Many brides will splurge more on their photography budget than any other aspect of their wedding. It’s actually difficult to give an average percentage spent, but the industry standard is 10% so I would generalize that to around 8-12%. That being said, some brides will spend 20-30% of their budget on their dream photographer, knowing they will have to make some major cut backs in other areas of their overall budget. The cost of a photographer varies greatly and depends on quite a few conditions:
Creative Fee/Coverage: Many photographers are not creating packages for brides these days. Instead they are offering their services a la carte, starting with their creative fee or coverage of your event(s). This allows the bride to choose their own post-production services: albums, proof magazines, digital negatives, online coverage for guests to view and purchase their own images, prints etc. What’s great about the creative fee/coverage option is it allows the couple to spend their entire photography budget on the photographer, not on all the add ons that come after the wedding. Many brides are waiting a full year or longer to purchase their wedding album to help offset the cost of a more expensive photographer. Some are even foregoing any albums and are purchasing their negatives and printing their own images. To these couples it seems to be more about the quality and relationship with the photographer than all the bells and whistles that a more traditional package will offer.
Packages -including albums: The more traditional way to price out photography, packages allow couples to purchase everything. Each package will include certain add ons to the creative fee: engagement session, boudoir session, wedding album, parent albums, digital negatives online viewing of images, proof magazines, prints etc. Usually packages offer reduced rates to a photographer’s add ons list, making it more affordable and appealing to brides. If you are looking for coverage and multiple albums, a package might be the right decision for you. A photographer offering a creative fee will often times charge more for their album options because they were purchased separately. Some will offer a discount if you decide you want an album up front, but might not select it until a later date. This is considered an album credit.
Number of Photographers: Depending on the size and scope of your wedding, you might want to think about the number of photographers you’re hiring. A guest list under 100 can certainly handle one photographer, but if you have 8 bridesmaids and 8 groomsmen and you want both to be shot during the getting ready stage of the day, you need two photographers to handle that request. Obviously the larger the guest list, the more you should consider a second or even third photograph. If there are a lot of detail shots you’d like to have, a second photographer can take those images while the principle photographer is taking images of you getting ready. On the other hand, if you’re looking to have an intimate and personal wedding, no matter how large, one principle photographer would be a great option. In terms of budget, a second photographer might run you anywhere from $500-$2000.00 for the same coverage time as your principle photographer. You can also ask if a second photographer can be used for a portion of the total hours to help keep your budget in check. Ask your photographer how many people they take with them as their standard and if they suggest a second or third photographer based on your personal wedding scenario.
Number of Events: Many brides are creating wedding weekends including the welcome party on Thursday, rehearsal dinner on Friday, wedding on Saturday, and farewell brunch on Sunday. Planned activities are also being scattered throughout the extended weekend and some couples would like to have these events photographed. For less structured events like a welcome party or rehearsal dinner, I would suggest around 3 hours of coverage. It allows the photographer plenty of time to take some great images and meet some of your VIP’s before the wedding day itself. These auxiliary days can be added to create a package of coverage for your wedding event, often at a reduced cost. Keep in mind overnight accommodations will be necessary if your photographer is traveling further than an hour away, but you might have a room block somewhere and can add your photographer at that reduced nightly rate.
Geographic Location: For most vendors, traveling is more of a burden than a blessing. For photographers, however, there is no limit to where they can shoot a wedding. When selecting your photographer, don’t be afraid to look outside of the vicinity of your reception venue. Many photographers live in one state and work in another, some travel the world shooting destination weddings. The cost of their coverage will not increase at all either, you just need to provide them with overnight accommodations and I would even offer them a daily per diem for their travel expenses. That’s not to say there are plenty of very talented photographers right around the corner from your reception and I’m sure the preferred vendor lists will show you the best of the best in your area. There’s just a lot of incredible talent across the country when it comes to photography and you shouldn’t let a zip code stop you from selecting your dream photographer.
Wedding Date: Getting married on a Saturday in the middle of the summer is the most popular time to get married in New England. Because of its popularity, you will pay a premium for all of your vendors, including your photographer. If you want to save a bit of money consider getting married on a Friday, Sunday, or even a weekday to get a reduced rate. Some photographers are so booked that their premium days include Friday and Sunday, so just be aware and ask about that option up front. You can even think about a winter wedding which will definitely help with your budget. Certain photographers take the off season to travel for destination weddings in warmer climates and will charge a reduced creative fee in order to get a little rest and relaxation away from the snow.
If you missed Part 1 of the Wedding Budget Series on Venue/Catering check it out here.