How Much Does a Wedding Photographer Cost?

Your wedding photos are one of the most treasured parts of your big day. Find out how much wedding photographers cost and what you get for that money.

By Deanna deBara

wedding photographer captures moment
Photo by Unsplash

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, according to a 2017 Zola survey of over 750 engaged and newlywed couples, both groups ranked wedding photographer as the second most important element of their wedding. 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 wedding photography cost?

Wedding photographer rates vary depending on factors such as location, wedding length, the photographer’s experience level, and the types of services you want. Typically couples spend between $1500 and $3000 on their wedding photographer. It’s a wide range, but you can expect to spend about 10-12% of your budget on photography and/or videography.

Of course, those are just average costs. You can easily spend less—or much, much more—on your wedding photography. 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 in a major city like 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’re probably determined to get the most for your money. 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 and travel. 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. 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.
  • Number of photographers. Having a second shooter 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 obviously, 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. Be sure to ask your photographer of choice if editing is included.
  • Images and print release. After the editing process is over, your photographer should provide you with all the images from your wedding. Typically, this will come in the form of a USB drive or an online gallery where you can download photos. 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.
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. Engagement shoots can cost anywhere from $200 to $600 (and up) on their own.

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:

  • Traditional. As the name suggests, this style of wedding photography is classic 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.
  • Storytelling. One of today’s more popular wedding photography styles is storytelling. In this style (which takes a page from photojournalism), 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.
  • Vintage. If you’re having a vintage wedding, you’ll want vintage photos to match. This style of photography uses lighting and filters to create an antique feel.
  • 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) shooter 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.

Many photographers will include a second shooter 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, but typically falls between the $25 and $50 per hour range.

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.

The cost of wedding videography can vary even more widely than wedding photography—anywhere from $500 to $5000+. 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.

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. Some caterers include vendor meals, but others don’t. If they don’t, you’ll have to shell out extra cash to make sure your photographer (or photographers) 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 $50 and $200 is appropriate.
  • Prints and products. Some wedding photographers will include prints, a print credit, and/or a wedding album in their packages, but many don’t. If you want prints and a wedding album, make sure you find out how much they cost ahead of time so you know what’s coming.

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.