You may want to pour yourself a glass of wine for this topic. By now, I'm sure you've gotten a little bit of a shock in learning how much some of the elements of a wedding are going to cost you. I'm not going to sugar coat this: WEDDINGS ARE EXPENSIVE, especially when your priority is to have quality elements planned for your day. Now, of course, there are always ways to work within your means. This post is to simply address what to expect to be quoted by MOST wedding photographers.
Every time you look through your wedding photos, you'll relive your day over and over again.
After the promises have been exchanged, after the food has been enjoyed, and after the last dance has been danced, your photos are your way to relive one of the biggest days of your life. That's POWERFUL. So the question that I ask all of the couples that reach out to me is: how important is wedding photography to you? If wedding photography is one of the most important elements of the day, or even a significant element, PLEASE take my advice to heart when I encourage you to invest in your photographer!
What the professionals say
Wedding industry pros, namely planners and analysts, recommend setting aside at least $3500 to $7000 on your initial photography investment.
How did they arrive at this figure?
Well, the average wedding in Chicago is around $35,000, according to research. I can tell you from being a bride this figure isn't exactly realistic; I very quickly and easily went beyond this number for my suburban Chicago wedding. HOWEVER! The formula is to reserve AT LEAST 10-20% of your total wedding day budget for photography. With this $35,000 average, this brings us to the $3500 - $7000 figure.
Q: What do you mean by 'initial investment?'
Your initial investment is what you are agreeing to in your contract. This is going to vary from photographer to photographer, but may include such things as your engagement session, wedding day coverage, digital image files, and a wedding album.
After your wedding day, you'll likely be purchasing prints, photo gifts, albums and more. A good rule of thumb is to plan on spending at least half of what you paid on your initial investment on these additional items. Remember, your photographer will have access to professional grade photo products that will best showcase the images you created with them, and will last for generations. TRUST YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER!
Does price really matter?
This is going to be so unhelpful to say... but yes and no.
Just because a photographer charges below this price range does not necessarily mean they're not a good choice for a wedding photographer. Just because a photographer charges above this price does not mean they are the best around, or that they are even a good choice. There are so many factors to consider! When a photographer's fees are below this price range, you're going to want to ask yourself these questions:
- How much experience do they have?
- What equipment are they using?
- How skilled in their craft are they?
- Is this their full time career, or a side job?
- Is their photography business something I can rely on? (insurance, licenses, taxes, etc)
- What quality products do they have?
Alternatively, when a photographer's fee is above this price range, you'll likely want to ask some of the same questions. You'll also need to ask yourself:
- Are they well known and sought after?
- Does their portfolio and what they have to offer match the price they are asking for?
- What, if anything, do they bring to the table that other photographers don't?
- Are they offering a service that goes above and beyond? (the answer should be a very clear yes to this question)
After considering these things, ask your photographer if you can view a complete wedding. Know that a website is a highlight reel, showing the best of the best images. Use your own opinion of how you feel their work matches what you consider to be worth the investment. Remember, this is your wedding day, and this is a very personal decision to make.