Your wedding day is jam-packed, from styling your suit to checking in with the caterers to chatting with relatives. With so much on your plate, it’s easy for the whole day to pass by without you realizing it. That’s why hiring a wedding photographer is essential to capture all of the little moments you might otherwise miss. Given their importance, it makes sense that photographers are the third-most-popular vendors hired by couples after venues and catering.
If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re already on board for hiring a wedding photographer. Still, you probably have a lot of questions. Namely, how much does a wedding photographer cost? What should be my wedding photographer budget? As you’ll see, the answer depends on your priorities, budget, location, and more. Keep reading to get answers to all of your questions!
According to Rachel Yearick, a Washington D.C.-based wedding photographer, you can expect to pay anywhere from $2,500 to $10,000 for the average wedding photography. Keep in mind that this range represents average costs. The actual cost of a wedding photographer will depend on where you’re getting married (prominent city photographers charge more), the package you select, and the photographer’s experience.
Wedding photography prices vary, but $2,500 to $4,000 is the sweet spot for value and experience. However, each couple has different priorities when it comes to their wedding budget. So, whether you’re looking to scale back or invest heavily, we’ve compiled a short summary of what you can expect at other budget tiers.
Absolute Beginner Photographer ($0 to $500) – If your wedding budget is tight, and you are wondering how to save money on a wedding photographer, hiring a newbie for a beginner wedding photographer package is one way to save money
People in this range are either looking to build a portfolio or do photography as a hobby. Hiring this budget photographer is fine, but be aware that they may lack the technical skills necessary to capture the nuances of your big day.
Intermediate Photographer ($500 to $2,500) – At the lower end of this tier are photography students and amateur shutterbugs. On the upper end, you have photographers who have shot a few weddings and are trying to grow their portfolios. Hiring photography students for a wedding is a great budgeting hack.
Experienced Photographer ($3,000 to $4,000) – Usually, people at this level have shot several weddings and run their business as a side hustle. While they have most of the necessary technical skills, they may still be fine-tuning their style and editing techniques.
Professional Photographer ($5000 – $8000) – These photographers work full-time and have honed their skills. This includes photography techniques and client experience. They’re usually in high demand and might be tough to book.
Luxury Photographer ($9000) – Photographers at this level are industry leaders who pride themselves on exceptional work. This goes beyond photography and includes working with vendors and providing client resources.
We understand if you’re shocked to find out how much the average wedding photographer costs. It is a lot of money. In fact, after the venue, the catering, and the rings, wedding photography is one of the biggest expenses when looking at the cost of a wedding.
But why are wedding photographers so expensive? Quite a few things factor into the cost of wedding photography packages besides the final images you receive. Let’s take a look at what goes into the bill.
Beyond these basic costs, some photographers may offer add-ons like:
As you can see, your wedding photographer does quite a bit for how much they’re paid. And while it’s true that good wedding photographers are worth every penny, some services aren’t included in their contracts.
Videography is a big one. In most cases, photographers and videographers are separate vendors you must hire individually. Some companies and couples offer both services, but that’s the exception, not the rule.
Another expense that’s not included in the cost of a wedding photography package is out-of-range travel. That means you must budget for an extra plane ticket and accommodations if you’re hoping to bring your favorite photographer to a far-flung location. As you can imagine, these costs add up pretty quickly. For that reason, it’s better to hire a destination wedding photographer when getting married far from home.
There are lots of things to consider when choosing your wedding photographer. Namely, you should consider your budget, available photography packages, and the photographer’s style.
When it comes to budget, most couples spend between 10 and 15 percent of their wedding budget on this expense. You can adjust this percentage depending on how much of a priority it is. Once you determine how much you’d like to spend, you can do a wedding photographer cost analysis to find the right person for the job.
Next, look at which packages photographers have available. As you decide, think about how many hours of shooting you want, whether you want digital images or hard copies, and the amount of retouching you desire.
Besides budget and packages, wedding photography style is one of the most important considerations when hiring a photographer. Photography style usually has nothing to do with pricing. Instead, photographers base their rates on their experience and the local market.
There are a handful of wedding photography styles, so get familiar with each before making your final selection. Some of the different wedding photography styles include:
Most wedding photographers charge per package rather than by the hour. However, you might pay the wedding photographer’s hourly rate if you request extra hours or editing. Professional photographers generally charge between $175 and $300 per hour for a la carte services.
A lot more goes into delivering high-quality wedding photos than meets the eye. In addition to the photographer’s time on the event day, you’re also planning for prep time, photo culling, and editing. On top of that, photographers factor in business expenses like equipment, subscriptions, and taxes.
Demand for wedding photographers is high, so we recommend booking one as soon as you’ve secured your venue. At a minimum, you’ll want to secure a photographer nine months before your big day. However, hiring one a year or 18 months out is ideal, especially if you’re getting married on a popular date.
You’re not required to tip your wedding photographer. A cash gratuity is always appreciated if you’re happy with their work. While most experts agree about tipping, they differ in the amount you should tip. Anywhere from 10 to 20 percent is acceptable.
Photographers use a two- or three-payment schedule. The deposit you pay when signing the contract is the first installment. With a two-payment plan, the final payment is due before the wedding. The second installment is paid before the wedding on a three-payment schedule, and the last portion is paid when your images are ready.
Although you’re paying them, photographers are still guests at your wedding. For that reason, you should feed them a hot meal. This is an additional expense, but remember that your photographer will do better work if they’re well-fed.
After hiring your photographer, the first thing to do is start planning your engagement photoshoot. Before you say “cheese,” spend time selecting your outfit, scouting a shooting location, and perfecting your poses. Head to our engagement photo guide for even more tips on getting the most out of your session.