How Much Does Wedding Photographer Cost?

Queen Victoria is known today as the ‘mother of white weddings.’ Among the numerous aspects, it pioneered includes history’s first wedding picture.

Curiously, her image was shot only 14 years after her wedding day because underdeveloped technology in that period requires painstaking reenactment.

Today, taking pictures in a wedding has truly evolved into one of the most high-tech, accessible, and profitable arts enterprises. According to Huffington Post, the wedding photography industry in the United States is already worth $60 billion as of 2017.

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An interesting study explores the direct correlation between wedding spending and the risk of separation. It is believed that an ideal overall spending of less than $1,000 is associated with the significant decrease in divorce incidence.

Speaking of wedding budgets, the average American spends around $25,200 for an entire wedding ceremony (excluding the budget for the honeymoon).

Comparable to the average overall wedding budget in the United States, the photographer’s portion is approximately $2,814.

However, it is important to take note that the gulf between price ranges can be very vast. It is possible to pay the smallest asking price of $1,000 while luxury spending may climb up to more than $10,000.

In order to get a better perspective of what justifies the fee, here is an example of a cost breakdown by Wedding Wire:

  • Photography Services (e.g. packages, hourly rate, etc)
  • Post-production (e.g. editing, data storage, file backups, etc)
  • Employees (e.g. photographers, editors, studio assistants, etc)
  • Equipment (e.g. cameras, lenses, lighting, batteries, etc)
  • Business Expenses (e.g. studio rental, utility bills, seminars, etc)
  • Marketing & Advertising Expenses (e.g. website, magazine, radio, etc)
  • Insurance (part of the overall cost should cover the company’s insurance premiums)

The Two Constants - Time And Volume

So how much do wedding photographers cost? As of recent estimates, American couples pay an average price range of $1,200 to $3,000. Regardless of how much couples would actually end up shelling, you should take note of the two constants of the general pricing plan are known as time and volume.

The total work hours of the photographer (which includes editing) and the total number of images couples want to be arranged in their album directly impacts spending. It is important to keep a close look at these aspects while dealing with the following cost factors:

1. Experience & Reputation

One of the easiest ways to determine your spending projection is to know how good your professional photographer is. 

Wedding photography prices are easily justified depending on how long the studio has been operating. However, knowing how long professional photographers have been around only shows the tip of the iceberg in terms of assessing the value of their work.

DIYPhotography.com provides the most recent classification for photographer rates per hour/image based on their general experience and reputation. Take note of the following professional profiles and their average price ranges:

  • Hobbyist: Free or not more than $100
  • Amateur: $25 to $100 per hour
  • Student: $35 to $90 per hour 
  • Semi-Pro: $50 to $160 per hour 
  • Professional: $75 to $300 per hour 
  • Top Professional: $250 to $500+ per hour 

Unless he/she is a personal friend, avoid hiring a hobbyist as a wedding photographer. With only 36% of professional photographers that include prenup shoots in the basic package, you can instead hire the other 64% who do not. Let hobbyists cover for your early engagement shoots to save costs. You might even bargain for a free service if you schedule earlier than six months before the wedding day.

As with any wedding service provider, always ask for samples and recent customer references. Interviewing well-known past clients (e.g. local celebrities) helps you determine whether or not photographers are as good as they say they are.

Here are some of the perceptive questions one can ask a wedding photography company:

  • How long have you been doing this?
  • How many weddings do you shoot on a weekend?
  • Are you registered and insured?
  • What sets you apart from other photographers in the area?
  • What are the things included and excluded in your contract?
  • What are your methods of protecting my files?
  • How much time do you need for editing?

2. Visual & Material Quality

Highly-detailed spectacular shots are usually captured using sophisticated equipment. High-altitude angles, for instance, require photographers to operate a crane. This can translate to extra costs. Yet the artistic principle behind the impressive photograph is just one major aspect of quality.

The other side of the coin concerns the material used for printing and arrangement. Professional photographers can offer multiple varieties in terms of the type of paper, album cover, and substance used for framing your best pictures.

A keen understanding of photography packages can make it easier for you to assess your overall spending. Every package variety provides a concise summary of everything you can get in your wedding photo collection. Here is a good example of photography package options from a California-based event organizer The Pros:

  • Classic: $1,495 (75 photos + 25 bonus prints + soft pages + standard cover)
  • Prestige: $1,795 (125 photos + 50 bonus prints + soft pages + premier cover)
  • Masterpiece: $2,095 (200 photos + 75 bonus prints + flush pages + premier cover)

To further assess your service provider’s expertise, it helps to find out about the studio’s specialty. Like every artistic field, photography includes several subgenres. Like every artist, a photographer is likely to excel in one particular principle. Wedding Wire features the following photography style options:

  • Traditional: a meticulously choreographed (often formal) stylish portrait.
  • Fine Art: a loosely choreographed image that copies the appeal of a masterpiece painting.
  • Photojournalism: vibrant stolen shots that capture emotionally moving images.
  • Fashion: choreographed images that copy the appeal of a magazine cover photos.

