When you start wedding planning, and thinking about the wedding budget, everything can get a little overwhelming. So, we sat down with five different wedding photographers from around America to demystify how much a wedding photographer costs and what you can expect for the price tag.
Kelly Balch, Kelly Balch Photography
Tara Robertson, Tara Beth Photography
Jessica Manns, Jessica Manns Photography
Jenny Boyer, Jenny Boyer Photography
Alex, Alexandria Monette Photography
Suzy Goodrick, Suzy Goodrick Photography
* Please note: All prices are listed in US$
Give us a one-liner of who you are & what you do.
Kelly Balch: I’m Kelly Balch, a wedding and lifestyle photographer as well as videographer.
Tara: I am a female, lesbian, 31-year-old, driven-as-hell, LGBT+ Destination Wedding Photographer who loves her job + her clients!
Jessica: I’m an alternative hybrid fine-art wedding photographer on the East Coast with a colorful and vibrant painterly style. Being a “hybrid” photographer means that I shoot both digitally and with film!
Jenny: Hi! I’m Jenny! Queen of smiling, mom to Ember, partner to Annelise, lover of people. I capture Weddings and Elopements based in Jacksonville, Florida and beyond!
Alex: I’m a wedding photographer for humans in love, with a focus on badass portraits, real moments and editorial vibes.
Suzy: I’m Suzy, a wedding and boudoir photographer for the free spirit based in Phoenix, Arizona.
Finish this sentence. I’m a professional…
Kelly: …wedding dancer and party starter. And I also am a professional human lover and picture taker.
Tara: …Disney movie trivia competitor.
Jessica: …wedding photographer, napper, The Office watcher, and pizza-eater.
Jenny: … cheerleader! Honestly, it is the first thing that comes to my mind. I AM FOR YOU. I want to celebrate you, honor you, show up hard for you!
Alex: …Empathizer, moment catcher & hype woman!
Suzy: …photo taker, third wheeler, and wedding day therapist.
What’s one misconception about wedding photography that you think couples have that you want to demystify?
Kelly: There are so many misconceptions, this would be a long paragraph if I were to write them all here.
The most famous one is I think that couples think wedding photography is interchangeable with a cell phone photo or anything but a legit professional. I’ve spent 10 years now in wedding photography and over the years it’s gotten better and better. I realize wedding photography is no longer a photojournalists game, there’s photographer’s that do portraiture, fine art, even fashion that are changing careers and doing wedding photography. True artists wanting to make your day look like a freaking vogue cover. I feel wedding photography molds the best photographers. You have to improvise when there’s rain, yet nail down the portrait shot in five clicks before the torrential downpour (This legit happened yesterday.)
Professional wedding photographers are a different breed of photographers that can’t be replaced by the friend of a friend who’s dabbling in photography or aunt Lynn who bought her camera.
Once in a lifetime moments happen at weddings. You want the best behind the camera to capture those moments.
Tara: I would love to let couples know that wedding photography really is the only thing you’ll have left (other than video!) after your wedding is over. The photography will be what you look at to relive that day! Please be sure to fall in love with your photographer! Please hire a professional! It really does make ALL the difference!
Jessica: The most common misconception that I find couples have about wedding photography is the amount of hours they need for coverage. So often I have couples thinking they can fit a full wedding day of photography in 6 hours and come to realize later that they really need 8 or 9. Because of this, I love being super hands-on with the wedding timeline to make sure we have enough time to photograph everything that’s important to them.
Jenny: I think couples underestimate how present your wedding photographer is on their wedding day! You will spend more time with me than basically anyone else, including your partner! I’m not just a vendor. I’m not just providing a service. This is my whole heart, and I fall in love with you. I like to say- I’m basically your BFF and Harry under the invisibility cloak all at once! Pick someone you’ll forget is third wheeling on the most important date of your life.
Alex: There are two big things I’m always hearing… one is this obsession with the gear we have and thinking it’s as easy as having nice gear to be a great photographer. The second thing is when people think we charge TONS of money *just because* we want to.
