Average Cost of a Wedding Photographer

What is the average cost of a wedding photographer?

The average cost of wedding photography on average.

I get it, you want to ask “how much should I spend on wedding photography?” and get a simple answer. Honestly, there is no easy answer here. For one thing, there are a range of photographers with different skillsets, styles and years of experience but for another… The cost of wedding photography greatly depends on how you value it yourself. Your wedding photographs are the memories you’ll be looking back on in 50 years when you want to remember how you got here with your family.

So my advice here is going to speak to those values, because that is how I approach being a wedding photographer.

Once you read this post, you’ll have a better idea of how much wedding photographers cost based on your unique values and needs.

So – how much do wedding photographers cost?

First – the average cost of a wedding photographer is going to vary based on three things: experience, location, and values of the photographer. The problem with “average” is that it takes into account people who didn’t care and found a guy off craigslist and the people that went full stop and tells you to go the middle. Average does not take your needs into account. You don’t actually want an average wedding photographer, you want the right wedding photographer for you specifically.

Instead you should be asking “How much does a wedding photographer cost, that also focuses on what we value as a couple?” If you approach it from this mindset, you start to find photographers that you love instead of just seeing what everyone else spent on their photographer. You know you’ll be getting those irreplaceable moments back to you and the details of the day.

Lets break down the cost of a wedding photographer by experience & what to expect:

Brand new: $0-500 – they have never shot a wedding before.

What to expect: This is honestly risky, its kind of a gamble. You may luck out and find someone who was born to do it, or you’ll feel incredibly awkward in front of the camera and miss a ton of things you will want to see years from now. Gear is entry level – they most likely do not have a flash.

Entry-level: $500-1500 – they’ve likely shot a few weddings but don’t have a defined style or high demand.

What to expect: Hopefully you can look at one of their past weddings, so you can get at least some ease of mind. They likely are still developing their posing techniques and may be very inexperienced with lighting and other problem solving skills.

Enthusiast: $2000-3000 – Most likely has some demand for style, but isn’t booking out years in advance & usually has not found their niche yet (offers many types of sessions outside of weddings)

What to expect: This photographer has probably started 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: $4000-5000 – This is a full-time photographer with over 20-30 weddings under their belt and are in demand.

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

What to expect: Very solid consistent work, can handle high-profile events, and will make you feel at ease about your photographs. They will take a limited number of weddings, take their time to get to know you, and offer museum-grade heirloom albums and artwork. You will not have to worry about your photographs.

So how much should I spend on wedding photos?

A quick and to the point answer is that a wedding photographer can cost between $0 and all the way up to $20K+ which is a massive window. The thing is there are so many factors that would affect this decision that I cannot just give you a blanket statement and be giving you good advice.

For a while the popular advice was that you should spend between 10-15% of your wedding budget on photography but thats a little too simple. You should focus on the value that you really want and will be happy with decades from now. That way you get the comfort and stress-free coverage you actually want.

Here are a few factors to consider:

  • Location of the wedding
  • expertise of the photographer
  • availability of printed heirlooms
  • quality of the albums offered
  • style of the photographer
  • 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

Why do wedding photographers cost so much?

Honestly – you get what you pay for. When a photographer is especially talented, the demand goes up for them, which raises their price is because it is entirely impossible for them to be everyones wedding photographer. At a certain point they have to raise the prices or dilute the experience they offer, and if they dilute the experience they are no longer offering the same service.

Lets take a look at the determining factors to break this down a little more:

Lifestyle

This is a little out of the box, but its probably the most basic factor that will determine how much a photographer can and should charge. A photographer that doesn’t balance their lifestyle with the work they produce and the profit which they need to support that lifestyle will quickly go out of business. They wont be happy, efficient, and will feel over worked. Alternatively when an emergency arises for your wedding, like a date change or something similar, a photographer who is not profiting may not be able to accommodate changes in schedule.

Location

Like with real estate, location is incredibly important in relation to price. If you live in an area like Washington D.C. its not unheard of to pay $20,000 for a wedding photographer because the cost of living is so incredibly high. If you compare that to a relatively low cost of living state like Florida you can likely get a luxury photographer for half that. Typically the larger the city and the higher the medium level of income, the higher the average price for a photographer will be.

Expertise

Think of expertise as a measure of adaptability for a photographer. They should be able to produce high quality photographs at any given wedding, not just the ones at the super fancy wedding venues. Expertise and experience typically go hand in hand, but thats not always the case. An experienced wedding photographer for 8+ years may not have as much technical skills as a photographer who has only been around for 4-5 years.

