Why Every Wedding Photographer Should Get Paid and Not Work for Free

You should never do a wedding for free; always make sure that you’re shooting a wedding and getting compensated.

We’re going to get a lot of hate for saying this–we can feel it now. But no one should be doing a wedding for free these days. Wedding photography is a whole lot of work. Unless you shoot in a certain way, there’s a ton of post-production work. Then there’s also the budget. It seems like folks are trying to be cheaper about weddings and spend less money overall. But you’d be amazed at how much money is still involved in a wedding. So why shouldn’t a photographer get a chunk of that change? A good wedding photographer is a lot more than just their camera and a light. There’s a lot of work involved. I used to have to tell this to my aunt, who thought that what I did was simple. I’d retort that I’m instead just very skilled at what I do.

So here’s a significant factor why photographers should get paid for wedding photography work:

  • In 2009, $27,882 was the average wedding budget in the US. $2,651 on average or 9.5% of the wedding budget is spent on a photographer alone! Brides in Long Island, NY, spent the most on photography at $4,550. And that’s just one wedding. Imagine how many you could do each week!
  • In 2019, the average went up to $33,900, according to CNBC.

That’s one year ago, I get that. But that doesn’t mean that a Wedding Photographer should be stiffed on money when spending went up! Why should you not charge your $7,000 for all the work and time that you’re about to put in? Why should someone try to talk you down in pricing when you’ve got the work that really stands out? These are big questions that I think that photographers need to have answered.

Now, I’m not saying to not do a favor for a friend. Make sure that they’re an actual friend and not an acquaintance. Tell those folks to take a hike. But even if you’re doing a favor for a friend, shoot JPEGs and hand the images off. Don’t spend a week doing the pictures for them when you potentially could have gotten thousands of dollars.

A person could make this argument into something even more significant. Why not pay photographers at all? That’s a bigger and better question that should be answered. Photographers work to develop and create a unique vision that people obviously love. And so people need to know that the creative vision comes at a cost. They have to pay. They have to ethically ensure that people can eat and pay their bills. They have to take care of you so you can pay for your insurance. And cover your expenses.

Why should a venue get all the money? Or the wedding planner? Or catering? Or the decorations? If you’re paying so much money for all those things, don’t you want gorgeous images of them too? It’s only with photographers do we do things for free.

  • No one ever plans a wedding just for fun.
  • No one ever caters or cooks for a wedding just for fun.
  • No one ever gives a venue away just for fun.

So why does it happen with a Wedding Photographer? We’ve featured a lot that should surely be paid. Because photography is a fun hobby? Should folks not get paid for their hobby that they were able to turn into a job? Are you implying that we have to hate our jobs? Well, that’s just a toxic culture then, isn’t it?

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.