How Much Does a Wedding Photographer Cost in 2023?

Wedding photos encapsulate the emotions and memories of your special day. Learn about wedding photographer costs and packages to find the perfect match for your needs.

By Monica Mercuri

average wedding photographer cost
Photo by Zola

Your photographer has one of the most important jobs at your wedding: to capture the joys of your big day so you can enjoy them for years to come. In fact, Zola's 2022 First Look Report, a survey of 3,300+ engaged couples, revealed 73% of couples are willing to splurge on their photographer. So, if you’re going to skip any standard wedding procedures to save on the cost of your wedding, don’t let it be hiring a photographer. The prices for wedding photographers can vary substantially—it really depends on what you want. Let’s break down how much a wedding photographer costs.

How much does a wedding photographer cost?

Wedding photographers can cost as little as $1,500 for a photographer at the beginning of their career all the way up to $30,000+ for the work seen in magazines like Vogue and Vanity Fair.. It’s a wide range, but you can expect to spend about 10-12% of your budget on wedding photography. Wedding photographer rates vary depending on factors such as wedding length, the photographer’s experience level, and the types of services you want. As with most services, the cost of living where your wedding is and where your photographer is based will have a large impact on the range of prices you will see. The amount you choose to invest in photography is up to you. Like we mentioned, a lot of factors determine your final spend. For example, if you hire a newer photographer in an area of the country with a lower cost of living, you’re going to pay less than if you hired an experienced photographer for an event at a wedding venue in New York or San Francisco.

What will you get with a standard wedding photography package?

Not all wedding photography packages are created equal. Now that you know the basic numbers, you probably want to understand what you can expect for the investment. It’s important to really understand all the different pricing options and packages available to you. What’s included, what’s not included, and how much it all costs can vary widely from photographer to photographer.

Some of the most important areas to consider when evaluating wedding photography packages include:

  • Time. The price of your wedding photography will depend on how long you need your photographer. Most wedding photographers sell their services in blocks of time ranging anywhere from 6-10 hours.
  • Travel. If your wedding photographer has to travel, that will also up the charge. Even if you don’t have to necessarily “pay-per-mile,” you’ll still need to cover accommodations and travel costs if they are coming in from out of town for your event. . Ask upfront if they will have a travel fee or require accommodations for your venue.
  • Number of photographers. Having a second photographer on site at your wedding is a great way to capture more of the big day—especially if you’re having a larger wedding. But undeerstandably, two photographers cost more than one, so if you want to have a primary and secondary photographer, expect a higher price tag. More on this below!
  • Editing. Capturing photos at your wedding is only the first part of the equation. Editing is the second. Photographers will spend a huge chunk of time going through all their shots from your wedding, choosing the best photos, and then editing them to make them look, well, picture perfect. Editing is an essential part of any wedding photography package as the rule of thumb is at least one hour of editing for every hour spent capturing the images. Some photographers are able to offer a lower rate by not spending as much time editing, only using pre-set filters, or sending the images to be edited by someone else overseas.
  • Images and print release. After the editing process is over, your photographer should provide you with the contracted images from your wedding. Photographers will typically provide a range of the number of photos you should expect. Typically, this will come in the form of an online gallery where you can download photos, and potentially a USB drive. Many photographers will also include a print release, which allows you to print the photos for your own personal use. If you’re planning on getting physical copies of your wedding photos, don’t forget to ask about a print release right away. The vast majority of professional photographers will not give you ownership rights of the images, and will not give you the raw, unedited images.
  • Albums and Prints. Many photography packages include some physical products like prints, albums, and “parents albums” (a smaller version of a full album). You can also add these on separately on an a la carte basis. If you need to drop something to make a favorite photographer work for your budget, here is a great place to save. You can always add an album from your photographer to your registry or create your own later with Zola.
ScratchStudios InlineImage 1080x720 2 (1) Photo Credit // Scratch Studios

Are engagement photos included?

Engagement photos are great for more than just announcing your upcoming nuptials (and getting some high-quality snaps of you and your SO). An engagement photo shoot is a great way to get to know your photographer and get comfortable in front of the camera ahead of your wedding.

