How much does wedding photography cost?

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So exactly what is the average price of wedding photography ? It is so difficult to tell by browsing through the websites of wedding photographers: some do not mention the cost of the wedding photography that they offer and those that do all have wedding photography packages that are different making them really tricky to compare.  I tried to find out by looking to wedding planners and the few surveys of wedding photography cost that have been done:

Your perfect wedding photographer suggests £1520 in 2015 in the UK

Brides Magazine comes in at £1046 but this article was written in 2013

Plan your perfect wedding blog comes in at £1500

Boho Weddings suggests £1500-2000. This article is written  by a wedding planner who regularly matches clients of different budgets to photographers. I always trust the advice of someone impartial who lots of experience!

Quite a spread but an average spend of £1500 based on the best information that Google could provide. Wedding photography is typically around the fifth biggest spend at your wedding( after venue, reception, food and dress).

So, exactly how do I work out how much to spend on wedding photography? I often suggest halving what you spend on food at your wedding. This works well as if you have a lot of people at your wedding you will typically need a photographer for a longer time to photograph everyone.  

As a rule of thumb 5.5% of your total wedding budget is a sensible amount to spend on wedding photography on the day.  The average UK wedding in 2017 cost £27000 so this means the spend on wedding photography (without album) should be around £1485.

What things affect the cost of wedding photography?

Experience of the photographer-  definitely the most important factor - with this comes consistency and the ability to make striking pictures in situations where the light is not great and you have very little time. Lots of  photographers can make a few strong images of landscapes in great evening sunlight but putting nervous people completely at ease and making them look great whatever the light is a real art!

Time of coverage -  the second most important factor. Why? Well, surprisingly wedding photographers often don't mind spending 10 hours photographing rather than 8 hours. However those extra 2 hours shooting generate a lot more images and it will typically take 6 hours more to process those images. The extra processing time is what bumps up the cost a lot!

Distance away - Least important - booking a local wedding photographer is definitely a little more cost effective. However, photographers upto 2 hours away will often work for the same price. As long as we can drive there and back in a day the cost will not be affected significantly and most photographers are happy to work for a fixed price within a 2 hour radius (100 mile) of their studios. If  you go beyond this and an overnight stay is needed this bumps up the cost by a hotel room or 2 hotel rooms if working with an assistant/second shooter.

How to book a great wedding photographer at a fair price

Here's an outline an average wedding package and what you would get pictures of:

Getting ready coverage for bride (and possibly groom)

Ceremony Speeches

First Dance

This is typically 9 hours of photography and the photographer will supply 350 images fully processed on a USB stick for you and your family to share and print. Cost £1500.

Let say you are on a tighter budget like the man with the sporran below !  Reducing the time the photographer attends for is the single thing that will  have the biggest effect on price. This would mean sacrificing the getting ready coverage and the first dance, but is likely to reduce your costs by as much as £500. Often, it is better to have an experienced photographer cover the key parts of your day for 6 hours rather than a less experienced one who charges the same for full day coverage. 200 beautifully composed natural shots of the highlights of your day can bring back more vivid memories than 400 or more images that are not quite so well composed and lit and perhaps not processed so carefully.  

Find out EXACTLY how long you need the photographer for before you discuss money!

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Do you want a wedding album or not?

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If you are someone who reads books rather than iBooks and writes things on paper rather than solely word processing then  these are good clues that you would also appreciate an album and you must ask yourself the question do I want to pay around £500 for a medium sized 10inch nicely bound album? You can get a photo book printed yourself  from the images supplied for £30, but I have to say these books often fall apart after 5 years as they are bound with glue that loses its adhesion over time. Most photographers have to offer wedding albums that look immeasurably better than anything you can buy as an amateur, but a hand bound, carefully designed and laid out 10 inch wedding album will cost £500 or so. Check out the lovely 10 inch square linen album below - it comes in a lovely clamshell box and it has a beautiful quality feel to the photos which are printed on thick board and look so colourful compared to the flimsy pages of a mass produced photo book. This is  a mid priced album. The Rolls-Royce of albums is a Queensberry and these cost £700 or more, if you want lots of pages. If you regularly watch slideshows on your computer then maybe an album is not needed -have a good think about it and decide whether you do want an album before approaching photographers.