As with any wedding service provider, always ask for samples and recent customer references. Interviewing well-known past clients (e.g. local celebrities) helps you determine whether or not photographers are as good as they say they are.

Taking a photo of newly wed couples

3. Number of Photographers

It is often easy to take the photographer’s versatile capacity for granted. However, there is only so much one person can do to accomplish many tasks in a limited timeframe. The company’s principal photographer may require assistance, especially in terms of handling the equipment. Among the various cost factors, this aspect often seemed very (mistakenly) negligible.

Availing for basic photography packages is economical because they can be accomplished by one professional in a restricted timeframe. But there is a lesser chance for pressure or possible complications if you have downsized your wedding to 100 actual guests.

Another way to make one-man capacity packages less problematic is to avail for photo booth rentals. Most guests do not really bother about seeing themselves in your photo album, especially if you’re hiring photojournalist specialists who capturing ‘embarrassing’ moments. Photo booths are free and instant souvenir shops with a strong comical appeal.

If renting a photo booth doesn’t appeal to the tight budget, you can still avail for the basic package. All you need to do is create an account and use an app from a social media website called Joy. You can invite the wedding guests and they can upload their shots to your “moments” gallery.

4. Location & Logistics

If you have a separate venue for your ceremony and reception, it is important to be conscious of the travel distance between each location. This will also affect the overall photographer rates for weddings. The costs can easily multiply if your wedding destination is more than 200 kilometers from the area your chosen studio is operating.

Aside from transportation, the props and the photographer’s meals could factor into the operational costs. But when it really goes down to the logistics, the deal-breaker comes from the proper setup, handling, and maintenance of the equipment. This is the area wherein things could most likely go sideways (e.g. broken camera lenses or lost data).

In choosing the right photographer, never forget to ask if he or she insured. But don’t stop with the simple “yes” response. Knowing the scope of the photographer’s insurance is more important than simply taking their word for it. Studios must at least have both professional liabilities protection and data compromise coverage.

If you intend to get married outside the country, it is more economical to hire the foreign territory’s own local professionals. Commissioning photographers based in your homeland will incur a heavy budget that includes plane tickets and accommodations.

If you have a suitable vehicle (e.g. SUV), offer to transport heavy equipment to lessen operational costs. Better yet, choose one venue for both the ceremony and reception. Your photographer can perform his/her best when his/her momentum isn’t interrupted.

It is also important to ask whether or not the photographer can provide his/her own meals during the wedding day. You can discuss favorable arrangements with your wedding caterer to avoid reimbursing the photographer’s exact amount of the budget for food and drink.

Additional Expenses To Look After

In line with the previous part of the article, consumers must be aware of what they are paying for when they hire wedding photographers. Most of these additional features are consigned within the parameters of photography services and post-production:

  • Engagement Shoot

Photo sessions before the nuptials are not always included in the package – considering that these sessions are not part of the 8-hour wedding day coverage. Most of the time, one or two of the best engagement shoots are used as a front page of creative wedding invitation cards.

  • Extra Coverage

Most companies have a relatively limited coverage during the wedding ceremony and reception. Some standard packages do not always include still or video shoots of wedding speeches, dance, programs, and dinner.

  • Honeymoon/Adventure Shoot

Some couples love to have quality images and videos of their intimate honeymoon. These post-wedding shoots often capture fascinating vacation landscapes (e.g. Parisian evening cityscape, tropical beach sunset, Bolivian mountain trek, etc).

  • Exclusive Rights

Although couples practically own their wedding photographs, there are legal limitations in their ownership. For instance, they cannot publish the images in any profit-based media. In order to make it possible for couples to do so, they ought to pay extra fees for exclusive or extended rights.

  • Additional Staff

Certain styles require complex lighting and on-site configurations, hence the urgency for more technical assistance. Wedding photo companies only have a limited set of staff and additional crew may entail extra costs.

  • Additional Prints & Albums

A standard package naturally has a limited number of images. Couples who wish to give full set copies to their close relatives can pay an extra fee for this benefit.

  • Wedding Website

A photo album is one thing, but some couples cherish their nuptial memories so much that they prefer to push it to another level. There are those who would pay an extra fee to set up an interactive website organizing photos, videos, and testimonies for the world to see.

  • Wardrobe & Accessories

Costumes for engagement photo shoots are usually excluded from the photography company’s features. One has to access a theme fashion (e.g. Medieval Japan, Steam Punk, Wild West, etc) from tailors or party shops. Curiously, however, there are some wedding photography services that can provide limited props to accentuate background themes.

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