How Much Does Wedding Photography Cost?

Budgeting for Wedding Photography

When budgeting for your wedding, how much should you expect to spend on wedding photography? What a question, right?

So many people will tell you different things. My advice is going to be based on market trends, along with more than a decade of my own experience in the industry.

Every geographic location has different pricing averages on what a couple will spend on their entire wedding day. This includes every little cost, such as shoes, favors, food, transportation, DJ, and more. In the Chicago area in 2016, couples spent an average grand total of about $35,000 in the suburbs, and $56,000 in the city proper (although that city average, in my experience, is often MUCH higher; closer to $80,000+).

In figuring out how much to spend on photography, the first thing you need to do is determine what elements of your day are MOST important to you. Maybe you're a foodie. Maybe you are huge into music and the party aspect of your big day. Whatever is important to you, be sure to keep this in mind when allocating your budget. Remember this tip as you begin signing contracts: going a 'little bit' over your budget adds up quickly!!!

The largest expense for every wedding is the venue/food/alcohol. Next in line for high ticket items are photography, live bands, attire,

I have found one thing consistently with every one of my clients: photography is one of the most important aspects of their wedding day. If this is true for you, here is my best advice for wedding photography budgeting:

• Determine your total wedding day budget

• Determine how important wedding photography is to you, vs the other elements of your day

If photography falls in your top 3 priority expenses:

  1. Expect to spend approximately 10-20% of your entire wedding day budget, or more. Using the 2018 suburbs average (approximately $35,000 spent on a wedding day, with venue, dress, photography, dj, and other vendors included), as I find this to be a bit more of a realistic figure for most couples, expect to invest at least $3,500 - $7,000 on your initial photography contract. Be on alert if you are investing any less than $3500 on your wedding photography. Yes, you may find a hidden gem who is priced too low for the market; however, are your forever memories worth that risk?
  2. You get what you pay for. This is almost always the case with photography. A quick tip, however: You may encounter an incredible business person who happens to be a photographer, whose $10,000 price tag is not valid. Likewise, you may encounter someone with an incredible portfolio, who has a price that's just too good to be true. Trust your gut! Basically, pricing isn't necessarily a guarantee of quality, but it usually is a really good guideline.
  3. READ CONTRACTS!! Oftentimes, high volume studios have insanely long contracts with hidden fees. By the time your wedding photos are ready, you may find yourself with a minimum purchase requirement (usually around $1,000), image processing fees just to make the photos look polished (free for boutique photographers, but up to $2500 for these studios), and high cost book upgrades (most packages include an entry level book, with upgrades that cost thousands, and quality that does not match the price tag). Simply be aware of what you are signing before you do so.
  4. Your initial investment may not include things such as albums, canvases, or prints, especially when you hire a full service boutique photographer. Many couples opt to use wedding gifts for these add-ons after the wedding. Some simply do not want to spend anything more following the big day. Ultimately, communication is key in knowing about the process that your photographer has. Study their price guide, and be aware of the costs so that you aren't surprised later.
  5. Compare your photographer's service to the elements of your wedding. They should match or exceed what you have planned. If you have a beautiful wedding at the Four Seasons, a gown from Zuhair Murad, a guest list of 200, etc, choose a photographer whose services and image quality match your day. Your day simply won't have the 'sparkle' that you remember if you skimp on quality. The best analogy I can offer is: would you buy a pair of shoes from payless to go with your exquisite gown?
  6. Don't forget to consider wedding day cinematography. Remember that cinematography is NOT the same as wedding photography, and requires a separate budget. It is recommended to use the same formula in budgeting for a high quality wedding cinematography team, and toward the lower end of the formula for basic videography services.
  7. Consider cutting budget elsewhere to accommodate for your photography. Remember, after the party has ended, this is the ONLY memory you'll have of your most important day.
  8. Consider asking for photography contribution as a wedding shower gift!

And remember, no vendor should make you feel icky about your budget requirements. The most important aspect of your day is that you are marrying the one you love, celebrating with your family and friends, and you are starting a new chapter together.