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Do discuss the cost of wedding photography!

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OK, so you know the time you need and have worked out whether you want an album or not. Now is the time to talk to photographers on the phone. It makes sense to contact 3 photographers whose work and style you like. Maybe 5 photographers if you have a Summer wedding as it is likely that a couple of photographers will be booked.The key thing here is to be 100% sure and fixed on exactly what you want. "Hi there, I'd like a quote for a wedding on 14 July for one photographer to attend for 8 hours with no album". The more bare bones and simple your request the easier it is to compare quotes. All photographers are happy to tailor quotes to people's needs. You then have the advantage that you can clearly compare the quotes on a level playing field. Because all photographers offer slightly different packages you simply can't do this unless you have worked out EXACTLY what you want before you call. Good luck!

How is a £700 wedding photographer different to a £1500 photographer?

It is not possible to earn a full time living as a photographer and charge £700 per wedding. 30 weddings per year is the most that a photographer can realistically do because the demand for photography is quite uneven (fewer people get married in the winter and the Saturdays in Summer could be booked 2 or 3 times). At £700 per wedding you will have a maximum turnover of £21000 and when cameras (£2500), car (£2500), Insurance(£500)website and marketing(£1000) are removed there is not enough to live on even if you have the maximum no of weddings per year!

So if you decide to spend £700 or less on photography be aware that your photographer almost certainly falls into one of two groups:

A weekend warrior who works Monday to Friday and then gets his camera out at the weekends.

Someone just starting out who is charging below the market rate in order to get work and then hopes to later increase their rate.

There are some talented photographers in these two groups and if your budget is £700 it is  possible to find someone good. But you have to be prepared to look at lots of website and ring lots of photographers to find someone.  Here is my checklist of questions to ask them:

How many years of experience do you have?

It takes 10,000 hours of taking photos or about 4 years to become good. ( This is true of lots of skills like playing instruments -Malcolm Gladwell's Book: The Tipping Point outlines some great studies on this topic)

How long do you spend processing images after the day?

If a photographer has learned to use Lightroom or Photoshop to process images properly it will take 1 -2 days  to process your images. Anything quicker indicates that your images will be hurriedly processed. This means the colour of skin may be wrong e.g green under fluorescent light and it really means you are less likely to be bowled over by your wedding pictures.

At £1500 pounds you will get a photographer who has 5 years or more of experience and who will have the time in the week to email you and answer questions, take some photos of you in preparation so you have quelled any nerves well before  and can relax and enjoy the photos on the day ,visit locations he/she has not worked at and give a great level of service. That 5 years of experience means he or she will have a good grasp of how to get great photographs in situations where the light is bad : dark church ceremonies and bright stark sunlight, for example.

The biggest and most important thing about experienced photographers is this: If it rains when you come out of the church and is very gloomy all day you will still get great photos. We know how to use light and process images carefully so you will still look great. It is all about consistently producing 300 or so very strong images at every single wedding. If a professional photographer does not do this at one wedding the word gets round so quickly he will not have a business. This is why paying £1500 or so guarantees you a lovely set of wedding images that tell the story of your day.

You get exactly what you pay for and with photography this is the ability to make great pictures consistently at every single wedding. 

A video to help you find a wedding photographer at the right price for you

If you want to find out more check out these links:

Brides Magazine blog "How much should you pay for wedding photography"  from 2013.

Photographer Phil Drinkwater has written a balanced blog post in 2014"How much for wedding photography?" which is well worth a look

Boho weddings blog"The Real Cost of Wedding Photography". This is the best place for real unbiased information from a brides perspective. Straight from the mouth of someone who speaks daily to different wedding photographers - a really accurate picture of the market.

Good luck - go for style you love and be sure about how much time you need then don't be afraid to talk to photographers and tell them exactly what you need.

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