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How Many Weddings Hire Elite Pro Photographers?

I know there’s no shortage of articles about stats regarding wedding and wedding photographers.

What is misleading is where all the money from these weddings are going.

This is my own non-scientific – but real world look at this.

What we do know is that each year there are about 2 million weddings in the U.S. That is easy to track – because people that get married need to get marriage licenses. And that’s easy to track.

What’s not easy to track is how much money each wedding is spending on photography.

You would think that with 2 million weddings – that there would be plenty of work out there.

For the past year – every time I would talk to a professional “officiant” – I would ask them the same questions. And about all of them gave me the same answer.

A professional “officiant” is very different from a pastor from a church. See… if you see a pastor at a church – it is generally a big budget wedding. Most of the time – the couple knows the pastor and they are getting married in a church.

But there is such a thing a professional officiant. These are professionals that do small beach weddings. They do small court house weddings. They do big weddings at large resorts.

Every one I’ve spoke to this year told me about the same numbers.

One of the most popular I know does about 200 weddings from May – August. His name is Benjy Simmons.

He says that of all the weddings he does – about 10 percent hire a photographer that charges $1,000 or more for photography. The rest will hire a photographer for $500 or less – or have a friend or family member take pictures.

But in short – about 10 percent of all weddings use what I call an “elite level” pro photographer for their wedding.

I get it – there are photographers in all sorts of ranges… but for simplicity – it’s not a stretch to say that 10 percent of weddings use “real world” pro wedding photographers.

That being said – if there are 2 million weddings a year… it makes it seem that we’re all splitting 2 million weddings. That is NOT the case. We are not dividing up 2 million weddings.

Let’s face it – a lot of people who get married chose very small ceremonies that never hire a elite level photographer.

And the number is definitely not 1 million. There is no way that there are 1 million weddings that are spending big time money.

My number is the same as Benji’s number. About 10 percent.

If indeed – only 10 percent of these 2 million weddings are big budget weddings – then the battleground would be 200,000 high end weddings a year.

I think that is accurate.

200,000 big budget weddings divided by 50 states is 4,000 big budget weddings each state per year.

4,000 divided by 50 weekends a year (for easy math) is about 80 venues a week – per state – that get big time weddings.

I know in Myrtle Beach – there are maybe 20 big-time venues that brides regularly book – and I know they aren’t booked every single weekend.

So this number is about right.

What this means?

Lets say there are 200,000 weddings a year that are big budget that do the whole rigamarole. They do the pro photographer – the cake – the video – the sit-down or buffet dinner…

Now let’s calculate the number of true blue – pro wedding photographers.

Ok… There’s really no way to really tell.

Because now-a-days – photographers do a little bit of everything.

I think the PPA has a membership of around 40,000.

So take that and you figure 1/4 do weddings exclusively?

So 10,000?

Add in 5000 more that aren’t part of the PPA?

So 15,000 wedding photographers in the United States? Sound about right?

About 300 true blue wedding photographers in your state?

200,000 divided by 15,000 is 13 weddings a year per photographer. For easy math – lets make that 15.

Granted – it’s hard to make a living off of 15 weddings a year.

But that’s why wedding photographers are doing a little of everything.

It also shows how tough it is to be a wedding photographer.

And it shows where we are. If you’re doing 15 weddings a year? You doing well.

There are a lot doing 30 plus. And they are doing very well.

But it shows us what we’re facing.

Because if there is 2 million weddings a year. And there are about 15,000 pro wedding photographers… Divide the numbers and you come to 130 weddings a year per pro photographer.

And we all know that’s not the case.

15 weddings a year – and you’re doing very well.

– Gene


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