The average cost of a wedding photographer is between $2500 to $6000 for professional coverage. The range in rates will depend on what is included, experience, talent, and how a photographer runs their business.
Have you ever wondered WHY a photographer charges what they do and why a cheap wedding photographer charges such low fees? Are you prepared to gamble with the one thing for your wedding day that will last you forever?
By the way, I get that photographers fall into the budget category when you’ve given a spreadsheet and told what you should and should not pay for vendors. After all, you have hair and makeup to pay for; a wedding planner might be in your vision; the groom might be giving gifts to his groomsmen as he gets ready. The bridal party and bride are having fun as she gets ready, so yes, I understand there are many things to spread your funds.
But what if I told you that a wedding photographer is more than a vendor, she or he is someone you’ll see all day long. The process requires trust, and they’re your guide. A wedding photographer should make you laugh, make you think, create comfort, and get to know you sincerely.
A photographer is someone who you’d love to hang out with in life. Please don’t get caught up in the awards that someone has won as often they’re noise, and truly they mean nothing. Please make sure the photograph products professional work like wall art, and their work connects with you. The style is what you are investing in plus the guarantee that the work is going to get done, which a cheap wedding won’t be able to do.
Okay, let us dig into the reason behind why a photographer charges what they do.
BREAKDOWN & COSTS INVOLVED
Do you have a Budget?
Most people have a budget of some nature for a wedding and others create a starting point amount to work from. The real question about hiring a photographer really doesn’t have much to do about a budget, it’s more about how you value photographs? Do you just want your day captured and nothing more? Do you want an engagement shoot? Do you care about a photographer having experience? Do you just want snaps and not organic moments captured for you to document one of the most important days of your life?
If photography is not a priority to you, then you can most certainly find a photographer from $500 to $1500, and that is perfectly fine. But, if you genuinely value photography but you cannot understand why a photographer charges $5000 or $15,000 for one day, then read this article as a wedding day for a photographer is a full-time business.
Quality + Quantity
If you pay more for something, you will receive a better product or service, right? Not always. Photographers who say I provide quality over quality has always interested me as I’ve never understood this statement. For instance, if you are hiring a professional photographer, shouldn’t the work always be of high quality? I often put these photographers into a lazy group of individuals or the unskilled. I absolutely believe in quality, but how does one define quality over quantity.
I know photographers in Calgary who provide fewer images as they photoshop their photos so much it’s really a time management issue they have. They manipulate the photos so much it’s no longer the image they captured. Add different color temperatures to their photos so much more so, yes these photographers produce less as they simply cannot photoshop for 30 minutes for 900 photos.
So are these photographers a photoshop manipulator than a straight photographer who has incredible talent? I’m a believer that as an artist you should be able to capture a moment in time and then edit it known in the film days as “developing” into the style that you love and it’s not a fad. Yes, I do photoshop some photos if the skin needs some love and there’s something I couldn’t get rid of during the wedding day however the concept of being an artist and not being able to capture my intent in the photograph in camera
As for quantity, if your day involves more driving, then you’ll likely receive fewer photographs. If you commission a photographer for 8 hours, it’s likely you’ll receive fewer photographs than hiring a photographer for 12 hours. I provide, on average, 50 to 75 pictures per hour. So, for a 10 hour day, it’s been 500 to 750 edited photographs.
If possible, you should always take the time to check in-person two to three fully printed albums making sure to view the getting ready moments to the first dance. Make sure you see a high grade and large printed art pieces that maintain consistent photographs. A website with a few gorgeous photographs won’t make you happy after your wedding day, you need to check a couple of complete wedding portfolio making sure there is consistency.
Think about the quality of the products. Quite often, the better the products the higher the rate will be of the photographer. One last note about quality as the ownership of the outcome will come down to you. You and your partner should demand to meet in-person or on a skype, zoom, google call. If you wish not to, then I have to ask you the question, how important really is photography to you? The photographer is the one person who will be with you all day long so make sure to love that person. After all, the photographer is more than a picture taker and is one of the most important aspects of your hiring choice for your wedding. If you think otherwise, then photography is likely not that important to you. You can contact me today so I can learn what is important to you.
To state the obvious, a photographer who has photographed 250 weddings will have more experience than a photographer who has photographed just 10. Is this not logical? However, are you hiring pure experience from a photographer or are you hiring experience and talent?
Let me explain, the photos from a photographer who has captured 500 weddings should be incredible, right? Who’s saying that the photographer who has photographed 500 weddings is someone just turned up for a 2 hour quick “snap” session versus a photographer who has captured 100 weddings and was hired for a 12 hour wedding day. Do not always work on quantity but look at the complete wedding day that they have captured.
A talented photographer will demand more money. They are skilled in their art; they work hard and practice. It often takes years and years to build up such talent. Think about an Olympic athlete. They might have the rare incredible talent, but they won’t win a gold medal unless they tirelessly practice. A wedding day is not about a photographer practicing their skill, well I sincerely hope not. Yes, a talented photographer can have fun and experiment, but they also know precisely what they’re doing and won’t mess up.
