One of the most frequent questions I hear from couples, friends, and wedding industry professionals is “How much should I spend on a wedding photographer?”. Of course that’s a complicated question for just about anything. Just like if you were buying a car or a house or a phone, the answer depends on a few factors:
What are you looking to get?
How much does quality matter to you?
Are you willing to take risks?
Is the experience itself important?
And, maybe surprisingly, another key question:
Where do you live?
So I’m going to address all these questions, and then—I promise—give you a real number answer you can work with.
So let’s address that last factor first…
Why Where You Get Married Affects the Cost
If you’ve ever lived in a city, you may have looked at rent in the middle of farm country and thought: maybe I should pack up and get some chickens and move there! Because the difference in costs in unreal!
So how does this affect your wedding costs: unfortunately, the same way. Taxes, insurance rates, office expenses, business licenses, utilities, and advertising all can cost more in bigger cities. Not only is the cost of doing business greater, but there can be more competition and more demand, which can both affect a vendor’s costs.
For example, here are some big cities’ rates:
Depending on where you look, you may see higher or lower rates than these, but these were the ones I could find that appeared the most accurate.
So why not get married in the middle of nowhere? Well, big cities have a lot going for them: scenic locations, built-in infrastructure, accessible airports and transportation, available local hotels, more variety of vendor options. Cities also tend to have more convenient, ‘mid point’ locations for guests traveling to the wedding.
Why Different Photographers Have Different Prices
Okay, so you live in a big city and you’ve come to terms with that and are ready to start shopping around for photographers. But why is there still such a range?
Well…again, just like cars or cell phones, there are a lot of reasons why one may cost more than the other.
The big factors in price tend to be…
How long has the photographer been in business? Do they have a proven track record and portfolio? A more experienced photographer is usually a safer bet, will have more client reviews, and will tend to have a consistent style in their images. You can also expect an experienced photographer to be better at handling groups, sticking to schedules, and dealing with unexpected emergencies.
Are you looking for albums? Prints? These things will tend to cost more than a few digital files because they require up-front, physical costs.
Will you need two photographers? Do you want photo editing included? Will you need 6 hours or 8 hours? All of these things involve more time and expense on the photographer’s end. If you want your skin to look flawless or have to have getting ready photos, those will factor in to how much your package will be.
Some photographers specialize in a particular style or creative look. If a photographer is bringing their artistic vision to their photography, that will usually be reflected in a higher price. Less expensive photographers may have more of a ‘point and shoot’ approach, but creative photography tends to come with a price that fits the creative effort.
Higher prices tend to also reflect a higher level of quality all around. You’ll see this not just in photographic quality, but also in the quality of customer experience. More professional photographers tend to have a heavy emphasis on better communication, positive client experience, and a more polished approach from start to finish. You’ll also tend to see properly insured businesses and clear-cut written contracts at this level, which minimizes your risk.
↑ Prices = ↑ Value?
It’s important to note that while higher prices tend to reflect higher quality and lower prices tend to reflect lower quality, there will always be exceptions to the rule. Some expensive photographers produce sub-par photos and some cheap photographers can produce excellent work. Always look into reviews and a photographer’s portfolio, and meet with them if you can, before making any booking decisions. But just like you might question a $90 cell phone or a $1000 new car, it’s always best to assume if a deal is too good to be true, it probably is.
So How Much Should I Pay?
Okay, so here is my take (based on experience and my knowledge of the local market) for local LA prices. (Again…these will vary depending on where you live.)
If you’re aiming for a typical photography package for an LA area wedding, you can expect to spend around $3500. For a wedding with under 100 guests, on an off-peak date, or under 6 hours, you can expect to spend less. For a wedding over 150 guests, on a holiday or holiday weekend, or over 10 hours, you can expect to spend more.
Luxury photographers in LA can charge $5,000 to $10,000, and even more. While their services may come with some incredible artistry and lots of added perks, you should know that these are luxury prices and you should expect a matching experience.
In Los Angeles I would be skeptical of any photographer charging under $2000 for a full wedding day. They should be willing to explain why their prices are too low.
The most important thing to remember: I believe in educating yourself on industry standards, because knowledge helps you make a good decision. But how you get along with a photographer and how much you like their work should be key factors in choosing one photographer over another. It’s important to set a realistic budget but once you’re looking at photographers in your range, make that final decision based on style and personality. Choose a photographer you feel comfortable with, whose photos you enjoy most, and you’ll thank yourself later.
PS. If you like my style and want to know my pricing, you can get my pricing guide by filling out this quick request form.
HAVE A QUESTION THAT YOU’D LIKE ME TO ANSWER ON THE BLOG? EMAIL ME AT JADEELORAPHOTO+QA@GMAIL.COM .