Photography has become a very lucrative yet competitive profession. While professional photographers spend thousands on cameras, lenses, flashes and studio’s it is possible to make money as an amateur photograph. Not only is it possible, I have done it and if you are willing to put in some time and effort it can generate a nice income stream aside from your 9 to 5 day job. This article will focus on making money as an amateur wedding photographer.

Wedding photography

Wedding photography is a great way to earn money through photography. While many couples will spend thousands on professional wedding photographers there are also couples who are on a much tighter budget. This is were an amateur photographer with an entry level Digital SLR can earn great money for a days work. It is important to address the difference between a professional wedding photography and an amateur photographer having a go at wedding photography. Here are some of the key differences:

Professional wedding photographer:

  • Typically has years of experience
  • High end Digital SLR such as a Canon 5D mk II or a Nikon D3X/DS
  • High end lenses and flashes
  • Usually has a team of 2-3 photographers
  • Provides professional photo albums

An amateur photographer:

  • Typically new to photography
  • Uses an entry level DSLR such as the Nikon D3000 or Canon 60D
  • Works solo or with a friend who is also an amateur photographer
  • Limited flash gear/speed lights
  • Will provide photographs on a disk

It is important not to be discouraged when assessing the differences between an amateur photographer having a go at wedding photography and a professional wedding photographer as amateur photographers do have an edge over their professional counter parts. The edge amateur photographers hold include:

  • Ability to charge much less
  • Lower expectations on the quality of the photographs. Couples on a budget understand that they are getting what they paid for. This still doesn’t excuse terrible photographs, however the couple will understand why their photographs are not lit perfectly or cropped exactly right.
  • Many couples do not want to pay for a professional album and prefer to receive all the photos on a disk. Most professional photographers will charge extra for a disk containing the photographs. This disk will usually not even contain all the photographs that the photographer captured. Being an amateur photographer you can offer to provide all the photos you take on disk at no extra charge.

What you will need

The gear that you will need to take on a wedding photographer role includes:

  • DSLR of decent quality. Even the basic DSLR’s will enable you to take great photographs
  • A basic flash/speed light. Relying on the built in flash will not give you great results, purchase a speed light for your DSLR and the quality of your shots will improve
  • Create a checklist of the types of photos you need to capture. This may include shots such as the bride arriving at the church, the groom talking with his best men, the flower girl with a nice background. All of these types of photographs are much easier to remember if you have a checklist
  • You will only need 1 camera, however you will likely need 2 memory cards with 2-4 GB each and either a lens ranging from wide to zoom capabilities or two separate lenses.
  • Lots of energy! Being the wedding photographer is not easy and can be a really long day. Most photographers will arrive early in the morning to capture images of the bride getting ready and stay till late capturing images of the reception, be prepared for a long and tiring day!

How much can you charge?

Professional photographers charge thousands of dollars for covering a wedding. Keeping in mind that they bring a lot of experience and quality products to the table, it doesn’t mean that as an amateur photographer you cant charge good money. I would expect to charge around $300 - $500 for your first wedding. This will typically include a full day of photography and all images on a disk. If the couple would like an album it is not difficult to get your local photography shop to create an album with the images you select. The cost of this can usually be passed on to the married couple. Once you have a few weddings under your belt you should be able to bump your prices up to around $700-$1000. Any higher than $1000 and you will be a the lower end of the professional photographers so its best to try to keep it under $1000.

Final comments

Wedding photography is a great way to increase your income and can be achieved with little up front purchases. If you are already into photography and are looking to make extra money then wedding photography may be for you. Good luck and happy shooting!