Planning a wedding is challenging work. There are countless choices and decisions to make the day special. Most brides and grooms want wedding photography and are understandably worried about what is the average cost of a wedding photographer in their area.
But simply asking, "How much does a wedding photographer cost" shouldn't be your first consideration. Before you get too deep in the budgeting process, sit down and make some personal choices about your day. How important are the images to you personally, and what do you intend to do with them in the future?
Wedding photographer cost varies considerably around the country, so start shopping with an idea of what you want. Here's a look at average wedding photographer cost numbers in the US, plus some tips on reducing the cost of wedding photographer packages to suit your needs.
What is a Reasonable Budget for a Wedding Photographer?
From simple elopements to extravagant multi-day galas with all your family and friends, there's a wedding photographer out there that will suit your style and budget. When it comes to wedding photography, you have choices. Those choices mean lots of cost differences between photographers.
Every photographer you find will offer several different packages. These are usually differentiated by the number of photos you get and how long they stay before and after the ceremony.
But beyond this obvious difference, photographers vary as artists. If you want a career wedding photographer with decades of experience, expect to pay premium prices. Here's a complete guide on how to master the art of wedding photography.
Likewise, if you find a student or someone just starting in the industry, you might get a better price. Generally, if a photographer is trying to fill up their schedule, they will offer packages for less. If, on the other hand, they are turning clients away and getting on their schedule is hard, they will be more expensive.
Location and venue also play an important role in your budgeting. Suppose you are travelling to a destination for your ceremony where everything is more expensive. In that case, it only makes sense that the average wedding photographer cost will be more expensive as well. If you're staying closer to home, you might have cheaper options. But it might also mean that only less experienced wedding photographers are available to you!
Average Costs of Wedding Photography by State and City
According to Bride Box, wedding photography varies dramatically depending on your geographic location. The US national average is around $2,000, but costs can be much more in competitive markets or for master wedding photographers.
As you might expect, pricier markets are near metropolitan and artistic centres. For example, Los Angeles or Bay Area wedding shoots can average as much as $5,500. New York City is nearly as much, with averages of around $5,000.
Here's a handful of average costs in a few other cities around the nation.
- Jacksonville-$1,000 to $4,000
- Pittsburgh-$2,000 to $3,000
It's important not to put too much emphasis on these numbers. Averages are just that, so the amount you pay could be much higher or lower.
Wedding Photography Packages
Another factor that can have an enormous effect on your cost of a wedding photographer is which package you choose. The package will affect how many photos are taken and how long the photographer stays.
What Do Typical Wedding Photo Packages Include?
Most professional wedding photographers will provide package details and a sample contract so that you can understand what you are getting. There's no standard or average here-every photographer does things a little differently. Plus, things change a little every few years as trends change. For photographers, here are 17 top tips on how to grow your wedding photography business.
Here's a look at some things a typical wedding package might include.
- Time limits, travel allotment, and length of the shoot
- Second photographers or assistants
- Photo editing or retouching
- What is delivered and what reproduction rights are offered
- Social media shares
- Add-on sessions
Nearly all packages set time limits for how long the photographer will stick around. This is one of the most important factors since ceremonies and receptions can go longer than planned or run late. Photo packages will also have a built-in travel allotment. So if you need the photographer to travel farther, you might be charged extra.
Another variable is how many photographers will show up to shoot the ceremony. For large parties, it's not uncommon to have two photographers around. Even at smaller affairs, many pros like to work with an assistant to help them with gear. Things move fast during the ceremony, and having a few extra hands ensures that the photographer doesn't miss anything. Second photographers and assistants mean that the package will cost more, however.
The amount of editing or retouching a photographer does is often a style choice. Photo editing is an important part of the art form. Some photojournalistic-style wedding photographers choose to do little editing, while others do hours of polishing on each image. How photographers operate and roll these costs into their packages is always different. Some may set out a maximum amount of editing, while others prefer to leave it up to the customer.
Finally, what is your take-home? First, it's important to remember that you are purchasing reproduction or publication rights from the photographer, the sole copyright holder of those images. Few photographers offer a full copyright release with their images, but most include a limited print release.
