I understand where you’re coming from; you said “YES!”, you put on the ring and you started dreaming about your big day… only to have those dreams interrupted once you realized what kind of price tag is associated with those Pinterest-worthy weddings. You want to know how much of your budget should pay for certain vendors and you’d like to know some average costs to at least give you a reference point since you’re feeling a little swamped. When it comes to photography, you want to know that the average cost of wedding photography in Toronto is but you see such a huge variation from artist to artist that you’re now even more confused than when you started.
This article should help give you a little bit of perspective about the cost of wedding photography and what you can get for your money. The following is based on my experience in the industry.
The average couple wants full-day coverage; this means at least 10-12 hours – if not more!
Wedding days can be long days. By the time you get ready in the morning, go through the plethora of family photos, travel from point A to points B, C, and even D and then sit down for a tasty yet lavish dinner you’ve probably put at least 10 if not 12 hours into the day already; oh, and the party hasn’t even started yet! If you’re looking for full day coverage, you’ll want to look for packages that are at least 10 hours in length if not 12. Some packages, like the ones we offer, are very flexible in terms of full day coverage while others may require you to purchase over-time hours. Make sure to know the price of over-time hours before you secure your booking as this is very important!
The average couple wants digital images on USB.
Most wedding photography packages contain images on USB (or digital download); it’s pretty darn standard across the industry now. Make sure to inquire about whether or not the images are high resolution or web-resolution as there are some photographers who charge an additional fee for the high resolution images. More and more couples are now seeing the value in professional prints but the average client always wants a digital copy as well.
The average couple doesn’t need a second photographer.
There are benefits to having a second photographer and there are also plenty of reasons not to have a second photographer but this isn’t the place to discuss the matter. When it comes down to it; however, unless you require your photographer to be in two places at once it’s absolutely possible for 1 really great photographer to capture the essence of the day. Photography in and of itself is a luxury; having multiple photographers is even more of a luxury. You can expect a professional quality second shooter to be an additional fee or at least $400 if not $500+. Be aware of packages that by default contain a second shooter and whose price point seems a little too reasonable. It’s possible that you’ll be getting a newer or entry level second shooter whose work will not be up to par with what you’re expecting.
Be aware of “fine art” albums that aren’t actually fine art.
Often times photographers will add in photo albums for next to nothing and use words like “fine art” or “heirloom”. Words that make you think you’re getting a luxury product. You think you’re getting a great deal when you see that the price of the package you’re looking at includes an album. But then you receive the album and boy oh boy, what a disappointment! What’s the deal?
Just because a photo album is called “fine art” or “professional” doesn’t mean it’s a good quality album. Press printed albums are often the types of albums you see in lower priced packages because they are cheaper albums for your photographer to make. Press printed albums can be made professionally (from placed like Irisbook) and are at a higher end of the press printing quality scale but all of the consumer level albums are also press printed and their quality is questionable. Regarding consumer level press printing; the materials are cheaper, the inks are cheaper and the quality is… well… visibly different from that of a high quality album. How can you tell an album is press printed? Just take a close look at it; if it’s made up of tiny dots of ink that’s a press printed album or better yet – ask your photographer. They should be able to tell you what type of album it is and where it’s from.
If you want a truly professional album, insist on a giclée or a photographically printed album and have a conversation with your photographer about where they source their album from. An album has to meet certain criteria in terms of the materials it’s produced with to be considered “fine art” and unfortunately words like “heirloom” are just marketing terms and don’t actually guarantee you any particular type of printing.
The average photographer puts around 50 to 60 hours of work into every client.
While it would be awesome to work only one day a week and spend it hanging out at weddings with awesome couples, the truth is that a photographer has a lot of behind-the-scenes work to do with each and every wedding. Most of that is editing and admin work – the tedious yet necessary process that makes our images look awesome. Why is this important? Read on – trust me, I’m not trying to get on a high horse – I’m just trying to educate. Stay with me here.
The average photographer’s profit is only about 35% of the advertised package price: do the math.
While some photographers who have a considerable amount of experience, a great business plan and an efficient workflow can keep a bit more of the package cost as profit, from my experience mentoring other photographers as well as in the industry as a whole, I’d estimate that the average photographer only keeps about 35% (roughly 1/3) of their package price as actual profit.
With an average photographer working about 60 hours per client and with their take-home profit being only about 35% of the cost of the package, a photographer needs to charge around $2,700 for a full day, 1-photographer, digital-only package just to make minimum wage (once minimum wage becomes $15/hr as was recently mandated in Ontario).
To put that in perspective, if a photographer wanted to make an average Canadian wage of $25 per hour, the cost of a full day, 1-photographer, digital only package would be closer to $4,500
And what if you wanted another photographer? Add another $400-$500.
And what if you wanted to include prints and albums? That can up the cost, too.
The average couple is probably wondering why I brought up photographers workload and earnings…
… so where does that leave us in terms of answering our question? What is the average cost of wedding photography in Toronto? There’s a really good reason that I didn’t just create a list of photographers and slap some pricing to it: I wanted to be able to provide you, the reader, with an understanding of what you might be getting in terms of the “deal” that looks so good on paper and what the possibility of the resulting experience may be.
Well, we’ve learned that a wedding photographer needs to charge at least $2,700 just to make minimum wage based on anecdotal averages (and we all know that living off of minimum wage is incredibly difficult). We also learned that even a photographer who is charging $4,000+ for a full day digital package isn’t driving around in a Lamborghini. They’re just making a modest, average living.
That tells us that the the average cost of wedding photography in Toronto can be estimated to be between $3,500 and $4,000 BUT it can vary widely depending on so, so, SO many factors but if you’re looking for a reference point you can use this as a rough guide.
It’s important to note, however, that every photographer works differently and that a photographer’s pricing is always changing depending on their unique situation and the cost of running their business. If you want a photographer whose talents are average or better than average, it’s reasonable to also assume that you need to be prepared to pay roughly the average rate or more. While there certainly can be some deals to be found when it comes to new talent offering their services at a lower price point in order to build their portfolio, I strongly urge readers to be a wise consumer and consider certain factors when they see a “great deal”..
So you’ve found something cheaper? Here’s what you need to know:
- If you’re getting full day coverage with multiple photographer and/or albums for a price that is equal to or even lower than the average cost of wedding photography in Toronto, please be aware of a few things.
- How experienced is the second shooter? Is it new talent or someone who may be willing to work for free just to expand their portfolio? Very new photographers charge less for their services because they need the experience. But do you really want a second shooter at your wedding that is practicing? Most couples want a second shooter that is fully competent.
- Is the album included a consumer level album? Is it no different than an album you can order yourself or is it an actual photo printed/giclee album?
- Is the photographer running their business by the books? Are they paying their taxes or skipping out on taxes in order to keep more of the package price as profit? I’d hate to think of a colleague doing this but unfortunately it can happen sometimes.
- Does the photographer know their worth? If the photographer doesn’t know their worth or the correct costs of running their business they’ll likely get over booked (either on purpose or by chance) and burn out by the time your wedding rolls around. This means they risk not being on the A-game and that the image turnaround will be substantially longer than they quoted.
- Finally… and this is the scary part… is your photographer charging so little that they cannot sustain their business? If they aren’t bring in enough money to support themselves, keep up their gear as well as run a business and pay for things like insurances and gear upgrades, how can they guarantee you they’ll still be operational come your wedding day? Yes, it’s scary… but it’s always a possibility.
I know I didn’t really answer your question and at best I gave you a vague ballpark of reference; but my hope is that I’ve provided you with some really useful information that is thought provoking and more insightful than any list may be.