Updated: May 9
The average cost of hiring a wedding photographer in the UK was £1590 in 2019 which typically represents 10-20% of a couple’s total wedding budget.
But a quick search for wedding photographers will find people willing to do wedding photography packages for £300 or even less. The top end wedding photography packages can be £5,000 or more (if you’ve been listed as one of the world’s best wedding photographers in Harpers Bazaar, you don’t put your prices on your website!)
Why is there such huge variation in how much wedding photographers charge?
Some wedding photographers charge twenty times as much as others. Is there really a massive difference? Well, yes … and no. A Ferrari and a Skoda are both vehicles that will get you from A to B, and wedding photographers are similar.
Often the budget wedding photographers are cheap because they’re just getting started and are building a portfolio. If they can show you some fantastic photos that you love, then should you take a risk with them? It depends on whether your budget really is limited to a few hundred pounds. Make sure they can show you all the photos from a whole wedding, not just the best photos from a handful. Remember, budget wedding photographers are often part-time or hobbyist, rather than professional wedding photographers.
What do you get at the top end? Well, you will almost certainly get a great set of photos from someone with lots of experience. Often, they’ll have a second photographer working with them as well. Mostly, you get the perception of confidence that comes when you pay for luxury items - not necessarily better photos. Often they’ll have been featured in Vogue weddings or a similar luxury magazine and while that will definitely add to how much they charge, it doesn’t always make them a better photographer!
Why is wedding photography so expensive?
People often gasp at the idea of someone earning £1,590 or more for a single day’s work and all wedding photographers have heard comments about this.
But no wedding photographer is quoting for a single day of work. Here are some behind-the-scenes costs that go into a wedding photographer’s prices...
Lots of equipment: Most professional wedding photographers will have £10,000 worth of equipment with them on the day. That equipment needs updating every few years and there’s insurance and repair costs.
Years of skill: Wedding photographers who are just starting out often charge less, which isn’t surprising. But like doctors, lawyers and plumbers, you are paying for the years they have spent training and gathering experience and knowledge.
Editing time: it’s common to take 3,000 photos at a wedding. Many will never be seen by anyone apart from the photographer: The bride isn’t smiling in that one, Aunty Doris looks like she’s about to sneeze in that one. Cutting the photos down to the 500 best images and then polishing them in Photoshop takes skill and time. It takes at least two full days to do post-production on a set of wedding photos. Editing time can take the total amount of time spent on a single wedding to four full days of work.
Hidden costs: Websites, insurance, office space, photo editing packages, advertising all cost photographers money. To earn a reasonable salary wedding photographers have to charge enough to cover these costs.
Getting a friend or less experienced photographer to shoot your wedding.
If your budget is extremely tight it’s definitely an idea to get a friend or hobbyist photographer to shoot the wedding. The downside is that they may not deliver a great set of images.
Wedding photographers bring experience to a wedding and know how to anticipate those important moments to capture because they’ve done it many times before.
Shooting your first wedding is stressful!
Friends will rarely put in 100% the way a paid wedding photographer will. They’ll be enjoying the wedding in between taking photos and may not be thinking about capturing important shots at every second and thinking ahead.
How do I know? My wife and I had just returned from a year travelling abroad and had a very limited budget for our own wedding. So to save some money, I asked several friends to take photos on the big day. Some of them did a great job and we have some lovely images which we are very grateful for. However, even though our friends were professional, BBC-trained filmmakers and even some photographers by trade, they were also guests celebrating with us - they mostly took photos of people they already knew and there were very few shots of our relatives or guests they didn’t know. Understandably!
Beware hidden charges from wedding photographers.
You want to know that the cost you are quoted really is the final amount you’ll pay. Some photographers will quote a low amount but then you have to pay extra for other things like VAT or editing. Ask for transparency on how much you’ll pay and exactly what you’ll be getting. Most people are after a big set of digital images - but not all photographers will deliver this.
Taking the plunge.
So long as you have chosen your photographer wisely, spending money on your wedding photography is worth it. After the biggest day of your life is over, the photos from the day are the most important thing you’ll be left with and will last a lifetime.