With any other jobs, pho­tog­ra­phers are paid for our time. The time that we spend behind the cam­era actu­ally press­ing on the shut­ter but­ton is just frac­tion of the time spent for a shoot.

Let’s talk about a typ­i­cal Chi­nese weddings.

Alex Foo & Lilian Heng Tea Ceremony

Due to some Chi­nese believe that cer­tain cer­e­mony needs to be held at cer­tain time, Chi­nese wed­ding cer­e­mony can start as early as 4 am in the morn­ing, to pre­pare, to dress up and all these needs to be or are expected to be documented.

In Chi­nese wed­dings, the groom often trav­els to the bride’s to pick up the bride. Then trav­el­ing back to the groom’s.

Pho­tog­ra­phers usu­ally arrive as early as 5am in the morn­ing to catch the prepa­ra­tion of the bride and groom. Let’s make it 6am for con­ve­nience sake. The whole cer­e­mony would prob­a­bly ends at 1pm when lunch is served back at the groom’s side. That’s 7 hours of shut­ter click­ing pho­tog­ra­phy work.

Because wed­ding events hap­pens as spon­ta­neous as it could be, the pho­tog­ra­pher must be on alert at all times.

Wedding - Ken Fai & Sheau Han


Let’s say for exam­ple we are paid 700 for the work, for 7 hours of shut­ter press­ing work, just to keep things simple.

After the ses­sion, we go through images to select the best out of thou­sands of shots. Not only that, we also edit them. Edit­ing here is not the remov­ing of blem­ishes, or remov­ing of objects but more to alter­ation of col­ors and expo­sure of the image. These usu­ally needs man­ual work, and more often there is no proper auto­mated sys­tem to do this. I usu­ally take 5 – 6 hours select­ing and per­form­ing these edits. Let’s make it 5 hours for sim­plic­ity sake

So we have 7 hours of pho­tog­ra­phy time, 5 hours of edit­ing time, 1 hour to fac­tor in the trav­el­ing time and meet­ing with client. We spent 13 hours with this client. That’s 53 bucks an hour. But wait, we hired a pho­tog­ra­pher for the other loca­tion. We will pay him 300 for his work. So that 36 bucks an hour rate for ourselves.

Lenna Wedding

Lets say your busi­ness is good, peo­ple come to you every day to pho­to­graph their wed­ding, but I like to keep things sim­ple, we pho­to­graph one wed­ding a week (Wed­dings in Malaysia usu­ally is on a week­end). So now we have 1600 a month.

But who would only pho­to­graph wed­dings for a liv­ing right? Let’s make it more real­is­tic, we use back our hourly rate of 53 bucks, and we will do a 40 hours work week.

That is RM2120 a month. Looks like it’s a good income after all.

But wait.

Lenna Wedding

I got to put off some for my EPF. If you are employed your employer will con­tribute 13% to your EPF account, but I do not have an employer and I am very bad at keep­ing my sav­ings. So to make it sim­ple, I con­tribute 20% to my EPF savings.

I am left with RM1696

I got to travel to meet­ings with clients, travel to loca­tion too. So I bought a MyVi. Lets say at RM30,000 and I am pay­ing for 5 years. Inter­est rate for loan repay­ment for cars for 5 years with var­i­ous banks are between 2.71% to 3%. So

RM1696-RM568=RM1128

My MyVi needs petrol to move. MyVi fuel capac­ity is 40 liter, and I pump once a week. At cur­rent rate of RM1.97 per lit­ter for RON95, I spend RM78 a week, which trans­late to RM312 a month. So

RM1128-RM300=RM828

I can’t afford eat­ing Chi­nese food, so I eat at the mamak. RM3 for a plate of magee goreng kosong and a glass of water. Or I can switch with roti canai, just for vari­ety. roti telur is out of the bud­get, for now.

RM828-(RM3 a meal x 3 times a day x 30 days)=RM558

I need to pay for car insur­ance and road tax. RM1273+RM70/12=RM109.5 a month

RM558-RM109=RM449

Sta­tis­tics shows that each house­hold aver­age elec­tric­ity is about 251 kWh a month. So 251 kWh as per aver­age house­hold of 4 is 62.75 kWh per per­son. Cur­rent rate with Tenaga Berhad is 21.8 sen per kWh for the first 200 kWh. That is RM13.67 per month. Prob­a­bly means no air con­di­tion­ing, and just a table fan. We can prob­a­bly switch on our com­put­ers once a while and charge our phones, but our equip­ments needs to be charged too, so we will do that at Starbucks.

RM449-RM13.67=RM435.33

I am not sure how much to pay for water. The Star say an aver­age per­son uses 226 liter of water a day. I think I am just going to shower, and do my shit­ting in the mamak or petrol sta­tion. I will prob­a­bly also wash my clothes in the petrol sta­tion to save water.

Stan­dard shower head sprays water at 2.5 US gal per minute. Which is about 90 liter per 10 minute shower. Min­i­mum charges for water tar­iff in Selan­gor is RM6.

RM435.33-RM6=RM429.33

I would also need Inter­net to send emails, reply to emails, upload pho­tos to Face­book, etc. The low­est pack­age offered by Telekom Malaysia 1mbps @ RM 110. I could opt for UniFi VIP5 for RM149 but that 39 bucks would make a lot of dif­fer­ence by end of the month.

RM429.33-RM110=RM329.33

Aver­age sin­gle room rental in Cheras is between RM500-RM350, and I am already not mak­ing enough.

Lenna Wedding

Don’t for­get I have yet paid for toll, med­ical insur­ance, equip­ment insur­ance, lia­bil­ity insur­ance, doc­tor because I eat magee mee every day, hygiene because I only shit at other people’s place. Not for­get­ting hard drive space, DVDs, backup dri­ves, com­put­ers. I have also yet to pay for my cam­era, lenses, flashes, fil­ter, bags, tripods, vest, gloves.

I also do not go to the movies, eat KFC or watch Iron­man 3. I also do not have money to edu­cate myself, to attend courses, to join WPPA. There will be no tech­ni­cal talk ses­sions, no teh tarik, no hang­ing out, unless Uncle Lim wants to buy me every time. Cer­tainly I can­not afford a boyfriend or girlfriend.

So, do you think the RM700 you paid your pho­tog­ra­pher is enough?