What is the average cost of a wedding photographer (2023)

If you are here, chances are you are trying to figure out how much does wedding photography actually cost and what you should invest in it. The simple answer for this is, well…there isn’t one. There are so many factors involved such as experience, region, styles, packages, the list just goes on and on. I know how it feels to Google this and see anywhere between $800 and $10,000+ and get confused on why.

The cost of wedding photography really depends on how you value it yourself. These are photographs that you’ll be looking back on in 10, 20, 50 years from now when you want to remember where it started with your family and show the grand kids all the fun you had at your wedding!

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How much do wedding photographers really cost?

The average cost of a wedding photographer is based on a variety of things. Some being experience, location, and what the photographer themselves value. When you Google the “average” cost of a wedding photographer, it’s not taking into account all types of people who have vastly different values when it comes to photography. Those who didn’t give two craps about their wedding photography and found Uncle Bob off craigslist and the people that want to go full send on an amazing experience. At the end of the day, your not looking for a budget, average, or luxury photographer. You want theright wedding photographer for you.

The questions isn’t how much does wedding photography cost, because honestly there is no sum of money that can equate to getting your memories back or preserving them for all time. It should be “How much does a wedding photographer cost, that focuses on what we value?” With this perspective, you start to find those photographers that you love and connect with instead of just seeing dollar signs and comparing what everyone else spent on their photographer.

Here is a breakdown via experience and what your expectations should be for each.

Newbie

Price: $0 – 500 – they have never shot a wedding before.

What to expect:Short story…not much and it’s way too risky. They probably got a camera for a present our out of pure interest. Like, you can still smell the box the camera came in when they use it still. They don’t have any experience. If you go this route, you are destined for disappointment.

Entry-level

Price: $500 – 1500 – they’ve likely assisted on a few weddings and maybe even shot a few as a 2nd or 3rd photographer but don’t have a defined style or high demand.

What to expect: See if they have a past wedding gallery or two to look at and some reviews, so you can get at least a little piece of mind. Probably still learning their posing techniques and style. They also might be very inexperienced with lighting and other essential problem solving skills for your wedding day.

Enthusiast

Price: $2000 – 3000 – Their style is coming together, but isn’t booking out years in advance & usually has not found their niche yet. Probably offers several types of photography services outside of weddings.

What to expect:The photographer probably started to invest in good gear, backups and furthering education. They should have some sort of portfolio but it will likely not be focused on weddings and will give you some insight as to what to expect.

Professional

Price: $4000 – 5000 – This is a full-time photographer with over 20+ weddings under their belt.

What to expect:They are known for what they do and have an established style. They will learn about your needs, make you feel cared for and will deliver incredibly high quality photographs.

Luxury

Price: $5000 and higher starting prices. – Usually very established, with a set style and luxury level offerings.

What to expect:Super consistent work and will be able to can handle any type of wedding while making you feel very at ease about your photographs. They are taking a limited number of weddings and take the time to get to know you, and offer museum-grade heirloom albums and artwork. You will have zero worries about your photographs.

So how much should I spend on wedding photography?

The standard BS advice used to be to save between 10-15% of your wedding budget for photography. That’s too damn vague, and is usually the answer someone who really has no clue will tell you. Only YOU can tell you what you value from photography. When you are looking back at your photographs tomorrow, next year, or decade from now, will you be happy?

Some things to consider:

  • Location of the wedding
  • expertise of the photographer
  • availability of printed heirlooms
  • quality of the albums offered
  • style of the photographer ( both emotional and aesthetic )
  • what is included in their base offering? Engagement sessions, album etc.
  • Will you enjoy hanging out with this person all day on your wedding day during moments you are at your most vulnerable?

So why do wedding photographers cost so much?

To be blunt, your going to get what you pay for. When a photographer is in demand for their particular set of stills, in order for them to keep that quality of experience they want to deliver to you and it’s product consistent, knowing it is impossible for them to be a photographer to everyone, they have to raise the prices or risk lowering the quality of the experience they offer.

LIFESTYLE

Fact is, If a photographer doesn’t balance their lifestyle with the work they produce, then they will quickly go out of business. They won’t be happy, produce a constant product, and will feel stressed and overworked. this leads to burnout and other issues.

LOCATION

Location is incredibly important in relation to price. The cost of living is different everywhere. If you live in an area like New York, it’s not completely out the window of to pay well over $20,000 for a wedding photographer because the cost of living is so incredibly high ( 137.8% above U.S. average ). If you compare that to a low cost of living state like Mississippi, you can likely get a luxury photographer for half that or less. Typically the larger the city and the higher the medium level of income, the higher the average price for a photographer will be.

KNOWLEDGE

Expertise is one of the most valuable measures of a photographers skill. Notice how i said skill, not personality. We will get to that later. Their ability to create high quality photographs during any given wedding situation, and not just at select wedding venues is paramount. Expertise and experience go hand together like peanut butter and jelly. That said, an experienced wedding photographer of 10+ years may not have as much technical skill as a photographer who has only been around for 5 years. It really depends on the style of the photographer and how they roll.

Expertise includes but is not limited to:

  • Actual photography skills (handling different lighting situations such as direct sun vs a low-light reception and everything in between.)
  • Communications with other vendors and teammates.
  • Emotional & communication skills to help put you at ease and evoke emotions in a photograph.
  • Adaptability as things change and a photographers ability to think on the spot and still create great results is one of their most valuable skills.
  • Business skills that profit ( if your wedding photographer goes out of business, you are both SOL ), and high end services to put you at ease & consistently deliver.

Expertise will always raise the cost of a wedding photographer due to their market demand and desirability to future clients. Reviews andwedding portfoliosare great ways to check. Be sure to check for your photographers reviews, look through their portfolio and social media to see how they handle different lighting & moments of the wedding day.

