Wedding photographers are indispensable professionals for your wedding whom you should never skimp on their price. Why, you may ask? Because this is the expert who will be responsible for capturing all of your wedding mementos.
And we all know that when memory becomes a blur, photos will become your assistants that will help you experience again and again one of the most exciting days of your life.
Given the significance of wedding photographers, it’s no surprise that most brides are eager to know how much a wedding photographer costs. The average photographer cost for a wedding in the United States is USD 3,000. However, the cost could ramp up with the inclusion of extra features such as:
- Photo booths
- Engagement sessions
- Additional shoots
- Second Shooters or Staffing
- Photographer’s level of experience
However, some photographers may not disclose such important details upfront, so it’s up to the bride to get a full disclosure of what the service entails in the photographer’s wedding contract.
Choosing a photographer who understands your expectations and matches your style is no easy feat. That’s because each photographer has a different style, background, years of experience, and business model, to mention a few. And all of that comes with a price.
Read on to learn more about wedding photographer costs and what you should be keen to keep an eye on.
Factors that influence the average cost of wedding photographer
Why do some wedding photographers cost more than others? And should wedding photography have to be that expensive? The typical wedding photographer’s cost can vary based on various factors. Below are the most important ones.
Type of service you need to hire
The type of service you need for your wedding affects the photographer’s price. Do you want a basic package with all the wedding photos delivered on a USB? If so, it will reduce the wedding photographer’s cost.
Or do you want a wedding album made as a hard-cover book so you can flip through it whenever you feel nostalgic about your big day? Maybe you want a pre-wedding photoshoot to gain confidence in front of the camera or find out your most flattering sides and poses that make you look gorgeous in photos.
The wedding photographer cost will go even higher if you decide to have a post-wedding session — perhaps your wedding portrait session didn’t go as planned due to bad weather, wrong location, or you didn’t want to bother yourselves with that on the day of the celebration. Maybe you want the full package and want drone photos?
Other services such as engagement sessions where you engage with your photographer to be comfortable with them plus their shooting style before your wedding day. Additionally, other services such as sneak peeks, timeline revisions, or Instagram previews will cost more.
All these things will influence the average cost of the wedding photographer. Professional photographers offer a range of services you can hire to make the entire experience of your spectacle unforgettable.
The venue where the wedding will take place
The typical wedding photographer’s cost also depends on where you celebrate the wedding. You have to take into account that you will have to pay for the travel expenses of the photographers you hire. The further away the photo experts’ headquarters are, the more the final price will rise.
If you are planning a destination wedding, you will not only have to cover the costs like travel tickets but also pay for per diems and accommodation. Those expenses must all be clearly established and provided in the photographer’s wedding contract.
So you will not only use photographers’ services but also take advantage of their time which is super valuable to them. Because the more time you take from your photographers, the less time they will have to find new clients, and that is why they have to charge that accordingly.
If you plan to have a destination or an elopement wedding, you must be prepared to cater for additional expenses. Your wedding photographer may need accommodation and airfare taken care of, forcing the prices to increase.
In some cases, you may also be required to cater for a per-mile charge, especially if your wedding photographer is going to drive to your wedding venue. Still, you may be required to handle permits and licensing permits that your photographer may incur.
Permits and licensing are required, especially if you intend to have your wedding shots taken in government or commercially owned properties, something that will see you incur additional wedding photography costs.
Duration of the event
Some photographers charge per event, and others per hour; the wedding photographer’s cost will depend on how long you want the photographer to be at your wedding.
Saturdays have always been a favorite day for holding wedding ceremonies in most places across the globe. However, between May and September, you’ll find plenty of wedding photographers fully booked, meaning they are in high demand, hence high prices on your end.
If you’re looking to hire a professional and experienced wedding photographer, especially during the picking season, you must be prepared to spend slightly more than you had budgeted for earlier.
Do you want photos from your ceremony and reception only, or would you like to have photographers covering the bride and groom’s celebration preps? The bride getting hair and makeup, the first shots in the wedding dress, the bridesmaid’s reaction when they first see the whole bridal look, the groom’s crew sharing some laughs over some whiskey and cigars.
All the above priceless moments will undoubtedly escalate the average cost of the wedding photographer.
Level of Expertise
Another thing that affects the typical wedding photographer’s cost of services is the level of the photographer’s expertise. The more experience they have, the more expensive they will be! You can expect low rates if you are hiring beginners or semi-professionals, but that also means you should expect your wedding photos to be lower quality.
A photographer fresh out of the academy differs from one who has been working for a decade with a brilliant career.
Having participated in large projects, having experience in different environments, having prestigious prizes and high ratings on the websites of expert photographers, having higher skill levels and genuine talent — all of these lead to high-quality wedding mementos.
