How much should you pay for Wedding Photography?
Money. It's such an integral part of our lives, and yet it can be so awkward to talk about!
But, when it comes to wedding planning, money comes up A LOT. There are wedding resources for every budget, and it's easy to get lost in all the different rates and offerings of vendors. This is especially true of photography as cameras and lighting equipment have become more affordable and more and more folks have jumped in as both part-time and full-time photogs.
So, what's the right amount to pay for your wedding photography? Well, it depends.
Google will tell you that prices range, citing average costs all the way from $650 - $3000. Personally speaking, I've seen photographers quote as low as $200, and as high as $15,000! That's a huge range, so how do you know where your needs fall?
First things first, let's get this out of the way - cheaper doesn't always mean worse (and vice versa)! Pricing is a personal thing, and there are so many factors that go into determining a rate. The easiest way to tackle it is to work backwards. Set your budget, and find photographers in your area that fit into that range. Some folks don't post their prices online, so you might have to do some footwork on this and reach out to get the information you need (there's value in this part of the process too, but I'll touch on that later).
The most obvious thing to look at is the photos! You want a photographer with a portfolio you LOVE. If there's only one wedding showcased on their site, that might be a red flag. Look at their social media accounts, see how often they're shooting weddings, read what clients are saying about them, and consider overall how they're presenting themselves.
Now lets get back to that reaching out process. If you messaged them with an inquiry, how long did it take them to get back to you? Peak wedding season for full-time shooters can be a doozy, so maybe it takes them a couple of days - but they're setting the stage for what they're like to work with. If they don't get back to you in a reasonable amount of time, that can be a little worrisome. Things change as you move through wedding planning, and you want to know that your photographer is reliable!
Narrow your search down to a handful of your favorites that fit into your budget, and get ready to ask questions. At the very least, you should know the following.
1. Their experience level
Whether your wedding would be their 5th, 50th, or 500th wedding - you deserve to know how long they've been shooting weddings, and how familiar they are with all the bumps and hiccups that can happen. A seasoned photographer has seen it all, and will be ready for just about anything.
2. How they backup and store their files
We're in the digital age, and that means it's much easier for photographers to hold onto your images, but things can still happen. Hard drives fail, files get corrupted, and (although rare) sometimes someone deletes something on accident.
You should know how your images are stored, as well as if (and for how long) they will store your images. If you yourself have a hard drive failure, and all of your photos are digital, can you get them back? A solid contract will lay out the expectations so that you (and your precious memories) are protected!
3. What their contingency plans are
Photographers are human, and life happens. People get sick, have car trouble, and family emergencies come up. You should know what policies they have in place if for whatever reason they find themselves unable to attend your wedding. This can range from folks that have other photographers within their company that can fill in at a moments notice, to recommendations for other local photographers that *might* be able to fill in. Whatever the case, you should be comfortable and know what to expect if things change 3 months, weeks, or hours out from your day.
4. Their full wedding take
Okay, so you love the photos that they have on their Instagram, but what about the other 150 they delivered to the couple? Ask if they're willing to show you a full take from a wedding, so that you can get a feel for how many photos you'll get as well as the overall quality. Chances are you won't love every single photo (that's totally fine - especially since the photos might not be representative of your wedding!) but you should look for consistent exposure and toning, strong composition, and variety in the images in both their feel & content.
5. Their personality
It probably goes without saying, but you should like your photographer not just as a shutterbug, but as a human being! I've got some jarring news for you, you will probably spend more time with your photographer on your wedding day than with anyone else (yes, including your spouse!) so this should be someone that you feel comfortable and confident with.
I personally always recommend meeting up in person before you sign a contract but, at the very least, hop on the phone with them and see what they're like!
6. Their contract
Everyone has different comfort levels within all of these factors, but this one is a biggie. A contract is there to provide both you and your photographer with protection. It sets the expectations for both parties, and this is really really important. If you don't understand the contract, or you feel like it's missing something - ask about it! Before you sign anything you should be 110% comfortable with the terms of your agreement.
And that's it! Every couple is different in terms of their goals for their wedding photos, but doing your due diligence will set you up for success and let you go into your wedding day with one less thing to worry about. Happy hunting!