How much a wedding photographer costs in 2021 and how to make the most of your budget
Even if you’re camera shy, taking good photos of the day you say “I do” will be at the forefront of your mind when planning your wedding. And you'll very likely want a a professional to do it. But hiring an experienced photographer requires a significant budget. How can you ensure that you will be getting your money’s worth?
We have asked two local wedding photographers to give us an idea of likely costs and some tips for getting good value for your photography budget.
Nick Haigh has started his own photography business in 2016. He has won several awards, including 2 “Masterpiece Awards” and 2 “Honor Awards” from the Wedding & Photojournalist Association. He has a relaxed, photojournalistic approach to wedding photography. His aim is to document your wedding day without you feeling any intrusion.
Amanda Forman has been photographing weddings since 2014. She has trained under master photographers in the UK, Miami and Paris and is now a Licentiate with the Association of Master Photographers. She enjoys the challenge of working with camera shy couples. Her aim is to make them feel as if having their photo taken is the most natural thing in the world.
Q. How much does a wedding photographer cost? Let’s look at basic, mid-range and top-end package prices, to give our readers a goo idea of what is available.
Amanda: All wedding photographers will price their services differently. Some will have an hourly rate, others will specify a maximum time allowance. Some will include a ‘full day coverage’ and then have add-ons for pre-wedding shoots and albums, so you can build your own package. This is why it is so important for you to make sure you know exactly what you are looking for and be clear about what is included before you book.
Here is how I structure my pricing, all of these are based on full day coverage:
My basic collection costs £1,595 and includes all of your edited digital files ready for download from a secure online gallery which can be shared with family and friends.
My second collection is £2,095 and includes a bespoke 60 page wedding album When looking at photographers, I would encourage couples to go over an example album with their chosen photographer, as not all albums are created equally. An album can mean anything from what we would normally refer to as a ‘coffee table book’ to a fully bespoke album with everything hand chosen by the couple from paper, to cover type and layout. There are also big differences in the number of pages included in a wedding album from photographer to photographer. Be sure to check that you are happy with the amount of pages included and find out the price for any additional pages, in case you wish to add them in during the design process. With me, the album is fully bespoke to the couple and includes an in-depth design consultation.
My third collection is £2,495 and includes the digital images and bespoke album, as mentioned above, along with a pre-wedding photoshoot and parent albums (2 direct replicas of the main album, just slightly smaller).
Nick: I prefer to call my packages “options'', as they are all based on how long you need me at your wedding.
My basic option costs £1,200 and is up to 6 hours which would suit a couple who only want photography from the ceremony up to the first dance.
My next and most popular option, which I would describe as mid range, costs £1,500 and is up to 10 hours which would normally cover from bridal/groom prep, right up to including some of the evening shenanigans.
And my last option is an unlimited hours option which includes a luxury photo book worth £350, which would be good if you are having an early ceremony and want everything captured from the prep right up to midnight. This would cost £2,000.
Q. There is a perception that wedding photography is rather costly. Some people do ask ‘Why is wedding photography so expensive’?
Nick: Some people think that we just turn up on the day and spend a few hours taking photos and that's it! Well, take it from me, it ain't! The reason photographers seem expensive is that running a photography business is very expensive, especially if you are doing it properly. From investing in professional cameras and lenses and back-up equipment, computers, software, training, business insurance, marketing and an accountant, there is a lot of outlay to run a photography business.
For a photographer, the work doesn't stop at the end of the wedding either - we then have to back up all the images, edit the images (which takes time) and sometimes organise photo products like printed photos and albums.
Amanda: Yes, wedding photography can be expensive, but it is so for a good reason. Your photographer will have spent a lot of time training and working on their skill set to make sure you receive the best photos of your day.
On average, a wedding photographer will spend between 8 and 10 hours shooting a wedding. When they get home, they will need to backup all of the images before going to bed and in some cases will stay up late to edit some ‘sneak previews’ for you to see the next day.
