What is The Average Cost of A Wedding Photographer?
If the question of "how much should I spend on wedding photography?" has come to your mind, you already know how confusing and stressful finding the answer can be.
If you Google Search: 'Average Cost of a Wedding Photographer', WeddingWire will tell you it's "around $2000" but they don't tell you anything else.
What type of photographers are in that price range? Are they beginners? Are they professionals? How much experience do they have? What is their style? These are important questions you have and need answers for.
Also if that's the average, is that how much you should invest in wedding photography?
Well, I'm here to save the day. In this article I'm going to show you:
- The different types of wedding photographers there are.
- How much they each charge on average.
- How much you should invest in wedding photography based on your wedding, desires, budget, and ideal experience.
How Much Do Wedding Photographers Cost?
When learning how much you should spend on a wedding photographer, you need to re-frame the question from "the average cost of a wedding photographer" to "what do I really want from a wedding photographer?"
When you ask that question instead, you begin to understand what value each photographer brings to you instead of just thinking about price.
I've been a wedding photographer for several years, and I teach marketing to other wedding photographers so I've had the privilege of seeing hundreds of different types of photographers and how much their starting rates are for a typical wedding.
According to that and other research I've done, I've broken them down into six categories:
Brand New: $0-$500
- Photographers who are just starting out. Have not shot a wedding before and are looking to build their initial portfolio. They will likely not be able to make you feel confident in their ability to perform at a wedding or deliver high quality images.
- May have shot a wedding before. They can pull it off, however lack the ability to provide natural posing or other skills that provide a good experience. Most likely still use beginner level gear that provides below average quality for wedding photography. They are still learning.
- Most likely photographs a handful of weddings per year. Can pull off a wedding with an okay experience and mid-level gear for decent images. Still developing their style and may not have a high demand as a result.
Growing Amateur: $2000-$3000
- This is where the majority of wedding photographers are. At this level they may still be part time, but begin investing in good gear, backups, education, and are refining their style with a good portfolio so you know they will get fairly consistent results and give you a good experience.
- This is a good level for couples with a tighter budget who still want quality work.
- Full time photographers who are established with a solid in-demand style. At this level they focus on client experience to ensure that you not only get high quality images, but also eliminate stress and anxiety for your wedding.
- We recommend this level to all couples who care deeply for high quality images and a top tier wedding experience. This is the level in which I operate for local weddings.
- View My Website To See An Example
Luxury/Destination: $6000 Plus
- Some also start at $8k, $10k, or higher. These photographers have no issue handling high profile events with ease and have a refined style specifically for luxury events or destination weddings.
- We recommend this level to clients who are having a very large, luxurious wedding event, or an international destination wedding.
How Much Do Wedding Photographers Cost? (Cont.)
Now obviously there are exceptions. Sometimes full-time high quality professional photographers may charge close to what a growing amateur does, but this list is meant to show you what the average photographer charges, based on what type of photographer they are.
That leads to the question you may be asking yourself now. What else goes into their pricing? Why is wedding photography so expensive (or so cheap?) There are several factors that go into how photographers price for weddings.
- A photographer who is 23 and single won't charge the same amount as a photographer who is older and married with kids. You will find yourself drawn to certain types of photographers because you can relate to them based of where they are in their lives and their lifestyles.
- This is one of the most important factors. For example, my fiancé and I live in Tennessee, but we also shoot destination weddings. Our local prices for cities around us are much less than weddings we book in Mexico, Saint Thomas, Iceland, and other countries because of the length we have to go to to travel there, ensure safety for us and our gear, and plan everything.
- Cost of living is also a huge factor for photographers who don't travel. A professional Nashville photographer may start at $4000 where a professional Los Angeles photographer may start at $8000 or more to cover the increased cost of living.
- Different than experience, a photographer with top notch skills not only in photography but also in client experience, wedding planning, problem solving, and business ownership is invaluable compared to a photographer who does not have those skills. We see many photographers who may have shot a few dozen weddings, but still don't know much about how to deliver an amazing experience or fix fundamental problems in their images.
- It goes without saying that experience is crucial to being confident in your photographer. Someone who has shot dozens of weddings and knows how to confidently work them is going to charge more than someone who has only shot a couple.
Wait, What About Video?
You may think wedding videographers are an entirely different world, but they're actually not. The averages for videographers generally follow the same rules that photographers do. However, you may see that average videographers actually charge slightly less.
In my opinion the reason why is wedding videography is still a fairly new industry and is still playing catch up to photography. That is a good thing for now because you can save cash, but I personally see wedding videography increasing to prices above photography in the near future, because of how much more work goes into crafting a wedding film.
To get the highest quality experience compared to price, we recommend hiring a Photo/Video Team.
This is what I offer, and the overwhelming majority of our couples hire me for both. Why should you go with a photo/video team vs hiring two separate companies? Well other than the obvious, there's several great reasons you may not think of.
You'll Save Money.
- The math is simple. If a photographer charges $4k and a videographer charges $4k, but a photo/video team charges $6k, which would you rather have?
- Instead of finding and dealing with two companies, it's one. Instead of signing two contracts, you sign one. Instead of paying two retainer fees, you pay one. Instead of coordinating details with two companies, you only worry about one. So much more simple.
Less Professionals at Your Wedding.
- This one is something you may not think about, but it could ruin a perfect wedding. Most photographers come with a second. So that's two people. Cheap videographers usually are a single person team, but high quality ones also bring a second, and sometimes a third or fourth (we've seen it happen.) So that's potentially six people there on your wedding day constantly following you around.
- A photo/video team like us will usually only have two or three people tops. Almost all of our weddings are done by my fiancé and myself. So much less stress.
You Won't Sacrifice Quality.
- A good photo/video team will be able to achieve both services for you without sacrificing quality. Every wedding that we shoot both photo and video for we deliver 400+ images and a 5-7 minute long film. We also have a package where we bring in a third person and we can deliver 600+ images and a 10+ minute long film. You don't have to settle.
How Much Should You Invest in Wedding Photography?
Now we answer the question of how much you should actually invest. In essence, it boils down to a few questions you need to ask yourself. Also, forget the 10% rule. It's a myth.
- How much do you care about your wedding photos and experience?
- Are you having a standard wedding, luxury wedding, elopement, or destination wedding?
- Where does your photographer live? Are they traveling?
- Do you want a wedding film?
- What about extra things like engagement sessions, prints, etc.?
Let me break down a few general scenarios I see couples in:
- If you're having a standard wedding in a normal city (not a destination location) and care deeply about your images and experience, you should spend anywhere from $3000-$6000, and a little more if you want photo/video.
- If you're having an elopement in the U.S. and care deeply about your images and experience, you should spend anywhere from $2000-$5000, and a little more for photo/video. Some photographers may charge travel too.
- If you're having an international destination wedding and care deeply about your images and experience, you should spend anywhere from $5000-$9000, and a little more for photo/video. Most photographers charge travel for these, but some don't.
PRO TIP: If you want a photographer that is a little out of your budget, ask them about payment plans! Many photographers offer them to make it easier for you, including us. We know it's a big investment, and are here for you!
Also if your budget only calls for several hundred or a thousand, be sure to do your research and not just take any photographer off social media. Ask them smart questions like do they have backups? What is their posing style? What do they do if the wedding runs late? Can you see full wedding galleries? How many weddings have they shot? Etc.
Some photographers have great deals out there you can find, just be aware of the risks of image quality and your wedding experience before hiring any photographer.