EXPERIENCE

Experience is worth it weight in gold, though not always directly related to the expertise of the photographer. A photographer with a decent backlog of weddings has learned from tough situations like timeline troubles, tense situations, lighting changes, location changes, or inclement weather. An experienced photographer will understand your plan, review your venue, and has likely chosen places for sections of the day like the first-look before hand, and if not, they can quickly adapt. This photographer will be above average cost, but what the value you get in return is peace of mind that knowing that the photographers has your best interest at top priority always.

STYLE

Style, just like all art, is subjective, and no one style sis better over another. However, higher end photographers will be able to adjust their style or lighting in a way that compliments the situation at hand. A photographer who can stick to their style and adapt it for various lighting scenarios will be in more demand because they are displaying a level of competence and expertise.

WHAT IS INCLUDED IN WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS COLLECTIONS?

Some photographers will offer a base package with more value but beginning at a higher price point, while others may include almost nothing and start low, typically an A La Carte route. As for luxury photographers, they may have a base collection that includes the minimum level of time, experience, and customer care to deliver something consistent with their brand values. Everything after that point is custom to the couples needs, wants, and values since every couple is unique. At a minimum I belive you need at least 4 hours of coverage for an elopement ( to deliver a full story ) and 6 hours at minimum for a wedding.

Here are somethings to look for in a wedding package

  • How many photographers? Can you upgrade to more?
  • Do they include an heirloom quality album?
  • Do they offer engagement sessions?
  • Will they help you create a timeline?
  • How do they deliver photographs? Just digitals or an in studio premiere?
  • What is the turnaround time?
What is the average cost of a wedding photographer (5)

Do wedding photographers over charge?

Truthfully…no, and that’s because the value of what you sell can only be set by those willing to pay for it. If there was no demand, then yeah, they will have to lower their prices. If a photographer limits the days they are available, then those days they do have available now become more valuable over time.

Some things that make weddings unique over other events

  • Weddings are once in a lifetime events for each couple. You are only married for the first time once.
  • There are hours of pre-event and post event labor – timeline planning, learning about you, scheduling travel, building the team, editing the images, designing an album, meeting with you to show off the design and photos, maintaining gallery backups, etc.
  • Often weddings are multi-location – meaning gear and everything else must be picked up and taken to wherever the next thing on the timeline is going to be.
  • Including drive time and everything else most weddings can be so much more than the hours in the timeline.
  • Risk removal such as lock myself down 24 hrs prior to a wedding. I don’t go anywhere to do anything. Then i show up 1hr early minimum to the wedding. This does not include perhaps staying at a hotel close by. Again this is all risk removal to make sure I AM THERE no matter what.

This can be applied to many vendors as well, it’s more work than you think. Weddings are so different from birthdays, corporate events, or otherwise. In my case specifically, you can’t compare the cost of photography for a wedding to different kinds of event photography, largely because I won’t do other events.

Every single photographer runs things very differently. But here are some rough hours included in a wedding booking, not including the backend parts of the business ( taxes, website stuff, writing blogs like this, etc )

Hours breakdown

  • 1-3 hours of initial emails/meetings
  • 2-3 hours for an engagement session ( travel + shooting time )
  • 1-3 hours to edit, export and upload the engagement session
  • 2-3 hours of timeline prep/pre-wedding planning
  • 10-20 hours of day of work ( set up, local travel, team coordination, coverage during the day, tear down, photo transfer, highlight selection, gallery creation )
  • 7-20 hours of editing time, more if there was a second or third photographer
  • 2-7 hours of backup, album design
  • 3 hours for photo premiere, album finalization, local travel to the premiere
  • 1-2 hours of inspecting the final product, packaging it, and shipping it safely to you

Potentially we’re looking at 60+ hours per wedding in labor alone, without counting expenses. Gear by the way – stupid expensive – a single professional lens can be anywhere from $500-2500 and I have 6. Other expenses might include time and money that goes into paying a second shooter, gas money, education/improvements, business insurance, keeping software and everything up to date, advertising rates, etc.

If a wedding photographer wants to make 50k a year, and they shoot 40 weddings per year – at minimum they need to charge $1750 per wedding. That’s roughly $15 per hour before the self-employment tax which is around 15.3%. It’s safe to say that if you are paying $1750 for a wedding photographer with two shooters, and full day coverage, they are overworking themselves and are going to go out of business rather quickly.

For someone under the pressure of capturing a once-in-a-lifetime event like your wedding that cannot be redone, mulliganed, or have the reset button hit – it’s just not enough. They’ll burn out, and burn out at someone’s wedding. 40 weddings a year is a TON of work for one photographer. This is why you’ll find many luxury wedding photographers take on a limited number of weddings.

Average wedding photography costs in Connecticut?

In Connecticut most photographers are grouped by the following price ranges:

  • $0 – 400 ( Just starting out )
  • $500 – 1200 ( May have shot a couple of weddings, may not have a high demand and/or may not have a style that demands a higher price tag )
  • $2000 – 3000 ( Probably photographs weddings semi-regularly, may not have a high demand, may not be considered full-time )
  • $3000 – 4000 ( Probably has a bit higher demand for style, probably shoots a few less weddings while focusing on providing each client more support )
  • $5000 -$6000+ starting prices ( Typically more established, refined style, and luxury offerings )

Just like the pirate code, this is more of a guideline than rules. Depending on what your photographer offers that aligns with your needs, wants, and values, you can definitely spend $10k+ with photographers whos starting price is at $4k. But hey, you might get lucky and find a deal from a lower priced photographer. In those cases you will be trading peace of mind and assuming tons of risk, but you just you never know…you just might find that diamond in the rough.

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