How Much Does Wedding Photography Cost?


If you’re reading this, you’re probably getting married! Congratulations! If you made it to the second sentence here, and you’re NOT getting married, I highly recommend you reconsider and just go for it. Not only have I been happily married for eleven years, my livelihood depends on you getting married, so do it!

So how much should you spend on a wedding photographer? We hear this question again and again from our clients and we are here to help! Often times we hear, “why are you so much more expensive than this other photographer?” Equally as often, we might hear, “why are you so much less expensive than this photographer?”.

There’s the common belief that “you get what you pay for.” And to some degree that is true. But just like the reception hall, the church, the florist, the band, and even the officiant; we are all in business and trying to make a living. Some of us are great photographers and don’t charge nearly enough, some of us are great business people and take terrible photos. So, yes, you get what you pay for – but how do you know what you are even paying for?! Are you paying for a good business person, or a good photographer? Are you paying for a good experience, or a good product? Are you actually paying for an album, or are you just paying for your mother-in-law’s happiness?

How much should you spend on a wedding photographer? The truth is, as much as you need to! Not as much as you want to, not as much as you can, and not as little as possible. Spend as much as you need to, in order to have the best wedding day ever.

Find the photographer first.

Yes, I said it! Well, find your spouse first THEN find the photographer! 😉 If you’ve made it this far into the article, photography might be at the top of your to do list. Some of you may think I’m crazy for saying it, but hear me out, if you get married at a million dollar venue and hire an inexpensive photographer, your venue, and you, will look terrible in your photos. A great photographer can make even a budget venue look great in photos, so find the photographer first – they will make or break the day! Just as important as the final photos you see, photographers spend the WHOLE day at your wedding interacting with you, your friends and your family, you want someone who’s personality will mesh with the type of party you’d like to throw! Unlike DJs, bands, florists, caterers, officiants, hair and makeup people, we are there the entire time from start to finish – so if we are bad, your day is bad. A bad wedding photographer can ruin your day, trust me, I’ve heard stories about photographers setting off the sprinkler system and destroying the bride’s dress before the ceremony. Or dropping the f bomb around Grandma and telling your mother to shut up. What?!? You paid how much for that? EEK!

You need to meet these criteria:

  1. Find a photographer whose photos you love. Select a few photographers. Email them, call them, meet them. Even if you can’t meet them in person, ask them if they can Skype with you. Pay attention to how responsive they are to your correspondence. This initial meeting with either make you fall in love with the photographer even more, or make you want to keep looking down your list

  2. You need to love the photos, so ask to see a LOT of photos. Ask to see a full wedding gallery and make sure all of the photos look great – not just the ones they showed you in their small portfolio! The truth is, all photographers put their best work on the first pages of their website. But, the real test is to see if your photographer is great at photographing all the way from hair and makeup, to the last dance of your reception. Every photograph from your wedding is important.

  3. Read the reviews. Do people mention that they had a great experience, AND that they received a great product? Because, one or the other isn’t good enough.

  4. Don’t hire the cheapest photographer, and don’t hire the most expensive photographer.

Here’s the inside scoop:

The cheapest photographer might be great, but may be underselling themselves or inexperienced. This might also mean that they might not get your photos to you in a timely manner, or know how to handle every situation. When they DO show up at your black tie wedding, they might be in sneakers and a t-shirt. Eek! You pay for experience.

The most expensive photographer is a proven commodity. But the only reason they are charging those exorbitant prices, is because they can. Not necessarily because you are getting anything extra for that price. Just their name. They don’t NEED to charge $15,000 to get your photos edited or your albums printed.

Sure we all want a name for ourselves and even I like to think people hire me because they’ve “heard I do a good job,” but then I follow through and actually do that good job for them making it worth every penny. Because eventually, word will get out! Good or bad – and bad news always travels faster.

Why does wedding photography cost more than $1,000?

1. No full time photographer could afford to live on $1,000 a wedding unless they did 100 weddings every year – and even then, you’d never see your photos, because they’d have to edit 100 weddings every year. And they couldn’t afford a nice camera, a fast computer, a reliable car to get to your wedding, and so on. Worse still, they can’t afford to pay anyone to help them get things done quicker because they didn’t charge you enough in the first place. It’s like a wedding photographer on a hamster wheel.

2. At some point, most of us paid for some form of training or education. Contrary to popular belief, good cameras don’t take good photos. Education, knowledge and experience are what ensure that we get the shot. We do not just “point and shoot” on your wedding day. Every button we press or setting we change is a conscious decision to make a great photograph.

3. The amount we charge is more than just gas money to get to the wedding. Our cheapest camera bodies cost more than $1,000 and we work them to death trying to capture all of the shots from your wedding. The lenses cost even more, the computers cost even more! We’re a business, and unfortunately we have thousands of dollars worth of overhead every month, sometimes every week.

4. Your wedding pays our studio to stay open for one week! It takes that many hours between myself and our staff to coordinate engagement session plans, wedding plans, photograph your engagement session, photograph your wedding day, pay our assistants, pay our second photographers, and edit all of your photos from start to finish. Then we need to keep the heat and the lights on that week, and pay those web hosting bills for your 1,000 wedding photos and the $2,000 lens we broke while getting the first kiss shot at your wedding. (Don’t worry, we got the shot – it was more important than that lens anyway).

Okay Rob, but what do we do?!

Find a photographer you love and pay that what they cost. Period. In our market, you can expect to pay anywhere from $1,500 to $15,000.

For $1,500 you will get terrible photos, but probably also have three albums (filled with terrible photos). Grandma might not appear in any of them, and mom might get told to shut up during the family pictures. Look to see if a cheaper photographer is compensating for a lack of experience by using filters in their editing. If their wedding photos look like they have an Instagram filter on them, chances are they will look very dated in the next 10, 20, or 30 years. You want your photos to be classic and timeless.

For $15,000 you will get to say that Mr. Fabulous was your photographer. And hey, you might get great photos, but you might still have to purchase the rights to your photos, and the prints, and the albums, etc… Because remember, those people are great at business and selling you things. They sold you on a $15,000 wedding photographer, what makes you think they can’t sell you on another $5,000 worth of prints?!

What do you charge, Rob?

Oh, heavens, I thought you’d never ask!! You should have said something sooner! Our studio offers a range of services from about $3,000 up to $8,000. For $3,000 – you get hundreds of beautiful photos – and you have the rights to make an album yourself after the wedding day. For $8,000, you get all of those same beautiful photos but we will make three beautiful albums for you, add additional hours to your day, and maybe even throw in a song and dance routine. Actually, you’ll get a song and dance from us anyway at any price range. Let’s be honest!

The moral here – if you fall in love with the photos AND the photographer, pay their price. We hope these tips will help you choose the right photographer for your big day!

-Rob Spring