After months of planning the perfect wedding celebration, it’s true: Your wedding day will fly by. The food, music, and flowers all made for a beautiful party, but they're gone when the party ends, and there's nothing physical you keep from that day (unless you make good on the tradition of taking the top tier of your cake home and freezing it for a year to eat on your anniversary!).
That's why a photographer is one of the most important people you'll work with during the planning process and on your wedding day. You and your partner will want to remember the special moments you had forever, and you'll want to get a glimpse of how your loved ones were celebrating when you were off chatting to other guests.
Here's everything you need to know about how to decide on a good photographer who’s right for you.
What's the average price of a wedding photographer?
Wedding photographer prices can range from $2,500-$10,000+ but the average couple spends somewhere around $3,000-$6,000.
Price is usually reflective of experience and demand, but that doesn't necessarily mean that more expensive photography guarantees better photos. Remember that styles vary widely; some photographers go for a light and airy aesthetic, while some opt for bolder colors or more documentary-style images. It's up to you to decide what's most visually representative of you as a couple, and who is best equipped to capture your special day.
What's included in a wedding photography package?
It's impossible to quote an off-the-rack estimate for all photographers; everyone provides different services, and the key to getting what you're looking for is understanding how photographers offer packages. Packages outline hours of shooting covered, whether travel time is included, number of professionally edited, digital photos delivered, and physical prints or albums delivered.
Here's an example:
Eight to ten hours of wedding day shooting
Engagement or wedding shower shoot included
Four hours of travel time included
200 professionally edited photos delivered
Many photographers also offer a la carte options, giving couples the flexibility to pick and choose things they want:
Additional photo albums (depending on your selections): $300-$1,000
Canvas prints (dependent on size and material)
Rehearsal dinner shoot: $1,000
Additional wedding day coverage: $200-400 per hour
You also will want to consider a wedding video. Most wedding photographers don't offer videography in their packages. If they do, you can anticipate at least an additional $2,500 or so; the alternative is hiring a separate videographer for roughly the same cost as your photographer.
Tips for choosing and working with a wedding photographer
When should you hire your photographer?
Wedding photographers often get booked up way in advance, so we recommend securing yours at least 10 months ahead of your wedding day. Many couples like to use their engagement photos as save-the-dates, which should go out four to eight months before your wedding, so keep this in mind if you have a favorite local photographer you want to hire.
How do you choose the right professional?
There are two things to consider here; the first is style. Be sure to go through the portfolios and social accounts of any photographers you like, and make sure their visual aesthetic is something you can see for your wedding day. Does their work showcase shots you'd like to re-create for your own celebration?
The second piece to consider is personality and professionalism. When you're uncomfortable, it shows. And the last thing you want is having to work with a photographer who doesn't feel natural, or worse–makes you feel uncomfortable in any way! A good bet is word-of-mouth referrals. (Is anyone in your circle of friends able to recommend someone?) And always meet in person or via video to discuss what you're looking for if possible. Aside from your wedding planner or day-of coordinator (if you hire one), your wedding photographer is the professional you'll be with most closely on your wedding day!
What is a typical payment schedule?
Most photographers offer packages that split the agreed-upon fee into two or three payments. Payments are usually due at the time of booking (first payment), followed by another payment before the wedding (second payment), and finally another after the final images are edited and available for you to download (third payment). It’s also typical for the couple to tip their photographer.
It's up to you as the client to discuss rates and options if you're looking for a particular payment plan that would help with your wedding budgeting. A lot of photographers have no problem outlining their payment schedule or even letting you know what your full payment will be before you book so that you can be well informed before you make any decisions.
Should you ever negotiate on photography rates?
Some photographers are willing to work with a lower budget on occasion, but it isn't typical or expected. And in general, negotiating and trying to drive down prices is not a great way to approach a relationship with your photographer. That said, it’s totally fine to ask questions.
So instead of trying to drive down the price, do some research to figure out why their fee is higher than some other photographers. Maybe they're more established in the photography world, maybe they're more expensive because demand is high and they're booking up fast for the season, or maybe it's just that what you want requires more gear, licenses, or planning that isn't apparent to you.
Should you tip your wedding photographer?
Though it isn't required, tipping is always appreciated. Roughly half of all couples decide to do so. If you're not sure how much to tip, $100-$300 (per photographer) is a good range. Remember that if you've booked multiple photographers or assistants through your wedding day, they each should get an equal percentage of the tip since they had to split time with you on your special day.
Don't forget to order food for your photographer
Even though your photographer is a service provider at your wedding, it's customary to treat them as a guest and give them (and anyone on their team) a meal. They're there to be a friendly face, facilitating some memorable moments and adding to the joy of your wedding day, so be sure to arrange food for them with your wedding caterer too.