Photography charges: why, how & should

I wrote an article not long ago explaining about wedding photography charges, which i think could apply to any photography charges/service too. I hope this article is useful for all Mirian (photographers & non-photographers) and hope to hear your views. An experienced fashion photographer asked me to post it in MC to see what Mirian thinks in terms of photography charges/service. I’m interested to find out too!

Many photographers who want to start doing freelance photography (esp. in wedding) ask me this question: how much should I charge? So, I thought of writing this article to share my view & philosophy for this subject. Furthermore, I hope this article would also benefit other readers who are looking for wedding photographer to understand why it can be expensive sometimes.

When I first started to do freelance wedding photography as a “part-time job-cum-hobby” 2 years ago, I didn’t know how much to charge. So, I looked & asked around to find out what the “Market” is like, ie. wedding photography charges

The “Market”

A typical wedding normally last 10 hours or so. In Miri (Sarawak), photographers (full- & part-time) charge between RM150 to RM2,400+. In other parts of Malaysia, the price goes up to RM10,000 & beyond. So, what is a reasonable price?

Labour cost

Adi, my grass cutter for the past 5 years, get paid RM25 for cutting my grass. He usually spend less than 45 min to cut, sweep & clear the grass. Now imagine a photographer who charges RM300 for a 10 hours shooting, that’s without including the hours spent sorting & editing the photos. Is RM300 for a wedding day shoot reasonable? Truth is, many people do not wish to pay RM30 per hour to hire wedding photographer.

Equipment cost

Back to Adi, my grass-cutter, he told me that the grass cutting machine is about RM2500. Let’s say we round it up to RM3000, and compare to what you can find in a photographer’s bag. What’s in my bag easily cost 5 times more. So I should be charging 5 x RM300=RM1500 for a wedding day shoot; reasonable?

Therefore, to pay a photographer the same way you would pay a grass cutter, RM1500 seems a good bargain; or is it? Well, that means it cost RM150 per hour to hire a photographer. Again, I say this : Truth is, many people do not wish to pay RM30 per hour to hire wedding photographer.

Interesting fact: a pro-level DSLR cost about RM16,000 and has a shutter life of 150,000 cycles. That means each shutter click costs about RM0.11. Normally, one would do about 3,000 shots and that translate to RM330. So, if someone photographs your wedding using such camera for free, he/she is actually making a loss of RM330, just on equipment wear & tear. That is even if he knows NOTHING about photography, shoot underexposed photos, out-of-focus, missed a lot of things, etc etc.

Don’t eat a pineapple the way you eat an apple

Lets look at the next level of thoughts on wedding photography charges: There are reasons why a photographer shouldn’t be paid like a grass cutter. However, sometimes, a photographer can be paid like a grass cutter. I’ll give two reasons & examples here:

  1. Precious moment is precious, because it is a moment that once it’s missed, it’s gone. Unlike cutting grass, if you missed a spot, you can come back the next day. Take this shot of mine for example; its a moment of showing love, friendship & care. If Ive missed that shot, I couldnt have had it replayed, and even if I did, it wont be as candid as it was because it was a candid.

http://images.beingelvish.multiply.com/image/18/photos/46/600x600/25/ECP25.jpg?et=FUDE0GFtePe4AyXC4eh7mQ

  1. How much is the price of creativity? How much is the price of an art work? I was learning oil painting from an Indonesian artist when I was a kid. I swear that his work is good enough to hang on any of the 5 stars hotel but guess what? He was selling his painting for less than RM50 a piece. I still remember so vividly that he has just kerosene stove in his room and eat instant noodle for meals. Then, I remember myself standing in front ofPicassos Guernica in Madrid. This is a piece of work that would worth millions, if for sale. So, lets take this shot of mine as example… I wouldnt say its Picasso but I like to think Ive made a little effort with my own creativity & artistic sense. So how much is it worth? Close to nothing, but that didnt stop me to do what I like to do.

http://images.beingelvish.multiply.com/image/2/photos/54/600x600/1/ECP01.jpg?et=TrMfquqAfa37n9ZDHeepEQ

