You are in the beginning stages of planning your wedding and know just how important photography is going to be. After all, it is the only tangible thing you will have left after your wedding is over. You look for the best wedding photographers on google and end up having to sift through the thousands of photographers that pop up. How in the world do you figure out who is the right photographer for your wedding day?!
(Most likely their first time photographing a wedding)
What to Expect: Honestly you are taking a big risk. You may get lucky and find someone who was born for this, but most likely you are going to feel very uncomfortable and awkward in front of the camera. Moments are going to be missed that will have meant so much to you years down the road. Their gear will be entry level and will most likely not have a flash.
(May have shot a couple of weddings, not in demand and/or inconsistent style)
What to Expect: You may want to see some of their work so you can feel comfortable that they can pull it off. Will know the basic moments to look for on a wedding day, but may miss those without being told about them beforehand. Still very inexperienced with their posing, lighting, and problem solving.
(Photographs a few weddings every now and then, but isn't booking far out yet due to a inconsistent style)
What to Expect: They will give you a solid experience to help maintain the costs of their camera gear. They understand the basic fundamentals of posing and how a wedding day unfolds.
(A bit higher in demand for their style, 10-20 weddings annually, solid skill set)
What to Expect: At this level, it is very common to find photographers that are actively investing in their camera gear and in their education. They have a decent portfolio that can give you a good idea of what they can do. They understand how a wedding works and a basic understanding of posing.
(Part time, very much in demand for their style)
What to Expect: Still working on getting established, defined style that is consistent. Fully understand how a wedding day unfolds. Has a good understanding of natural posing. A more bubbly personality and understands how to make their couples feel comfortable.
(Considered full time professionals, in demand because of style, expertise, etc.)
What to Expect: Very well established with a style that is consistent and solid. They take on less weddings to ensure that their couples are more cared for. They learn your wants, needs, make you feel like yourselves, and deliver the best quality photographs. They are confident in their abilities to pose naturally and their personalities bring out the best in those around them.
(More refined style, luxury offerings)
What to Expect: They can take on high profile weddings and the challenges that come with them. They take their time to get to know you, provide you with museum grade albums and artwork. You will not have to worry about your photographs.
Ok we totally get it, you want us to just get right to the point and tell you how much you should really be spending on your wedding photographer.
A common piece of advice given is to spend 10-15% of your budget on wedding photography. Although it isn't bad advice, it also isn't that simple. If you REALLY value photographs, memories, and how much they will mean to you and your family decades down the road, maybe you will want to invest more than 10%. We have noticed many couples will make cuts in many different areas like their guest list or florals before they even think about touching their photography budget.
Instead of adhering to a cookie cutter rule, one alternative method is to find your dream photographer FIRST, and build your budget around that.. Make a list of your top priorities, research pricing for each, and add it all together. adjust as necessary to fit your budget. If you go over your budget, start by cutting costs at the BOTTOM of your list, before making adjustments to your top priorities.
Ready for the answer? Between $0 and $20,000 or more!
Ok we get it, that window is huge. We promise we are not trying to be smart asses, there are just so many factors that goes into figuring out how much you should pay for your wedding photography
What we really want is to first focus on the value that you really want, what is going to make you so happy in the long run. Only after that should you determine your price range. That way you have complete confidence in your investment and you get what you really want.
A few factors that effect how much wedding photographers are:
•What is included in their collections
•How much you are going to enjoy spending your entire wedding day with them
This may not be something you even considered to be a factor when determining how much a photographer costs, but it is the most basic factor to determine how much a photographer should charge.
For Example, if a photographer is single and are living in a place where expenses are minimal, their priorities are going to be very different from a photographer who has a family and a mortgage.
Maybe you relate to one of those (or any other type of lifestyle), but you most likely will find yourself drawn to someone you want to be like or relate with. That person may or may not need to charge a premium and provide a level of service needed that will allow them to live the life they are living.
A photographer that cannot balance their life style with the work they produce and the profit that is required to support that lifestyle is destined to go out of business. They will not be happy, they will feel over worked, and they will not be efficient.
When an emergency arises for your wedding, like a date change or postponement, photographers who are not profiting may not be able to accommodate such changes.
Just like with buying a home, Location is incredibly important in relation to price. For example, if you live in an area like Chicago, it isn't that uncommon to pay $15,000 for a wedding photographer because the cost of living is so high. Alternatively, you can go to another part of the country where the cost of living is substantially lower and find a Luxury wedding photographer for half the price. The higher the cost of living is in an area, the higher the average cost of a wedding photographer is going to be.
Think of expertise as how able a photographer is to photograph a wedding, as well as how well they can adapt to how the day unfolds. They should be able to produce high quality images no matter where a wedding takes place, not just the super luxury wedding venues. Expertise and experience do sometimes go hand in hand, but not always. A more "Experienced" photographer may have 10 years experience, but not nearly as much technical skill as a photographer who has only been around five years.
Expertise usually involves the following:
Actual photography skills (e.g., skills in handling different lighting scenarios like bright light and low-light and everything in between
Skills in posing and creating authentic portraits that portrait the personalities of those being photographed.
Skills in handling interpersonal situations (e.g., ability to help guide day-of communication so that full cooperation between multiple people in achieved, such as getting family organized to do family formals, bringing bridal party together, etc.)
Skills in problem solving and leadership (e.g. ability to identify problems and find solutions quickly, create back up plans, take the lead to solve problems)
Emotional and communication skills to put you and others in a relaxed state of mind.
Business skills that create confidence, stability and consistently delivers results that go above and beyond.
The expertise of a photographer can increase the due to their desirability in their city and demand from future clients. To evaluate a photographer's expertise, review their portfolio, read reviews from past couples, and check their blog to see how they handle various lighting and wedding day scenarios.