My short answers are that it’s about knowing how to use the right gear, for the right situations, and knowing how to manipulate the gear to gain the desired end product. Yes, professional gear is necessary but that’s only a sliver of what makes us professionals! I talk a bit about pricing below, but honestly, if we didn’t have the overhead costs or need to make a living, most photographers would be happy charging less. We do what we do because it’s intoxicating to create emotional photographs and get the honor to be part of a wedding day.
That’s mostly why I started and why I continue to be a wedding photographer.
Suzy: Being a wedding photographer is so much more than taking photos on a wedding day. There’s an incredible amount of pre and post work that goes into creating a seamless client experience. Before the wedding, we send emails with the couple and vendor team, tour the venue, host consults and meetings, and create timelines and family photo lists; plus after the wedding, we spend countless hours ensuring the photos are just right before sending the final gallery to the couple and their vendors to share.
As a photographer, I stay with my couples from early on in the wedding planning process to weeks after when we get to relive the day by drooling over photos. It’s an entire experience.
They say ‘you get what you pay for’, do you think there is any truth to that quote?
Kelly: Great question, yes & no. There’s always a grey area. If you see a low amount with a photographer the first thing I would do is look at their portfolio, is it good? Then meet them in person and figure out what their life is like to devalue themselves with a low price point. I’ve heard amazing and horrific stories about couples hiring a cheap photographer and LOVED their photos. I’ve also heard of couples who have hired a photographer for $10k+ and they received a tiny curated album and a bad attitude on the day. Do your research.
Tara: Yes & No. Some people are not worth the money! Some people are overcharging because they have a huge ego & think that they should. It’s important to really research if they are truly worth what they are charging, and that is something that you will have to decide for yourself. With that being said, professional photographers really know what they are doing! You are paying for someone who can handle any terrible situation that may come up during your wedding – not just someone who can take a beautiful portrait!
You want to be able to 100% trust your photographer!
Jessica: There is ALL the truth to “you get what you pay for”. You can apply it to almost anything ever in life. If you’re looking at wedding photographers who are talented, experienced, have many high reviews, and you love the look of their work, but they’re all in a certain price bracket that seems high to you, and you find a photographer much cheaper than these other vendors with pretty work, chances are very high that it’s too good to be true. Why gamble with the only thing you’ll have left after the wedding day apart from your spouse?
Jenny: I think there is some truth but not all. I am an advocate of women in business, and honestly sometimes we don’t do that well. So, you might find someone that costs less and is brilliant… but they should be charging more!!!
Listen friends, being a wedding photographer is more work than you could fathom. It’s not just about showing up on your day. It’s showing up in the prep, showing up in the editing, showing up in our investment in your life! It should cost money, and I think we have to move toward the realization that as a client, you want it to cost money.
Alex: Well, yes and no. I think there’s a big trend right now for new photographer’s to attend workshops or styled shoots, build up a portfolio of images in perfect lighting + scenarios, and try charging average wedding prices within a few months.
Don’t get me wrong, developing your skill that way is amazing, but as a client, you want to be careful to hire professionals who have endured the stress, pressure, various lighting situations of multiple actual wedding days before you dish out thousands of dollars. Likewise, I know some talented, experienced individuals who could probably charge more because they are 100000% worth more. I would say as a client, do your due diligence, ask questions and ask to look through MULTIPLE full wedding galleries before putting down a deposit. It’s important that you know 100000% what you’re paying for.
Anyone can make the Instagram or website highlight reel look A-1 because there are so many opportunities for up and coming photographers to build their portfolio, but that is normally done in the most perfect settings possible and without the high pressure/stress of a wedding day.
Suzy: Absolutely, I believe this can ring true for many industries – especially within weddings. When I was a bride, I found my investment into my entire wedding invaluable, but I’ll never regret investing in my photographer. I’ll cherish my photos forever, and I want the same feeling for my couples. I also completely understand that most couples are planning with a budget in mind and will make the best decision for their day. 🙂
How much do you charge for wedding photography?
Kelly: My smallest package I have right now is $6050.
Tara: My photography packages start at $3,200 for 8 hours of coverage.
