How much does it cost to hire a wedding photographer?

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Anything related to money is always a hot-topic and pricing with wedding photographers is no different – by far the most frequently asked question we get is a variation of ‘How Much?’ and rightly so, if you’re looking to buy anything, you want to know a couple of things –

  1. What do I get?
  2. How Much?

When it comes to wedding photography, it’s not the simplest of answers as everyone operates their business in slightly different ways, so I thought it might be useful to look at how much photographer charge, how different photography business models work, where your investment actually goes and what it all means to you as a client.

How much should you spend on a Wedding Photographer?

The old suggestion was that you should spend around 10% of your total wedding budget on your photographer, but depending on how important photography is to you will dictate whether you go for a higher or a lower percentage.

What do Wedding Photographers Charge?

We offer packages ranging from £1500-3500. We operate in a market where photographers usually charge £2000-3000 for a full days coverage. A full day being 8-10 hours.

The broader market has photographers catering for all price points from £200 up to £30,000.

Of course you’re going to get big variation in skill, quality and service as you progress through the pricing bands.

A £200 photographer may be inexperienced or working photography alongside another full-time job.

A £30,000 photographer will be highly skilled, experienced and adept at working with the most demanding clients.

Some photographers will do 100 weddings a year for £500 each and some will do two weddings a year for £15,000 – the difference being that the one doing less will have a lot more time available for you and for devoting time, energy and attention to each and every wedding.

We operate in a mid point, whereby we cover 25 weddings a year, balancing our affordability with the amount of time we can invest in each couple to ensure they have the best experience of our services.

We tend to book up 1-2 years in advance too, so we must be doing something right!

How do wedding photographers work out their prices?

There are a few different ways to run a wedding photography business and as part of our the wedding photography training we offer, we get to see alot of different business models and practices from behind the scenes.

Often photographers work out there pricing based on client facing hours (ie – how long you would like photography during the wedding day) but there are other approaches.

There is the school of what we call  ‘Upfront Pricing’ and then there is the school of ‘Upsell Pricing’

Upfront Pricing

Upfront pricing is often what gives the perception of a high price. Essentially it means the photographer puts together a package that contains everything the couple need and charges appropriately for that.

Upfront pricing will usually contain all of hours you would need to cover the day properly, it might contain an engagement session and it will contain all the editing, as well as any deliverables – for example high resolution images, prints, albums etc.

In our market – upfront, all-day packages range between £2000-£5000, but as with anything there are offerings higher and lower.

One of our friends charges £20,000+ and caters to luxury high-end and celebrity weddings, whereas we also know talented photographers who will charge under £1000.

Upsell Pricing

Someone working with the upsell model may well start cheaper, but in the long run clients working with them will either spend the same as above, or in some cases – more.

Essentially how upsell pricing works, is by offering a bare minimum to couples, it may be a number of hours that doesn’t quite cover their whole day, it may mean the high resolution images are offered as an addon, or having a price list with lots of a la carte items including albums and engagement sessions.

The idea with this model is that couples will see the price tag and see that it fits nicely within their budget – go ahead and book. Then as the wedding date comes closer, they may then choose to add more hours or other things they’ve come to realise they need.

We don’t really like the upsell model, as we love operating a fully transparent business. This means communicating with our couples exactly what they’ll need ahead of booking, so not only do they not have any surprises at a later date – but there is no bad feelings or resentment at any point of the process.

Why do wedding photographers charge so much?

Whilst researching this article I tapped the question into google to see what ‘people also ask’ and this was a popular one.

On face value, it can seem like a wedding photographer charges a lot. (£2000 in a day – wow!!)

Once you start to look into exactly where their time is spent, it starts to become clear that actually, they probably don’t charge enough!

For us, every single wedding we photograph has a workload that looks something like this:

  • Meetings, Emails and Phone Calls Before booking – 2 hours
  • Meetings Emails and Phone Calls after booking – 2 hours
  • Engagement Session – 3 hours
  • Editing the engagement session – 2 hours
  • Venue scouting, either in person or using the internet – 2 hours
  • The Actual Wedding – 10hrs
  • Editing the wedding – 10hrs
  • Delivering the wedding – 1hr
  • Designing an Album – 3hrs

That represents quite a conservative estimate of where the time goes, but having personally shot weddings that lasted more that 15 hours and having had couples that required a lot more nurturing, I can confidently say it’s usually a lot more.

So in total, a single wedding requires a minimum of 35 hours investment of time.

For the money, that’s not bad I hear you cry! but….

we haven’t factored in any of the travel costs, equipment, business essentials or advertising the photographer will need.

1. You’ve got to get to that wedding aka Travel Costs!

Most photographers will travel to a weddings by car, so allow £50 per wedding in fuel, insurance, tax and parking.

If it’s a far afield wedding they may need to stay overnight (£100 a night?)

Or what if they need to jump on a plane? (£200-1000)

2. So, what about Equipment?

I’d estimate that an average photographer will have a minimum of £10,000 worth of equipment, if you include computers and other things essential to running a business, you’re probably looking at more than £15,000.

Equipment that often needs to be replaced once every 5 years.

Meaning £3000 a year going into equipment, servicing and purchasing. Assuming a conservative estimate of 25 weddings a year, means each wedding costs the photographer £120.

3. Business Essentials

Then business essentials, like:

  • Web hosting – £200/year
  • Insurance – £500/year
  • Software Subscriptions – £500/year

Or roughly £50 per wedding.

4. Advertising or How you actually got that wedding in the first place?

The above all assumes the wedding came straight from a personal referral or from word of mouth.

Most photographers have to advertise a considerable amount to bring in enough work to sustain their business.

Google ads, Facebook Ads, Wedding Directories, Wedding Fairs (Gah!), Magazine Ads, Networking, SEO, Awards – it all adds up!

A good rule of thumb is to allow 10% of each booking for advertising. It also makes for easier maths.

5. So how did you learn to photograph weddings? aka Education

Well of course nobody knows how to photograph a wedding as soon as they arrive on the planet – personally, I’ve built up my skills over the past 15 years and have invests thousands of pounds into education and training.

From big concepts like learning how to use a camera, to finesse skills like customer service, to creative things like lighting and composition – everything has had a degree of investment.

It’s hard to put a price on education as it comes from all sources, from workshops and more formal courses to research, learning via youtube and hours spent practicing.

For simplicity sake let’s allow a budget of one wedding, or £2000 a year – for training or £80 per wedding

After all of that, the time investment a photographer will make in your day and the skills they are required to nurture in order to do the best job for you, it probably doesn’t seem such a steep price!!