These price ranges are not set in stone, they’re averages. You can spend $12k total with someone who starts at $3000 for a wedding. Nothing is exactly fixed because there are so many factors that go into you and your experience as a client. These are generalizations and not to be taken as gospel. Sometimes you truly can get a “good deal” but you’re assuming more of a risk. The saying “you get what you pay for” comes to mind when talking about wedding photography pricing.
Something to remember when considering a wedding photographer. You are not just paying for someone to take photos for you. You are paying for someone who invests in themselves, their business, their camera equipment and their education to continue learning to create an even better experience every time they show up! They’re investing in equipment, education, software, and tangible heirlooms for your wedding photography experience.
Something else to consider: What comes in the wedding package?
Is the photographer just showing up, taking photos and leaving? Is an engagement session included? A wedding album, wall art, second shooters? High quality prints? Will the photographer help me with my timeline? All things that will raise the overall price of a wedding package. Your photographer is spending many hours creating an amazing experience for you.
Expertise is the ability of a given photographer to handle any wedding. Weddings have many different lighting scenarios and challenges that come along with that. A dark reception requires certain equipment and so does direct sunlight in the middle of the afternoon. Do you trust this person to capture every important moment even if the lighting changes? Can they think quickly on their feet and capture whatever may happen? Are they willing to provide full galleries to show how they capture every part of the day? Also, don’t forget the experience they’re able to offer beyond just taking photographs. Because remember - these things matter too! Communication all the way up to your day and communication after. Also, do they have proper backups for your photos and their camera gear? Unfortunately equipment fails on occasion and having multiple backups is important!
Style is subjective but certain styles are more en vogue than others. They’re also often tied to the way photographers approach the day. Some styles may lean more towards creating extravagantly posed artistic photographs of a married couple. Some may lean more towards capturing a couples story exactly as it is. Others may fall somewhere in between photojournalism and fashion. There’s a million approaches, and every photographer is a little different. This can apply to how things are shot and how they are edited. The demand for any particular style will help dictate that price as well just like any other industry.
Ok, I generally know what I value. . . So what can I do to narrow down a photographer to go with?
Amazing question. Chances are there are a few photographers out there who might have a price that works for you, and look like they have good photos online. Here are few tips to dive deeper and make sure you pick someone that really works for you!
1. Talk to them on the phone and make sure they are the right fit for you. One photographer is not right for every single couple. Your photographer is someone who will stand by you most of the day. You want to make sure you like them!
2. You are going to want to see full wedding galleries or blog posts from your photographer. A broken clock is right twice a day in the same way that a photographer can take one photograph that looks great. See how they capture the whole day. Do they take beautiful portraits but don’t have the right lighting set up to capture dark receptions?
3. Find out the approach they take photographing a wedding day. Do they focus on candid or are they high-fashion? Somewhere in between? What is their philosophy? Are they invested in getting to know your story as a couple? You want to make sure both you and your photographer are on the same page as far as what's most important.
4. Coming back to value, do they offer things that are important to you? Extra coverage for your reception, an engagement session, a wedding album, wall art for your future home - photography is more than just the digital files you receive! Being able to hold these memories is a big deal. You can’t use floppy disks anymore and flash drives will eventually get to the same place.
There’s something magical about physically holding a personally crafted artifact/monument from your wedding day. It's a monument to your love and commitment. If you want a beautiful wedding album that will last for years and years, you want to make sure that is something your photographer offers.
All in all, photographers are not a one size fits all service for weddings. Photography is personal and it is truly telling the story of your day. You’re going to want to find someone who has a similar approach and value to your wedding day as you!
It all boils down to what you value, what you want and what you need. No two couples are the same and no two photographers are exactly the same. You may have found a $800 photographer that you absolutely adore, awesome! Maybe you found someone for $10k and you’re obsessed. Are they in your budget? Awesome!
If you remember one thing from this article remember this - wedding photos are the one thing you will pay for that go beyond the day (besides those rings!). The dress, the decor, the food, all of that is gone once the day is over. Invest in what is going to be shown to your grandkids one day. Figure out what it is you value about wedding photography, and go from there. There’s no average. You can spend as little or as much as you like. This is your wedding, invest in what you value.
At the end of the day, does the photographer provide the trust, personality, product, experience and quality you want at a price that you can work with? If they check all your boxes, then you’re good to go!
Levels of experience: (buckle up, we’re headed on a journey!)
Brand new: 0-$500 (probably hasn’t shot many weddings)
This is what we call risky and untested territory. Everyone has to start somewhere but if you value your wedding photos this is not recommended.
Beginner: $500-$1300 (May have shot a couple weddings but is not in high demand and may not have a super popular style [nothing wrong with that, style is pretty subjective] )
This is still risky but they potentially have somewhat of a portfolio to show and perhaps a review or two. They probably don’t have a lot of experience.
Amateur: $1300-$2000 (has some experience but is probably not full time)
They’re getting there and they may have some of the right gear, may start to show more reviews, may have a little more of the experience you want. Sense a theme here? Nothing is guaranteed at this level.
Growing Part timer: $2000-$3000 (higher demand, shooting regularly with more focus on the client experience and is almost to that professional category)
At this point they probably have most of the right gear, backups to keep your photos safe, etc. They’re investing in education for their business and they have a certain level of experience along with the portfolio to back it up.
Professional: $4000-$5000 (usually full time professional that is in demand and because of this shoots a limited number of weddings to ensure maximum quality and attention to their clients)
This photographer is established and has a style that represents them. They have a business set up that emphasizes quality and a personal connection with each client and it shows. They’ve fully invested in the right gear for every scenario, are consistently educating themselves in order to provide a better experience every day, and provide a quality experience all around.
Luxury: $5000-$10,000 and beyond (we’ve reached the big leagues)
Full emphasis on client experience. Can handle high profile events without batting an eyelash with a specific style and luxury products. Again, with all of this you pay for every part of the experience.