Wedding photo costs...
Wedding photographer

What you should know

When the cake is cut and the dress has been worn, one thing remains forever after the wedding (besides love, of course): the photos.

Choosing a wedding photographer is one of the most important decisions a couple will make for their big day, but hiring an appropriately priced photographer can be confusing.

What's too high or too low? What percent of your budget should you spend? Here, professional photographers and wedding experts weigh in.

Generally speaking, you can expect to spend 10 to 15 percent of your budget on wedding photography coverage, and another 10 percent on any accessories you want to purchase, whether before or after your wedding, says Lia Moore, wedding designer and planner at Full Circle Eventi. Your package should include the digital negatives of your event, but be sure to clarify the specifics with the photographer. Many photographers will only enhance 10 to 15 photos, while the rest of the 700 images are only negatives, she warns.

"You'll hear a lot of people say 10 to 15 percent, but if photography is important to you, don't be afraid to make it a larger portion of your budget," says Christine Lee Smith, of Christine Lee Smith Photography. "Every person is different, but 10 to 15 percent is a good baseline average. Remember, in photography just like everything else, you get what you pay for."

The actual cost of the engagement and wedding photos varies greatly by city and what is included in the package, but a general estimate is $300 to $500 for engagement photo shoots, and $2,500 to $10,000 for wedding shoots, according to Steve Lesnick, photographer at Toastphoto. The bride and groom should read the contract carefully to see how many photos the price includes, whether an album is included, etc.

Talent doesn't come cheap

Experience also determines how much a photographer should cost. "A new photographer (less than two years pro) would be high-minded to charge $5,000," Smith says. "Years of experience add to the value, so make sure to look at plenty of samples. And don't be afraid to ask to see an ‘entire event,' not just the best of."

Wedding packages can be as sparse as shooting only, to as deluxe as including e-sessions and albums, she says. "In wedding photography, remember more is not always better," Smith explains. "Compare two hypothetical photographers, both charging $3,000: Photographer A is also including an e-session, eight hours on the wedding day, and an album; photographer B is only providing eight hours on the wedding day. Which is the better deal? It depends — the better question is whose photographs do you like more? It may be worth it to get less now, and have photographs that are worth saving later."

It's imperative to read the contract carefully to determine what kind of deal you're getting for your money, says Chris Mader, with Timothy Whaley & Associates Photographic Artists. "Do you have an out if you don't like the photographer?" He says. "When do you get to meet them? If it's two weeks or two months before your wedding, it won't matter if you don't like them; who on earth are you going to hire at that point?"

Lastly, Mader says be cautious of the lowest cost photographer. "Experience, professionalism, service and quality simply aren't cheap," he says.


Wedding videos are a hot trend and are often shown at the rehearsal dinner, bachelor(ette) parties or at the reception. But a professionally done video can be super costly, so rather than hiring an overpriced cameraman, try Cadaboo, a quirky video editing website that offers a team of professional animators that help to spice up your big day. Simply upload your favorite pictures and create a video that combines the personal and professional aspects you crave.

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Comments on "How much your wedding photographer should cost"

John Thiessen April 01, 2014 | 10:23 AM

What's the matter Mr Hittcam... You sound like a photographer that is scared to death of your industry being challenged with quality products knowing full well anybody can buy a DSLR a photograph a wedding...

DavidM April 01, 2014 | 7:41 AM

I'm kinda surprised nobody sees the true point of this "article".... it's posted on the website that offers some sort of financial reward for writing. It doesn't matter how ridiculous what you write here is. Just find a subject and fart something out. If you generate some controversy - even better, it brings up the ratings and in the end someone somewhere in some mysterious way makes some money on it.

James Hittcam March 31, 2014 | 9:20 PM

The WORST thing you can do is risk money on a Wedding Cinema Company...Its a Sham. The only difference between wedding cinematography and wedding videography is several iterations of the word Cinema and 3 times the price! It's just Wedding Video with a fancy name...... These cinema guys will: fight with your photographer :block your guests, Make you sign ridiculous contracts, Take up to a year to deliver your "film" and in the end you'll end up being held hostage to some Felini wannabe's video stream of Consciousness --where you don't even get to pick the shots or the music. Avoid Avoid

Oren Arieli March 31, 2014 | 6:18 PM

I had to add my voice to the chorus here, as I believe you're doing a major disservice to your readers by sending them to some "Jib-Jab" wedding animation site instead of a real cinematographer. I'm not sure what terrible experience you might have personally had, but it's pretty obvious that you haven't seen what amazing wedding cinematographers are doing to elevate the art and craft of a wedding movie. Do yourself a favor and check out some of the great works being done today. Then tell us in all honesty that it's overpriced.

Ryan March 31, 2014 | 5:09 PM

Glenn, an e-session is an engagement session.

Ryan March 31, 2014 | 5:09 PM

Whoever wrote this has no real clue about wedding photography or wedding videography. Most all photographers that are decent will NOT give you digital negatives. At all. At most you'll get hi-res jpegs, which is NOT the same. If you go looking for the digital negatives you're going to find mostly new photographers that haven't a clue what they're doing for the most part. And the one regret most brides have is that they didn't hire a cinematographer. This is NOT a glorified cameraman. Expect to pay at least 3k-5k, but you'll get an AMAZING memory of your day. Photography and video are BOTH needed. Truly. You'll regret not spending the money on them both in the end. You want to save money, go for a cheaper invitation, don't get the full limo, do simple but classy flowers, tell the DJ no lighting package needed, etc. You can save money a lot of ways, but don't skimp on the only tangible thing you're left with afterwards to remember the day and share it with family future and present... the images and the wedding film are worth the money. Wilted flowers and invitations that will end up in the garbage are not.

