How much should wedding photography cost?
If you have looked at wedding photography pricing you are possibly aware by now of how expensive wedding photography can be. In fact, the average price for a wedding photographer in 2019/20 is £1,560 (survey from www.yourperfectweddingphotographer.co.uk). It’s a figure that seems to have stayed almost constant for the last five years.
With a wedding photographer being in the top three things to prioritise for a wedding most websites will advise that you should set aside 10-15% of your budget for a wedding photographer.
10-15% of your budget, now that is a lot of money. It is especially a lot of money if you are on a tight budget to begin with.
What is it though that drives the cost of a wedding photographer? This was a question that I asked myself when I saw a question from a new wedding photographer asking for advice on pricing.
Is wedding photography really that expensive?
So let me get this straight from the start. This article is not going to do me any favours making friends with other wedding photographers. It’s also not an article to justify the cost of wedding photography or suggest that wedding photographers are charging too much for their services. I do hope though that for some it may help them think about their pricing and the packages that they offer, especially some of the newcomers.
As a wedding photographer myself, I do understand the high price of wedding photography to some extent. There is a lot of work involved and it’s not just a case of turning up and taking a few snaps on a fancy camera.
It’s not just a case of turning up and taking a few snaps on a fancy camera
For many wedding photographers, you would be looking at between 30-40 hours of work for each wedding. The work starts before the wedding as well with planning, admin and travel. Then after the wedding, there is still a lot to do with editing your wedding photographs and producing a gallery. If you have chosen a package with prints they will have to be arranged and checked. An album can also take hours to produce.
There are also other things to take into consideration, the experience of the photographer, training, the cost of the equipment, insurance, production costs for prints and albums, the list could go on.
I think we also need to put the cost of a wedding photographer into perspective. When you see the final figure upfront as a package price it is easy to think that the cost is expensive. How much would you pay for some work to be done around the house or on your car?
The rate that a wedding photographer charges doesn’t seem that high when you compare the same rate per hour with a plumber, an electrician or a mechanic.
Where do wedding photographers get their pricing?
Being a wedding photographer is the same as being in any other business. When you first start out you will need to put together a business plan and do your market research. You have a look at your competition and see what they have to offer. Then you build your proposal in a way that is competitive with them.
This is exactly what a wedding photographer would do if they were setting up for the first time or re-evaluating their business. They would review other photographers to see what they are charging and also what they offer as part of each package, then they would base what they offer on what other photographers do.
They would also have a look at the costs involved with the service that they provide and their cost of living. It is the cost of living that is the main factor in regional variances in the cost of the services offered by photographers. House prices in the north of the country can be a lot lower than in the south, therefore the cost of living would be less.
They base what they offer on what other photographers do
Initial research into a wedding photographer would show you that the majority of wedding photographers target themselves at the £1,000 – £1,500 price range. This price would also normally include either or a combination of an album, prints and a USB drive.
What’s included in a wedding photography package?
If you have ever ordered fast food or even a coffee you may remember the ‘super-size me’ strategy. You would walk in and order a burger only to be asked, “Would you like fries with that?”
It was a way of offering the same thing only bigger, or you would go in and order the couple of items that you wanted and the person serving you would ask if you wanted the ‘meal deal’, it was the same thing but it had an extra drink for a few pence more. The more it has continued the more we see set packages and it can be difficult just to get the item you wanted on it’s own, without being larger than you need or having the extra bits that you simply don’t need.
“Would you like fries with that?”
One of the differences that you may find between different wedding photographers, or indeed between the packages offered by the same wedding photographer, is what is included.
Many wedding photographers, it would seem, only offer a full day package. A package that covers everything from the bridal preparations right through to the evening party. There are a few that will offer a half day rate although this appears to only be offered by a few wedding photographers.
The Wedding Album
Albums are something that most wedding photographers provide as a part of their packages. A wedding album is one of the more traditional aspects of a wedding photography package. Wedding albums have been around from the early days when everything was still film. It was a time when you got your prints and an album from a local shop. You then had a fun evening in remembering the events of your wedding while you select the photographs to go in the album. Do you still get that same feeling from letting the wedding photographer select those photographs and put the album together for you?
The USB Drive
A USB drive complete in a fancy box. It is something that came after photography went digital. All of your wedding photographs nicely stored in a little box. Technology changes though it wasn’t so long ago that images were delivered to you on a compact disc. If you are on a laptop, does it still have a compact disc drive? The traditional USB drive is already being updated with the newer USB C drive. How long will it be until that USB drive is obsolete. What will you do with those wedding photographs then?
