One of the most confusing aspects of the wedding industry is that prices seem to be all over the place.
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You can spend anything from pretty much zero to £10,000 for a UK wedding photographer – and if you look worldwide you can pay even more! You’ve probably seen some of this already with ads promising high quality coverage both for £395, £995, £1495, £1995 and £2995. Why pay £2995? Or is £395 enough for everyone?
Why do I charge £1695 for the day? Why should you pay the extra over a photographer who charges £1000 or £1500? What more will I deliver compared with the other photographers?
Let’s start with an average though. The accepted norm in the UK wedding industry is to spend 10-15% of your wedding budget on your wedding photographer, or 20% if the quality of your memories are particularly important to you.
That makes the average spend around the £1200 mark, but that amount is obviously location dependent.
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What are the typical price brackets?
Let’s ignore albums for a minute and just talk about prices for photography and a disk/USB (I know not all photographers sell the files… but let’s assume they do for the minute).
It seems that anyone “with a good camera” is seen as a potential wedding photographer.
What you will find is that photography mirrors the food industry: for both £2 and £500 you can buy a thing called “a meal”; they are both food, but they are incredibly different. The £2 meal will contain sustenance that your body needs (along with some it doesn’t..), while the £500 meal will be a work of art. The £500 chef knows about aspects of cooking that the £2 cook doesn’t even know exist.
The same is true of wedding photographers. The typical price brackets for a full day of photography are as follows..
As mentioned, wedding photography prices are also affected by location – you will pay more in London than in a quiet village in Wales, for example.
Why pay more for your photographer?
It’s very human to assume that other peoples jobs don’t require much experience and photography is no exception; it seems that anyone “with a good camera” is seen as a potential wedding photographer.
On the whole, throughout every industry worldwide, you do get what you pay for. Cars, houses, food, holidays and so on all follow the same rule.
The truth is that someone who takes some nice photos of ducks or landscapes or even people is as capable of photographing a wedding as I am at cooking a meal worth £500! Wedding photography requires a very specialised set of skills – people, organisational and photography skills – which are developed over years.
So .. pay more to reduce risk! As you pay more, generally, you reduce the risk of disappointment. It isn’t a 100% correlation, but most of the time it’s true.
- A free photographer may experience basic problems and you might not receive usable photos.
- A cheap photographer for £500 will probably produce poor results at some points.
- A professional photographer for £1000 will likely produce acceptable results in most circumstances.
- An experienced photographer for £1500 will probably produce a consistent set of photographs with a style.
- A luxury wedding photographer for £3000 should produce amazing results, no matter.
Of course, the “for free” photographer may have everything in their favour one day and produce amazing results while the luxury wedding photographer might have an off day and mess up … The chances of these happening are low though. That’s why it’s about risk and not certainty.
Couples usually have little or no experience of professional photography on which to make an assessment about value for money.
Do you really get what you pay for then?
On the whole, throughout every industry worldwide, you do get what you pay for. Cars, houses, food, holidays and so on all follow the same rule. Photography is definitely no exception, but it is unique in that couples usually have little or no experience of professional photography on which to make an assessment about value for money.
Just like with chefs, photographers have a limit to their natural talent too. Photographers who are more effective will generally float to the top end of the industry because their love for their art will push them to produce more and more of the beautiful work that they get a buzz from.
Bargains can definitely be found, especially if you’re willing to be less exact with your requirements, but photographers who are more expensive will tend to provide a better service and more stunning photographs than a photographer who charges less.
Here are some of the differences that you can expect from a more expensive photographer:
- Generally, be a more competent photographer. This is the most obvious difference. In theory at least, every photograph I produce will be more effective than a cheaper photographers.
- Use more expensive equipment, such as the highest quality lenses (which can cost up to £2000 each!), cameras and lighting. These do make a difference.
- Spend more time and be more competent in the post production of photographs, which is where photos can really shine. They could also have a higher quality screen and a colour accuracy tool.
- Spend more time listening to the couples needs and giving advice.
- Have more effective admin and business systems.
- Deliver your wedding using higher quality products.
If a photographer is charging less, it’s very likely that some or all of these elements will be missing.
What matters, and what doesn’t?
In articles, I see much of the advice which is touted tends to lead you to that own photographers business or written by online magazines who don’t really understand wedding photography. This can lead to a confused view of what is important.
So what really matters and why?
- Backup equipment; should something go wrong, your photographer will need backup lenses, camera bodies, flashes, batteries and memory cards in order to continue.
- Insurance; should something go very wrong, you need the ability to sue your photographer
- Backup of wedding photos; IT equipment fails at times, so having a camera which backs up the wedding on the day and making sure they have multiple backups at their house is essential. Barely a week goes by without someone on a facebook group saying they’ve lost photos.
- Passion; people who are passionate about a subject, rather than intent on selling you on something, will tend to do a better job for you.
- Relaxed and calm persona; wedding photography is a tough business and with so much going on during the day, having a photographer who is confident and relaxed
- Attention to detail; the most effective photographs are often the ones with the fewest distractions, so a photographer who is detailed oriented will tend to produce photographs which are superior.
- The style they show; some photographers, in order to gain business, will promise they can replicate someone elses style. In my 10+ years in photography I’ve never found a situation where this is true. Only ever book someone based on the style they show.
- Ensure they will be the photographer; some photography companies will send other photographers on the day, so ensure you know exactly who you will have on the day
What doesn’t matter
- If they are a full time photographer; if they’re not, you just need to check they aren’t doing too many weddings which might cause you to be waiting 6 months for the photos, but some of the best photographers I know are part time. The positive that’s never talked about is some of these people do it simply because they love it.