Jessica: I charge between $3,600 and $6,200 for wedding photography depending on the hourly coverage but I offer a 10% discount exclusively to LGBTQ+ couples [score!]
Jenny: My weddings are an average of $2,000. I also offer elopement and tiny wedding pricing. I am only 6 months into my business. With that in mind, my pricing is still on the lower end of my market.
Alex: Between $3600 – $6000 as a starting point, depending on how many hours of coverage we decide is best for each couple. Everyone’s needs are different so I do my best to accommodate those needs without sacrificing the time it takes to capture a wedding day in full and deliver a quality gallery that my couples will love forever!
Rehearsal dinners, engagement sessions, boudoir shoots, albums and prints are extra, so that can def vary the final price.
Suzy: Over the past 5 years as a wedding photographer, I’ve created 3 collections based on the common needs my couples have. For the 2019 season, my wedding collections begin at a base rate of $2700 and increase based on a few factors like the number of hours needed, additional sessions (like engagement or boudoir), and heirloom albums.
Each year, my rates slightly increase as I continue to improve in my craft, stay up-to-date with the latest gear, and create a unique experience for my couples.
What’s your response to people who think “you charge how much?!”
Kelly: Thankfully, and I’m saying this with the utmost gratefulness in my heart, most of the couples who reach out to me and hear that price respond with, you’re worth it. However, it wasn’t always like that. When I was growing my business and changing my prices with the economy, I got that and my response would be, “yeah, the cost of living in LA is intense.” This is a day you put so much love into celebrating you finding love. Wouldn’t you want everything documented right down to the midnight hour of Uncle Tom getting so hammered he’s doing the worm? Yes, absolutely!
Tara: I have all of my pricing on my website, so when people email me they already know what I charge. This helps everyone I think! No one likes having to email the company to get a quote. Most people just want the information right there in front of them to make a decision. If I’m too expensive for some people then I usually don’t even hear from them.
Jessica: I don’t have much of a response to people who think “you charge how much?!” because there’s a price point for everyone. If someone thinks I charge too much, that’s okay, they’ll find someone they can afford. My skill set, education, experience, talent, and dedication reflect my prices and I’m very confident in them. If someone thinks I charge too much, that’s okay because that means we aren’t the right fit for each other. I book to capacity well in advance each season so I’m confident that my work and customer experience is a good one and worth my prices.
Jenny: Honestly, I haven’t had that much. I do have plenty of people that receive my pricing guide and then just don’t respond. I think that’s OK. Fit is super important to me and the budget is a piece in that puzzle. If it was me, I would get married in a field and have a bomb photographer, but everyone is not me!
Alex: I can empathize with the sticker shock that planning a wedding brings. *EVERYTHING* feels so expensive. I’ll say that at the end of the day, wedding photography, while a form of art, is still a business and is a LUXURY service! We have overheads, monthly bills, education, gear, 2nd shooters, and taxes to pay for (approximately 30% of our net income in California, by the way!) on top of SO many other things.
Beyond our cost of doing business, we also need to make a living to pay our personal bills, take care of ourselves and our families. Depending on how you run your business, you can only take on so much work while giving all your clients an INCREDIBLE and personable experience and still wearing all the hats of being a business owner/creative. So while the numbers we charge might seem outrageous to some, if we were to break it down, there are a lot of photographers who are only making about $15-$20/hour at the end of the day and working 60-70 hours a week! That’s pretty close to being a supervisor at Starbucks, but working ourselves like crazy, to put that into perspective!
Suzy: It’s an honest question and one that I completely understand! I believe it comes down to priorities and choosing where to invest in a wedding. I highly recommend having a conversation with your partner about the top 3 areas to invest in for the wedding, it’s a great way to get on the same page! Having that conversation early on can help alleviate any awkward financial decisions later on in the planning process, both with your partner and your vendors.
How long do you usually spend with couples on the day of their wedding?
Kelly: On the day of their wedding I’m there for it all; from getting ready to usually the last dance. I am your best friend of the day that will be attached to your hip. The best friend who has your back and will take epic photos for you!
