What does wedding photography cost?
What does wedding photography cost?
You just started planning your wedding, and you're trying to figure out how to divvy up your budget so it goes as far as possible. But how much do things cost? How much does wedding photography cost?
There's no simple answer to how much wedding photography should cost. For quality imagery covering the entire wedding (from getting ready to your dream sparkler send-off), you most likely will be in the $3,000 to $10,000 ballpark range. Why such a broad spectrum? And why so expensive? I'll help you analyze that here.
How much work goes into one photograph? But really? Let's keep that in mind as we go.
Let's begin with the gear. If you're hiring a professional, even the lowest end professional cameras start at $2,000, and that's not counting the lens. A professional quality lens that makes those super sharp images with the blurry bokeh backgrounds can be anywhere from $500-$5,000. Then there are memory cards, extra batteries, and of course, lighting equipment. A real professional is also going to have backup gear on them at any wedding. A wedding photographer will most likely be using over $10,000 worth of equipment to photograph one wedding.
I'm a firm believer that you can take a good picture on any piece of equipment. However, with that said, having professional level gear can turn a good photo into a great one. Professional level gear is also going to be much more reliable than a camera your cousin purchased at Costco for a good deal. If you're looking for a true professional to capture your day, you'll probably want to know that they have invested in some degree of professional gear.
If you only had to turn your camera on to the Auto mode to make a national geographic level photo, then I wouldn't have a job (that's a bit of an exaggeration, but you get me). A wedding photographer doesn't need to be the most technical person to take good photos. However, it takes plenty of time to understand how your camera works and how settings affect your photos. Senior professionals understand that, especially with different lighting situations. So you're not only paying for them to use their gear, you're paying for years of practice and expertise with their tools. Think of it as an artist painting; they understand their technique better and better and begin to refine it over time.
Just like your technical skills, posing is something that photographers develop over time and practice. Some photos are candid, but more often than not, photographers are curating a scene, so they create the images they want, and they're not so candid after all! So the next time you scroll past a cute couple pulling each other in for a kiss on Instagram, know a photographer was directing the entire scene. You're paying for their knowledge of posing as well as their photography skills.
You most likely don't know what culling is. Lucky you. Culling refers to the process of going through all of the wedding photos I took and deciding which ones will make the cut and be edited and delivered to the client. Depending on the wedding, it could take me half a day, or if it was very extravagant with multiple photographers, I could be sitting at my computer culling for almost an entire 8 hours. Not every photo makes the cut, and it's sometimes hard to narrow it down!
Editing and retouching:
Editing and retouching are where the other 70% of the magic happens. This is where most of my life is spent. Not only do photographers correct the white balance, exposure, lighting, and coloration of every single photo, we crop, straighten, and remove blemishes, stray hairs, and anything distracting in the background. This could take one minute per photo or five, even for the basic stuff.
Then there's retouching. That's the more intensive edit taking up to an hour or longer, depending on the task. Photographers remove blemishes, whiten teeth, brighten eyes, remove fly away or frizzy hair, chapped lips, and discolored or uneven skin.
Retouching and editing are time-consuming. When you hire a photographer, this is the bulk of what you're paying for. Like posing and technical skills, editing is its own beast, and photographers are on different levels. Their level will be apparent in their work, and it will also dictate their pricing.
Uploading and organizing wedding photos takes up a significant amount of time, as well. While it's not as labor-intensive, we are paying for different services that allow our clients to view their photos, download, print, and share. Photographers don't all run their businesses the same, but I keep your photos up online for a year, and I also keep them backed up forever (in case the unthinkable happens). This is part of the service you may overlook, but it's essential. Your photographer may charge differently depending on their delivery method.
So again, how much should wedding photography cost? There is no simple answer. However, you can determine what level of expertise you're happy with and work from there. Quality wedding photography is not going to be $100 per hour. For every hour a photographer spends capturing your wedding, you can at least double that amount of time (if not triple it) being spent culling, editing, retouching, and uploading your images. So an eight-hour wedding could easily take up to a minimum of 24 hours of work after the wedding day. When preparing your budget make the assumption that photography can cost between $3,000-$10,000 for quality work.
Cassandra Vagher Creative LLC is a wedding and elopement photographer based out of Denver, Colorado; however, she is happy to travel anywhere.
See Cassandra's weddings here.
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