So, I hope you get the picture by now. Hopefully, youd understand why wedding photography cannot be free-of-charge. You would also know how such a huge range of charges in the market is possible. Sometimes, brand name is a big factor, thats why a LV bag or a Rolex watch is expensive. Thus, the more famous a photographer is, the higher the price will be. Lastly, should you be charging that price? Should you be paying that price? This is where subjectivity comes in. Ill end this with a quote of mine:

Therere always customers in every restaurant, regardless of its price & quality. If you’re the customer, eat what you can afford to eat. If you are the owner, make sure you do your best in serving the food and make enough earning so you wont go bankrupt.
Elvis Chung, 2009

Very nice article bro, thanks for sharing :slight_smile:

What an interesting and informative article!

Roger

Nice one!

Thanks for the support

i like your article bro.
another thing is that ppl always come to photography after they had planned everything except photography. photography is always at the end, and so they have little budget left to spend on photography. yet they want a quality one, with small pay. how can???

after the wedding, nothing will remain. there goes the wedding gown (rented / borrow), there goes the decoration, and everything. but only pcture (or video) will remain with the everyone. wedding photos will be with us for decades. though it’s just picture - realise it or not ---- we frame it, we keep it in d wallet, we hang it on d wall of our livingroom-bedroom-kitchen, we upload it online/facebook, we share it w/ others, we laugh, we cry, we hate … all because of picture. it says thousand words with zillions memories capture in a frame.

wow! great sharing, Elvis! cheap/free comes with cheap result. Like shutterhero said, something memorable shouldn’t come free.

Another trend is that, as more people have access to DSLR, the value perceived by customers are not as high as before for pro. Something like:

“my friend Ah Beng also got that kind of big black camera. I can ask him to take for me for free. Why yours so expensive har?”

Well, when everybody have access to pro DSLRs, pro lenses, pro lighting systems, what differentiate a pro from Ah Beng is the brain behind the viewfinder. That’s the value in services provided by pro. If customers don’t realize that, it really makes no different if Ah Beng carry a mobile phone and shoot in the wedding/event for free.

you write well

photos are average

smarten up your act and you may succeed…

support

[quote=“shutterhero”]i like your article bro.
another thing is that ppl always come to photography after they had planned everything except photography. photography is always at the end, and so they have little budget left to spend on photography. yet they want a quality one, with small pay. how can???

after the wedding, nothing will remain. there goes the wedding gown (rented / borrow), there goes the decoration, and everything. but only pcture (or video) will remain with the everyone. wedding photos will be with us for decades. but it’s just picture - we frame it, keep it in d wallet, hang the on d wall, upload it online, we share it w/ others, we laugh, we cry, we hate … all because of picture. it says thousand words with zillions memories capture in a frame.[/quote]

cant agree more on this.support2!! :mrgreen:

[quote=“4ks”]wow! great sharing, Elvis! cheap/free comes with cheap result. Like shutterhero said, something memorable shouldn’t come free.

Another trend is that, as more people have access to DSLR, the value perceived by customers are not as high as before for pro. Something like:

“my friend Ah Beng also got that kind of big black camera. I can ask him to take for me for free. Why yours so expensive har?”

Well, when everybody have access to pro DSLRs, pro lenses, pro lighting systems, what differentiate a pro from Ah Beng is the brain behind the viewfinder. That’s the value in services provided by pro. If customers don’t realize that, it really makes no different if Ah Beng carry a mobile phone and shoot in the wedding/event for free.[/quote]

totally agree with ya! the only difference will be the brain behind the viewfinder.
i find art in simple things i see; capture images with my heart.

Very good write up i have to say, and i totally agree with you that there should be no free meals in the world. Even if a photographer does for you for free just to build portfolio one should always remunerate something back as a sign of goodwill. But then again that is a different side of story. That also is depending on the person whose picture is being taken.

You have proposed that these are the factors that one should look at when charging that is Market, Labour charges(Based on time?), and equipment cost(Shutter count). The other set is how much one should charge is based on a disputable factor that is creativity. These charges does not include post processing which i believe should be charged too.