Jim March 31, 2014 | 4:43 PM

Why would you publish such ill informed bad advice? Professionally done cinematic wedding films are a treasure to help relive the wedding day and share it with family and friends as well as future children and grand children. How sad that you would deny that for your own self serving purposes. Hopefully most will see through your drival.

Brian March 31, 2014 | 4:37 PM

Corie, Your bonus section could not be more WRONG! After filming hundreds of weddings, EVERY client loves and cherishes their video especially as time goes on. I have had MANY parents of the bride and groom pass away after their wedding and LOVE seeing their dad walk them down the isle, give a wedding toast, or just have the last live memory of their parent. Suggesting that Cadaboo will capture any of these real emotions in simply ludicrous. Shame on this article!

David Robin March 31, 2014 | 3:59 PM

What an absurdly misinformed article this is! Perhaps you should have done some research first and discovered the thousands of emotional, creative and essential wedding films that propagate families across the globe! Professional Wedding filmmaking is in its golden age, and you are doing your readers a HUGE injustice with this moronic drivel.

Greg Idasz March 31, 2014 | 3:48 PM

Talking about video as an "overpriced camerman"?? Ouch. You've apparently not walked in one of their shoes. Crafting a wedding film requires more work, time, patience and talent than any photo job out there. The additional audio engineering, story telling, colour grading, etc...

Scott March 31, 2014 | 3:20 PM

As a wedding photographer who photographers 25 or so weddings a year your bonus advice is way off. An esperienced videographer is HUGE asset to your wedding. Their video will be top notch, they will act professionally and they and your photographer will work well together. Your same advice for a photographer would still ring true if you substituted "photographer" for "videographer"

A Wedding Pro March 31, 2014 | 3:12 PM

This has got to be one of the most ill-informed articles. I have photographed/filmed over 1200 events and so little of this article makes any sense. And as far as the video/film side of things...seriously? Easily the dumbest option for a couple.

David Hepburn March 31, 2014 | 3:11 PM

Advising readers with the Bonus information to use a cheap service instead of "hiring an overpriced cameraman," for a wedding film does your whole article a disservice. You discredit everything you've just said about photography by treating cinematography that way. Really disappointing.

Are you crazy March 31, 2014 | 3:11 PM

What kind of advice it that to tell couples to not hire a professional cinematographer to shoot their wedding? You suggest uploading amateur material to a website and set the expectation that the end results "combines the personal and professional aspects you crave". If it is not professionally shot then explain to me how it will include "professional aspects you crave" a couple would desire? This is akin to suggesting that a florist is not needed, and aunt May can arrange some pretty flowers. Heck why hire a professional photographer then - uncle Ted has a nice camera, just let him take the photos (no offense to the aunt May's and uncle Ted's out there). I love how the "bonus section" starts off with wedding videos are a hot trend but then dismisses the value of a professionally shot and edited wedding film. If they are a hot trend (which they are and have been for the last 10-15 years) then why not do better by your readers and offer some real advice? Brides reading this - do yourself a favor and research wedding cinematography. If you hire a experienced, professional cinematographer I can promise you its a decision you will not regret.

Jason March 31, 2014 | 2:33 PM

Cadaboo is absolutely disgusting no one in their right mind would pay for that crap!!

Glenn N March 31, 2014 | 1:56 PM

I am a full time professional photographer since 1979 and have photographed over 1000 weddings and countless studio sessions. Can someone tell me what an e-session is?

chris March 31, 2014 | 1:41 PM

"negatives" is purely a film term. FILES is the digital term. You get what you pay for - low end photographers here will shoot in JPG mode and at the end of the day burn every file, as shot, to a disk. Hand it over and walk away. The bride has thousands of images to wade through, the good with the bad. It can take a few days to sort out the images and adjust them for delivery if not longer. So to save money you'll have to do that work yourself. For more money the photographer will shoot in RAW format (better images as more info is captured, more editing possibilities afterwards) and will spend the time to separate out the 'bad' ones (people blink, test shots, etc) adjust and edit the rest and deliver them in 2-6 weeks. For the most money every file is retouched individually as if it were gong to be a wall portrait. Time is money of course. And PLEASE get an album and prints! Show me your pictures from 5 years ago. What? They were on the phone you lost? The computer got a virus? The disk won't read anymore in your new computer (if it even takes a disk). And you spend a couple of thousand dollars on images that will sit on the disk on the shelf never to be enjoyed or seen again. Books last hundreds of years - just look in any library. Wall portraits and prints will to. A nice wall portrait from your wedding will be seen and enjoyed every day of your life. A true bargain!

SC of NJ March 31, 2014 | 12:46 PM

I take "negatives" to mean the digital files.

Andrew February 03, 2014 | 9:15 AM

No photographer in their right mind will give out the "digital negatives". Firstly, they are exactly that, a negative-an unfinished product ready for processing, exactly as in the analogue days. It's possible for a digital negative to look nothing like the finished product, hence the reason why a photographer should never give them out. It opens up the possibility of a lawsuit. Secondly, 99.9% do not have the software or knowledge to open these files- if they are true digital negatives, i,e, RAW files. Hence there is little point.

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