As soon as you start trying to figure out your wedding budget, most couples soon realize they have no idea how to calculate their wedding photographer cost. Considering wedding photographers are typically the most expensive vendor you’ll hire, this can instantly make you feel like your wedding costs are out of whack. So, what do you need to know?
First, you’ll want to figure out what your overall wedding budget is. From there, you can assign a percentage to your wedding photography column.
On average, couples in the United States pay 10-15% of their total budget on a wedding photographer for their big day. Sound like a lot? It is. But hiring the best wedding photographer for you can be one of the most important decisions you’ll make during the wedding planning process.
While 10-15% of your total budget is a reasonable target, there are ways you can come in well under that. By knowing a few key questions to ask along with general price ranges and cost-saving measures (outlined below) you can still get your dream wedding photographer without breaking the bank.
How Much Does a Wedding Photographer Cost?
According to a recent survey we took of nearly 800 couples, the average wedding photographer cost is $2,800 for 6 hours of coverage. However, in cities such as San Francisco and New York, those prices are closer to $6,000. In general you can expect to see a range from $2,500-$10,000+ depending on the photographers experience and/or offerings. And those celebrity wedding photographers you’ve seen in magazines (like fine art photographer Jose Villa)? They’re going to cost anywhere from $20,000-$25,000+.
We recently priced a mid-tier South Florida wedding photographer with a portfolio we really liked. Their package pricing was as follows:
- Up to 6 hours of coverage with one photographer: $2,800
- Up to 8 hours of coverage with two photographers, an engagement session, and a 10×10 wedding album: $3,500 (this is a great deal)
- Up to 10 hours of coverage with two photographers, an engagement session, and a 12×12 wedding album: $4,200
What’s Included in the Wedding Photographer Cost?
Typically, wedding photographers offer packages with 6 or 8 hours of coverage, including either one or two photographers. Adding more or less time will increase or decrease that price. For instance, if you opt not to have getting ready photos on your wedding day, a 6-hour package could be the best fit for you. Or, you might want to add rehearsal dinner coverage to your package for an additional cost.
In addition to the actual coverage, most packages include professional editing of all final images as well as images delivered on a usb drive or online gallery. While the number of final edited photos will vary by the length of your wedding, on average you can expect to receive 50-60 edited images per hour of coverage.
WGM Says: You will also want to ask a potential wedding photographer if a digital print release is included in your package price, which allows you to print your wedding photos with any lab you want. This is also something you’ll want to include in your contract. For the best breakdown on what EVERY wedding contract should include, get a copy of our digital wedding guide!
Additional Wedding Photography Add-Ons
While some of these add-ons may be included in your photography package, they can also be offered a la carte, which is helpful to understand their actual pricing.
Engagement sessions are a great way to test out a potential wedding photographer. You can make sure you like working together, and that their photos come out in the style that you like.
You’ll find that photographer’s either price their engagement photo session separately, or as part of a larger package. As a package add-on, I’ve seen engagement photos run anywhere between $300-$1,200 depending on how many hours the shoot is.
Another consideration when it comes to your wedding photography cost is whether or not you want a wedding album included in your package. I’ve seen experienced photographers charge anywhere between $1,000-$3,000 for a wedding album, and will sometimes offer a further discount depending on the amount of wedding coverage you buy. Alternatively, you can use a DIY online option with a company like Artifact Uprising or Printique. Read our review of the best wedding album creators.
Keep in mind that when you pay your wedding photographer to put together an album, you’re also paying for their expertise in putting together your “wedding story,” which they were there the entire time for. You just have to decide how much that is worth to you, or if you would rather do that on your own to save money. (More on those money-saving tips, below).
Some photographers will allow you to purchase prints via your online gallery, which is a great option. That’s because most photographers use labs that the general public don’t have access to, which means you’re getting a high-quality print that will last you for decades. You can expect to pay around $3+ for a professional print depending on the size and paper type, with prices going up for something larger like a canvas print.
While some wedding photographers’ packages also offer videography, which can add on another $2,000+. While you’ll end up paying extra no matter what, they can sometimes offer more savings vs. bringing in a separate wedding videographer.
Whether you’re having a destination wedding and really want your hometown photographer to shoot your wedding, OR you want to fly in that dream photographer that lives halfway across the country, you will have to pay travel expenses. Some photographers offer a flat travel fee, while others will price out a trip individually. If you are looking to fly a photographer into your destination, be sure to get all the costs outlined up front.
Wedding Photographer Cost Overview:
- The average cost for a wedding photographer is 10-15% of a couple’s total budget, which is currently around $2800 for the average couple.
- You can expect your wedding photographer cost to run you anywhere between $2,500-$10,000 depending on the experience of your photographer, location, and what they’re including in your wedding package.
- Wedding photography packages typically cover 6-8 hours, on average. More or less shooting time will influence your cost.
- It’s important to ask a prospective wedding photographer how much extra they are charging for a wedding album if they’ve bundled the cost into their package price.
I know $2,500-$10,000 is a huge range, but at least it can give you somewhat of an idea of what to expect when looking for and meeting wedding photographers. Also, as mentioned above always keep in mind that where you live can greatly influence your wedding photography prices. You might find that you’re able to find a great photographer for under $2,000 in your area, in which case you need to stop reading and do a little dance of joy immediately, please!
Now that you have a general idea of how much wedding photographers cost, here are some easy ways to trim (or attempt to trim) costs…
How to Save on a Wedding Photographer:
- Be wary of wedding photographers who keep trying to upsell you. Decide what kind of package you want from the get-go and stick with it. Good wedding photographers will be very upfront with what they are charging you.
- If you’re on a tight budget but just have to have a certain wedding photographer, see if they will shoot your wedding for less hours at a discount. For example, I didn’t really want photos of me getting ready, so we were able to reallocate some time, which otherwise might have cost us more in the end. Also, being flexible as to when you take your wedding photos might help with cost as well! (Click here to read more about which wedding photos to skip.)
- Same goes for additional items such as an engagement session and/or wedding album. Leaving out one or all of those items from your package (if your wedding photographer offers those) could end up saving you $1,000+. See if you can get your wedding photography a la carte vs. as part of a package.
- Don’t be afraid to negotiate. If you find a photographer you love but they are out of your budget, ask what they might be able to offer that’s more in your price range. Also, if you’re getting married on an off-day (weekday or Sunday), see if they offer any discounts. If it’s way out of your range, see if they can recommend a photographer that IS in your budget!
- Having a second shooter can increase your cost. If your wedding photographer is not part of a team (and some are), see how much of a discount they can offer for one shooter vs. two. Just be sure that they feel comfortable shooting alone and have in the past (and ask if they can show you pictures from those weddings).
- Go local! If you hire a wedding photographer that lives out of town, you will most likely have to pay for all their travel costs (airfare, meals, hotels, etc.). I really wanted a certain photographer for our wedding, but after finding out how much transportation/lodging alone would have cost us, we decided otherwise (and I’m so happy we did!).
While finding a wedding photographer that fits your budget is important, keep in mind that it’s equally as important (if not more so) to find a wedding photographer that is right for you and has the portfolio to prove it. Be sure to look at images from past weddings they’ve shot, and don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations (especially if they’re not as well known in the wedding world). Also, keep in mind there’s nothing wrong with going with a less experienced wedding photographer. As long as you love their vision and work (and you can see concrete examples of it), they could be the perfect wedding photographer for you!