Two days ago, I wrote a post about how wedding photography is easy money. The post picked up a surprisingly large number of comments from angry wedding photographers. Many comments accused me of writing the post only to get “hits” for my blog. Believe me, I had no idea that so many people would find the post—I figured that ten or twenty people would read it and one person or so would leave a comment, like most of my other posts.
What I did learn about wedding photographers is that they are a very defensive bunch, and they have a very inflated sense of their self-worth. I suppose that the defensiveness is the result of the cognitive dissonance caused by the difference between their self-view and the reality.
- His normal large wedding package requires 30-40 hours per work.
- The price for a normal package is $6,000 to $8,0000.
- Brady didn’t say what his profit was per wedding, so here is some guesswork. The normal package includes a medium or large album, two parent albums, and a second photographer. I’ll guess that the blank albums cost $800 (fancy-shmancy wedding stuff is ridiculously overpriced) and that the second photographer gets paid $250 (photographers who don’t own their own wedding photography business get paid crap). It also costs him some money to printout all the photos. $250? This probably leaves Brady with a $5,500 marginal profit for a normal wedding.
- Brady shoots only 20 weddings per year, but he makes so much profit per wedding that he still has an estimated gross income (that’s revenue minus cost of goods sold) of $110,000 per year.
- Brady has some other expenses such as equipment, liability insurance (the PPA charges $1000 to $1500 per year for this), and advertising/marketing. Perhaps Brady only makes $100,000 per year after these expenses?
Is Brady making easy money? For Rochester, NY (far away from New York City), $100,000 is a damn good income for a part-time job. He seems to work less than half as many hours per year as a regular full-time white collar worker. If Brady can increase the number of weddings he does to 30 per year, he can get his income up to around $150,000, meaning he’d be earning more money than most medical doctors in the Rochester area.
Now, let me address some of the weird comments the previous post received.
One day of work huh?
My first post never said the wedding photographer only works one day per week, the post said that the wedding photographer “only has one high stress day.” The photographer has to do additional work during the rest of the week, but it’s low-stress work, done without a boss breathing down his back or artificially imposed deadlines. The wedding photographer has complete flexibility to take a day off whenever he wants, as long as it’s not one of the few days during the year in which he has to shoot a wedding. Based on Brady’s explanation of his work habits, he has a lot more days off than the regular white collar worker.
Brady himself asks the following question:
A question for you, Michael, how many people, who just so happen to have a suit in their closet, are trying to take your 9-5 job each day, despite having no or limited qualifications, and of those very few people trying to take your job just by showing up in a suit, how many of those people are actually being hired by your boss to replace you?
Actually, for the typical white collar worker, there are two billion people in China and India willing to do your job for a fraction of your salary. Pick up the Wall Street Journal sometime. People are being outsourced left and right. One of the big advantages of wedding photography is that your job can’t be outsourced.
The waitress who toils to earn tips, the miners who work 15 hour shifts in dangerous conditions...all good examples of jobs that are harder than wedding photography, but guess what...they CHOSE those jobs
Sam must have been smoking the Ayn Rand weed. No one would ever “choose” a crappy job like coal mining if he had a better option available.
Brady, again, said:
The barriers to entry in this field are surprisingly low…
Another commenter echoed that notion. Whenever someone can make $100,000 per year in a part-time job, there are obviously barriers to entry that allow him to do this, otherwise everyone would crowd in and the cushy job would disappear.
The guy who charges $500 for a wedding is obviously not making the six figure salary. What prevents him from increasing the price to $7,000 like Brady charges and doing 20 weddings per year? Those are the barriers to entry.
In order to get to Brady’s income level, you need (1) above average intelligence (this disqualifies 50% of the population); (2) a few years of experience photographing weddings so you can get to Brady’s skill level; (3) a marketing network.
Finally, let me address the supposedly expensive “equipment costs” that several comments mentioned. In reality, wedding photography is a very cheap field to enter from a capital perspective. That’s the ironic contradiction of the comments—one commenter says photographers face high equipment costs, and then another commenter bemoans the fact that anyone with a camera can compete against him.
It costs a lot more money to become a doctor or lawyer. Just a single semester of graduate school tuition ($20,000+) is more than enough money to completely equip the photographer with expensive camera equipment for many years. White collar professionals often find themselves paying monthly student loan payments exceeding $1,000 per month, and unlike the equipment and insurance costs of the self-employed wedding photographer, student loan payments (except to a very limited extent) are not tax deductible at all.
The following comment was written elsewhere on the web, but in response to my post:
Anyone with a bit of common sense can tell you that real estate, banking and currency trading is where the BIG money is.
It's true that there's much bigger money in investment banking, trading, and money management, but in order to get a job like that you need an MBA from Harvard, Wharton, or Columbia. If you can get into a top business school, then it would be dumb to pursue a wedding photography career. But on the other hand, for people who can't get admitted to the Wharton MBA program, wedding photography looks like a pretty lucrative field.