How Much Should You Invest in Your Wedding Photographer?


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The average cost of a wedding photographer will drastically vary

There is no one size fits all when choosing a wedding photographer because each photographer is very different based on their background, style, years of experience, values, client experience, and business model. What’s important to keep in mind and first and foremost when choosing a photographer shouldn’t be simply the cost, but also the other factors that add value to what you’re paying for. The goal of this post is to help you get a better understanding of pricing, costs, and value that goes into wedding photography. Also, keep in mind that these are based on the trends we’ve seen for wedding photography in 2021 and specifically in our own market.

Why do some Photographers cost more than others?

It’s not just about booking the most affordable photographer possible but rather it’s about booking the RIGHT photographer to suit your needs and vision for your wedding day. As mentioned earlier, there is a wide range in which a wedding photographer might cost you. We’ve broken it down for you to see some of the different ranges may be and what that typically means for each photographer.

  • Photographers Just Starting Out: $0-$500

    • These are typically people who are looking to gain experience, build a portfolio, or just do it as a hobby on the side. While each photographer has to start somewhere, keep in mind the risks that might go along with this route. When we first started out, we lacked confidence, and we were very awkward in our posing. We didn’t understand lighting, and we were literally just learning (and using auto instead of manual…. giving us less control over our image quality). So, when this is the route you choose, keep in mind that you do get what you pay for and so don’t be unrealistic in your expectations and compare their work to someone who has been doing this for years. Everyone has to start somewhere.

  • Beginner Photographer: $500 – $1500

    • Photographers in this range maybe have shot a few weddings. They also are likely still building a following and trying to get their name out there. Beginner photographers will likely have some sort of a portfolio to show you to showcase their work. This can give you some sort of comfort knowing that they can produce good photos, however, be sure to request seeing a full gallery so you know what you’re getting and not just seeing their “good photos”. You want to know the whole package.

  • Experienced Photographer: $1500 – $3000

    • While people at this level have experience, chances are they are still figuring out their style – how they pose, editing techniques, and overall their photography niche. They are looking to either maintain a small side business or eventually gain experience to go full-time. When meeting with a photographer in this price range, be sure to ask them about their photography goals. Are they investing in better gear, backup cameras and systems? Are they planning on going full-time (if they aren’t already) and what are they doing to stay educated during the off season?

  • Professional or full-time: $4000 – $6000

    • These photographers are in higher demand based on their style and work. They have a decent following and have people constantly reaching out to inquire. Photographers at this level have made this a career and understand how to provide not only quality work but also care deeply about the client experience. They have an established style and people can know what to expect when booking someone at this price range.

  • Luxury: $7000 +

    • Photographers at this level are the experts. They have been around the block many times when it comes to shooting weddings, serving clients, and creating the best possible experience. They are consistent in their work, they work incredibly well with vendors, they provide numerous resources to their couples, they are educators in the industry, and add value beyond just shooting a wedding day and creating great photos and making the couple feel good.

What’s Included in a Wedding Photography Package?

Other factors that may affect the cost of your photographer can go well beyond your photographer’s experience and style. For example, what is included in their pricing and packages? Here are some things to look for when you receive your photography quote and make sure that whatever you end up booking aligns with what you’re looking for.

  • Does the package include one photographer or two photographers? Having a second shooter might be desirable if you have an extensive timeline, multiple locations, a shorter getting ready schedule, or a larger wedding attendance.

  • Is an engagement session included? Not every photographer includes an engagement session in their packages. We highly recommend doing an engagement session with your photographer in order to be comfortable with them and their style of shooting prior to your wedding day.

  • What other services are included? Does your photographer offer timeline revisions, sneak peek photos within a week of your wedding, instagram previews, or any other additional add-ons?

  • How will you receive your photos? Will you have to purchase them individually form your photographer in order to get them printed or will you have access to the digital files? Will they come with watermarks on them? These are all important things to keep in mind when meeting with your prospective photographer.

Why is wedding photography expensive?

While each wedding a photographer is different, there is a lot that goes into shooting a wedding that people often forget. Here are few things that contribute to the cost:

Wedding photography takes a lot of time! For example, every one hour of shooting typically ends up being 2-4 hours of editing for photography. While this might vary from photographer to photographer, this has been generally true for us. So with that in mind, per wedding, a photographer will likely spend:

  • 2-5 hours of responding to initial emails and setting up meetings

  • 2-3 hours of engagement session (including travel time, planning, and prep)

  • 3-5 hours of editing, exporting, uploading, and delivering engagement photos

  • 2-3 hours of wedding timeline prep and pre-wedding planning

  • 10-17 hours of work on the wedding day (including set-up, travel, wedding day coverage, tear down, backing up photos at the end of the night, etc…)

  • 12-40 hours of editing (depending on the number of photographers and hours of coverage, two photographers means double the photos to go through)

  • 1 + hour of backup, exporting, and other tasks

This all adds up to be anywhere from 30 to 70+ hours of time spent on just one wedding! (This is not counting the hours they spend communicating with clients who don’t end up booking with them).

Camera gear and expenses add up! On top of the amount of time it takes to service a wedding, photographers have a lot of expenses that add up. Here are some of the costs that go into photography businesses:

  • Camera bodies: $2000 – $5000 each – photographers will have at least 2

  • Camera Lenses: $700 – $3000 each – photographers will have usually 2-7+

  • Fast and Reliable SD Cards: $140 each

  • Adobe subscription: $120 – $600 per year

  • Website: $200 – $500 per year

  • CRM services (such as Honeybook or Dubsado): $200+ per year

  • Educational courses: $400 to $1500

  • Advertising budget: Varies (it’s recommended photographers spend 5% of their gross revenue on advertising)

There are things missing from this list… but you can probably see my point! It’s expensive to keep a photography business running, and it’s not unrealistic for photographers to have $20,000 or more in expenses some years. Plus, don’t forget the hefty business taxes that are owed 🙂

Over time, many photographers burn out from undervaluing their time and end up not pursuing photography further. If you appreciate someone’s portfolio and services, consider investing in their work. Understand that photographers don’t arbitrarily charge “an arm and a leg” for their services, they’re trying to offset their expenses and have put in a lot of time, investments, and hard work to add value to what they are able to offer.

So now what?

If you’ve gotten this far, you’ve probably learned a thing or two about wedding photography and pricing. When it comes for choosing your photographer, it’s important that you consider all of these factors and look into what you’re able to spend and make sure you put that towards what you value. For some people, that might be just $500 and that’s okay! We wouldn’t be where we are if people didn’t take the chance to invest in us early on. Fast forward to now and we have invested so much more into this business, and the experience and value our clients get out of it is worth so much more because of it. So, please consider all the factors when making your wedding day photographer decision. You can’t re-do your wedding day, and so invest in what you value when it comes to how your day is captured 🙂

If you’re interested in our work and would like to connect, you can fill out our contact form using the link above and we’d love to connect and see if we might be a good fit for your wedding day!