Tara: On a typical wedding day I’ll usually do about 8 hours of photography. I once did 14 hours! That was a marathon! I now have a 10-hour limit, because my body just can’t handle any more than that! Haha!
Jessica: I spend quite a lot of time with my couples before, during, and after the wedding day. I spend a lot of time before the wedding with them prepping for the day-of making a timeline together, shooting their engagement session, and just over-all prepping. It’s a lot of communication leading up to the wedding day. On the wedding day itself, I’m there for as long as they book me for (actually more, because I always arrive a little early) which ranges between 6, 8, and 10 hours.
Jenny: Usually between 7-9 hours. However, I tend to show up around an hour before I am schedule, and I never leave before the exit. Even if my 7 hours are up, I am not going to just leave my couples. An 8-hour day tends to be the sweet spot!
Adriana: It depends on what packages they are booking, anywhere from 5 to 10 hours. My most booked package is 8 hours.
Alex: A minimum of 6 and a maximum of 10!
Suzy: Both my second photographer and I typically take photos anywhere from 6 to 9 hours on a wedding day. This ensures the entire wedding day is covered and nothing is missed. This includes getting ready, ceremony, wedding party, couples, and family photos, plus a short break for dinner (ya girl’s gotta eat!) and coverage of the reception.
What does your ‘after the wedding day’ process look like? How long do you usually spend editing a wedding gallery?
Kelly: My day after is literally what I’m doing right now. Body sore and tired, in bed checking emails! But then the rest of the day consists of unpacking gear, cleaning, recharging it. Uploading all the images, and beginning to edit them. I like to send out teasers to the couple before the afternoon the next day. For an 8 hour wedding, for one shooter on the day, there would be about roughly 1000 to 1500 images to edit. That would take me about roughly on and off 32 to 40 hours. If I had a second shooter that day, the images and time are nearly doubled.
Tara: After the wedding is over I deliver a “sneak peek” to the couple about two weeks post-wedding date! This is a collection of my top 100ish photographs from their wedding! The rest of their photographs (about 900 photographs) are delivered to the couple within 3 months after their wedding day.
Editing an entire wedding usually takes about 6 hours, so it’s nice to do it slowly!
Jessica: My “after the wedding day” process looks like LOTS of hours in front of the computer. I shoot with both digital cameras and film cameras (not video, but old-school film negatives) so immediately after the wedding I go home, upload the digital photos to my computer, back them up on to at least 3 different locations, and the next day I cull the photos to remove all of the blinking/blurry/underexposed, etc., I mail my film to my film lab who will develop it and scan it to a computer for me and send me the files in 2 weeks, I send sneak peeks within a week of the wedding, and then once my film is back to me, I edit the digital files to match my beautiful gorgeous film scans, and then the final wedding gallery is delivered within 3 months of their wedding date (but usually around 2 months).
Jenny: Oh my word the day after I am 100% exhausted!! So, the same night I uploaded all my images and cull, which means I sort through what I’m going to edit and what is out of focus etc. That usually takes an hour or two, and that’s after the wedding! The next day I edit some sneak peaks and get those out to my clients. I know how much people are dying for their pictures!
To edit a full wedding gallery I usually immerse myself for a few days. So, we are talking hours and hours, but I like the focus of just that day and that couple. Then it’s done!
Alex: Once I get home from a wedding, I immediately upload & back up all the images from the day to multiple sources! SO important to do this to make sure the original files are secure before jumping into anything else.
The following Monday, I cull (narrow down to the best images), then choose about 60-80 to edit as a sneak peek! I LOVE SNEAK PEEKS! I’ll send this to the couple + vendors involved so we can all share our excitement from what we experience that weekend. After that, it takes about 5-7 working days to edit a full wedding for me because I’m a chronic over-deliverer and a slight perfectionist, haha. Mind you, editing isn’t *all* that we do, and it’s done in chunks, so that’s why most galleries are delivered within 4-6 weeks. 80% of my time is actually spent in marketing, advertising, client management, bookkeeping, and all the business side of things!