And let’s be honest, the one thing you can bring home to keep from the wedding is the photographs. So spare no expense on professional photography coverage for your big event, even if it’s slightly above the average cost of wedding photographer.
A wedding photographer boasting years of expertise with real weddings will undoubtedly cost you more than an amateur photographer with little or no wedding photography experience under their belt.
Time of the year
Photographers give different rates depending on the time of year you plan to host your celebration. Some may charge you less during the low season —the colder months from November until March— while others might charge you more because there are fewer weddings, so demand is low, and their profit is less.
How much does a wedding photographer cost per hour?
With photography accounting for 10-12% of most wedding budgets, professional wedding photographer prices range from USD 2,000 to USD 10,000, with an average price of USD 3 for every shutter click.
The wedding photographer’s cost per hour is estimated to be around USD 175 to USD 500. Although hourly rates are not always the first go-to option, some couples choose to go with the average price of USD 200 per hour for a wedding photographer. Depending on the wedding location, professional experience, or season, this amount can go up or down.
If the hourly rate is the best option for you, be sure to include every detail in the contract regarding printing rights, photo editing, and all extra costs. Bear in mind that package rates are more beneficial.
To be even safer, you must be cautious of wedding photographers who charge too little for your wedding photos. For instance, if you find a wedding photographer charging less than $100 per hour, high chances are that s/he is an amateur looking to gain experience and build their portfolio.
Why does a wedding photographer cost so much?
In most cases, your price for your wedding photos is fully justified. First, you have to think about the average cost of the wedding photographer’s professional equipment, valued at around $2,000-$8,000, a sum that is constantly increasing due to equipment’s continuous renewal and fast new technology development.
And secondly, think about the working hours. A wedding takes about 8-14 hours of work, which will become at least double due to editing hours. Don’t forget about the time photographers spend on meetings and consultations.
Some wedding photographers even offer services like researching for the most fitting outfits or locations, answering advice questions, providing plan B options, etc. That time can reach up to 40-60 hours in total.
Couples often forget that photography is not just a simple work consisting of a click of a button; it is an art, just like painting or sculpturing. There is so much that a wedding photographer must do to capture that perfect moment in time that will never return.
What you are really paying for is their efforts to find the best angle, provide the best lighting, wait for the right moment, stand in an uncomfortable position for a better shot, try to be invisible, and be aware of every single second in every single corner of the wedding so he doesn’t miss an important moment, and so on.
There are so many items a photographer must pay for to provide you with that service. The average cost of a wedding photographer also includes expenses like paying the team (second photographer, assistant, editor), advertising, legal fees, taxes, insurance, accountant, etc.
Tips for choosing the wedding photographer of your dreams
Think about these pieces of advice when choosing the creator of your wedding memories that you will keep forever:
- Choose quality over quantity. You don’t need 3,000 amateur photos, but 500 great ones.
- Pick the wedding photographer you like the most, even if you have to bend your budget slightly and go over your set wedding photographer cost.
- Reallocate your budget instead of expanding it — choose the pricier photographer you set your heart on and go slow on wedding favors. You may consider hiring a bartender to prepare cocktails instead of offering expensive whiskeys for reception. You may also consider wedding during the off-season or alter other details so you can spend more money on photography.
- Find a photographer who will match your taste. First, you should know what you are looking for and your vision. To do that, you can create a Pinterest board or make a screenshot album with all wedding photos you have found online and liked so you can share them with your photographer.
- Portfolio – Ask to see their previous work to know what to expect. Pay attention to posed and spontaneous shots, image quality, lighting, image content, editing, and the ability to capture the atmosphere and emotions of the event.
- If you find their previous assignments don’t meet your expectations, look around for another competent wedding photographer since they are quite many.
- Interview three photographers to explore all options instead of going for the first one. See what the other two offer, and you might find something more convenient for you, whether related to style or the typical wedding photographer cost.
- Reviews – To be safe, check what other people have said about your potential wedding photographer. Reviews will offer you better insight into what working with a particular professional is like.
- Equipment – Regardless of how your wedding photographer is, in the end, the quality of the photos will depend on the type of equipment they use. Ask them about the kind of camera they plan to use, alongside their reliability.
- Credentials – Additionally, you need to check the credentials of your to-be wedding photographer to determine if they have what it takes to deal with different photography settings. You don’t want to hire an incompetent photographer for one of your biggest days.
There is a reason why a photographer is so important and expensive. On your wedding day, you will be the center of attention. You and your partner will be congratulated, hugged, kissed, receive gifts, and everything else in between, so you may not see some moments or things that happen around you.
The photographer will become your eyes, and he will save those priceless moments in the form of pictures! And those will be a real treasure to keep!
So next time you raise your eyebrows after hearing the answer to the question ‘How much does a wedding photographer cost?’, think about this post and be sure that all those irreplaceable moments deserve to be captured on camera.