Wedding Photography Pricing – demystified…

Engaged couples and future brides are often unfamiliar with wedding photography and the pricing structure that comes with. Too often I hear the common, “OH MY, that’s a lot of money for 1 day of work”. In fact, many hobbyist photographers soon decide to take up wedding photography  “on the side” to make some extra cash. Well, I’m going to break it down and explain a few things that are often misunderstood and overlooked when it comes to wedding photography pricing.

TIME. The time a photographer invests into a wedding is far beyond the hours of the actual wedding. In fact, the average wedding photographer will put in a minimum of 40 hours of time for a wedding event according to the Professional Photographers of America.  Say what? Forty hours?  Yes, F*O*R*T*Y     H*O*U*R*S.   Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Pre-wedding: initial client meeting, engagement and/or bridal sessions, additional phone meetings, venue meetings with wedding planners, in-person planning, emailing and paperwork.
  • Wedding day: equipment checking and loading, travel time to venue, average number of hours at event.
  • Post-Production and preview session: downloading images, image editing, retouching, archiving, blogging, uploading to online galleries
  • Order Fulfillment and delivery: finishing images ordered, placing or printing the order, assembling  the album, proofing, printing, order pick-up and delivery.

PRODUCTS: Those beautiful albums with fine leather and yummy fabrics come at a cost. As do the actual prints, canvas wraps, online proofs, announcement cards, proof books, CD/DVD copies, cases, etc… These are what we call hard costs; all of which have a price tag passed on to the photographer but many times included in “packages”.

OPERATING COSTS: Let’s talk about all those little business things that would fall into this category.  A few categories are:

  • Photo gear
  • Insurance
  • Maintenance
  • Computer equipment
  • Rent
  • Admin fees (IRS, State Board, Merchant Accounts)

I will give some examples of the operating costs: Photo gear: camera bodies, lenses, batteries, flashes, camera bags, lens cleaners, remote triggers, umbrellas, light stands, video lights, memory cards. Membership fees: like that of PPA or WPPI. Online fees for websites, blogging sites, online proofing systems. Archival Fees: CD/DVDs, hard drives, off site archival websites. Computer costs: laptops, computers, monitors, calibrating equipment, memory, hard drives, peripherals. Software costs: programs like Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture, Final Cut Pro, Adobe PDF creator, or BentoAdmin fees for contracts, bookkeeping, financial advisors, insurance policies, credit card merchant fees, banking fees. Maintenance: camera repair/service, computer maintenance and archival fees.  Knowledge fees: workshops, seminars, tutorials, books and magazines.  Rent: studio fees, electricity, phones, furniture, internet. Advertising: in studio samples, postcards, business cards, letterhead, web links, banner ads. Travel fees: gas and parking.  Destination photographers also have to worry about airline, hotel, rental cars, meals, etc…

I’m sure I’m missing a lot of other miscellaneous items, but I think I made my point with this one.:-) There is just so much to consider when a professional wedding photographer determines their wedding pricing. Some photographers will have more costs than others, which will reflect on their pricing. The less costs for the photographer, the cheaper they can go. Be careful with those that are not operating a bona fide wedding photography business. Cutting corners can often interfere with the most precious memory you will have of your wedding. We’ve all heard about those horror wedding stories!

THE TALENT. A painting is a painting, right? That’s why you can buy an original Monet, Picasso or Van Gogh at your local Walmart. Okay, so I’m being a little facetious here. :-).  Seriously though, there isn’t much explaining with this one. We photographers are artists. We all have our own vision and our way of capturing images.  There are no rules on how to price your “artwork”.  Each photographer sets a value of what they think they are worth and it’s totally subjective. You can find photographers for $500 up to $100K.

The next factor is a biggie and overlooked time and time again…

THE EXPERIENCE. This isn’t the academic credentials, awards or the amount of weddings shot. (although all of those have added value). What I’m talking about is the overall experience.  You are not just paying someone to snap photos on your wedding day. If that were the case, you could rely on your Uncle Bob to take your photos. Instead,  you want someone to give you a pleasant and enjoyable experience from start to finish. Someone that knows what they are doing, someone who can make beautiful images…but also makes you feel relaxed and comfortable.  Someone that can capture a special moment and make it a piece of art to be kept in your home. Someone who makes the bridesmaids feel like princesses, the groomsmen like superstars and Grandma Rose very special. Someone who is professional and doesn’t embarrass you at the wedding.  Yes, the overall experience is huge and this means before, during and after the wedding.

So, there you have it. The little breakdown of wedding pricing and costs. In summary,  you are paying for time, products, operating costs, talent and THE EXPERIENCE. Don’t let prices and wedding packages be the only deciding factor in choosing your photographer. This is something you don’t want to just compare prices. Photographer A with Package 1 might seem like a deal in comparison to Photographer B and C, but it means nothing if the whole experience is less than stellar. Let me give you one example; Photographer A might not back up his images, maybe shoots with 1 camera and 2 lenses, so his costs are less, therefore he can offer a great package deal. Now, what if Photographer A could NOT get the awesome venue shot, because he didn’t have the right equipment and what if that photographer were to lose the digital files before you got your album (because he doesn’t have a solid backup process), or let’s say the one camera he was shooting with died before the ceremony started. What would that be worth to you? And, to top it off, he was a bit cold and awkward, so all the photos seemed somewhat rushed and  forced?  You get my point? There is a truth to the old saying, “You get what you pay for”. So, on that note, do yourself a favor…do your research.  Find a few photographers you like…pick up the phone and give them a jingle. I suggest meeting with them and see how the connection is.  If you want to reach out via email, be sure to include a phone number to have them call you.  Don’t be shy and just ask prices to compare numbers. Trust me. If you don’t want to meet them, at least speak with them on the phone.

I personally like to meet people in person, grab something to drink or even a bite to eat. It could be anything from cupcakes, to sandwiches to sushi. Just name the place and I’m there!  Pick up the phone and give me a ring. (get it? Give me a ring… pretty symbolic for weddings, don’t ya think?) Haha. Okay, so I laugh at my own jokes.:-)

Anyway, I hope this helps explain some of the differences in wedding photography pricing. So, hop on it! Don’t worry, you don’t have to have $100k to book me for your wedding like the image below :-).  I posted it just to get an ooooooooooooohhhhhhh. And for those enquiring minds, yes, it’s real! My wedding coverage starts at $3500.00


  • The Online Camera Store » Blog Archive » Wedding Photography Packages Explained and Understood. | Gayla … - […] Wedding Photography Packages Explained and Understood. | Gayla … Filed under: Uncategorized Comment (0) Article tags: album-, and-delivery, and-preview, […]

  • J - No wonder you have so much stress…..

  • Joe - Wow… I knew a lot of time and prep went into wedding photography but, I never imagined it was that much time. Thanks for the insight.

  • Lucia Li - Lucia: “Very well said!!”
    Isabella: “Amen!”

  • Kenneth - Great article. Not only does it explain how much work a *good* wedding photographer will put into your wedding, but also hints at why *becoming* a wedding photographer is not a job for everyone. It requires a lot of responsibility, dedication, and experience to do it well!

    BTW, great photo. Does your client contract say, “We prefer to be paid in cool stacks of Benjamins”? ;]

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