. We have talked with many wedding photographers who earn 6 figures every year. And we know photography companies that have been able to scale to million dollar businesses.
While wedding photography is a little unorthodox as a career path, it can be incredibly lucrative when done right.
Need help getting started on that journey to success with your wedding photography business? Get started with Shoot & Thrive today to make your dreams a reality.
Chris is a SEO professional with a passion for helping photography businesses succeed online. With years of experience in the industry, he has a proven track record of increasing website traffic, improving search rankings, and driving revenue growth for his clients.