How much does a wedding photographer cost?
Planning your wedding can be an overwhelming process. As a professional wedding photographer, I already understood this was true from talking to my couples and my married friends. However, it wasn’t until I recently got engaged and started to plan my own wedding that this statement truly hit home. One of the defining moments was sitting down together to list our wedding budget. We have planned what we thought to be a relatively modest day; a ceremony in the town hall followed by drinks and canapes at a local restaurant. And yet the thousands have racked up in front of our eyes. It amounts to the price of a small home renovation. Or a handful of luxurious 5* holidays. As we are currently redecorating our home and have yet to go on holiday abroad together, it stings! It’s made us both seriously assess what we want from our wedding day, and how we want to spend our money.
Your values and priorities as a couple will therefore play a large part in how you allocate your wedding budget. According to the annual National Wedding Survey by Hitched.co.uk, the average cost of a UK wedding in 2019 was around £32,000. Out of that £32,000, the average photography spend only accounts for around £1,100, with couples opting for both a honeymoon and a mini-moon for a grand total of nearly £6,000. Flowers don’t even figure in the top 10 wedding priorities. As someone who values both memories and gorgeous blooms, we booked our photographer and florist first! Our budget is far greater than average for both these wedding suppliers. However, we’re not having a cake as my fiancé doesn’t like it, or favours as I feel they’re an outdated expense. We haven’t got a huge number of ushers and bridesmaids, just one best man and one maid of honour. We’ll likely delay our honeymoon. And we haven’t chosen ostentatious wedding transport, opting instead for a white taxi for our city celebration.
For years, I’ve advocated that capturing the memories is one of the most important aspects of your wedding. Of course, as a wedding photographer myself, I would say that wouldn’t I! Now I’m a bride-to-be, however, I still believe it. Perhaps more than ever. I’ve therefore put my money where my mouth is and allocated £2,500 for our photographer. Aside from food and drink combined, it’s the largest single spend for our wedding day.
There are a few variables that will affect the cost of a wedding photographer, and it’s worth taking these into consideration. London based photographers may cost more than those in other parts of the UK, for example. Your location and how much your photographer has to travel to you, the time frame you require them for and whether you require a wedding album may all affect the total bill.
However, how much you should expect to fork out for a wedding photographer mainly depends on how much you are willing and able to pay. As a fairly unregulated industry, you will find photographers prepared to photograph your nuptials for anywhere from nothing to many thousands of pounds. As a rough guide, the following price brackets give you an idea of what to expect from your investment.
Up to £500
At this level, you’re likely looking at hiring a friend or family member with a nice camera, instead of a professional photographer. Or perhaps you know a student who is after building their portfolio. In my twelve + years of experience, I have only ever shot one wedding at this price range, and it was my very first wedding. The couple were friends who were taking a punt on my skills and I was building experience. I delivered a decent number of good images that they were very happy with, and I was able to use their wedding as an example of my work and go on to secure a dozen wedding bookings the following year. I was serious about this being my career, so I was organised. I made a meticulous plan of their day, not wanting to leave anything to chance. I visited their venues beforehand, I wrote my camera settings in my notes, and I researched posing ideas. I also spent some time afterwards editing the images. However, as you can imagine, not every photographer in this price bracket is so diligent and conscientious, or those who entrust a friend or student so fortunate. As weddings are such a fast paced, changeable environment for a photographer, you must factor in the risk you’re taking in hiring a novice. You should genuinely not care if you don’t feel able to display a good percentage of your images. It’s likely that any retouching or post-production of your photographs will be minimal, if at all, so how you look in the photos can’t be an important element to you, and it’s best to keep your expectations low. If you’re paying within this price bracket, a photo-sharing website is a great idea, which allows other guests to upload their images of your wedding to supplement those you’re having taken.
£500 – £800
At this price range, your photographer will likely fall into one of two descriptions; an eager new ‘start-up’ photographer still cutting their teeth in the wedding world and wanting to undercut their competition, or a part-time ‘point and shoot’ photographer, who clicks the shutter, downloads and sends straight to the client. Neither would fill me with confidence, but I would especially caution anyone from choosing the latter. Almost all professional photographers shoot in RAW format, not JPG, whereby you start with camera data that requires adjustment to bring out the best in the image, which is then saved as an image file. Although editing skills can vary greatly, and one might argue that straight-out-of-camera is better than a very bad photoshop job, very few self-respecting professionals would hand over a set of entirely un-edited images. To do so would usually indicate a lack of interest or passion in their work. Photoshop is, after all, the digital photographer’s dark room. Quantity over quality is to be avoided on your wedding day, where you’re potentially left with a selection of underwhelming photographs and barely any in which you like how you look. I would also encourage you to check you’re receiving the full-resolution images, as this price may be a ‘coverage only’ fee. You don’t want to be caught out having to pay extra to download your unwatermarked, full sized images.
£900 – £1,500
The average spend on a UK wedding photographer falls into this bracket. It’s reasonable within this price band to only receive digital image files, as albums can cost hundreds at trade. At this level you can expect a professional service, although not necessarily for the full 10 hours of your wedding day, but certainly to cover the main parts. In fact, booking a competent professional photographer for less time is a smart move if you’re keeping to within this budget. I have a half day package that is often chosen by couples opting to keep their guest list small and wedding simple. At this level, you can still expect your images to be edited and presented at full-resolution for you to print from.
£1,750 – £2,250
At this price point you’re looking at photographers with a number of years’ experience and an accomplished portfolio. They should demonstrate a consistent level of technical ability in all light. You can expect a full-day’s coverage, from bridal preps to first dance. You can also expect your full-resolution files to be edited. It may or may not include a wedding album.
You can expect a photographer with an assistant and/or second shooter, or to be choosing a photographer who has established a highly competent and desirable reputation. You may see some fine art examples in their portfolio, delivering images you’d be able to frame and display in your home. This price point would include a full day’s coverage from morning bridal preparations to the end of the night, be it dancing or fireworks. They may include special extras in this package, such as aerial photography or a pre-wedding photoshoot. An album may be included, as well as your full resolution image files on USB.