On average, couples in the United States pay 10-15% of their total budget on a wedding photographer. Sound like a lot? It is. But hiring the best wedding photographer for you can be one of the most important decisions you’ll make during the wedding planning process. While 10-15% of your total budget is a reasonable target, there are ways you can come in well under that. By knowing a few key questions to ask along with general price ranges and cost-saving measures (outlined below) you can still get your dream wedding photographer without breaking the bank.
According to Snapknot.com, the average cost for a wedding photographer is $2,814. However, in cities such as San Francisco and New York, wedding photography prices are closer to $4,000. You can generally expect wedding photography prices to range from $2,500-$10,000 depending on the photographers experience and/or offerings. Expect the top photographers (IE: the Jose Villa’s of the world) to start at around $6-7,000 and go up from there.
The typical wedding photography package usually offers coverage for 8 hours. Adding more or less time will increase or decrease that price. Engagement sessions can sometimes be included or run extra. For example, I’ve seen engagement sessions run anywhere between $300-$1,200 depending on how many hours the shoot is.
Another consideration when it comes to your wedding photography cost is whether or not you want a wedding album included in your package. I’ve seen experienced photographers charge anywhere between $1,000-$3,000 for a wedding album, and will sometimes offer a further discount depending on the amount of wedding coverage you buy. Alternatively, for a wedding photo album design service from an outside company [other than the less expensive kind you can do yourself using a service like Blurb], prices tend to start around $500 and can go well over $1,000 depending on the number of pages/images you want. Keep in mind that when you pay your wedding photographer to put together an album, you’re also paying for their expertise in putting together your “wedding story,” which they were there the entire time for. You just have to decide how much that is worth to you, or if you would rather do that on your own to save money. (More on those money-saving tips, below).
So, here are the takeaways to remember when it comes to figuring out how much a wedding photographer will cost you:
- The average cost for a wedding photographer is 10-15% of a couple’s total budget, which is currently around $2800 for the average US couple.
- You can expect your wedding photographer cost to run you anywhere between $2,500-$10,000 depending on the experience of your photographer along with what they’re including in your wedding package.
- Wedding photography packages will typically cover 8 hours, on average. More or less shooting time will influence your cost.
- It’s important to ask a prospective wedding photographer how much extra they are charging for a wedding album if they’ve bundled the cost into their package price.
I know $2,500-$10,000 is a huge range, but at least it can give you somewhat of an idea of what to expect when looking for and meeting wedding photographers. Also, as mentioned above always keep in mind that where you live can greatly influence your wedding photography prices. You might find that you’re able to find a great photographer for under $1,000 in your area, in which case you need to stop reading and do a little dance of joy immediately, please!
Now that you have a general idea of how much wedding photographers cost, here are some easy ways to trim (or attempt to trim) costs…
How to Save:
- Be wary of wedding photographers who keep trying to upsell you. Decide what kind of package you want from the get-go and stick with it. Good wedding photographers will be very upfront with what they are charging you. Read this feature about how some wedding photographers can get you to spend more (something I wrote before my wedding after running across a disturbing article!).
- If you’re on a tight budget but just have to have a certain wedding photographer, see if they will shoot your wedding for less hours at a discount. For example, I didn’t really want photos of me getting ready, so we were able to reallocate some time, which otherwise might have cost us more in the end. Also, being flexible as to when you take your wedding photos might help with cost as well! (Click here to read more about which wedding photos to skip.)
- Same goes for additional items such as an engagement session and/or wedding album or wedding photo prints. Leaving out one or all of those items from your package (if your wedding photographer offers those) could end up saving you thousands of dollars. See if you can get your wedding photography a la carte vs. as part of a package.
- Don’t be afraid to negotiate. If you find a photographer you love but they are out of your budget, ask what they might be able to offer that’s more in your price range. Also, if you’re getting married on an off-day (weekday or Sunday), see if they offer any discounts.
- Having a second shooter can increase your cost. If your wedding photographer is not part of a team (and some are), see how much of a discount they can offer for one shooter vs. two. Just be sure that they feel comfortable shooting alone and have in the past (and ask if they can show you pictures from those weddings).
- Go local! If you hire a wedding photographer that lives out of town, you will most likely have to pay for all their travel costs (airfare, meals, hotels, etc.). I really wanted a certain photographer for our wedding, but after finding out how much transportation/lodging alone would have cost us, we decided otherwise (and I’m so happy we did!).
While finding a wedding photographer that fits your budget is important, keep in mind that it’s equally as important (if not more so) to find a wedding photographer that is right for you and has the portfolio to prove it. Be sure to look at images from past weddings they’ve shot, and don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations (especially if they’re not as well known in the wedding world). Also, keep in mind there’s nothing wrong with going with a less experienced wedding photographer. As long as you love their vision and work (and you can see concrete examples of it), they could be the perfect wedding photographer for you!