One of the most common questions about wedding photography is this: how much does it cost? Today I’m breaking down an understanding of just where that money goes and what to expect at different price points.
The Overall Differences in the Cost of Wedding Photography
I personally find the overall difference in cost is the experience of the wedding photographer. Why do some photographers charge over $3,000 for 8 hours of coverage while others charge just $1,000 or less? Well, simply, a photographer’s ability to best serve clients increases the more weddings they have photographed! Those who start out in the photography industry typically keep prices low to gain bookings and experience. While it is possible for a photographer to simply put their prices high without having much experience, I would say the rule holds in general. If a photographer is full time with pricing that starts in the upper range, it is because they consistently book weddings at that price.
In my photography groups I’ve heard a tier phrasing system that I like. The tiers are named as such: budget, lovely, and luxury. It takes a lot of time as a photographer to create consistent images. The lighting at every wedding is different – and yet if you are a luxury photographer, you know how to make your clients look high-end no matter the venue (though typically the venue is also high-end to begin with!)
Signs of Budget Priced Wedding Photographers
Less than $2,500
In recognizing those in the “budget” tier of wedding photography, I will say first: everyone starts somewhere! The lowest end of the budget tier hosts a lot of red-flag policies, but many photographers who shoot 8 hours for $2,000 and up are on their way up in the industry! I usually see these commonalities: low cost, lack of certain business practices, and image inconsistency. The cost is under $2,000 for 8 hours of coverage, which is perfect for those who don’t want photography to take too much of their wedding budget! Image consistency can vary highly between weddings with some photos dark with lots of contrast, some being lighter. This is because the honing of the craft takes time to establish. In the budget category, photos can range from looking like high quality smartphone photos to being stunning! (Again, those photographers are probably rising up in the industry!)
Typically someone starting out in wedding photography has not honed editing skills or a system to implement their own editing with a unique and consistent style. Photographs taken by new photographers tend to be closer to what we call “RAW” photos, aka, straight out of camera. A budget wedding photographer might not have business insurance and may or may not own their lenses and camera gear. (And, worse – they may not have a backup camera body in case theirs stops working!!!) Camera gear is expensive, you see!
Signs of Lovely Priced Wedding Photographers
From $3,000 to $4,900
In the second tier of wedding photography I include those who price $3,000 to $4,900 for 8 hours of wedding coverage. Typically a photographer in this tier has gained a good deal of consistency in shooting and editing, in posing clients in a way that looks great, and in their ability to make their work look cohesive. They probably have raving reviews from clients!
Think of your favorite coffee shop. Would you be happy if your latte tasted quite a bit different every time you ordered the same beverage? Probably not. You appreciate that when you order almond mocha latte that it tastes a certain way. Photographers in the lovely tier know how to produce consistent work that looks like their work. A couple booking a photographer in this category would be shocked if their light & airy photographer produced a wedding gallery sporting photos in a dark and moody vibe. This isn’t what I expected would be the thought!
Signs of Luxury Priced Wedding Photographers
$5,000 and up
The highest cost of wedding photography I call luxury, simply because it looks so luxurious! Those who price 8 hours of wedding coverage at $3,500 or more fall into this category in my book. When you look through the portfolios of wedding photographers such as KT Merry, The Komans and Amy & Jordan you instantly recognize a brand. Consistent look, consistent feel, consistent vibe. Often photographers in this tier have a lot of featuring in press and wedding recognition.
There are so many wedding blogs and publications that feature their work! To name a few: Ruffled, Brides, Grey Likes Weddings, Martha Stewart Weddings, Once Wed, Style Me Pretty, and many more. You might see icons on a luxury photographer’s website touting these names. Obviously, those who book with a luxury photographer highly value the look of their wedding photos as well as their experience. These couples would overlook a budget photographer simply because they want the best service, the best photos, and the opportunity to be published! You may also note that many luxury wedding photographers shoot with real film (or hybrid, both digitally and with film). “Fine Art Wedding Photography” is a phrase that photographers often use to describe work in this tier. It is magazine worthy quality!
Where the Cost of Wedding Photography Goes
In general, your wedding day cost covers the wedding day as well as all the editing and client services that comes along with it. A photographer is not just shooting images! Photographing is about 20% of the job – the other 80% is running the business! Whether your photographer outsources certain tasks or does it all themself, here is a list of duties to be done & costs to be paid:
Marketing, Website Creation and Maintenance, Maintaining Camera Gear, Culling Photos (choosing which ones to edit), Editing Photos, Designing Albums, Writing blog posts, emailing clients, video chatting/in person consultations, Payment for Software, Insurance, and more!
In addition to the cost all of these tasks, a wedding photographer hopes to take home a paycheck! (We have mortgages, children, and living costs, too!)