Film photography pricing in the wedding industry

Mar 15, 2016 | Industry

We love a healthy discussion about film photography here at Wedding Sparrow and recently we stumbled upon a hot topic with our vendors in our private Facebook group. Price points of film photography is something that not only carries throughout the industry in general, but is something that sets standards with not only others in the industry, but sets expectations with brides and grooms. Whilst there is a vast difference between photography prices ($1,500 - $60,000+), we thought a dive into what some film photographers think about their own prices and what they provide might shed some light on the price points of both the European and American markets.

We know this isn't a one-size-fits-all service and thus prices will always be different dependant upon lots of factors (experience, costs, service level) but the specific topic of lower prices in the industry making it more and more competitive and pushing people away from shooting more film was evident.

We asked a number of photographers where they were based, what they provide for that cost and their thoughts on pricing in the industry at the moment...

Taylor & Porter - UK Film Wedding Photographer Pin it

SWEET TEA PHOTOGRAPHY - USA - STARTING AT $6,500

  1. Are you a primarily film or hybrid shooter? Primarily film but I shoot digital for mostly supplemental reception shots.
  2. What are your starting price points and what does that include? $6,500
    - 9 hours of photography, - second shooter - photo assistant to change out film - high resolution USB & printing rights - proofing gallery
  3. Are you happy with your current pricing or would you prefer to charge more/less? I'm not booking much with this pricing
  4. How do you explain your prices (if you do) to clients should they compare you to digital shooters? I explain that film is a hefty price and each shot that I take I am taking consciously rather than taking 100 per minute like many digital shooters.

ANONYMOUS - EUROPE - STARTING AT €1,900

  1. Are you a primarily film or hybrid shooter? I’m 99% film shooter. Only sometimes in the evening I can shoot some extra movement (dancing) with digital, all the rest only film
  2. What are your starting price points and what does that include? 1,900€ in 2016 and 2,400€ in 2017. It is the smallest package - 8 hours of film photography. If we talk of engagements - 500€
  3. Are you happy with your current pricing or would you prefer to charge more/less? It seems small to me, but I’m planning to raise year after year, I’d love to have the starting point at 3,000€
  4. How do you explain your prices (if you do) to clients should they compare you to digital shooters? Only 5% of clients ask me about it. I explain all the pro’s of film, show the difference (same shots done with film and digital) and they understand it
  5. Is there anything else you would like to add about pricing, positioning, film costs, value to this post? There is an enormous “offer force” in the market in Italy. There are plenty of photographers that offer low prices and those who want to go and shoot in Italy “for food” (for tickets and accommodation) in order to have an italian wedding in portfolio, and it kills the market.

ANONYMOUS - USA - STARTING FROM $5,000

  1. Are you a primarily film or hybrid shooter? Film
  2. What are your starting price points and what does that include? $5,000, 7 hours wedding day coverage, 2 photographers, engagement session, USB of images with reprint release
  3. Are you happy with your current pricing or would you prefer to charge more/less? Currently happy with our pricing
  4. How do you explain your prices (if you do) to clients should they compare you to digital shooters? We provide an exclusive service, not everyone can/does shoot film and with that comes a higher overhead cost
  5. Is there anything else you would like to add about pricing, positioning, film costs, value to this post? The cost of shooting and developing film is relatively the same across the country but the markets are different, for example a photographer on the east coast will pay the same amount as a photographer in the midwest for shooting and developing 30 rolls of film but has the opportunity to make a much higher profit due to the economy in which they live/service. It is harder for central and midwest photographers to make a decent living shooting primarily in their direct market (i.e. not shooting/hardly shooting destination) - not impossible just maybe a little harder.

