10%.  The end.

KIDDING!

Although, if you do a Google search for this topic, you will notice that 10% is the general answer, but depending on how DIY your wedding is or frankly, how important photograph is to you, 10% just won’t get you what you want or need.

So why is 10% the “popular” answer?  What’s so special about having 10% of your overall budget devoted to photography?  Well, nothing really – it’s just a good starting point for the average wedding.  Before any bride gets her hopes and dreams set on a certain idea for her wedding day, addressing the idea of budget is crucial!  If you don’t know what your budget will be for the big day then you won’t be able to accurately show for vendors.

Did you notice that in the last paragraph I used the term “average wedding”?  That’s right folks, the average wedding devotes approximately 10% of the budget to photography.  But is your wedding average?  Let’s see how you compare to the average bride of 2011.  According to Wedding Bells magazine, the average cost of a Canadian wedding in 2011 was almost $23,500.  The same survey showed that the average cost of a wedding photographer in 2011 was nearly $2,450.  So how does your budget compare to that of the average wedding?  Similar?  More?  Less?

IMG 6916 BW - How Much of your Wedding Budget pays for Photography?
There’s nothing ‘average’ about a photo like this! Be cautious when searching for ‘average’ vendors or you may end up with just an average service.

If your wedding budget is higher than average ($30,000+) then there’s a chance that you’re planning a high-end affair with no detail overlooked!  Brides who typically plan high-end weddings often devote a higher percentage of their budget on photography as they also purchase fine-art albums to accompany their photography package (or choose a high end package that includes the album).  If your wedding budget is lower than average ($15,000 or less) then there’s an equally good chance that you are a young couple just starting out and are making most of your decisions based on budget.  Many couples who are on a strict budget have a difficult time finding a photographer for two reasons: First, talent is somewhat proportional to price.  Second, many couples simply want more coverage than their budget will allow for and will never find a photographer willing to work for so little money.

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So here’s how to set your wedding photography budget:

1.  Figure out what your “10% budget” is.  Take 10% of your overall budget and that can be a starting point to give you an idea of what range you have to work with.

2.  Talk with your fiance about how important photography is and determine your desired needs.  Do you want a photographer there all day or just starting from the ceremony onwards?  Do you want every image on DVD?  Do you insist on 2 photographers?  These are things you need to talk about to help you figure out what price range you are looking for in terms of photographers.

3.  Do some research on wedding packages and prices.  Compare what your desired needs are to what your 10% budget is.  Are those numbers comparable or are you wanting more than you were initially planning on paying for?

4-A.  Go back to the drawing board.  Re-look at your budget – can you expand your  budget for photography by tightening it somewhere else?  Or do you have to re-examine your desired needs?  Do  you really need full-day coverage or can you skip the ‘getting ready’ shots?  Do you really need that 2nd photographer?  Remember:  There’s a difference in between needingsomething and wanting something!

or

4-B.  Call the vendors you’ve researched into and setup meetings.  If you’re happy with their work, happy with the pricing, and happy with the talent – hire them!

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If you haven’t read my article about THE COST OF WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY, bookmark it and read it later, but for now, here’s a summary of what you’ll get for your money when looking for a full day (8+ hours) of photography at different price points:

less than $700– Chances are they are only semi-pro’s and are inexperienced.  They probably don’t have liability insurance or back-up gear and either don’t really edit their photos or only give you a handful of photos.  Probably a student.

$700 – $1,500 – A new professional; someone who is starting out and needs to build their portfolio.  Willing to work for less because of their lack of experience.  May limit the amount of editing their do on their photos or only give you a certain amount of photos

$1,500 – $3,000 – Professional, solo photographers.  Experienced and able to work in a variety of situations.  Generally give clients all images on DVD/flash drive and usually throw in freebies such as engagement sessions.  Reliable, talented and hardworking.

$3,000 – $4,500– Professional photographers with semi-pro or newly professional assistants.  The experienced partner takes a larger share of the money as the semi-pro assistant is willing to work for less as they are still building their portfolios.  The 2nd person (assistant) may not necessarily shoot all day as part of their  job may be assisting the primary photographer.  Thee primary photographer is experienced and able to work in a variety of situations ether as solo or as a team with their assistant.  Generally give clients all images on DVD/flash drive and usually throw in freebies such as engagement sessions.

$4,500 – $6,500– Professional photographer with a professional partner.  Two pro shooters all day who are hard working, efficient and able to work well on their own and as a team.  Results in many photo from many angles and usually all the photos are given to the client.  In the higher end of this price range, albums or extra retouching (ie: skin softening, eye brightening, etc.) may be included.

$6,500+ – Everything mentioned in the previous category but also typically includes large prints and/or canvases and extremely high end albums, often covered in experience materials like genuine leather.

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Now that you’ve gained some insight into the cost of wedding photography in relation to your overall budget, I just have one more word of advice:  Don’t plan your wedding according to a book!  Just because a magazine, website or book tells you to pay a certain amount for something doesn’t mean you have to do it!  Keep your overall budget in mind but it’s also important to invest into your memories; after all, your wedding day only happens once!