Surprisingly, prints are something that you don’t see much included with wedding packages. You could argue that prints are in the wedding album, but what if you wanted some to have around the home? You could also say that prints are easy enough to get printed yourself as long as you have the digital file. The difference here is that the print suppliers that photographers use is usually of a higher quality than you could get on the high street.
Here is something that is common with all wedding photographers. If anything you could debate that this is really the only part of the package that you need. Once you have the digital images you can do what you like with them. You can print them to go on the wall or as prints in your album. You can upload them so that you can create your own album or photobook. They are on your hard drive so as long as you back them up you won’t have the challenge of hardware technology becoming out of date, if the software changes you can simply save them in a new format.
With each of these items added to your package the cost goes up. Not only is there the added cost of the album, USB or prints there is also the the photographers markup. The percentage that they add just for providing the product. Then on top of that we go back to the hourly rate that a wedding photographer would charge. Creating an album, loading the images to a USB drive or arranging the prints all takes time. Time that is all charged at the wedding photographers hourly rate.
What do people expect to pay a wedding photographer?
As a wedding photographer looking at the pricing and packages of your competition would be a good place to start. It makes sense to set your prices similar to theirs. If your prices are too high, without a good justified reason, potential clients would simply go to a more cost effective photographer.
If your prices are too low, again without a good reason, people would think that your services just aren’t as good as that you would get from a more expensive photographer.
With over 80% of wedding photographers setting their prices above £1,000 it would also be interesting to see what the clients would expect to be paying.
The interesting point here is that the figures are almost identical, at least they would be if they were the other way around. When asked it would appear that 80% of clients would expect to pay less than £1,000.
It’s an awkward position that leaves some couples having to find more money from their budget and skimp on other things simply to afford the wedding photographer. Is that right that as wedding photographers we put couples in this position?
Wedding photographers offer a service and as such shouldn’t doesn’t it make sense that they offer a service that the clients are looking for?
Why can’t a wedding photographer give a service at the price the client is looking for?
The reason for this that the wedding photographer needs to be able to earn a living. What you are paying for is the experience, the years of training, the equipment, etc. It all adds up.
Yes, you could argue that there are some photographers that do offer wedding photography for a lot less than £1,000. Notoriously, if you said that to a wedding photographer they would no doubt tell you that you get what you pay for. What they mean is that they people who offer their wedding photography for less are usually the ones who have just started out or the quality of their work is subject to dispute.
You get what you pay for
The flip side to this is that if you pay for a wedding photographer who charges over £1,000 are you paying for things that you don’t really want? Or is it a wedding photographer who has simply copied what other wedding photographers do?
All many clients want is the photos, they don’t want the album or a USB drive. So why do they have to pay extra for what they don’t want? They don’t want the “super-size me” offer they know exactly what they want but have to settle for that being a part of a package deal.
Could wedding photography be more cost effective?
Wedding photographers should of course be able to earn what they are worth. Just like any other trades person they have a value that cannot be ignored. Their experience, training, equipment and time all need to be taken into account.
The bottom line is that wedding photography is an investment and a good wedding photographer is worth every penny of the hourly rate that they charge.
A good wedding photographer is worth every penny
Is there a way though that both the client and the photographer could get what they want? The photographer wants to be paid their hourly rate while the client wants a photographer who is more within their budget.
Those extra bits in the package increase the price, which is good for the wedding photographer but they are also parts that the client doesn’t necessarily want. Could the wedding photography be provided without the ‘super-size me’ deal?
If you take away the album you save not only the cost of the album but also the time it takes to put it together. The same could be said about the USB drive, they cost money to get made and then there is the time to arrange and load all of the images.
Not providing those would then in many cases bring the package price below the £1,000 level that clients are looking for.
The downside to the wedding photographer is that the average price of a booking decreases and potentially their annual salary. The other side of this though is that by spending less time on each wedding they are then able to take more bookings.
Do all weddings take all day?
One final thought is that many clients don’t want the whole day covered. They simply want coverage of the ceremony.
This is one area that I can understand wedding photographers not wanting to do. A booking for a couple of hours means that they then can’t take a booking for a full day. In most cases this would mean that there is a difference of over £500 that could be lost by the photographer.
There is however a market for this photography. Perhaps this is an area for people who are new to wedding photography to exploit?
A bit of a disclaimer
As you read this please remember that these are my views on the subject and I am sure that other wedding photographers will have their own views. This is by no means a way of telling the industry what they should do but more to justify my view to become an affordable wedding photographer.
If you are a wedding photographer or someone who is looking for a wedding photographer it would be great to hear your views on the subject. If you would like to have your say please feel free to leave your comments below.
About the Author
Cristopher James Hall is an award-winning family and commercial photography based in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. You can check out his work on his website, and make sure to follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. This article was also published here and shared with permission.