Let's talk numbers -- retainers, mileage, changing collections, etc.

Hey there, friendly blog readers! I have never claimed to be super good at math or accounting, but I’ve always secretly loved figuring out numbers. I don’t mind putting together spreadsheets for my accountant, and I like managing our household’s finances. So today we’re going to talk numbers!

Wedding photography is definitely an investment, but though I am biased, I believe it is one of the single-most important things you should have on your wedding day. And it’s not something you want to skimp on — we’ve all heard the horror stories of photographers not showing up or losing your images. Don’t let that happen to you. Make sure your photographer has a solid contract in place AND a solid backup/storage plan for your precious images. Ok, getting off topic…!!

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wedding veil photo

Wedding Photography Retainer

I think some people are surprised at how much they have to pay for a deposit or retainer for their wedding photographer. My retainer is $1,000. There are few ways I’ve come to that number: 1) With booking days out so far in advance, a substantial dollar number is necessary to lock in your date. And because I often have to turn several other people away for a same date, that retainer allows me to do secure your date with confidence. 2) Having a large retainer fee lets me know that the client is serious about booking their date and won’t be wishy-washy on it. I understand that sometimes things happen out of our control, and I confront those on a case-by-case basis. Years ago I went through a stretch where I had several weddings cancel (for various reasons, most of the time not anything having to do with me), and I decided it was time to raise my retainer fee.

white pale pink bouquet with greenery

Mileage & Travel Fees

I don’t travel a ton for weddings, but when I do travel outside of Champaign and Piatt counties I charge mileage (and hotel if it’s more than a 3-hour drive). Why Champaign and Piatt counties? Well, I live on the western edge of Champaign county and am about as close to east Urbana as I am to Allerton Park, and so since I photograph there frequently, I decided to include that entire county as well. :) My mileage is based on the current federal mileage rate at the time of booking, which is usually somewhere between $.50-.60 per mile.

For destination weddings where air travel is required, the client is responsible for paying for the flight, 2 nights hotel, and transportation to and from the airport and resort/location. These expenses are also applicable to any assistants or second photographers needed for the wedding.

wedding party trolley champaign

On occasion I get asked about changing someone’s wedding collection. My typical answer is for them to book whichever collection they know they can afford and want first. Then as we get closer to the wedding date, if you decide you want/need more, we can always upgrade you. It is much better and easier to upgrade rather than downgrade, so I prefer doing it that way. But YES, you can absolutely change your collection based on your needs as you continue your planning.

rainbow colorful wedding tent reception

One of my favorite things about using Honeybook as my client booking management system (referral link!) is that I can send out equally divided invoices on specific dates and it will automatically send reminders for me. This was seriously such a great step for my business and everyone can pay easily and securely online with me having to track you down or wait for a check in the mail! (though you are always welcome to use a check!). Following your retainer/deposit payment, your remaining collection balance is broken into three payments which are due 1, 3, & 5 months before the wedding. So if you have a June 2020 wedding, you will start paying in January 2020.

So there you have it — the nitty gritty of numbers related to my business and more specifically wedding photography. If you have any questions at all, I’m happy to answer!