(Updated for 2023 & 2024)
Let’s be real here, wedding planning is a lot of work, especially when you’re just getting started. The average costs for wedding photographer vary on so many different factors and if you’ve already begun wedding planning & inquired with wedding photographers, you may be a little confused as to why they’re quoting you thousands more than your cousin Kelly paid for her wedding photos 5 years ago. And that’s because weddings don’t cost what they used to, for a bunch of reasons actually.
Today I am going to break down the exact reasons why wedding photographers charge what they charge & what you can expect to pay if you’re planning your wedding in 2023 or 2024.
So how much does a wedding photographer cost?
Typical wedding blogs will tell you that the average wedding photographer costs $2,500… but unfortunately this is not accurate. Keep in mind this is the AVERAGE wedding photographer cost across the entire country and does not reflect what it costs to hire a professional nowadays.
The price each photographer charges is based on 4 main things: experience, location, value, and expertise. Anyone can purchase a camera and call themselves a wedding photographer, but how well can they live up to the expectations that you have for your wedding photos? What are the chances of your photos being backed up properly? How many years of experience do they have? How qualified are they to handle unpredictable situations that could arise? How prepared are they to handle your day with professionalism & precision?
These are the questions not many people think about when setting their budget for a wedding photographer.
Starting off with years of experience, this is something that not every photographer takes into consideration, but many do. With years of being in the wedding industry comes more experience. They will have more knowledge of being properly equipped and will have the confidence to know how to handle certain situations for your wedding day. Generally speaking, photographers with a lot of experience under their belt will most likely charge a higher price for their services since they are more reliable.
When hiring any vendor for your wedding day, you want to make sure you’re getting a lot of value! Every photographer offers different services & packages. Some offer more value than others, but it all depends on what YOU consider “valuable” when you’re searching for the perfect wedding photographer. The average costs for wedding photographer that offer more value in your experience & images, will have higher prices.
Think about how filet mignon is so expensive. Filet costs more than the other cuts of beef because each cow only has a limited quantity. The same goes for your wedding photographer, the ones that provide the most value & have the most experience are more limited, so they cost more.
A BIG part that plays into the wedding photographer cost is their expertise. There’s no such thing as perfect, but there is such a thing as a professional. Years of experience allows a wedding photographer to perfect their craft, gain proficiency in how to handle certain situations, the ability to establish consistency in their work, and much more. If you want to pay a cheaper price, you’re going to get cheaper photos and a cheaper experience.
Wedding photographer costs average also depend on the location you’re getting married at as well. Are you planning your wedding in a poppin destination wedding location such as Arizona, California, or Hawaii? Then your wedding photographer is 100% going to cost more. This is because the cost of living, eating, and honestly… breathing is more expensive in these locations.
The average amount of time a photographer spends on one wedding:
On average, a photographer spends roughly 34-60 hours on just one wedding. This time does NOT include traveling to and from sessions/weddings, time spent updating or purchasing new gear and equipment, or time spent on educational courses to enhance your experience & perfect their craft. Therefore, your photographer’s time is very valuable and what they charge reflects how much time they spend on weddings. When you are paying a photographer’s prices, you are not just paying for them to press a button and edit them, you are paying for much, much more.
Someone who has just started photography would fall under this category. Normally you get someone who has very little to no experience at all and is still trying to find their editing style, therefore it is not guaranteed that your photos will turn out a specific way you’re wanting them to. Someone who is charging $500 or less is probably looking to gain experience and build their portfolio.
A photographer who has very little weddings under their belt would fall under this category. They most likely don’t have a lot of experience in the wedding industry or are familiar with posing, consistent editing and/or the ability to provide helpful resources so you feel prepared for your wedding day.
Someone who has photographed a handful of weddings before or one who is still trying to build their portfolio would fall under this category. They may have a little bit more knowledge on how to comfortably photograph a wedding and have a little more consistency in their edits. But ultimately they aren’t able to provide the same experience or value as a professional quite yet since they’re still learning. This is why hiring an intermediate wedding photographer costs significantly less.
A photographer who has more experience and knowledge would fall under this category. They most likely have invested more than an intermediate photographer has, but chances are, they’re not a full time wedding photographer so they can’t dedicate their full attention to their work. This is the category a lot of photographers fall under and is best for couples working with a tighter budget for their wedding.
A photographer who is well equipped, has years of experience, invested in their education, has consistent edits, is comfortable and professional with their posing and includes extra value in their packages/experience would fall under this category. They have spent years building their business and perfecting their craft so they can professionally serve their clients in a unique and personal way. They have a higher demand due to their limited availability & ability to maintain positive client experiences. If you want to hire a professional, the average photographer cost for wedding will range from $4,000 and up.
Photographers who serve clients who are planning luxurious and grand weddings would fall under this category. Their prices are much higher as they have probably been in business for years and have served over hundreds of clients during their career. They are able to provide an exquisite experience while delivering top notch quality photos and editing consistency for couples who want a larger & more expensive wedding.
Below are some of the most important questions to ask yourself when creating your budget for a wedding photographer:
Your answers to these questions will determine how much you should expect to spend on your wedding photos.
TIP: Since there are so many people who have postponed their weddings from 2020 & 2021, the demand for wedding photographers have increased a LOT so in order to ensure you can still find a wedding photographer, you should inquire at least 12 months before your date.
In a nutshell, what you spend on a wedding photographer is what you will get out of one. The wedding photographer cost average can depend on so many different factors. Everyone has different budgets and that is 100% okay. But, if you are someone who is really wanting to connect with your wedding photographer, have consistent edits, high quality images with a beautiful editing style, or someone who can provide additional resources to help you feel confident on your big day then you might want to consider spending a little more on your wedding photographer to get the best experience possible. I am a big believer that there is a photographer out there for everyone and with proper research and following your gut you will find a wedding photographer that works for you!
If you’re looking for a candid & natural wedding photographer, then you’ve come to the right place! I’m Kaylie, a Phoenix wedding photographer, encouraging you to spend your wedding day celebrating a way that feels right to the two of YOU! Learn more about the elevated experience you receive!
MORE ABOUT KAYLIE
The article was written by me, Kaylie! I am a wedding & elopement photographer encouraging you to embrace the details that make your love story unique, to make sure you get a personable experience, & to be your helping hand and friend throughout the entire process! Specializing in nostalgic & candid images serving couples in Arizona & beyond!
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