The easiest way to make money with a camera is by becoming a wedding photographer. If the average wedding photographer earns* $1,900 for a wedding, he only has to shoot 53 weddings per year to make a six-figure income. Wedding photographers who earn $5,000 for a wedding are making more than a quarter of a million a year. Not bad for one day of work per week. No wonder why Marketwatch reported that wedding photographers are one of the ten most overpaid jobs.
Wedding photographers, if asked about their status as top ten overpaid jobs, will whine about the “stress” of shooting a wedding. I have no doubt that it’s stressful, but so is every other job in the U.S. The regular working stiff has to work in a high stress job eight hours or more per day for five consecutive days, while the wedding photographer only has one high stress day, then six days to relax before his next wedding.
Someone will probably ask the question, “if wedding photography is such easy money, why isn’t everyone doing it?” The answer is barriers to entry.
There are two barriers to entry: acquisition of knowledge capital, and acquisition of marketing capital. The only way to learn wedding photography is to apprentice to another wedding photographer, and even if you want to apprentice for free, you probably won’t find any takers. The smart wedding photographer doesn’t want to train the competition.
Even after you learn the business, it’s difficult, at first, to find any clients.
But once you learn the business, and once you acquire a reputation among wedding planners and others in the wedding industry/scam so that you get a lot of referrals, it’s all easy coasting along on your six-figure income.
* The Marketwatch article says that an average wedding photographer "earns" $1900. That's "earns", and not "grosses." Indeed, in looking through wedding photographers' websites, they typically charge $2000 for a wedding package that does not include a wedding album, just a few prints that maybe add $100 of costs, so yes, the average wedding photographer seems to earn about $1,900 on a wedding. Furthermore, most wedding photographer websites don't list prices, so I suspect that only the cheaper photographers put a price on their website.
For example, this wedding photographer in Rochester NY charges a minimum of $2000 to take five hours of photos, and that includes no extras at all, if you want an album you have to pay him an extra $2,150 for a "medium-size" album. So yes, maybe it takes him some time to make the album, but he's making quite a bit of profit on the album. This guy is probably pulling in over $150,000 per year if he's well booked, and that's a damn high salary for Rochester, NY. That's more than a family doctor makes, and unlike the doctor, the wedding photographer didn't have to borrow six figures to attend many years of medical school. A wedding photographer doesn't need to go to college at all.
Apparently, if you want to get a lot of people to visit your blog, all you have to do is write a post about how wedding photography is easy money. But you have to put up with a lot of nasty comments.
Someone who calls herself “Hope” wrote a great response to this post on another internet message board (original can be found here). I repeat it below:
Wedding photographers can make as much as doctors without the years of school, long hours clocked in the ER for the first few years and extremely high cost of keeping a practice. They can make as much as or more than miners without working twelve or fifteen hour shifts in a mine where they are putting their life at risk. Wedding photographers make more than nurses and nurses' aids, who get paid only slightly more than minimum wage to wipe people's butts, wipe up vomit and watch people die on a regular basis. Wedding photographers make more than prison guards, who on a regular basis are assaulted, stabbed, pelted with feces, sexually molested or even raped, and through it all have to worry about being sued/fired for so much as laying a hand on said prisoners who revile them so much.
Tell a cop to "outsource" being in the line of fire. Tell a waitress she should demand higher tips because her time is valuable and she should refuse customers who give her a hard time. Tell someone in the military just back from two tours in Iraq that wedding photography is not easy money.
Let's be honest here. You set your own hours. You decide what clients you work with and when. You don't have to answer to anyone but yourself and to some extent the specific person you're working for. A "hellish day of work" would consist of poor lighting conditions and rowdy or rude wedding guests. Does wedding photography take talent, good business sense, etc.? Yes. Is it "easy" in the sense that any untrained person could, with fortitude, randomly decide to get into it and plausibly make a good living for themselves with a small investment? YES.
There are jobs that are easier than wedding photography. And there are jobs that garner more money. But no one can convince me that all things considered, wedding photography is anywhere NEAR the bottom of the pyramid. When people say, "OMG, I could be a wedding photographer and it'd be easy money!" often times they are comparing wedding photography to the jobs they have had or the jobs their loved ones have had -- and you know what, in that respect, they are absolutely right.
I wrote a followup post in response to the angry comments that this post received.