Suzy: My process after the wedding day begins the moment I return home from a wedding. I immediately download memory cards and backup all photos to external hard drives and an online cloud database. You can never be too careful! I deliver a preview of about 25 photos from the wedding within a week and deliver the full gallery (600+ photos) in about 6-8 weeks
What’s one part of your job that you don’t think people realize
Kelly: I’m one of those humans that I like to take care of you and take away any worries or stresses that you have before and on your wedding day. I’ll go over the timeline with you, be a chill and fun on your day when everyone is overwhelmed. I also step into wedding coordinator mode when the couples have either not hired one or the one they did hire is stressing them out or not to be found. Yes, it happens more than I’d like to say. I think a good wedding photographer will wrangle the day and make everyone enjoy your presence.
Tara: As a wedding photographer we also almost always take on a ton of other roles on the day of your wedding. We become your coordinator (if you don’t already have one), cake cutter, bow tie person, drama diffuser, dance partner, and “all over it” human who is putting out fires left & right so that you, the couple, won’t have to. We handle so much stuff “behind the curtain!” Ask any one of us – we all have stories!
Jessica: One part of my job that I don’t think people realize is that shooting is the very smallest, shortest part of my job. Most of my job is sitting in front of a computer, usually, from the minute I get up to the minute I go to bed.
It’s a miracle that I’m not blind!
Jenny: I think there is actually a lot! A photographer is a business owner- that means taxes and insurance and marketing all in-house. We are an artist- so much goes into editing, style, our point of view. Lastly, we are human! I care so much about my couples, and I spend time dreaming and anticipating their moments just like I would my own.
Alex: Traveling for weddings isn’t as glamorous as Instagram makes it seem!
Suzy: As a wedding photographer, there’s an ongoing battle to create photos that my couples will love and cherish forever while also flexing my creative muscle to trying something new. They’re two sides of the same coin and work in unison together, but also have to be carefully managed in real time. For example, on a wedding day, I may be simultaneously focused on keeping to a schedule, maintaining a calm demeanor, and checking my camera settings, while also planning where I’d like my couple to stand for their next set of photos.
It can be hard to balance it all, but it’s all a part of the responsibility.
Give us your best advice for couples looking for a wedding photographer.
Kelly: I was shooting a wedding yesterday and I told this to one of the bridesmaids. You want your wedding photographer to not be a vendor but a friend. You are sharing one of the most vulnerable and intimate times of your life with them, make sure you have a connection with them. Make sure they mean something to you. I guarantee your wedding photos will be ten times better once they know who you are on a more intimate level than just being your wedding vendor.
Tara: Do all the research you can, make sure that you love them & trust them. Trusting your photographer to be able to handle your wedding day is really important. If you feel uneasy about them for any reason find another one! Also, please remember, the photographs are what you’ll have left over after the cake has been eaten, and the flowers have died. Invest in someone you think is incredible!
Jessica: My best advice to couples looking for their wedding photographer is to first find a photographer whose work you love and can envision your wedding day looking like, and then to make sure their personality is one you enjoy. We spend a heck of a lot of time with you, so having someone who makes you feel at ease, comfortable in front of the camera (or as comfortable as you possibly can), and who you can fully trust to do their job without feeling like you need to micromanage.
You have enough to plan for the wedding so find a photographer you like, trust, and have a good feeling about.
Jenny: Hire the artist AND the person. If you don’t love their work, don’t hire them. If you don’t feel like you know them, don’t hire them. There are so, so many amazing creatives. Be seeking to fall in love with someone that you’re willing to pay the value of capturing what will become an heirloom.
Alex: Get on the phone or FaceTime with your potential wedding photographer to see if you guys vibe, ask to see full multiple wedding galleries so you know what to expect as far as what might be delivered to you, and if you can, book an engagement session so you can get comfortable with them in front of the camera prior to your wedding day!
Suzy: The connection between you and your photographer will go far beyond monetary investment. Yes, your investment is absolutely a contributing piece of the conversation, but it’s just one piece of the pie.
Having a great connection to your photographer is crucial for getting the amazing photos you’re dreaming about. When my clients fully know and trust me, it creates trust and intimacy that otherwise wouldn’t be there – and that’s what gets captured. My best advice? Follow your intuition and don’t settle.