photo courtesy of docuwedding
Now the excitement of your engagement is over you are no doubt getting down to the daunting task of planning your wedding. The first place most couples start is by setting their date and deciding on their budget - this may include an unnerving chat with parents - and then once that’s done the fun part can begin.
Different people have different priorities but blowing the whole wedding budget on an expensive venue and a luxury high-end wedding dress is relatively pointless if you have nothing left over for a competent professional wedding photographer to capture your big day. For most couples, the day itself will rush by in a blur, and you may have family and friends who have travelled for miles to be there - the only thing you’ll have left to remember the day is the wedding photographs.
If you have just started planning your wedding, then you may be surprised to find how expensive booking a photographer for your event can be.
Some of the requests are that come through our ‘Get a Quote’ forms are quite revealing. Some people will be asking for 12 hours wedding photography, from bridal preparations until the bride and groom depart for the honeymoon, a USB stick of all the images taken, an online gallery, a TV slideshow of the wedding pictures and an album with maybe two parents albums thrown in. This is great until the photographers get to the bit where the client has stated their budget. £500!
Although many wedding photographers are charging less than £500, you’d be unlikely to get an experienced pro and a wedding album plus all the other extras thrown in. Setting a realistic budget for your wedding photography is essential - you may be disappointed with the quality and coverage available at the lower end of the market.
So how much do you need to set aside for a wedding photographer…
Prices for a wedding photographer will vary based on a few factors. London wedding photographers and those found in individual counties in the South East may, on average, be more expensive than Northern England and Wales for example. I say ‘on average’ because you will still find some very expensive, high-end wedding photographers in every corner of Great Britain. When setting your budget it's important to remember:
Hopefully, that has given you some idea of how much you should budget to get you started - only you can really decide on how much you want to spend on a wedding photographer but you are probably wondering why the prices vary so much - under £500 to over £5000 is quite a variation for any service.
"The average price for full day wedding photography package is roughly £1550"
‘Getting what you pay for’ is obviously a truism for most things but it is also true that paying the highest prices may not be the best solution or guarantee you get the photos you want. The reality is that a lot of the top wedding photographers have a very individual style and are more interested in shooting high-end destination weddings in glamorous locations with incredible scenery - and light. They would most likely not be interested in shooting certain weddings in some locations because it might affect their brand (I know - but that’s the world we live in). The point about this is that even if you decide to put away half your budget for a high-end wedding photographer they might not be interested in a mid-range wedding in Stoke on a wet Tuesday in November. They may also not necessarily have the skills required to shoot such an event if they are only used to shooting in incredible locations around the world.
Conversely paying under £1000 for a wedding photographer may not necessarily mean you get low-end photos. There are many excellent, professional and fully trained wedding photographers shooting around the UK producing fantastic wedding pictures for less than £1000. Location is a factor, the cost of living varies tremendously throughout the UK. A photographer based in the North East of England will no doubt have lower business running costs than a London based wedding photographer, where rents and business rates are sky high.
Experience is also one of the most significant factors when considering price. Cheaper photographers may be brilliant but because they might be new to the wedding industry they may be charging less initially while they build up their portfolios - this is the main reason you will find adverts on some price comparison and ‘get a quote’ sites offering free wedding photography. A free wedding photographer will often be somebody with no portfolio of weddings they have shot and apparently no experience. They are trying to get into the business by buying their way in. This has always happened in all creative industries - if you are on a meagre budget, then it may be your only choice but so not despair, many of the very best wedding photographers have at some point shot for free for portfolio purposes. The tricky bit is trying to spot them when they are new. A good idea might be to ask a friend who maybe has some experience of photography or works in graphic design or other creative industries to help you find someone. Warning: Hiring someone who is prepared to work for free carries quite considerable risk as you won’t even be paying them a deposit or booking fee to secure their services - there might not be much incentive to turn up if they suddenly get cold feet or a better offer. You may be better off paying someone in the sub-£500 bracket as at least you will be getting a contract and you will have paid a deposit.
Why take a risk though on what for many people will be one of the most important events of their lives? The sensible thing to do is to set aside a realistic amount for a professional, experienced wedding photographer at the start of your planning process.