How exactly is the print release limited? To some photographers, it means that you get unlimited reproduction and publication rights for personal use. To others, it means that if you want to reproduce the photos, you'll have to do it through them.
The question you need to ask is, what does the photographer deliver in the end? You'll probably get the digital files, but with what type of release? Can you get prints made anywhere or only by the photographer? Can you share the images on social media? Can you produce and print your own wedding album, or would you need to pay extra to get permission from the photographer?
Photographers like to retain control of their photographs for a couple of reasons, and not all of them have to do with money. Many pros rightly feel that allowing their customers to get prints made anywhere could reduce the quality of the final product. Printing and colour-matching photography isn't a simple process, and by keeping print and album-making in-house, photographers can ensure that you're getting the most beautiful photos possible.
Some packages might include add-on shoots, like an engagement session or a one-year-later family portrait shoot.
When putting together packages, these are just a few ways that photographers can combine their services. Many packages are based on what they see their customers needing or wanting. Never be afraid to order things off-menu. It's your big day, and pretty much every photographer out there is looking to help you have a great one.
Examples of Wedding Photography Packages
Here's a look at some random wedding packages. These are very typical of the things you'll be looking at, and the specific services they include.
Example 1 - Standard Weddings
- One or two photographers ($350 and $100 per hour, respectively)
- Six to ten hour session (minimum six hours on Saturdays)
- Editing selected images at $350 per hour, 75 images per hour
- Two-year image archive and online gallery for selections
Example 2 - Small Weddings or Elopements
- One photographer
- One to three hours at $300 per hour
- Editing selected images at $300 per hour, 75 images per hour
- Two-year image archive and onlines gallery
Example 3 - Engagement and Bridal Sessions
- One photographer
- 60 to 90 minute sessions
- Appoximately 65-75 images delivered
- Lifetime archiving
- Online gallery for image selection
- Posing and wardrobe advise
How Do Wedding Photographers Decide Rates for Wedding Photography?
Like anything else, rates for wedding photography are determined by analyzing the internal and external factors affecting the photographer's business.
Internally, the photographer has many operating costs that might not be readily apparent to their customers. The insurance required to be a vendor at many popular venues is expensive. Travel, equipment, and professional training costs also add up. Finally, the labour and man-hours that go into producing a professional wedding package are intense. While you might see the photographer for six or eight hours during your special day, the amount of time they put into sorting, editing, and publishing your photos is likely four or five times that amount.
Externally, the photographer also operates their company in a macro environment, just like every other business. That means that rates will be affected by customer demand and competition. When demand for their services is high and competition is low, prices will generally go up. Such is the case in popular destination wedding locales.
Wedding Photography and Videography
There are a few photographers who can provide both photo and video, but more often than not you will pay for these two services separately. Wedding videos are less popular than photos; many people book photos and no videos at all.
If you want a video, it's best to approach it as an individual service. The photographer might know a videographer they work well with and have some recommendations. If they offer a combined service, it will likely be the best bet because they can use their photos to augment the video.
Interviewing videographers is the same process as photography. First, you need to see their final work and connect with it. Is it something you want to keep as a memento of your special day? Video quality is just as variable as photo quality is, and every cameraperson has a unique style.
The cost of adding video is roughly the same as photography. The national average is somewhere between $1,400 and $3,600, depending on the videographer and your location. They'll usually stay with you filming for eight or ten hours, and in the end, you'll have a five to ten-minute highlight reel.
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Here are a few tips to cut costs on Wedding Photography
How much does a wedding photographer cost in your area, and does the cost feel too high? Many couples are looking for ways to save a little cash on the wedding day, where the choices are too plentiful to count.
Pick Your Photographer Carefully
The expense of your wedding photographer starts with how much value you put into the photos. While the wedding day lasts but a few hours, the photos and memories will be forever. Are you a person who keeps photos around the house, or collects albums? Are the fairy-tale-perfect photos part of your vision of the perfect wedding? If so, you'll want to budget more for your wedding photographer and choose carefully.
To put a finer point on it, there are two types of wedding photographers in the world--those that are photographers and those that are wedding photographers. Any photographer can show up and operate a camera at your wedding. You will, without any doubt, get sharp image captures of the key moments. If that's not the photographer's specialty, you might be able to get them to do it for significantly less money than the local wedding photographers charge.