ANONYMOUS - EUROPE - STARTING FROM €2,400

  1. Are you a primarily film or hybrid shooter? Primarily film, with a little bit of digital in the evening
  2. What are your starting price points and what does that include? €2,400 / 8 hours; it includes the pre-wedding consultation (including a 50 page book I wrote myself with tips for a seamless wedding day), wedding coverage of 8 hours (including a one hour portrait shoot), small touch ups in the portraits, full resolution images (all of them, around 350 images), online gallery for one year and 10 prints
  3. Are you happy with your current pricing or would you prefer to charge more/less? I would like to charge more, but I'm a very competitive market (lots of photographers that are low priced where I live) and although I do a lot of editorial work, I don't think my portfolio is "there yet" / it still doesn't fully represent the higher paying clientele I would like to attract. Although for Germany, I'm already in the higher priced segment (everyone else in that price segment shoots digital only though)
  4. How do you explain your prices (if you do) to clients should they compare you to digital shooters? I don't market myself as a film photographer anymore and I don't explain my prices. I try to market myself as more of a luxe brand/photographer who knows her craft and creates pieces of art rather than snapshots and that's what explains my pricing/my value to my customers. I do notice though that they see something different in my images, something they're drawn too but can't explain and when I dig deeper I often find out, that it's the typical film features they adore.
  5. Is there anything else you would like to add about pricing, positioning, film costs, value to this post? I'm trying to raise my prices for 2017 as I hope to really polish my portfolio with the upcoming 2016 weddings. I think, it's very difficult for us European film shooters that are not in the luxe segment to catch up to American pricing. I really hope that in a few years film photography will be just as sought after in Europe as it currently is in the US/Canada. I am pretty sure though that people will never be able and/or willing to spend as much on wedding photography as in the US/Canada - just because the distribution of income is so different in Europe and/or weddings have a different value here. Also I hope that although we're not that many film shooters in Europe, I really hope we're going to be more and more acknowledged as serious artists too.

ANONYMOUS - USA - STARTING FROM $5,000

  1. Are you a primarily film or hybrid shooter? Film
  2. What are your starting price points and what does that include? I start at 5k with 6hr of coverage, online gallery, digital download, along with 150 4.5x6 prints.
  3. Are you happy with your current pricing or would you prefer to charge more/less? I would prefer to charge more, what people do not understand is all that photographers do for their clients. After welcome packets, film cost, and materials, I really think we should charge a lot more for services.
  4. How do you explain your prices (if you do) to clients should they compare you to digital shooters? I simply state that their is a difference with film vs. digital (and both are very beautiful - along with neither is better than the other!) but with film their is an output cost for the film, and if film photography is important to them than the price might be different, but it is truly up to them on what they want for their wedding day.
  5. Is there anything else you would like to add about pricing, positioning, film costs, value to this post? Just that I think as a whole - knowing that film is becoming more popular for photographers - to know the cost of these and charge what should be charged with the output cost. You might do this because you love it, because we all love it, but at the end of the time your time and energy is worth money. You are an artist.

FAYE CORNHILL PHOTOGRAPHY - EUROPE - STARTING FROM £1,995

  1. Are you a primarily film or hybrid shooter? Hybrid
  2. What are your starting price points and what does that include? My starting price is £1,995 and includes wedding day coverage of 10 hours, a 10x10 Queensberry album and a mix of film/digital images on a USB stick
  3. Are you happy with your current pricing or would you prefer to charge more/less? I am happy but in a perfect world I would shoot 90% film with just the odd digital picture. Of course, if I did this my prices would be much higher. Because breaking price boundaries is so hard I need to keep my film work to a lower % to ensure that I am not out of pocket with film/developing costs.
  4. How do you explain your prices (if you do) to clients should they compare you to digital shooters? To be honest because I shoot both, my customers see it as a nice 'add on' that I also shoot film rather than the main attraction for hiring me. I would much prefer to position myself as a 100% film shooter but at the moment my pricing just doesn't reflect this. By staying a hybrid shooter I offer myself a coping mechanism for couples who don't see the value of film. This is a shame and something I'd rather not do but it's such an enormous leap to go to shooting 100% film. I will do it, eventually....
  5. Is there anything else you would like to add about pricing, positioning, film costs, value to this post? I truly believe that the desire for film is growing and couples seem more aware of this type of photography. However, couples have budgets and I believe this is still a luxury product that not all couples will be able to afford. It would be so hard to alienate customers who have fabulous weddings but just don't have the budget for me to shoot all on film.

