The answer is: it depends. I know, not the answer you were hoping for. But let me break it down. There are quite a few factors that help answer the question: What does a wedding photographer cost? (And why?)
Time at your event
This one probably seems pretty obvious. You’ll see most photographers have a number of packages that are, at least in part, based on the amount of time you want them to be there on your day. The longer you want a photographer to shoot, the more expensive your package will be. But there’s so much more that goes into wedding photography than just the time we spend together on your day.
Time leading up to and after your wedding
Our jobs don’t start when we show up on your big day. Our jobs start at that first call or in-person consultation. From there we’re answering countless emails, coordinating with your other vendors and prepping timelines with you for the big day. It can mean venue tours to look for all the best spots to hold your wedding day portraits and family photos. It can (and should be!) hours of time before your day getting to know you and your future spouse so we can capture your relationship perfectly.
Depending on your photographer, that can mean anywhere from ten to 30+ hours of work before we even show up for your day.
If You Have a Second Shooter
Many couples opt to have their wedding photographer bring along a second shooter to help cover all of the moments on the big day. This means multiple angles of you coming down the aisle, all of the sweet little moments of you and your spouse getting ready, and tons of candids of you, your friends and your family enjoying your wedding day. I always recommend a second photographer to my couples. But they don’t work for free!
Hiring a that second person can cost a decent chunk of change for your wedding photographer. It’s not just paying their second to come help. It’s also a ton more time lost in editing world, with twice the photos to perfect. Expect packages that include backup to be more expensive than those without it.
If your photographer has to travel a significant distance to get to your venue(s) or stay overnight to safely be there for you, those costs can add up. These expenses covers wear and tear on our vehicles, gas, meals, and potentially hotel rooms and flights to get there the wedding.
Ensuring your favorite photographer is able to be there for your day may cost a little extra if she lives 100+ miles away, but is always worth the cost for the peace of mind that you’re getting exactly what you want. So when asking yourself what a wedding photographer costs for your wedding, keep in mind that the location of that photographer can play a significant role.
Editing, editing and then more editing
I’ve mentioned time before your wedding and the time during, but the vast majority of the work comes after your day is done. For one hour of shooting at your wedding, assume your photographer is taking over three hours to edit those images. If your photographer includes retouching of any kind, double that.
Editing takes time and with the huge number of photos included in a wedding album, it’s a lot of work! But it’s also key to getting your the absolute best pictures on your day. So when you’re asking yourself, “How much does a wedding photographer cost?” consider that for every hour of shooting, there are hours and hours of time dedicated to editing.
The cost of professional-level camera can run anywhere from $1,200 to $4,500+. And that’s before you talk about the thousands and thousands of dollars spent on lenses, computers to edit, software to make it all happen, as well as flashes and equipment repairs. Gear choices can vary from photographer to photographer, and that’ll play a part in the cost of your wedding photography. A more advanced photographer may have more expensive gear, and charge then charge a bit more than someone who is brand new to the industry.
Print products & albums
Like many photographers, I believe your wedding images don’t just belong on your computer’s hard drive forever. They belong on your walls, at your office and on your coffee table.
For that reason, some photographers include print products and albums in their packages. That means instead of trying to figure out what to buy after your wedding, you’re paying upfront for your album or wall art so they can be quickly ordered, shipped and delivered to you when your wedding gallery is complete!
Client service level
Photographers who just show up on your day will likely charge less than photographers who go the extra mile to really get to know their clients. You may pay a little extra for a photographer who wants to be more than just a vendor on your day.
But what you’re paying for is having someone who takes the time to plan with you and send gifts to spoil you leading up to and after your day. You’re paying for someone who will take the time to make sure your wedding photos are perfect for you. Personally, I love spoiling my clients with gifts, taking the time to do happy hours or morning coffees because it helps me do my job better. And I want you to feel loved on and taken care of throughout the entire process or working together.
Experience level of your photographer
Another reason costs for a wedding photographer varies is experience level.
Someone who has been photographing wedding for decades is likely to charge more than someone who just started last year. And there’s good reason for that! An experienced photographer is more likely to produce consistent results and be better prepared for all of the things that pop up on a wedding day. A photographer who is brand new to the wedding industry is a bargain, but also means they may not be as consistent in their delivery of their service or final photos.
A more experienced vendor is also more likely to provide some of the other items on this list, like packages that include prints and a higher level of client service.
So, what do you think a wedding photographer should cost?
At the end of the day, that’s entirely your call. Everyone places different value on photography. If it’s something you value highly and want top of line talent to capture your whole day (and maybe your rehearsal dinner, too), then expect to pay more. If you’re someone who is just happy to have any photos at all, but don’t really care if they are the nicest, then you’ll probably be able to find someone who will charge less for what you need.
As a photographer, I just want to say one thing. You will not get this day back. You don’t get to have a redo and hire a different photographer if the one you hired doesn’t do the job you thought they would. I’ve never heard of a couple regretting have too many high quality photos of their best day. So keep that in mind as you’re searching for your wedding photography.
Read all of this and still have questions? Shoot me a note and I’ll happily answer any questions you have about planning for your wedding photography, however it looks!