Budget Your Wedding Photography

Budget Your Wedding Photography

Most couples struggle with wedding budgets and look for ways to make their money go further on their big day. Some seek alternative options for the photography. There are other articles which address the WHY of hiring professionals over amateurs or friends. But what about the question of HOW MUCH? How to budget for this vital piece of one’s total wedding package?

£300 buys a lot of beer

Somehow I managed to avoid ever watching an episode of the BBC reality show “Don’t Tell the Bride.” Until earlier this year, that is. Episode 3, I think it was. How much did the groom decide a photographer was worth in his initial planning? £300 pounds, if memory serves correct. That’s 2.5% of their £12,000 budget. For US readers, that’s equivalent to roughly $500 out of a nearly $20,000 budget.

Beer money: An affectionate term for the pay sometimes offered casual snappers who shoot weddings on the weekend, on top of their full-time jobs.

All in a day’s work. And another day. And another…

Most wedding photography assignments involve at least a full day of shooting. For many large markets, £300 is simply not reasonable as a day-rate. And this doesn’t take into consideration the pre-production (consultations, usually a pre-wedding portrait session, a venue visit, etc) and post-production. The post-production work involves the largest expenditure of a wedding photographer’s time and can include downloading and archiving the raw image files, preparing the proofs for presentation, uploading the proofs to online preview galleries or printing them into books, consultations regarding image selection for print enlargements and albums, and producing high-resolution disks, custom prints, albums, coffee-table books, and the other little things which add value to the photography.

And that only just begins to cover a photographer’s true cost. A freelance photographer destined to survive needs to consider marketing, maintaining and upgrading camera and computer equipment, software, training, taxes, pension, health, and all of the little overhead costs which keep a business running smoothly. Then there’s paid vacation. A photographer’s wage or salary is simply a slice of the whole pie.

To entertain a £300 contract in London, for example, a photographer needs to have other assignments running the same day and/or production work to complete on upcoming or previous assignments (or perhaps a really generous trust fund; a man can dream). In other words, the shooting session takes only a portion of a day’s work. With a modern wedding, there’s simply no time for anything else on the day. Couples expect a photographer’s presence for 8-10 hours on average. It’s a full day, and then some.

Start with 10%

Many wedding experts advise allocating at least ten percent of the wedding budget on the photographer. Following that advice, £1200 from the BBC couple’s budget would have allowed them to hire many photographers at a basic rate at least. Bumping that figure up to the 20-30% range could buy additional luxuries, depending on the photographer: larger album options and cover materials, smaller copies of the album for parents and gifts, additional prints, note cards, etc.


Found a photographer you really like but you’re a bit short on budget? Don’t be afraid to ask about deals or make an offer your budget will allow. They might be willing to adjust their services to accommodate you. Be prepared to give a bit of ground, however. Perhaps they will strike a second photographer from the contract, the pre-wedding shoot, or adjust the album options. Most wedding photographers don’t bite, so don’t be shy.

Ask about gift registry options. Many photographers’ websites include a store offering gift certificates or credits to help subsidise the cost of the wedding photography.

Don’t be THAT couple

Sure, the couple in the news lately paid a respectable price for their less-than-respectable wedding photography coverage. But the usual story goes something like, “We should have splashed out on the photographer of our dreams but saved the money and asked Uncle Bob/Niece Nora/That Kid With the “Nice” Camera to do it instead. If we could just go back and do it over again….” This story is repeated by couples across the internet.

The groom in the BBC show didn’t do his research when he prepared his budget, although he might have grabbed the low-ball figure from a quick look at Gumtree or Craigslist. To the producers of the show, the photography doesn’t even register as an important element of their winning reality show formula.

Your formula will be different.

Don’t bank on a lifetime of regret. Hire a professional.


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