For that reason, expertise includes the following:

  • Actual photography skills (handling different lighting situations like direct sun vs a low-light reception and everything in between.)
  • Interpersonal communications with other vendors and teammates.
  • Emotional & communication skills to help put you at ease and evoke emotions necessary for the mood in an image.
  • Adaptability – life happens, things change and a photographers ability to think on the spot and still create great results is one of thier most valuable skills.
  • Business skills that create sustainability, profit( if your wedding photographer goes out of business, you are both in a pickle), and high end services to put you at ease & consistently deliver.

Expertise will raise the cost of a wedding photographer because its directly related to their market demand and desirability to future clients. Reviews and wedding portfolios are great ways to check on a photographers expertise. Be sure to check for your photographers reviews, look through thier portfolios and social media to see how they handle different lighting & moments of the wedding day.

Experience

Experience is important – though not always directly related to the expertise of the photographer. A photographer with a decent backlog of weddings has had the ability to test out solutions to tough situations like timeline troubles, tense situations, or inclement weather. An experienced photographer will understand your plan, review your venue, and has likely chosen places for sections of the day liek the firstlook before hand. This photographer will likely be above the average cost though – peace of mind for you is going to be at that photographers top of mind always.

Style

Style is subjective, and one style over another is not whats important here. Higher end photographers will be able to adjust their style or lighting in a way that compliments the situation at hand. They will adapt to the environment without creating photographs that are inconsistent. 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 offer base packages offering more value but beginning at a higher price point, while others may include almost nothing and start low. Luxury photographers 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 couple because every wedding is actually unique. At a minimum I belive you need at least 4 hours of coverage for an elopement (to cover a full story) and 6 hours at minimum for a traditional wedding. Here are somethings you can look for in a wedding package:

  • Do they include one or two photographers? is two photographers an available upgrade?
  • Do they include an heirloom quality album?
  • Do they offer engagement sessions?
  • Are timeline reviews or venue walk throughs possible add ons or standard?
  • How do they deliver photographs?
  • What is the turn around time?

Do wedding photographers over charge?

I will simply say no, because the value of what you sell can only be set by those willing to pay for it. Without demand they will have to lower their prices. If a photographer limits the days they are available the days they have become more valuable overtime – again provided people actually want to hire this photographer. Let’s also take into account the unique quality weddings have over other events:

  • Weddings are truly once in a lifetime events for each couple. They can only be married for the first time to each other once – so there is no room for mistakes.
  • There is hours of pre-event and post event labor – think 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

Lots of what is discussed here can be applied to many vendors, its more work than you think. Weddings are vastly different from birthdays, corporate events, or otherwise. In my case specifically, you can’t compare the cost of photography for a wedding to a different kind of event photorgaphy simply because I wont do the other events.

Every photographer runs things differently, but here is the amount of hours roughly included in a wedding booking not including the backend parts of the business (taxes, website stuff, writing blogs like this, etc):

  • 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 editiing time, more if there was a second
  • 1-2 hours of backup, album design
  • 3 hours for photo reveal, album finalization, local travel to the reveal.

Potentially we’re looking at 60+ hours per wedding in labor alone, without counting expenses. Gear by the way – super expensive – a single professional lens can be anywhere from $500-2500 and I have 5. 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 equals out to about $15 per hour before the self-employment tax which is 15.3%. I think its totally fair to say that if you are paying $1750 for a wedding photographer with two shooters, they are over working themselves or investing very little into their business.

$15 an hour isn’t bad when your starting out, but for someone with the pressure of capturing a once-in-a-lifetime event like your wedding that cannot be recreated – its just not enough. They’ll eventually burn out, and burn out at someones wedding potentially ruining it. 40 weddings a year is a TON of work for one photographer, which is why you’ll find many of those luxury wedding photographers take on a smaller limited number of weddings – its to prevent burn out and increase customer service.

Average wedding photography costs in Tampa Bay & Orlando Florida

Tampa Bay and Orlando specifically most photographers are grouped in the following price ranges:

  • $0-500 (Just starting, may have not shot a wedding, not considered professional)
  • •$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)
  • •$1000-2000 (Probably photographs weddings semi-regularly, may not have a high demand, may not be considered full-time)
  • •$2000-3000 (Probably has a bit higher demand for style, probably shoots a few less weddings while focusing on providing each client more support, beginning to get into the “professional” category)
  • •$4000+ (typically considered full-time professionals, have the demand based on style, expertise, etc.)
  • •$5000-$6000+ and beyond starting prices (Typically more established, refined style, and luxury offerings)

These are general starting price ranges, you can definitely spend $10k with photographers starting at $4k. These categories are also not fixed, sometimes you can get lucky and find a deal from a lower priced photographer. In those cases you will be trading peace of mind and assuming risk, but may luck out!

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