Many wedding photographers include an engagement photo shoot as part of their wedding photography packages—but not all. Before you commit to a photographer, ask if an engagement session is included. If it’s not included—and it’s something you want to do—it’s important to factor the additional cost into the overall price before making a decision.

What are the different wedding photography styles?

Every wedding photographer has their own style—and you want to make sure that style aligns with your own (and aligns with your budget!). Some of the most popular wedding photography styles include:

  • Classic. As the name suggests, this style of wedding photography is traditional and more on the formal side. Expect a lot of posing and staged shots.
  • Editorial. If you want your wedding photos to look like they belong in the pages of a magazine, an editorial-style photographer is the best fit for you. These shots are stylized, fashion-forward, and typically have at least a hint of glamour.
  • Photojournalistic. One of today’s more popular wedding photography styles is photojournalistic. In this style the photos tell a story. Your photographer will spend a lot of time capturing intimate, candid moments—and then arranging them in a way that tells the story of your wedding day
  • Fine Art. If you want your wedding photos to have an avant-garde feel, fine art photos, which are highly stylized and feature dramatic poses, clothing, and backgrounds, are a great way to capture the look.

The wedding photography style you choose is, of course, up to you. Just keep in mind that some styles such as fine art or editorial may require more planning, shooting, and editing on the photographer’s side, which will result in a higher price tag.

Should I hire a second photographer?

One photographer or two photographers or even more photographers—that is the question. There are a few reasons to go with a single photographer—the first being, of course, that it’s more affordable. If you’re having a small wedding, one photographer might be all you need.

More than one photographer definitely has its perks, too. A second (or third) photographer can capture important moments (like the vow exchange or first look) from multiple angles. More photographers also have the option to divide and conquer. While one is snapping photos of the wedding party, the other can be taking photos of your wedding venue or other detail shots. If your wedding has more than one location (like a church and then a reception hall), two photographers are critical as one simply can’t be in two places at once!

Many photographers will include a second photographer in their pricing packages—or, if they don’t, they’ll offer the option to add a secondary photographer. The cost of a second photographer can vary widely - again, a NYC wedding photographer is going to be pricier than a photographer in a more rural area.

JessicaHuntPhotography InlineImage 1080x720 Photo Credit // Jessica Hunt

What about a wedding videographer?

If you want a video of your wedding day, you’ll need to hire a separate wedding videographer—and you may really want to. In that same Zola survey, over one-third (35%) of newlywed couples wished they hired a videographer. Capturing your wedding on video is a dynamic way to relive your special day. Many photographers offer this as an additional service, using a member of their team to capture video as they do photography.

The cost of wedding videography can vary even more widely than wedding photography—anywhere from $500 for a camera on a tripod of just the ceremony, to $8000+. On average, couples will spend about $2000 on their wedding video, but keep in mind that a number of factors (video length, number of videographers, and time on-site) can push that number up or down. As you consider videography, it is important to think about the relationship between the photographer and videographer, as they will be looking to capture the same events and will need to communicate well.

Anything else?

The package price will cover the bulk of your wedding photography services—but that price isn’t the only cost you’ll need to think about. Here are a few additional costs to consider (and work into your budget) when choosing a wedding photographer:

  • Meals. Photographers have to eat (along with your other vendors who are working your entire event!). Some caterers prepare vendor meals, but others don’t. If they don’t, you’ll have to coordinate to make sure your photographer (and any other on-site vendors like a DJ) is fed. You can either pay your caterer for extra heads (vendor meals typically fall in the $15 to $30 per person range) or arrange to have food brought to the venue to feed your photographers.
  • Tips. Tips are not included in a wedding photographer’s package—but it’s definitely something you want to factor into your budget. Depending on the package price, a tip of anywhere between $100 and $300 is appropriate.

In the end, how much you pay for your wedding photographer will depend on a host of factors. But no matter how much of your budget you spend on wedding photos, the end result is memories that last a lifetime—and, in our opinion, that’s priceless.

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