ANONYMOUS - USA - STARTING FROM $8,500

  1. Are you a primarily film or hybrid shooter? Film
  2. What are your starting price points and what does that include? $8,500 – 6 hours wedding coverage, 400 prints, online gallery, USB
  3. Are you happy with your current pricing or would you prefer to charge more/less? I am okay with my pricing, I realize I need to be charging more and trying to gradually get there. Film is A LOT more expensive than people realize and development, scanning, the product itself are constantly rising in price. Also, I realize my time, my talent, and experience in shooting weddings is worth it... it's just a lot easier said than done.
  4. How do you explain your prices (if you do) to clients should they compare you to digital shooters? I never explain my prices to a potential client, I give them an idea of how I work and send them full galleries and tell them they need to choose a photographer who's work speaks to them and who's work they can imagine for their own wedding.
  5. Is there anything else you would like to add about pricing, positioning, film costs, value to this post? It is extremely difficult to be a film shooter these days. It has become a trend within the industry and brides know they like film but don't understand why or what they are drawn to and think they just need film and don't research photographers. Many film shooters are just starting out and just learning how to shoot film. Many are advertising themselves as film shooters or fine art photographers whilst they are only supplementing with film shooting a few rolls here and there. It's misleading and it's hurting those who are charging the appropriate price and that are truly a film shooter. I've hosted over 20 one on ones within the past 6 months and NOT ONE of those "film shooters" actually shoots anything all film and what's even scarier is they don't understand how it works or how to use it and rely on the lab to get a result they are happy with. It is shocking a the number of them that don't understand metering, rating film, which film is best for which lighting situations, even after attending other "film shooters" workshops who are teaching them the craziest things and barely have experience shooting film themselves. My goal is to train photographers the right way to shoot film and show them what they really need to be charging to make a profit shooting film. Lastly, after crunching numbers with these 20 something photographers, NONE of them were profiting more than $5,000 per year and most of them weren't even making that. I know this sounds harsh but it's the truth and it's frustrating.

WHITE RABBIT STUDIOS - USA - STARTING FROM $5,000

  1. Are you a primarily film or hybrid shooter? Film
  2. What are your starting price points and what does that include? My starting price is typically $5,000 and includes 6-7 hours of coverage, prints from the day, all of the digital scans on a thumb drive, and an online gallery to share with friends and family. Additional coverage, photographers, albums, and sessions (engagement, bridal, boudoir, etc) are available as add-ons. I'm also more than happy to work with budgets and provide custom quotes to cover elopements and smaller shindigs.
  3. Are you happy with your current pricing or would you prefer to charge more/less? I am happy with my pricing, although I want to ensure I'm not over or under selling myself and the service/products that I offer.
  4. How do you explain your prices (if you do) to clients should they compare you to digital shooters? Often times digital photographers offer more coverage for a smaller price (10+ hours for around $3,800). I try to educate clients that I can work within a timeline to ensure the important key moments and the in-between bliss are all captured. I talk to them about how part of my investment in shooting film means that roughly a third of what they pay me covers the costs of film. I find that when clients see full galleries and exactly what all I can capture in the time provided, they understand that more coverage doesn't always equal more swoon-worthy images. Since I do shoot film, I love for clients to have a tangible artifact from their day, so I think it's important for me to provide them with prints from the day. In reality, they are getting the best of both worlds: physical prints and scans to share online!
  5. Is there anything else you would like to add about pricing, positioning, film costs, value to this post? I think it's important for couples to remember that (most likely) the images are the only thing they will have once the day is over, aside from their beautiful union, of course. While I understand that photography is usually a significant chunk of the budget, it will last much longer than the day-of services. They are, in fact, investing in their future...images that they will be able to pass down for generations to come.