For many years wedding photographers offered wedding album only packages. The end product, the method of delivery, for wedding photographs, was a beautiful, handmade, leather-bound wedding album. The photographer would never hand over the negatives or the digital files to the client. If you wanted more prints or maybe another album you would have to return to the photographer to make your order. Over recent years that has changed drastically, and the most common way of delivering the images now is by USB stick or via digital download from a secure server. Wedding albums are now more of an added extra. It was also quite common for wedding photographers to start at the Church and then only shoot until you sat down for the wedding breakfast. The majority of the photographs would be quite formal and staged.
Modern wedding photography packages are now much more flexible. All day coverage from bridal preparations until after the first dance is now the norm - usually about 10 hours coverage. Building your own package to suit your particular requirements on the day is now entirely possible, and many photographers will offer hourly rates if you are on a budget. Here’s a list of some of the main options you should be aware of when requesting a quote.
When many couples first start searching for their ideal wedding photographer, and it becomes apparent that the really, really great ones aren’t exactly cheap a common question is “Why does wedding photography cost so much?” After all, it’s just a day’s work and for many people on an average income £1500 probably represents a month’s take-home pay after tax. The reality is that the UK average cost of a wedding photographer at approximately £1550 actually represents remarkably good value. Not only will the photographer be turning up on the day to shoot for 10 hours or so, they will be bringing about £15000 worth of high-end professional equipment, fast low light lenses, back up cameras, lighting equipment, spare batteries, tripods and even a laptop so they can back up your precious wedding images as they shoot. Also, remember that professional photographers don’t just copy the pictures to their computer and send you a set. There is hours of editing and ‘post-production’ to be carried out after the event. A days work is in reality about 40 hours of total time spent working on your wedding. Wedding photographers can spend hours on the computer in Photoshop and Lightroom to make sure your wedding images are the best they can possibly be. Remember they are self-employed professionals and have running costs including insurance, advertising, replacing equipment and tax to pay on their earnings.
What if a relative or friend offers to shoot your wedding for free. What could possibly go wrong? You may be tempted to get your Uncle Bob to shoot your wedding to save money. He has just got a new digital SLR for his birthday, and he’s very keen to help you out as a favour. After all, he took some adorable photos of the cat. Be very careful if you go down this route. Shooting a wedding is one of the most demanding areas of photography. As we’ve seen, a professional wedding photographer won’t just have one camera they’ll have a backup, they’ll have lenses with wide apertures so they can shoot in low light, they’ll have more than enough memory cards etc. They’ll also have top of the range cameras with more than enough battery power to shoot all day and into the night. They’ll probably have been shooting weddings for a while and know exactly where to be with exactly the right lens - because they have the experience! This is what you are paying for.
Most professionals shoot in a file format called RAW - this is like a digital negative and allows the photographer to change the settings like colour balance and highlights. The downside is that this increases the time spent in post-production and hence increases the cost. Your Uncle Bob probably won’t be shooting in RAW format and instead, be relying on his camera to turn the photos into JPEGs as he shoots. The limitations of this will only be apparent once he shows you the images.
You’ll see this term used a lot by wedding photographers instead of prices - ‘Your Investment’ It really is the best way to think about wedding photography. The food, the drink, the flowers will be amazing on the day, but your wedding album is the only thing that lasts. Imagine the joy in years to come when you’re showing your wedding photographs, beautifully stored in a leather-bound Jorgensen wedding album, to your grandchildren - that is priceless and well worth the investment. If you have time, then it is worth choosing your wedding photographer well in advance and securing their services.
When booking a wedding photographer, you will almost certainly have to pay a deposit/booking fee to secure their services. This will usually be between 10 - 25% of the total cost. You will also be asked to complete a contract where the photographer will set out their terms and conditions. The balance, as with nearly all wedding services, will be due at a specified date before the wedding. Make sure you are comfortable with all the terms and happy with the delivery timescale and that there are no unexpected extra charges, for travel expenses for example.
"Our biggest regret is not spending more money on a professional wedding photographer"
The pictures took two months to arrive, and when they did, I burst into tears. They were absolutely awful.
The real cost of wedding photography should be justified by the incredible pictures and fantastic customer service
Booking the perfect wedding photographer for your wedding is a daunting task - before booking make sure you ask these questions