There's a big risk for some people with this tactic, however. Shooting a wedding requires planning, practice, and excellent people skills. It combines the technical aspects that any photographer should be able to do and the soft skills that only a few possess.
In many cases, the wedding photographer will take charge of the group to get those magazine-worthy shots. That might mean taking the lead of a group of 20 or 50 to make it happen. A photographer who has done this for years and can reliably get the shots they promised is not going to come cheap.
Study Photo Pricing and Packages
The biggest thing you can do to save money on wedding photography is to understand your photographer's pricing. You must take the time to sort through the various packages and services providers offer. Here are some useful tips for photography packages along with a pricing guide to help you price them better.
Whatever you do, don't sit down and base your choice on cost alone. The dollar figure tells you very little when each photographer provides something different for each price point. Instead of letting the photographer decide what types of images you need, start by figuring out what images you want.
Types of Photos
The next thing you can do goes hand in hand with that research. You need to know exactly what you want from your wedding photographer. This means thinking hard about the types of photos you want and what you intend to do with them after the fact.
Let's take a look at what that means. First, the type of photos you want is important because it will affect how long the photographer needs to stay and what type of session they will do.
Everyone wants great captures of the actual ceremony, so that's a given. From walking down the aisle to throwing the bouquet, the ceremony is where most of the famous wedding shots come from. Of course, no one wants to miss the placing of the rings or that final kiss. Ceremonies typically last around 30 minutes, so while an awful lot of photos can be taken during this period, it's not the bulk of what most wedding packages include.
The next most common request is a formal portrait session immediately after the ceremony. This usually happens as the rest of the guests make their way to the reception and only includes the wedding party. Normally, this can last an hour or more, depending on the wedding party size and venue.
After that, the choices become more personal. Many brides love to capture the memories of getting ready for the ceremony with some candids and portraits taken of the bride and groom separately. This adds another two hours or more to the photographer's time.
And then, there are shots taken at the reception. Toasts to the bride and groom, the family enjoying the celebration, and the beautiful venue are great memories. But are they worth professional photos to you? The choice is yours. What about cutting the cake? If you want the photographer to stay for that, you might be better off staging it early, before everyone eats!
These choices will all dictate the types of photos you get in the end. If the reception is on your list, ensure you coordinate with the photographer and your planner to keep things on schedule.
Prints, Albums, and Reproduction Rights
Now that you have an idea of the photos you want to be taken by the pro think carefully about precisely what you want to do with them. By budgeting for wedding photography, you need to think about two things--the time of the person coming to the ceremony to shoot and the cost of the final product you want made.
Will you want a professional album? Will you want to share the digital files on social media? Everyone uses their wedding photos differently. You can find substantial savings simply by not paying for things you don't need.
Instead, ask the photographer if there's a way that you can only pay for a set of photos you pick. Or only buy individual image prints and rights.
Make Your Own Package
Finally, to save money on the shoot, communicate with your photographer. Packages are just a starting point, so tell the photographer what you'd like and make a custom package. Again, don't pay for things you don't want or need!
Budgeting the cost of your wedding photography shouldn't be overwhelming if you're honest with the quality and product you expect. Many photographers out there would love to shoot your wedding and will do an outstanding job. The important part is that you take the time to get an honest assessment of their work and communicate with them exactly what you want.
Average Wedding Photographer Cost FAQs
How much should I pay for a wedding photography shoot?
The budget for wedding photography is a personal choice. If you want the services of a nationally-renown master wedding photographer with decades of experience--the best-of-the-best, so to speak--expect to pay $10,000 or more. On the other hand, a photographer just starting or looking to build their portfolio might do it for around $1,000.
How long do wedding photographers stay during a shoot?
Professional wedding photographers will provide a contract and agreement with the bride and groom for the services they've agreed to provide. Most wedding packages include six to eight hours of coverage on your wedding day.
What should be included in a wedding photography package?
Wedding photography packages vary from one photographer to the next. Most include time at the wedding, editing and processing time, digital files, and limited reproduction rights. You can usually add more services, like prints, albums, or second portrait or engagement sessions.