- Have you worked at X venue; experienced photographers are used to working at different venues and it’s simply not important for them to “know what the lighting is like” at a particular venue, or similar.
What might matter
- The equipment they use; equipment does matter, but as a non-photographer it’s almost impossible to judge what is right and wrong, so just make sure you’ve chosen someone whose work you like and ensure you’ve seen some large album prints of indoor venues (such as dark churches) to make sure there isn’t too much grain – this might be an indicator of cheap equipment.
- How long they’ve been photographing weddings; as time goes by, you do learn more. Newer photographers really don’t like this, but it’s simply the truth. The reason this is in the “might” section though is there are some talented photographers who have worked in other fields for year. Typically, I’d choose someone who has been doing weddings for at least 3 years though.
- Having a second photographer; customers tend to look at second photographers as a bonus – more for less money. However, it’s typical that one photographer will be the more experienced. You will therefore have some photos taken by someone whose work you might not like as much. Unless you particularly need coverage of two locations at the same time, this is a red herring.
How can I find a cheap wedding photographer?
If your wedding photography is in the £1000+ budget, you shouldn’t have too many concerns as long as you see plenty of work and like their style and personality.
However, what do you do if you’re limited to less than £1000?
Top tip: You should seriously consider choosing a more expensive photographer but just booking them for a smaller portion of the day, if they offer that.
Well, you can definitely ask a more expensive photographer if they will do fewer hours at your wedding. Some photographers will do as little as 2 or 3 hours, which could be enough for the ceremony and some photos in a local park, for example.
It would certainly be preferable to have a smaller coverage of the day with good photographs compared with photographs which have serious errors. (And yes, it happens – I’ve been asked to try to correct the files!)
Secondly, you need to do your homework and that means visiting your preferred photographers. There are two things that every photographer should have and they are professional (PI & PL) insurance and backup equipment (camera body, lenses and flash). I would also want my photographer to backup my photos to at least one other hard disk too.
It’s also important to check the quality of their photography equipment so I’d want to see some printed photos at least A4 size in dark locations, like inside churches. Sometimes newer photographers don’t even know that their equipment isn’t capable of producing acceptable results.
Past that, choose someone who seems honest, dependable … and fun!
If you want to know more about what the risks might be, read my article on cheap wedding photography.
What are the prices of wedding albums?
Albums, like photographers, are available at different price points for good reason.
Queensberry, who I use, are the “rolls royce” of the wedding album industry. You can expect a Queensberry album to be at the very minimum £400-£500, with most reasonably sized albums costing £700 or more. A cheaper GraphiStudio or Folio album might be a few hundred pounds less, like for like.
There are also album manufacturers who are cheaper still.
As with wedding photography, the price reflects the quality and it is possible, with a cheaper product, the album won’t stand the test of time quite so well.
I hope this article has lifted the lid off the confusing wedding photography pricing system, as well as given you something to work from. Whoever you choose, do your research and compare them with others of similar quality.
If you have any questions or comments, leave them below!
Good luck with your search and I hope you have a fantastic wedding day!
Quick Questions & Answers
What is the average cost of wedding photography?
Around £1000-£1500 for a full day, without an album. Many spend more though, and many spend less.
How should I price wedding photography?
Typically, spend between 10-15% of your wedding budget on wedding photography, or 20% if photography is particularly important to you.
Why does wedding photography cost so much?
It’s hard to explain in just a few lines, but the costs of equipment are huge (over ten thousand pounds worth of kit is in most photographers bags) and quality training is expensive too. We also have to pay for sample albums, websites, advertising, credit card systems, customer management systems and so on.
Most of all though, wedding photographers spend between 20 and 50 hours on an single wedding in conversations with couples, the photography itself, post production and sending out the final files.
A magazine or blog said I shouldn’t pay more than “£750” for photography. Is that right?
Well, it’s up to you. However, magazines and blogs are produced by journalists who don’t really know about photography. It would be like me saying “you shouldn’t pay more than £1.50 for a wedding magazine” when in reality I don’t know anything at all about what quality of magazine that will get me. £750 really is the minimum I would ideally pay for a full day photography, not the maximum.
Are wedding photographers rich if they get paid so much for a days work?
Sadly not… It’s not a single days work to finish a wedding – it usually takes 3 to 5 days total.
Should I negotiate with my preferred wedding photographer?
If your preferred photographer is more expensive, it’s likely for good reason – and I bet you’re not the only one to prefer them. Some photographers may negotiate but photographers who are in demand generally won’t do. In reality, you’re likely to have to decide to pay their rate, or choose someone else.
Why are some wedding photographers more expensive?
More expensive photographers are like more expensive meals – more consistent, higher quality, more artistic, more skilled, produced with better equipment and delivered on better materials. They are likely to notice details that a cheaper photographer wouldn’t even consider, so in theory every photograph should be a bit better.
Should I care about the quality of my wedding photography?
Well, I can’t answer that for you, but rather than assuming a cheaper photographer can do the job, think about how you would feel is you didn’t receive the quality you would like. That may give you an answer to your question.
Should I get my friend to photograph my wedding?
The answer is almost always “no”, unless you have no choice. Firstly, if your friend is not a wedding photographer, the fact that they have a nice camera and take some nice photos is virtually meaningless. Just the speed of a wedding is enough to trip up very experienced photographers. They will likely be confused about what’s coming next and you will likely miss sections of the day.