ELLE GOLDEN PHOTOGRAPHY - USA - STARTING FROM $3,200

  1. Are you a primarily film or hybrid shooter? I am a hybrid photographer. I shoot primarily film up until the reception: typically 15-25 rolls of film per wedding. That's roughly $450 per wedding in film costs alone (and I use one of the less expensive labs among film photographers!).
  2. What are your starting price points and what does that include? My coverage ONLY rates begin at $3,200 for 8 hours with 1 photographer. My most popular collection is $4,500 and includes 8 hours of coverage, the choice of a 2nd photographer or engagement session, and a product credit. Some clients will add on to this, for instance BOTH a 2nd photographer and engagement session, bringing the total to $5,000-6,500. Travel fees are also added in if applicable.
  3. Are you happy with your current pricing or would you prefer to charge more/less? I am constantly reviewing my cost of doing business, desired annual salary/personal goals, and evaluating what clients typically book and respond best to. I would like to charge more per wedding so I am able to increase the amount of film I shoot, focus on providing my clients with increasingly higher end products, and simply live a more comfortable lifestyle the way most people with a full time job are able to do (I haven't had a work-free, dedicated personal vacation in years!).
  4. On a related note, I've actually discovered the higher my rates are, the more a client trusts me and my process and enjoys their final product (since I'm able to invest in top of the line heirloom/archival-quality products).
  5. How do you explain your prices (if you do) to clients should they compare you to digital shooters? Thankfully, my clients don't seem to balk at my pricing. However, I do take the time to meet clients in person so they're able to see the high quality products I provide and get to know me beyond the images in my portfolio. They learn about the film process and why I choose to be a hybrid photographer. By the end of the consultation, I often have clients wanting to pay me more so I'm able to shoot even more film! It's all about education and marketing toward your ideal client. As film becomes more popular, I'm not having to "defend" it as much. I've also given up on going into a ton of detail about my costs to potential clients. I want the kind of clients who know running a business and paying yourself involve crunching the numbers and pricing yourself accordingly. They know my prices aren't arbitrary and if they love me and my work, they will prioritize and make their budget work in order to add me to their dream team of wedding vendors!
  6. Is there anything else you would like to add about pricing, positioning, film costs, value to this post? As I alluded to above, I believe it's more valuable to educate new photographers on the correct way to price themselves rather than spending too much time lecturing potential clients. When I walk into a retail store, I assume the company has a business plan, has evaluated their cost of doing business, and priced their products in order to make a profit. I don't question the prices. Either I can afford it or not. If it's important and I can't afford it, I save up for it. So it's up to the company to do the legwork and make sure they're pricing themselves in a sustainable way and marketing toward the people who will buy what they're selling. When we as photographers don't run our own numbers, we only hurt ourselves in the long run. We're the ones to blame for setting the expectation that 8 hours of film wedding photography, 2 photographers, an engagement session, an album and all the digitals for $1,500 is normal. I would like to see all photographers, regardless of experience level, value themselves based not only on their quality of work, but also the prices needed to sustain their business and personal goals. That will trickle down to the general population and create more enlightened engaged couples who do not expect everything and the kitchen sink for pennies on the dollar in terms of wedding photography.

LAURA MURRAY PHOTOGRAPHY - USA - STARTING FROM $5,200

  1. Are you a primarily film or hybrid shooter? Hybrid
  2. What are your starting price points and what does that include? My starting price is $5,200 and that includes up to 7 hours of photography coverage, an assistant photographer, a full resolution flash drive of the images, and a box with 200 proof prints.
  3. Are you happy with your current pricing or would you prefer to charge more/less? I am happy with my pricing-- I am booking my target number of weddings and I like how my pricing is structured.
  4. How do you explain your prices (if you do) to clients should they compare you to digital shooters? During my bride and groom consults, I share my approach to the wedding day and film is just a small part of that. I use my meetings to get to know my clients' personality and I show sample albums so they can get a feel for how I tell the story of the wedding day. Oftentimes, potential clients do not understand the difference between film and digital, so I don't spend too much time trying to sell them on one versus the other. Instead I let my imagery speak for itself. Clients who do not have a photography background often just care about the final product. I find that my clients trust me to choose the medium (film vs. digital) to best tell their story. I do not compare my pricing to non-film shooters because pricing involves so much more than just the tool we use to make our photos. There are digital shooters that charge more than me, film shooters that charge less than me, and the opposite is also true. Wedding couples should base their decision on two factors ... do they enjoy spending time with the photographer (because we spend so much time with our couples on the wedding day) and do they like the photographer's portfolio of real weddings (because that is a good indication of what their wedding photos will be like).

It's clear that across the Atlantic there is a wide spectrum of price ranges and those are usually carefully considered by each photographer to cover their individual costs and experience. It's also clear however there seems to be a small amount of film shooters in the industry that our vendors have encountered that position themselves at a much lower price point than the rest of the industry. Does this mean that by setting clients expectations at this low cost we are damaging the rest of the industry when they need to charge more simply to cover the cost of living? Does shooting hybrid at a lower cost but marketing yourself as a film shooter make it hard for purely film shooters and their higher costs? These are all questions that have been asked over the past couple of weeks by industry folk. Film as we know has enormous cost implications which are pretty much static and so the worry of being able to continue to afford to shoot 100% film and remain competitive is a real threat. We'd LOVE to hear your thoughts below (anonymous or not!) on this highly debated issue...

vendor details

Photography by Taylor & Porter | Film Lab: Richard Photo Lab | Styled by: Pearl & Godiva | Dress: Samuelle Couture | Earrings: Kristin Hayes Jewelry | H&MU: Bella Unique Beauty

Comments

10 Comments
L
Larry - 11 February 2017

Crazy pricing! I can do an 8 hr day and shoot film the entire time for way less than a grand….. I could even wet print every photo and not bust $1500 on the entire project. And I’d still make profit for time spent and equipment upkeep.

