At a wedding last year I was chatting with the Father of the Bride. A really nice relaxed guy, considering the day, but during conversation he happened to mention that he was surprised at the price of Wedding Photography from the quotes they had received. His next comment struck a chord though, "It's a lot of money for a days work". I think this was a perfect summary of the challenges couples face when seeking to engage with wedding suppliers, but especially photographers. Surrounded by people perpetuating the myth that as soon as someone uses the word wedding, suppliers add an extra zero onto their price. The truth is, if, like me, other wedding photographers also undertake commercial work, their day rate for weddings will probably be their lowest.
Another comment I see a lot when talking to prospective customers is "we don't really know what we are looking for". It's a fair comment! On the surface some people do genuinely view photography as something that happens on the wedding day and is then just sent over when the photographer has time. I'm hoping this post will help demystify the very broad offerings you can see in the world of photography and how buying on price can often be a bad idea (although sometimes you can get lucky).
Breaking Down the Price Brackets
I write this post with a huge disclaimer. In each broad price bracket I outline, there are anomalies. You can be very lucky and find a cheap photographer who is absolutely amazing. Equally you can buy into a photographer who is expensive, only to find the end result is more than dissappointing. This guide is a general overview and I do acknowledge there are suppliers who don't neatly fit into this guide. Luckily for you I'll also be posting a guide on what to check with your prospective photographer in the very near future.
£400 to £800 ish!
Around this price bracket the photographer may be relatively unskilled or just starting out and looking to build a portfolio. They may or may not hold both Public Liability or Professional Indemnity Insurance (this, to me, is a must for both parties). You may receive up to 2000 unedited images straight from the camera. There will be those who provide editing within this price bracket but very little detailed retouching, if any, unless they are competent but building their business at the outset. They will mostly be learning composition and won't be laden down with high quality lenses and camera bodies. It is possible they may only have one camera body and a couple of budget lenses (images will not be as sharp). I wouldn't consider shooting a wedding with only one camera body. It is impossible to capture detail shots (like the exchanging of the rings) and wider shots showing the guests, if you have to swap lenses mid service. So, as a starter ask how many cameras your photographer uses.
£800 to £1200 ish!
Technically competent in the main, perhaps still learning composition at weddings and where the magic shots happen. Certainly carrying better quality equipment, two camera bodies and higher quality lenses. They will have more experience of weddings and will have done some planning, visited the venue and will likely meet you there prior to the day. Most definitely carrying insurances. Post production work will generally revolve around the application of a wedding preset in their editing software (saving time - this is normal for most) and will apply some minor tweaks to light and colour after that. Total editing time up to 1 day.
£1200 - £2000 ish
Experienced photographers, competent, confident, skilled and experienced. Possibly with a second shooter option and an album (depending on each photographer). They will likely carry an online gallery with ability to order prints and share on social media and/or provide a USB gift box with a selection of prints included. It is also possible to have a pre-wedding shoot included at this price bracket. If you aren't too bothered about that, negotiate! High quality cameras and lenses and backup equipment, lighting and diffusers. Editing will involve 2-4 days of very detailed work. Analysing each image to read the situation then applying detailed edits to lead the viewers eyes into the picture, highlight the emotion/event that is occuring, sharpen or soften features, dodge and burn, undertake detail brushing and in some cases layer editing to make every image high impact. 10-15 minutes per image is usual and around 300-400 final images. Editing at this level becomes more artistic and often is the realisation of something the photographer wants to create for you to best represent the emotion at that time. I can look at most of my wedding photographs and recall the conversations and emotions at that time. In years to come that picture of you looking nervous, right before the service, will bring it all flooding back to you!
Above £2000 up to £10k+
Will definitely have the same editing process as the previous price category. Will more likely involve a larger production team, include galleries, USB gift boxes, albums and magazine books etc. It is also in this price bracket that well established photographers will reside, commanding higher fee's due to their reputation and longevity in the industry. Obviously as you head towards 5 figure fee's these are high-end established celebrity level wedding photographers, with a desirable brand, catering for those who want the very best memories that money can buy!
As a wedding photographer it was easy for me to select a wedding photographer for my wedding as I knew what I wanted so we commissioned a world famous award winning photographer with a negotiated fee. It's only fair I keep this price discreet! We opted for no album or online gallery but very detailed edits. The rest I knew I could do myself. I just didn't think my fiancee would have been happy with me trying to photograph our own service ;)
I can't stress enough that this is a general guide to help couples understand a little more about the elements of photography they should be looking for at each general budget level. You will find each general area has its exceptions and you can get very good, and very bad, at all price levels.
For example when I started out I charged £600 with 3-4 days editing to build my portfolio. The results were good and it helped me build experience and case studies.
I hope this helps in focussing your thoughts on what you need from your photographer. If it has just confused you more I'm happy to have a call to advise further (NOT a sales call just to help buyers understand what they should get for their money).
If you are very pushed for your budget but don't want to compromise on quality of memories look for someone who's images you love, who may just be starting out, and ask to see a few full portfolio's to make sure they are able to capture a full day of great images. Alternatively, pick up the phone and chat to a photographer. We are mostly a friendly bunch and are usually happy to negotiate on price to fill dates in our diaries. Mid week deals and off season deals (October to March) are particularly good times to get those great price deals!
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