Labour charges and shutter count
So lets calculate the first set of variable and see how much a photog should be paid. This i believe should be the most fundamental charges that one should
Labour charges: Assuming photographers get paid like the grass cutter Rm25/45 min. On average 10 hours of work (Pre-wedding(4hr), wedding ceremony(3hr), dinner(3hr))=(60x10/45)x25=333.33
Shutter count: One event could take 2000 shots on average based on 0.11cent as above=3000x0.11=330
Total:666.33

Post processing
If these were to include post processing:(Based on the grass cutter again which is based on time Rm25/45 min)
Number of picture: Of the 3000 pics i believe an angle in each scenario will have at least 3 pics because the photog want to make sure that the pictures are not out of focus and etc. One would pick the best of it to be presented. So i assume 3 pics/angle/scenario. So total pictures to be processed would be 1000.
Time:On average i don’t know about the rest of you guys. It would take around 1 minute to post process some simple adjustment (curve, saturation, crop and time to save). This does not include those heavy processing like client has special request that wants this and that. That’s 1000 minute of work.
(1000/45) x25=Rm555.55

Creativity: (Subjective,so don’t flame me)
Experience: Lets assume experience brews creativity. So we calculate based on the number of years of experience a photog has.
1 year=x
2 year=2x
3year=3x


So x is the experience coefficient. What should it be. It could be anything so in this case i’ll assume it to be number of picture taken because as one takes one learns one mistakes.So x=number of shots a photog take per year. I take around 10000 shots a year(including event and self learning).

How do we price it:We learn through looking at the picture and understanding it and learning to process it. Lets just put time spent (labour charges).
So that is (10000/45)x25=Rm5555.55(One year of exp is worth that much for 10000 shots). So one shot is worth 5555.55/10000= 0.55
So that is x=average price of labour for 1 shot(experience coefficient)=Rm0.55

So assuming one event is 3000shots
1yr exp photog: 1x x 3000=0.55x3000=1650
2yr exp photog:2x x 3000=1650x2=3300

Note:Then again Art is subjective. This section on creativity is just a thought

Conclusion:SO HOW MUCH SHOULD BE CHARGED

Sustainability
Ok so i based on your assumption of 3000 shots average for a wedding and Rm25/45 min of grass cutter labour charges and some simple calculation the average one should charge for sustainability is
Just photoshooting: Rm666.33
Photoshooting with post processing:666.33+555.55=1221.89

But if one was to make money
Photoshooting with post processing with creativity charges: (Subjective)
1 year exp=666.33+555.55+1650=2871.89
2 year exp=666.33+555.55+3300=4521.89

Comment: IMHO what i think should be charged is photoshooting +post processing(depend on needs of client)+creativity charges(To be neg with client)
So it should start from 666.33 (I charge cheaper than that with 2 years of experience ;P).Come other people lets share your thoughts on this. I think we should unite and set a minimum fee. Hehe

Btw, i’m a Mirian based in Penang. Photography charges on average here for pre-wed is 500 to 1500 and AD is 800-2000. They include freelance photog to WPJA photog.

I seriously think if your a professional you should be paid more than 4000. Weddings only happens once in your life* and its that, that professional photographers should be paid a premium.
The moment counts. It won’t happen again!

(*) mostly everyone.

shutterhero, well said that photos is the longest lasting “object” that results from the wedding day… ie. the gown, deco, etc… all will be long gone. Thus, the images from that day is priceless.

4ks, yep… it’s the person behind the viewfinder that cost the most :slight_smile:

cIvIc_noob, you have an interesting way to calculate the fees… hehe… at the end, somehow, it’s the market that drive the fees… at least in Miri. Well, i think you said it too that in Penang, the fees are very competitive too… they have more talented photogs in Penang… but also, more clients… bigger market. I believe Miri is catching up too :slight_smile: hehe…

comradezero, indeed, once it’s missed, it’s missed… cannot hit the “replay” button :stuck_out_tongue:

beingelvish, you do have an interesting post though. Yea i also think the market plays a major factor. It depends how on much people want to pay for it.

i paid 6k for my wedding photo in johor bahru

6k for studio album or actual day coverage?

onli studio… But lot of thing… 2days 1 night outdoor session at pulau tioman, total photo with design i will get is 106

wow… sounds like a good deal… and alot of photos…hahaha…
I hope the 6K include accommodation & food