BGoRPL

Interesting perspective.

I think there are many more factors to consider one of which is regional.  Why a photographer charges more is sort of like asking why does it cost more to live in Los Angeles than in Ohio?  So many reasons, and film is barely one of them.  Digital has hard costs too and it’s easy to find a Dig shooter charging 10k. 

I think the bigger question is how hard will you push to run a good photography business?  Will you research your market and build a price that is reasonable?  And will you shoot enough to make it a real business?  Not long ago a “full time” photographer would shoot 40 weddings and 250 portraits.  Now I see people trying to run a business on 10-15 weddings.  I just don’t see how that can work. 

Film use is on the rise, some say 10-15% in the last year.  That’s a big jump after a few years of little to no growth.  So it looks like more folks are shooting film than quiting it. 

Average charge in the US is 2-3k for a wedding shooter.  But the average wedding shooter also goes out of business, so to me, below market prices result in failure. 

Like Greg Fink said, I could talk about this for hours!!  In fact, we do talk about it all the time. Drop a note to us if you want chat one on one about it!  We like to help folks figure it all out!

DM
Daria Marczak - 16 March 2016

As a digital shooter I was considering moving into the film photography, which I did however not professionally. What I don’t agree with is the industry perception of film photography as a higher rank one, imposing the reputation on digital photographers as snappers. We can not tell how many film rolls get wasted compared to how much average photographer overshoots. Sure the cost gets eaten in either wasted film or time spent editing, loss is loss.  Learning film makes me a better photographer and craftsman, however digital allows me to be more precise with my work without relying on the lab to provide the results.  The medium is really just the medium, in the end the photographer is the artist.

GF
Greg Finck - 16 March 2016

I could discuss this topic for hours too! Even though I don’t like justifying pricing, it doesn’t add up when I hear film photographers (I don’t really believe in the Hybrid marketing positioning) charging 3,000€ (or less) for weddings.

Let’s say you’re a registered company in France, you have a 20% sales tax (3,000€ -> 2,500€). You can’t reasonably do a proper film coverage with less than 30 rolls (2,500€ -> 2,000€). The tax on benefits in France is 33% (2,000€ -> 1,300€), and should you add your social security, income tax, etc. this will leave you with less than 700€ for one wedding. You just can’t make a living out of it.

Let’s have in mind that more than 50% of wedding photographers are out of the market in less than 3 years, for the only reason of pricing issue. Our pricing needs to be established based on what you need for a sustainable living, not based on the market or competition.

But once again, could discuss this topic for hours :) xx

L
LAHNA - 15 March 2016

Interesting read, I am curious about how many of these are in small markets. I struggle with shooting more film and being in a small market….

AT
André Teixeira - 15 March 2016

Interesting indeed :) Im so glad that finally someone start’s to talk about what’s really matters! Thank you :)

CW
Cory Weber - 15 March 2016

If you are shooting film and not profiting then you MUST raise your prices.  With film comes a certain level of luxury and and an appeal to the higher-end couples which certainly justifies the higher price point.  If you are trying to make the transition from digital to film as well as average photography pricing to high-end photography pricing then the lower price point is also justified. . . . . for a while.  Just don’t sit with that price point for long.  You need to make a timeline to achieve your pricing goals and if your work is worthy of a “Fine Art Film Photography” label then you need to charge accordingly. Don’t be scared and certainly don’t guess your way into your pricing. Work out the numbers and the details to make profitability happen!  The worst thing for the industry is for everyone to be making great art and NOT making money.  For years the wedding photography industry has been one of the only ways that ARTISTS were actually making a good living.  If the average photographer starts shooting film and not charging appropriately it will be, well. . . not good.

I
Isabelle - 15 March 2016

Interesting post, but I have no idea how any photographer in Europe can shoot 7-9 hrs of coverage on mostly film and make any money what so ever charging anything under €3000. It doesn’t add up!?!

A
Anon - 15 March 2016

Love this post. As a film shooter that packages start at $15k it’s important to me that shooters position themselves at a point where they can comfortably shoot film (at whatever price point that is) and I feel with Hybrid shooters advertising as film shooters, it hurts the industry and client expectations. I could talk about this for hours but for now, rant over… ;)

KO
Kurtz Orpia - 15 March 2016

Good read and feel of how much everyone charges, and some inquiries they think i charge more

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