Your girl-friend just sent you information for a photographer she swears will change your life, your co-worker sent you another photographer that they loved and your cousin sent you another that she’s been raving about.
Has this happened to you? By now, you and your fiancé have browsed what feels like thousands of photography websites trying to define and select the style of photographer that you like. You’ve probably even narrowed it down to your top choices, probably around 3-5 photographers.
You’ve decided photography is important to you and you’ve probably set your budget set for hiring the perfect photographer. Your dilemma is this: you’re finding that wedding photographers fall into significantly different price categories and you have no idea why or how to move forward. Hey, they’re all great photographers. You would be happy to have any of them take your photo.
So how do you make a final selection? Especially when you’ve noticed that wedding photographer’s fees can range anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 and even more.
Of course, you don’t want to make a decision based solely on price, so how do you know you’re getting your money’s worth? Let’s be honest here … your budget is only part of the decision, right? You still have to make sure you hire the right photographer to capture your day just as you had imagined it. Someone to make you look amazing, guide you and capture all those moments you didn’t even know where happening, like your parents tearing up at your ceremony, your friends laughing during your speech and all the tiny little details you have worked so hard to pull together.
So why are similar photographers priced so differently?
The truth is in the personal experience, the photographer’s skill and the experiences the photographer provides for you throughout the process and most importantly on the most important day of your life.
You’ve probably already received a few quotes … some way outside of your budget and some seem too good to be true. So how do you choose? How do you know if you are making the right decision for one of the most important investments on your wedding day? Yes, everything is important: from the flowers to the cake to the rentals and tableware. After all is said and done though, the photographs are what you will be left with to serve as a reminder of the best day ever.
Just like any product or service, there will always be a cheap option and an expensive option and lots of options in between. It’s hard to say what to budget. Magazines will tell you $3,000 to $5,000. Your coordinator will tell you 10% of your overall budget. Your friends will definitely tell you what they spent if you ask. These are good rules to follow. Some other factors to consider are where you’re getting married, the time of year and how much you personally value photography.
I’ve put together a little insider information about why photographers range so much in price and how you can expect to get what you pay for:
“Just Starting Out”
Usually under $2,000
These photographers are newbies. They’ve only photographed a few weddings or maybe it’s even their first one. They are looking to gain experience from your wedding. They’re prices are under cost because they’re working to build their professional portfolio. Most likely, the “just starting out” photographer has a full-time job and is photographing weddings just for fun or as a side job for a little extra cash.
“Finally Got Serious”
Usually between $2,000 and $4,000
These photographers are just starting out full time. They’re passionate and want to make a career out of wedding photography. They’ve photographed a few weddings, maybe even as many as 20. With about five years experience, they probably have a decent portfolio. They’re continuing to build and define their style. Unfortunately, they still lack the knowledge, experience and education to deal with the high pressure situation of photographing a wedding. Knowing how to anticipate precious moments to ensure they aren’t missed, dealing with camera gear that malfunctions on the spot and still getting the perfect shot, handling emotional situations with many different personalities all with ease and grace so you feel confident and comfortable … and at the end of the day, if you aren’t confident and comfortable, it will show in each and every image captured.
Usually ranging from $4,000 to $8,000
These seasoned photographers have years of experience: at least a minimum of 8 years and have most likely shot 100 plus weddings. Their body of work and portfolio are consistent and they have defined their personal style. Don’t get me wrong…they are working on their skills and will keep growing their style to produce more powerful imagery. But, as with any artist, it is definitely consistent. They know how to anticipate every moment and give you a personalized experience from the initial meeting and beyond to your day. Not only do they know how to capture the magic of your day, but actually take part in it, helping you create the perfect moments. Their work has been featured in various online and print publications. Most importantly, they have experienced almost every situation and can truly anticipate your needs. They inspire a sense of confidence and knowledge. They have invested a lot into their business – from equipment to education and more – and are running a full time business with all the expenses that come with it.
Starting around $10,000+
These photographers have everything the seasoned photographer has and more. They are highly experienced. They have been published in high-end magazines and online publications. They may be shooting with actual film or a hybrid of film and digital. They offer high-end quality products and services that are heads and tails above the competition. You will definitely see a different in their work, if for no other reason than they have the most number of weddings under their belt. The biggest difference between mentor photographers and seasoned photographers is they are mentoring and educating other photographers – inspiring the next generation of professional wedding photographers.
Still wondering how much should you spend on your wedding photographer?
As we mentioned before, it all depends on your budget and how much you value your photography. I can guarantee you this: the cheaper the photographer – the lesser amount of experience – the more risks you take, as with any service or product. So you have to ask yourself at the end of the day … and even try to imagine 20 years from now: “Will I regret trying to save $1,000 or even $3,000 and be unhappy with my choice and wish I could do it all over again?” Are you willing to risk not be fully satisfied with your images or – heaven forbid – hiring a photographer that ruined your day.
Our couples continually comment about how much of a role we play in their big day: helping them stay calm, fixing minor issues such as a broken bustle, grabbing them that glass of champagne before they even ask, anticipating when their nerves are running high and being able to help them be in the present, basically enjoying every part of their day (even the moments when their cheeks hurt and their family is driving them crazy). We are more than just photographers that capture your day, we help make your day the best day ever. All that takes years of experience, knowledge and confidence in knowing we have the art handled, no matter what situation is thrown at us as photographers.
Beautiful photos don’t just happen by pointing and shooting. Photography is an inspired art, a honed skill and an important service to you on your big day.
Together, evaluate what your budget is and how important quality photography means to you. Do you really want to take a chance on a photographer that may lack experienced and has the potential to make your day even more chaotic than it already is?
Think about what you’re really getting when you hire a professional photographer. You’re not just paying for their time, but their expertise and professionalism as well. Anyone can show up and push a button. It takes experience, education and skills to not just capture the mood of the moment but deliver the images that will blow your mind and exceed your expectations … the images that you will show off to all your friends and family as you relive the story of your wedding day, flooding your heart with all the emotion you felt on the day with just a single image.
As you are receiving different quotes, and before you make that final decision, take into consideration everything I’m mentioned and ask yourself “How important are my wedding memories and experience?”
At the end of the day, you should go with what feels right for you. Remember: hiring a photographer is an investment, not just a purchase. And as with any big investment, you get what you pay for.