How photographers establish their rates for weddings... and no, it's not price gouging.
Credit: Elizabeth Messina

Unless you happen to work in an industry that hires professional photographers regularly, you may find yourself in a state of sticker shock upon receiving your wedding photography quote. You're not alone. Photography pricing can span anywhere from $1,000 to over $30,000 and it's not always clear why such vast differences exist. To keep you from jumping into a contract you don't fully understand the pricing structure of, we're giving you the inside scoop on all the elements photographers take into consideration when planning out their fees.

Experience Level

Probably the biggest determining factor of pricing, a photographer's experience level suggests not only the quality of their work but the quantity as well. If a photographer has spent the past ten years shooting weddings, you can bet they've mastered their trade and that they've seen all types of family dynamics in the process. The more experienced photographer is less likely to get easily flustered on-site, while the photographer who's worked fewer weddings may be more willing lower their pricing if they think a wedding will be good for their small portfolio.

Time Commitment

While you may think of a wedding as taking up only one viable calendar day for a wedding photographer, it's actually a bigger time commitment than that. Many photographers take only one wedding per weekend, as they are incredibly physical and exhaustive events to shoot. Already, you're looking at only about 52 viable workdays in a year for most in-demand photographers. Once a date is blocked out in their calendar, they're agreeing to turn down all other job offers for that weekend. This can lead to financial sacrifices of other potential gigs, especially higher paying commercial work.


In addition to the blocked out weekend, a photographer spends quite a lot of time post-wedding working on your event. Post-production for weddings includes editing digital imagery, providing selects for clients, uploading and downloading countless files, printing photography, album production, and more. While the process varies between digital and film photography, it's very time consuming for both types of shooters.

Out-of-Pocket Costs

Being a technology-centric specialty, there are a lot of costs for photographers to cover behind the scenes. Obtaining various cameras and lenses, up-to-date software, monitors, tri-pods, and the like add up to some serious investment costs. On top of that, there are plenty of typical professional and small business costs like attending conferences and networking events, higher education opportunities, marketing and advertising costs, and more. Things like developing film, having prints made, album production, assistant shooters, and travel will sometimes be billed separately, but often may be included in overall pricing for a wedding and can make up a big chunk of the sum.

While your initial reaction to a photographer's price point may be shock or disappointment, don't dismay. There are plenty of options in different price brackets; sometimes it just takes a little extra research to find the best fit. If you're willing to work with a photographer who has a little less experience or a smaller wedding portfolio, you might ask the photographers you admire if they can recommend any great second shooters or assistants within your price range.


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