Finding a photographer that is a great fit style-wise and personality-wise is one of the best investments of your wedding day. The right photographer will be able to ease your fears and should feel like your friend. We’ll start by breaking down a few things you should think through when beginning the search for a wedding photographer, and conclude with what the average amount you should spend on a wedding photographer, and what you can expect from each price range.
Searching for a wedding photographer is challenging. Good news is, I’ve been in your shoes as a bride! I wrote out all the things I had to think through when searching for MY wedding photographer!
Short answer, YES! A professional wedding photographer is often booked one or more years out, so the longer you wait, the harder it may be to find someone with your date available. A good place to start is to talk to your married friends about they would change or do differently in regards to a wedding photographer. Would they invest more? Have a second photographer present? Past brides have such a great perspective, so be sure to take advantage of it!
Do you want GORGEOUS detail shots, fun pictures with your girls or your family? Maybe you want some super fun photos on the dance floor. Maybe you love the fine art posed photos or the more editorial style of someone who just captures moments as they happen. You’ll most likely find yourself naturally drawn to one style, which will help you narrow down what you’re looking for.
Narrowing down what editing style you like might be a bit harder. It might be overwhelming when you start looking for a photographer. Dark, or light, Moody or Colorful? Maybe it’s very natural, airy, or film-y. Start by looking through wedding photos and you’ll feel drawn to a certain style. Maybe even a certain photographer! Next, think about what emotions you like seeing in images. Do you like more serious, more joyful, or more soft? I like to think of myself as as more of a hybrid. I love true to color images and I think it’s super important to get a few smiling-at-the-camera shots. But once we have those mantle-worthy photos, I’m all about genuine and natural interactions instead of posed photos. I understand that taking photos isn’t comfortable for everyone, so I’ll direct you and give you prompts to get those natural smiles and laughs flowing.
Wedding photographer prices do differ, and it can be confusing why. As a general rule, you do get what you pay for, but there’s several factors that play into pricing. Some are experience related, like the location, style, or reliability. But it usually boils down to these: Experience, Location, and Value.
A more experienced photographer with a higher skill level, will translate into better photographs, and will have a higher demand because of it. You don’t start out in photography knowing how to properly use all your equipment, how to photograph in dark situations (with off camera flash) and how to handle sticky family situations. Photographers will more experience will almost always charge more because of the knowledge and skill level they bring to the table.
Location also plays into how much a photographer charges greatly. If you’re planning a wedding in an area with a higher cost of living like Hawaii, California, or NYC, then your wedding photographer is going to cost more because the amount needed to survive is so much more.
When you’re looking for a photographer, you’re always going to want to make sure that you’re getting value! Every photographer specializes in different things, and has different talents they bring to the table, but it all boils down to this: what do you consider to be valuable? The photographers who offer more value in experience and photos will have higher prices.
Think about it this way: Ground beef is much cheaper than a filet. Why is that? It’s because a cow has a very limited amount of filet, while you could grind up the entire cow and make ground beef. It’s the same in wedding photograhers. The photographers that have the most experience and value are more limited, so they cost more.
These things greatly affect the cost of why wedding photographers charge what they do – and the tricky thing is that few photographers will have the same experience, location, and value.
Beginner – $0-$1500
They may have never shot a wedding or second shot for a wedding. Hiring them is risky. You probably don’t know what the end photos will look like, and they’ll most likely rely on you for posing and where to take photos. Their lack of experience will probably be noticeable when it comes to knowledge of weddings and gear.
Amateur or Hobbyist – $2000-$3000
These photographers may have shot a wedding or two but might not have high demand due to their still growing style. They’re probably working toward becoming a professional wedding photographer and have started getting professional gear and lighting equipment.
Semi-Professional or Seasoned Amateur – $4000-5000
This photographer has a higher demand, and is learning to focus more on giving each client an experience. They’ll probably have a portfolio that can give you a good idea of what they can provide. This photographer is often actively investing in education about weddings and photography in order to learn and grow. If photography is very important to you, you’ll probably want to keep looking, as their photographs may not always be consistent.
Professional – $6000-$10,000+
You can expect this photographer to have many years of experience under their belt. You can look at their portfolio and feel confident that your photographs will look similar to the work they’ve produced in the past. They’ll make you feel cared for, and will deliver high quality photographs.
Luxury – $10,000+
These photographers can handle high-profile events with ease and poses a very clear style and knowledge of weddings which make them sought after. The photos they deliver will be extremely high quality and the experience they give will be incredible.
TL;DR version is however much you think you should! Everyone has different desires and something that is important to one couple may not be important to another. I would recommend talking with your fiance about what the most important parts of your wedding day are to you, and then investing the most in those. I may be biased, but I always think wedding photography is worth it.
If you’re interested in learning more about wedding planning, view my Wedding Series blog posts here.