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How Much of your Budget Pays for Wedding Photography?

It’s about that time of year again; proposal season is almost here and shortly thereafter will follow an increase in internet activity as brides and grooms start researching how to plan a wedding.  One of the most popular questions asked by newly engaged couples is “How much of your budget pays for wedding photography?” and – truthfully – the answers you will find will only hit the tip of the iceberg and not give you any context whatsoever.  Knowing the average cost of wedding photography is only a part of the equation; you also have to make sure that you know what you’re getting for that price.

So what’s the real deal about the cost of wedding photography?

The average wedding planning website will tell you that wedding photography should cost about 10% of your overall budget… but that’s not totally accurate – for a few reasons.

First, that breakdown has been around for years.  While I don’t know the exact date that 10% became the popular “breakdown” percentage to pay for photographic services, I have a feeling that it’s been in existence since our parents walked down the aisle.  It’s definitely not representative of how photography has changed over the last decade; the transition from “traditional” film approaches to the artistic and photojournalistic approach taken by the majority of today’s photographers.  This breakdown has hot evolved despite the fact that photography has evolved.

Second, that number is not representative of what clients want out of their photos in today’s market.  Today’s brides want two (or three) photographers for full day coverage, they want digital copies of everything that is beautifully edited, they want albums, they want 500+ images from the day…. they want so much more than brides did 25 years ago when the average bride and groom received a 40 page album with about 40 photos in, taken by 1 photographer over the course of a handful of hours.

Finally, a photographer’s cost isn’t necessarily associated with how big your wedding (and therefore budget) is.  A photographer still has x-many hours of work to do whether your wedding has 30 guests of 130 guests or even 230 guests.  This means that those who have are planning a smaller wedding, and who probably have a smaller budget, won’t get a realistic number when they look at what 10% of their overall budget is.  The average Canadian wedding has 128 guests; if your wedding has less guests than this, that 10% estimate will be far from accurate.

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Scarborough Bluffs wedding photos. Image by Sarah at Ten·2·Ten Photography ( ©2015

So what is the cost of a wedding photographer?

It’s all relative to what you want.

If you want full day coverage, it will cost more than partial day covearage.

If you want two photographers, it will cost more than one photographer.

If you want an professional photo album, it will cost more than a do-it-yourself album.

If you want someone who has a decade of experience, a thorough publication history and produces award winning work, it will cost more than someone who is new to the industry.

If you’re looking for a number; I feel I can safely estimate that you should be looking at at least $3,000 for wedding day coverage with an established photographer; albums and second shooters would be in addition to that.  This, of course, is based on my experience in my own market.

Comparing a new photographer and their prices to an established photographer with experience may make it seem like the established photographer is super expensive and may even cause sticker shock.  What’s more important than the actual cost of the wedding photography; however, is to ensure you are comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges when you are researching your photographer.

While it’s not my place to tell you what you should or should not spend on your wedding photographer, please ask yourself one question: are you choosing the photographer you love the most, or are you being swayed only by the cost?

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