Over the weekend, I received an innocent question from a couple just starting to look for wedding photographers and perhaps you've received this question before as well: "Why is photography SO expensive?" I sympathized and agreed that photography is, in fact, quite expensive for the photographer providing the service as well. Professional cameras and lenses are expensive and need to be replaced frequently, maintaining computers and post-production equipment is expensive, regular software upgrades are expensive, not to mention all of the costs of simply being in business. In fact, because these costs are elusive to people who haven't run a business before, but who may own a camera, many beginning photographers don't even know they're pricing themselves out of a business simply because they are failing to account for their overhead costs.
To aid aspiring photographers and pricing skeptics, I've constructed a table of some basic overhead costs of running a photography business. These are rough estimates, and many businesses have even more overhead expenses than this, but I wanted to provide a very basic outline of the monthly and annual costs of being in business as a photographer. If you're an aspiring photographer, I'd encourage you to start a spreadsheet of your own to help you gain a more accurate look at your overhead costs, so that you can budget your future needs into your current pricing.
Please note, this does NOT include the expenses of a Salary or Health Insurance. If you want to have a business that pays all of your bills and provides you with health insurance (rather than just a side business to supplement your income), we'll need to figure in those costs as well. Health Insurance can range anywhere from $100/mo-$600/mo per person with a national average is estimated to be around $185/mo. Also, if we assume a salary of $36,500/yr (the national mean for photographers according to bls.gov) which is determined before self-employment taxes are taken, we would need to add $3,226 to the average monthly overhead expenses and $38,720 to the yearly overhead expenses.
As with all things, every business is different and will have different expenses. This is only meant to be one example and not a representation of what your expenses should be. Definitely check out the comments to see what more photographers have to say!
Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years practicing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography in 2004 as an independent small business. She loves helping others find creative and smart solutions to business problems. Follow her on Twitter to see her daily adventures and thoughts.