What should your wedding photography cost?
A guide to budgetting & Avoiding pitfalls
Photographers sometimes join the race to the bottom. These are Talented folks who want your business.
I recently encountered a wedding photographer offering 50% off their full day package. FIFTY. FIVE-OH. My heart sank.
For years I’ve been playing the “what’s a fair price?” game – a battle in my head. As a wedding photographer, I have some fixed costs – insurance, website, some of my gear gets paid off each month and a bit put aside for newer kit when I think I’m lacking, and the odd bit of training or going to workshops. Without allowing for these costs I wouldn’t have a business – I’d have an expensive hobby. And that’s exactly what I worry about when I see wedding photographers slashing their prices.
They come across as doing you a favour. Everyone wants to be flattered, and someone who’s willing to cut their prices that low to be your wedding photographer is either desperate to shoot your awesome wedding, or they’re, well, desperate.
It’s a tactic – and not one you should fall for.
Brides and grooms to be spend a lot of time researching their wedding. Before you book a single thing you probably have a clear idea in your head about what you want (and an even stronger idea of what you absolutely don’t.) We photographers have to find a way to insert ourselves in to your day, and gain your trust. You have to have faith that we can recreate your wedding on camera, and deliver a set of images that take you right back there, giving you all the feels.
We have to hustle a bit to make this known.
Getting our work out there isn’t easy. It’s hours spent on Instagram each week, months honing our websites to make them a nice place to spend 10 minutes, and it’s meeting you, in person, to answer your questions over a slab of cake. It’s being interested in you and your plans, and paying enough attention to figure out how to best capture you.
It’s hard work. It’s a lot of trial and error.
Of course, there’s another way to get your attention – slashing a massive blue cross right through our services.
But if you know that a photographer usually charges £1400, what are they doing differently if you’re only paying them £700?
If you were suddenly paid 50% of your salary, what impact would that have on your work?
Would you stay late because you felt you hadn’t quite finished an important task?
Would you pay quite as much attention to the details?
Would you throw up your hands and think “sod it, that’ll do”?
This is what worries me about wedding photographers slashing their prices – ultimately couples will know that their budget photographer didn’t do their best work, and they’ll never be able to recreate that day ever again.
How important is the price?
Price is not the only thing that determines a photographer’s ability capture your big day. All photographers have different demands on their time, determining how much they can spend on your wedding day, and therefore what it’s appropriate to charge. But they need to be properly paid for that time, or they’ll be cutting corners somewhere (or exploiting themselves).
Below is a breakdown of how I spend my time on each couple that books their wedding photography with me.
I want to preface this by saying that all photographers have different costs and different levels of service. There is nothing wrong with a photographer who regularly charges £700 and delivers consistently if they’re happy and their customers are happy. I’m going to use my own business here as an example of what would happen if I were to cut my prices in half.
Most of the couples who book me do so for 10 hours, and choose to have a second photographer and a highlights film made too. I throw in a complimentary couples shoot before the wedding for every booking too. I include 150 miles of travel and one overnight stay.
I love working this way, because I get to tell a whole story and have chance to develop a real rapport with all the couples I work with. Some couples don’t want to have their pre-wedding shoot, while some live further afield, so the below figures are very much average. Turns out I spend an average of 46 hours on each client.
- The Booking Process – 4 hours – emails, phone calls, meetings, organising deposit & contracts
- Planning – 4 hours – organising second shooters, visiting/researching venues, planning travel, overnight stays etc
- Pre-wedding shoot – 4 hours – travel, the shoot + meeting, editing, gallery delivery
- The Wedding Day – 14 hours – travel + shooting
- Post Production – 20 hours – culling, editing & exporting the gallery, uploading, ordering and posting products
Half my Average
If I half my earnings I have to adapt the time spent doing the stuff mentioned above. The wedding day stays the same – it’s still a fourteen hour day regardless of my earnings.
If I need a second shooter I would have to either get someone for free (and ain’t no talented, reliable folks working for free) or just go without.
In person meetings, venue visits and pre-wedding shoots don’t happen. So I’m going in much colder on your day. We wouldn’t have built up a relationship at all, and I’d be just another vendor, rather than the person charged with preserving this special day for you.
I could not spend 20 hours working on your gallery. You’d get a one click edit with minor tweaks, if that.
I wouldn’t spend 46 hours on your wedding – it’d be more like 20. I definitely wouldn’t stay a bit late just because the vibe was nice or the party was too good to miss.
What to expect from your wedding photographer
Different photographers provide different levels of service. Personally, I’m always available to answer any questions a couple might have, whether it’s before or after booking. I like to send little welcome packs and gifts out to clients a few months before their wedding, and something to say thank you afterwards. I like to provide everything I can for them, and assist them with any aspects of their wedding day that might be causing stress.
Basically, it’s my job as a wedding photographer to be a strong, supportive presence for every couple who books me. They’re not going to have this day again, and it’s my job to be as positive and stress-free as possible.
Beware the deals that look too good to be true.
Because they are too good to be true! It’s very rare that an experienced, competent, full time photographer can charge less than £1000 per wedding and make a living.
Businesses that slash their prices result in burnt out photographers shooting 70+ weddings per year or working a second job on top of what already takes up the time and resources of a full time job. It really is a race to the bottom.
They might not have kit that gets regular maintenance or callibration. They might not have kit that is sharp and reliable because they haven’t invested in it for 10 years or more. They might not even have enough money to invest in a proper camera, and use something that’s not really suited to the job
They might not invest in their own growth, and be bored of their job. They might be all out of ideas on how to connect with a couple excited about their wedding.
They probably wouldn’t want to hang around and have a dance and drink with you in the evening because, by this point, they have invested in a genuine friendship with you.
How can you find a real pro for your wedding?
These days there are lots of ways to find a photographer, but it means there are also loads of people who just buy a camera and set themselves up as a photographer.
Use descriptions and locations on Instagram to find photographers who shoot in a style you prefer. Chat with them. Browse their websites and portfolios. If they’re not available see if they know anyone who is. Ask your venue if they have a preferred list (but feel free to deviate – sometimes people just pay to go on a list without the quality of their work being seen).
However you find your photographer, ask them lots of questions beyond “are you availale.” Ask how they got into it. Ask if they’re insured – because on the odd chance you have a complaint it’ll be likely dealt with through insurance. Ask about their working style.
And most importantly, tell them everything you want, and everything you hate – because you can’t do this over again.