Does the talent that you’re hiring have a studio? If so, they have huge overheads. Do they work at home from their home studio? If so, their costs are way less, but they still have huge overheads. Does the photographer operate from a coffee store ie, they meet you at coffee stores? If so, they have minimal studio overheads. Those photographers who conduct a professional photography business have bills to pay, and someone has to pay for them.
Nobody needs insurance right, and nothing will ever happen, right? WRONG. Why have insurance, you might wonder? What happens if the photographer bag is stolen containing $50,000 worth of gear? You might think that’s not your problem. Well, what happened if that was a week before your wedding day, and the photographer cannot purchase and replace their gear. Guess what, no wedding day coverage for you. Or what about the photographer damaging a hotel accidentally? Guess what again, you’re wondering who cares. Well, that accident was a week prior to your wedding day, and that photographer went bankrupt before they don’t have insurance to pay the $250,000 worth of damages. I could go on here, but the point is simple, hire a photographer with insurance and not home insurance.
I have the finest Canon gear available. Why? It works flawlessly with no issues at all. My lenses are called prime lenses, which means fast and can shoot wide open given that gorgeous look that I love, but they’re often costly. I could write a complete article on gear as it’s so expensive and lasts a long time if taken care of. But, things do break and need repairing and replacing. Technology changes and new gear is available. A working professional photographer updates gear and is is often proud of their gear. I often turn up to a wedding with gear in my bag from $50,000 to $90,000 in value.
Computers + Website
Photography now is primarily digitally based, which means a photographer needs a fast and powerful computer or two to edit the photographs. A photographer has to maintain a wedding website or a family website.
A studio will have Wall Art and Albums on display for you to invest and view. This is a significant investment for the photographer, but a true professional recognizes the value in print. After all, isn’t this the reason why a photographer takes photographs?
Travel + Parking
Will a photographer have to drive to your venue of choice? They need gas and to take care of their car. This costs more money than most realize.
Does your photographer employ people? If so, they have many costs involved here.
Accountant + Lawyer Fees
Running a professional business involves yearly fees to operate legally. A professionally drawn up contract is expensive, and the end accounting books range from $750 to $3000.
Business Licence Fees
The Town Of Banff charges close to $1000 a year for a photographer to legally photograph in the National Park. A photographer will also have to pay their yearly dues in their city/town.
Taxes, GST, PST
No need to explain this one, but a photographer does not fully retain all the funds they charge you. The governments, provinces, and states all take there share, which is fine, and is the cost of running a business.
Retirement + Vacation
Imagine that a photographer would like to plan for retirement or go on vacation. You might think this isn’t your problem as you want a cheap photographer. Like you, even a photographer will have to retire one day and has to think about this. You work hard for your money, and yes you will save for retirement so why on earth wouldn’t a photographer think of this also?
Advertising + Marketing
Photographers, like many businesses, have to market themselves to stay alive. It is just another cost but a cost you need to understand.
The Mona Lisa + Conclusion
The Mona Lisa is 30 x 20″ in size and was valued in 2019 for $850 Millions US Dollars, and that’s not a painting of you! How do you value photography and the artistry that goes into a professional capturing a piece of art of you and your loved ones?
It takes practice to obtain incredible skills to capture a wedding day. The amount that you invest will often reflect on the outcome. Even with a photographer who charges $12,000 for coverage, you must see in-person if the work is what you love as these moments with stay with you forever.
Much of the items above might not affect you but they affect how a photographer conducts their profession. Like many businesses, photographers are no different, they also have many hidden costs that the bride will never see to successfully photograph your special wedding day.
How much should a new wedding photographer charge?
When starting, a wedding photographer needs to build a portfolio so they will charge $0 to $500. A seasoned professional with a strong brand is worth $5,000 to $20,000.
What should a wedding package include?
A wedding package can include many items to just the photographer’s time. Most wedding photographers have no idea what to include so they jam-pack a collection with useless items. Basics should include a number of hours with a contract. Would you love an engagement shoot, would you like an album, a piece of wall art? First things first to view in-person or via Skype the photographers printed complete work making sure you firmly understand what you’re investing into.
Why are photographers so expensive?
Most wedding photographers earn below standard wages and struggle to pay their bills. They have no retirement and often give up after 3 years from starting out. They charge a fee that seems expensive as most wedding clients view this as a one-day event whereas a photographer has many bills and works often 7 days a week. Photographers have many overheads and rarely any savings. A balanced photographer should be charging $5000 upwards.
Is a wedding photographer worth hiring?
Wedding photographers capture real moments that will be with you forever. A good photographer will get to know what is important to you and will capture incredible photos of your day. Photographs are priceless if captured correctly. A low end or a beginner wedding photographer won’t know what is correct and most are not worth investing in. Visit in-person or via Skype at least three different photographs making sure to view portfolio work. Only then will you see the worth a photographer.