Twenty-six. Yep, 26 is an important number. Why? Because that’s how many pages Google has answering this question: “How much to spend on your wedding photographer”
You can find $500 up to, well.. honestly I found a photographer that regularly charges $25k. A few even charge double that.
So that’s the question of the hour right? You’re sitting there adding up costs– the Venue, the Dress, the Cake, your great Aunt Becky’s plane ticket from Wisconsin because she’s 95 yrs old and like a mother to you..
It’s starting to add up. So let me ask you about Aunt Becky who’s 95. Will you be happy with a
slightly blurry cell phone picture of the moment she saw you in your dress/tux? When her sweet face teared up seeing you all grown up and marrying the love of your life? Will you look back with smiles or little sighs of regret because that moment wasn’t even captured?
See, picking your photographer isn’t just about the money. It is the time and love they put into
the art of capturing the moment. I know there are a ton of options and I am going to help you vet them out and how much you can expect to pay.
First ask people questions.. when a photographers says hey can we meet for coffee or can we zoom chat or even a phone call.. make that appointment. Even if you have to talk to 10 or more, having interaction with the person ( or people) who will be documenting this most special day is important to see if you click. Think about it, when picking the cake you don’t have to eat it with the baker. The dress maker or designer isn’t going to help you into that dress, and you will spend almost as much time with these photographers as you do your bridesmaids/groomsmen and well Future spouse that day. Don’t you want them to be more like friends and family you’ve welcomed to the wedding.. (NOT your cousin Betty Jo who your mom made you invite even though you just KNOW she’s going to drink two glasses of champagne and bring up that time you ran naked through house when you were 5 in front of everyone.. No? Just me..? Okay, let’s move on.)
Ok so, the point is.. if you want robots to take pictures.. girl get a camera put it on a tripod and set it to go off every few mins and hope it catches a few good shots. Or put disposable cameras on the table .
So now you ask them experience.. throw odd questions at them.. “What would you do if a drunk Groomsmen took off for the Pool and started to strip and jump in it?” Let me caveat this with answering the correct response; “You run after him with your camera documenting the whole thing while motioning to a passing waiter to find you a towel so ya know, he isn’t cold when he gets out.”
Ask them their most memorable wedding moment.. hey its like Online dating out there.. and you swiped right, you want to know more before you let them pick you up for that first date. I will say this, don’t ask us our worst moment because any photographer worth their salt wouldn’t rat someone’s dirty tales out.. its uncouth.. And I won’t have that, no sir.
Take a look at their portfolio, and here is one I bet you never thought of.. if they also take family portraits.. go look at pictures taken with small children. Let me tell you something , if a photographer can hurdle more than one kid at a time nd still get gorgeous pictures worthy of framing.. DING DING DING you have a winner.. because wrangling a bunch of family members (Full grown mind you) into a family portrait is harder than that.. and believe me.. once upon a time I also was a Daycare Teacher and director.. I will take on 10 toddlers over one drunk bridesmaid who’s ex just showed up to your wedding with his new girlfriend.. ( oh my!)
Now let’s get to the meat and potatoes as they say.. (In case you missed in in my bio, I’m a Mississippi girl so excuse my drawl) First, plan ahead brides.. unless you are eloping, you are almost always going to need at LEAST 6 hours of coverage, especially if you want the getting ready shots. (More details on this as we go along) First off.. if you’re a New York City Bride.. 9 times out of 10 your are going to pay more than a bride who lives in Lost Springs Wyoming… (PS- they have a populations of like 4, but I think you get the point) It’s a real thing because depending on whether your Photographer does this full time or part time.. and wait .. Are they a Legal business with taxes, and liability insurance (yeah that’s a big thing because a lot of nicer venues will not let your Aunt Susie who takes pictures for fun ) photograph there with out 1-3 million dollars of insurance coverage.
And I am going to be real blunt with you (and you can Read more about what we togs do in my (The Inner workings of Tog Life! blog ) know that if you pay for 8 hours of time and you pay say $5000 for your 8 hours of shoot time , That doesn’t include travel, especially if it’s multiple locations.. and that doesn’t mean they made $625 and hour.. especially if you had a second photographer.. we spend anywhere between 60 -100 hours between phone calls emails and editing ( in know personally we clocked our last wedding at 72 hours of editing alone.. we are also extremely detailed.. a touch OCD, and maybe tipsy because you know.. it’s 2 am.. the kids are asleep and its quiet.. it’s like a date night for us.. but I digress)
You can expect for your new photographers and those just learning to run up to $500 Sounds great? however while we were all earning at some point..( believe me I will show you some of my first work ) You are going to lose out of a lot of focused shots.. a lot of shots over exposed ( if they even ever deliver those) underexposed, over saturated and honestly.. not all that esthetically pleasing, and if they are really new they just want their work to “look” like everyone else, so you get a lot of filters and black and white that will look dated and quickly end up being hidden away somewhere. Look this isn’t 100% true in all situations in the fact that you can find some amazing photographers at that price point, however like everything in Vegas.. it’s a gamble.
As you reach up to the 1500 to 2000 you will get your slightly more experienced.. and I will honestly say (because I used to be one) occasionally a needle in the haystack exceptional photographer who only shoots occasionally part time outside their full time job. You will get some better quality shots, and for a budget bride this isn’t an unreasonable This is where vetting them out is extremely important.. and not just Google reviews or even the knot.. those are important but can be faked with some good friends and a few fake email addresses. On that note, don’t let the bad reviews scare you off either, no one has a 100% batting average and sometime people are mean and sometimes.. sometimes the keyboard warriors take over and photographers occasionally have to fire their clients because they didn’t communicate their wants and desires properly and like any good relationship communication is key.
Now.. we get into the 3-4000 range.. this is where you are in your vetted photographers people who have been doing this 10 or more years.. they have invested not only their money but the most valuable thing.. time .. into learning their craft.. they are constantly learning new techniques, reimagining the the imagined and learning from those who have come before and even after them.. This is where you start to find photographers that might not have the most open availability because they are like that new iPhone or Prada Purse.. limited and exclusive and everyone wants it but not everyone can get it. Not no because they are stuck up, but because they take less client so that they can focus on the client they have. You aren’t on of 100’s of brides they talk to you.. you are their focus the most valuable time they spend that day. Does it mean that all in this price range are your perfect match or even the best photographers? Nope.. hey I have seen some that charge more that I scratch my head and go.. umm I have seen better pictures on a cell phone.. you still have to vet them you still need to see their work. While it is the responsibility of the photographers to give you their best.. you the Bride and Groom have an ideal you want and you have to research and make sure you get what you dreamed of and deserve.
There’s a quote from the movie “Bride wars”.. “You don’t alter Vera to fit you.. you alter yourself to fit Vera.” (Vera Wang just incase you were wondering) Now personally I do not think a Bride should ever alter herself to fit in a dress.. It states a point of the design and quality of the dress you dream of.. so you may have to alter your budget if you really want the best of the best. I know I sound blunt and I try to be honest with all of my brides.. so I am being honest with you. In life you get what you pay for.. it is as simple as that.
There are many things you can re-purchase or recreate.. memories and the preservation of them and time.. are not those things.
Sending all the love and calming thoughts your way as you plan what will be a spectacular day, and I hope this helps and gives you a better understanding of how to pick your photographers.
Congrats! You’re getting married! Rejoice and cry and smile! It really is going to be wonderful no matter what!