Even though it isn't directly related to expertise, experience is still very important. A photographer who has shot a high number of weddings has been able to figure out how to navigate and solve tough problems like timeline issues, inclement weather, and other tense situations.
An experience photographer preparing to shoot at a new venue to them will know the value of visiting the venue and creating a plan before the wedding day. You should have a clear understanding that your photographer knows the wedding venue and has a specific plan on locations for things like the first look, bridal party portraits, family formals, etc.
**Keep in mind, this photographer will more than likely be above your average cost**
It is important to point out that style is very much subjective. There is not one style that is better than another. Higher end photographer have the ability to edit a photograph to compliment any lighting situation in their style. They can adapt to changes without creating photographs that are inconsistent.
Think of it like Starbucks. You go in, put in your order, and expect your coffee to be delivered to you exactly the way you ordered it. One hundred times out of one hundred, that coffee is going to be put in your hand the same exact way. Starbucks is incredibly consistent with how they make each type of coffee.
A photographer who can be true to their style and deliver consistent results are going to be more in demand due to the level of expertise they are displaying.
Some photographers are going to have base packages that cost more, but provide you with more value. Adversely, others will have a low starting cost, but include almost nothing. Luxury photographers are going to have a base collection that will include the minimum level of time, customer care, and experience needed to deliver what is consistent with their brand values. Everything is customized after that because in all actuality every wedding is unique.
Some examples of what to look for that is included or not are:
•One or Two photographers? Do they know their second shooter? Are they a Husband and Wife photography team?
•Do they include engagement sessions?
•Do they back up your images?
•Do they provide Heirloom Wedding Albums?
•What is the turn around time?
•How are photographs delivered?
The simple answer is no, the value of what you sell can only be set by those who are willing to pay for it. If there is no demand, then they must lower their prices. If they limit the amount of weddings they take per year, it makes them even more valuable overtime as demand stays steady as wedding days available decreases. Also take into the account the uniqueness of a wedding compared to other events.
•This is a once in a lifetime event for each couple. This is the only time they will ever get married to each other, there is no room for mistakes.
•There are hours of pre-wedding and post-wedding work. Learning about you, timeline prep, communicating back and forth, traveling, scheduling the travel, editing the images, designing the album, meeting up with you to go show you the design, backing up the images, etc.
•Sometimes these are multi location events that require taking all gear and everything else to wherever the next location on the timeline is going to be. The drive time on a wedding day can add up to being longer than the wedding day itself.
This can be applied to any vendor, it's a lot more than you think. Weddings are not the same as a birthday party, a corporate event, football game, or anything else that doesn't carry the same mental or physical workload.
Every photographer runs their process differently, but a single wedding day can account for the following direct hours of work:
•1-3 hours of initial meetings/ emails
•2-4 hours of engagement session (shooting time, travel)
•1-3 hours of engagement session upload, editing, backing up images, delivery
•2-3 hours of timeline prep & pre wedding planning
•10-20 hours day of work (set up, local travel, coverage during day, tear down, photo transfer/backup)
• 7-30 hours of editing
• 2-3 hours of Wedding Album design
•2-3 hours for the photo Reveal and Album finalization.
So that’s potentially 60+ hours per wedding of actual labor, not counting expenses. Keep in mind that does not include the time and $$$ that goes into paying for a second shooter, money for gas, education/improvements, business insurance, keeping our software up to date, advertising, etc. Lets not forget camera gear, which by the way is SUPER EXPENSIVE. A single professional grade lens can cost anywhere between $500-$3000+, and we have 8. That's not even counting professional lighting, camera bodies, memory cards, etc.
It is safe to say when you take everything into account, a photographer spends around 75-100 hours per single wedding.
So a simple example: Let's say a photographer needs to make $50k a year and they shoot 40 weddings a year (which 40 weddings a year can take a serious toll on the body and mind). At a MINIMUM they need to charge $1750 per wedding on average.
This comes out to less than $15 an hour. Don't forget, that is before taxes (Self employment tax rate is 15.3%).
So if you are paying for a photographer that is charging $1750 and is giving you both a main and 2nd shooter, we would bet you either have a photographer that has invested next to nothing into their business, or is working themselves to the bone for less than $15 an hour.
Now of course when you are just starting out $15 per hour is fine. When we are talking about someone who is a specialist and artist of capturing once in a lifetime moments that can never be recreated, $15 an hour just isn't enough. 40 weddings a year is a ton of work for a one photographer. It demands so much of them mentally and physically. Exhaustion and fatigue will eventually set in, and that could be at someones wedding where they breakdown, potentially ruining it. That is why luxury photographers limit the amount of weddings they take on. To keep themselves healthy and to fully be there for their clients.
For Austin Texas, most wedding photographers are grouped into the following price ranges:
Just starting out, most likely hasn't shot a wedding before, no idea how to pose, not considered professional.
Again, these are general starting price ranges. You can spend $10k with many of the photographers that begin at the $4k range. And please remember, these categories of pricing are not fixed; sometimes you can truly get a “good deal” at a lower price range. However, in those instances you are going to be sacrificing peace of mind and gambling with your memories. You know know though, you could luck out!
May possibly have a couple weddings under their belt, still doesn't quite understand how a wedding day works, still does not have much posing knowledge, not in demand and/or has a consistent style that demands a higher price tag.
Most likely photograph's weddings semi-regularly, understands the basics of how a wedding day works. Very basic understanding of posing, not in demand for their style.
They are in demand for their style, photographs dozens of weddings every year. Knows how a wedding day works and how to plan for success, most likely Full time in their business.
They are full time professionals, take on less weddings to provide more support to their couples, schedules fill up quickly due to high demand.
Much more established, very refined style, luxury offerings,