Then comes the editing. Before you can start, you need to ‘cull’ the images, removing any that don’t quite hit the mark or are duplicates. This task in itself can take quite some time and a few rounds. Obviously, all photographers work differently, so I can only speak for myself here, but once I have edited the images for white balance, crops, exposure and applied and edited any presets I use, I will then hand-pick images that need to be taken over into Photoshop. In here I will remove things like fire escape signs and fire alarms (where possible), I will do portrait edits on any close up images and remove any distractions from the images. I will then work on black and white conversions which are also individually edited. This takes quite a lot of time; I usually allow 2 days for this process.
On top of all the time spent on editing your wedding after the day itself, your photographer will also need to cover costs of things like online gallery providers, marketing (after all, how else would you have found us?), accounting, website maintenance and hosting, memberships, training, printing costs, the list goes on. This is the same as any other business. My favourite example is going into a restaurant and when it comes to paying for your meal asking why it is so expensive, after all, the ingredients don’t cost that much... But it isn’t the ingredients you are paying for, it is the expertise of the chef and the cost to run the restaurant that you are paying for, and it is so, so worth it, especially now that we are allowed back out again!
Q. Do you have any tips for our readers as to how to spend their wedding photography budget to best effect?
Amanda: I would always recommend spending as much as you can afford from your budget on your wedding photography. Why? Because these photos are the only thing you will have left to look back on after your big day. And if a family is in your future, to share with your children.
When looking for your photographer, have a look over their social media, as that will usually be updated more regularly than their website, make sure you like their style, see what other couples are saying about them and, above all, make sure you like them. It is important to have a video call or a meeting with them before booking, your photographer is the only supplier who will be with you for your entire wedding day. So no matter how good their images are, you don’t want to be stuck with someone you just can’t stand.
Nick: Getting value out of your wedding photography budget hinges on picking the right
photographer. There are several you need to check before making your decision:
Find your favourite photography style Yes, if you didn’t know it already there are many styles with the most common being reportage or documentary, creative and traditional style. You must find a photography style that matches what you want and a style that you want your photos to follow. Once you have chosen a style, make a shortlist of photographers who shoot that way.
Decide on a budget A lot of wedding blogs and magazines will recommend that you spend at least 10 – 15% of your total wedding budget on a photographer. Yes, you can get a family member or friend who has an expensive camera to photograph your day but will they have experience of shooting weddings and all the pressure that comes with the job?
Look for a photographers with wedding experience An experienced photographer can play a huge part in your day. From not only giving general advice to couples on how the day can run, but sometimes playing other roles too, from coordinator to children’s entertainer and even first aider. Taking photos is just a small part of being a wedding photographer and without the necessary experience and the ability to perform under constant pressure, important moments can be easily missed.
Read their recommendation or reviews If you know anybody happy with the service and work of a particular photographer then chances are, you will be too. A good photographer will always be able to show you testimonials from previous couples, have a reviews page on their website or provide you with the contact details of previous customers. Also check out their Facebook and Google pages for testimonials, as these can ONLY be written by previous couples and not what a photographer has made up.
Arrange an exploratory meeting Try to meet as many wedding photographers as you can before making your choice. This will allow you to get to know them and their personality better. A photographer will usually be the one supplier who spends most of the day with you, so you need to like each other and get on. If meeting up is not possible, have a video call or at least a telephone conversation.
Prepare for the meeting by making a list of questions beforehand. Go through their work and ask to see sample albums. How do they come across? Do you feel at ease with them? Do they answer all your questions with confidence? Make sure you feel at ease and you can trust them to capture the biggest day of your life.
Have a backup plan. What is their back up plan if they are unwell, equipment fails on the day, if there is an emergency or they cannot make it? Ask the question, they should have a network of contacts they trust that may be able to fill in for them. Make sure they have a Plan B, just in case. If they don’t, or don’t give you much confidence that they do, then walk away.
Make a contract. My final word of advice is to get everything in writing. Any good photographer should have a contract in place for you to sign. This is to protect you and them and will outline exactly what you will receive from your wedding photographer and how much it will cost. Read it, understand it and make sure you are happy with it before you sign it.
Gut Feeling Finally, go with your gut. If you love their work and if everything feels right, then just go for it and book them. Don’t leave it too long before you do. Imagine how you would feel if you left it a week or two before you decide to book them and you find out somebody else has.