How much to budget for wedding photography

We all know that weddings are expensive! Venues, dress, shoes, car, flowers, reception …. it all adds up. Then you’ve got the wedding photography as well. The question is – just what should your budget be for wedding photography? There will be some couples who know what their budget is, but most couples have no idea. The reason why? Simply, because planning a wedding’s something they’ve never done before!

I believe that whilst the cost of the majority of the items at your wedding are expenses,  the photography, on the other hand, is an investment. After the day itself, all that remains to remind you of the day are the rings, the dress and most importantly, the photographs. That’s why the wedding photography’s an investment.

How much to budget for wedding photography

How much to budget for wedding photography?

A lot of couples pick a number out of thin air and then look for someone that matches that figure. I’ve heard it said that the average budget for a UK wedding in 2013 was £23,000 and that the average spend on photography is 10%. Seems like a reasonable number, but is it right for you? Is your budget less or more than the average? Is the wedding photography really important to you or are you just “ticking the box” by having someone take photos on your wedding day?

When you’re planning your wedding you absolutely need to have an overall budget. If you don’t, costs can skyrocket. You need to work out which elements of the day are REALLY important to you. Do you have your heart set on a dream venue? Do you want to have a lavish wedding that your friends will talk about for months? Do you want a small, intimate wedding with a few family and friends? You see, although there’s an AVERAGE spend of £23,000 the ACTUAL costs will depend entirely on the decisions that you make.

As with many things in life, we often base our purchase decisions on price. This is more common in wedding budgeting, because you often have no idea of the best way to choose between different wedding vendors. With “price” as the criteria, we have to weigh up whether we believe that one product is actually worth more than another. I know that if money was no option I’d be writing this Blog post on the latest Apple laptop, but my ThinkPad works perfectly well and does the job (especially after I upgraded the hard drive to a SSD – fairly flies along now!). Need transport? You could buy a flashy new car or alternatively choose a second-hand car and use the balance to buy something for the house, or have a holiday. To a great extent, it’s relatively easy to determine whether one product is worth more to us than another. BUT (and it’s a big “but”), it’s not quite that simple with something like wedding photography.

There’s an old adage – “you get what you pay for” and in wedding photography it’s true. Google the term “wedding photographer” for any particular town or county and you’ll get hundreds of hits. Pricing does, on the whole, equate to the experience and quality of the wedding photographer, but I’ll come to that it a minute. Why not click on this link to check out my guide on how to chose your wedding photographer.

So, back to this magical 10% figure. Is it correct? Well, depending on your budget it may be. If your budget’s above the £23,000 “average” then there’s a good chance that you’re planning every last detail of your wedding and you’ll want it recorded. Couples with larger budgets tend to want photography that also includes not just an album for the Bride and Groom, but also Parents’ albums and wall-art as well.

Below the “average” spend it’s possible that you’re looking to get the most value out of your day as you can, and there’s nothing wrong with that! Weddings are most definitely expensive. It’s not unusual for couples to have problems finding a photographer they like, and there’s a couple of reasons for that …..

  1. First, pricing tends to reflect the photographer’s technical ability, so the more experienced professionals cost more.

  2. Secondly, couples have unrealistic expectations about what they’d like for their budgeted amount and you’ll rarely find a wedding photographer who’ll work for less! As an example – I had an enquiry this year from a couple getting married at a leading local venue. They’d not indicated on the contact form what their budget was. In reply to my follow-up email the Groom indicated they’d been quoted £200 for all-day coverage, so in his words “if I could do better than that the gig was mine”! Needless to say, that’s one wedding I won’t be photographing next year!

First Dance at Sopley Mill wedding

What’s the best way to set your wedding photography budget?

1. Start off with the 10% figure, it’s your base point. 2. Now, please sit down as a couple and work out what you’d like from your wedding photographer. This is really important – you need to agree as a couple what you’d like. Keeping quiet or not being involved’s a recipe for disaster – you must agree on this together. Do you want your day in its entirety covered or just a portion of it. Do you want digital images or would you like an album as well, perhaps with copies for the parents? 3. Check out local photographers whose style you like and find out what packages they can offer. If you’re not sure about the style of photography you like, click here to check out my guide for more information. 4. Go back to that 10% figure and compare it to what you’ve found. Do you need to increase your budget, or shave items from your “wish list” of photography. Do you really need albums for the parents? Could you forgo the album for the time being and save up for it next year? 5. Finally, get in touch with the photographers whose work you like. Arrange to meet up with them, look through more of their work, talk to them and think about whether you’d like to be in their company for 8+ hours on your wedding day, talk about the coverage and the products you’d like, discuss the pricing and, if all the boxes get ticked, then BOOK THEM! Don’t leave it as an open-ended discussion – wedding photographers can only photograph one wedding on a day and if you’re “thinking about it” for a week and they get a booking from another couple …. well, you’ve lost out.

What type of coverage will I get for my budget?

That’s a really difficult one to answer precisely, but here’s a rough guide to the type of coverage and the photographer’s experience you’ll find within price ranges for full day coverage ….

Wedding photography for less than £800

At this price range you’ll most likely be looking at someone who’s inexperienced, perhaps a student looking to build their portfolio, or someone who’s shooting weddings as a hobby. It’s possible that they might not have liability or indemnity insurance in the event of something going wrong.

Wedding photography between £800 and £1100

Quite possibly someone who’s recently gone “professional” and is looking to gain more experience and improve their “solo” portfolio. They’ve possibly spent time as second shooters for established photographers at weddings.

Wedding photography between £1100 and £2000

This will be an established, professional wedding photographer, capable of producing quality results in any circumstances and any weather. Prices towards the top of this range may also include additional items such as an engagement shoot or an album, or wall-art.

Wedding photography between £2000 and £3500

Professional wedding photographers who include the services of professional, or semi-professional, second shooters for your day. Coverage will often include a luxury album.

Wedding photography above £3500

Typically this will include two professional, full-time wedding photographers, an engagement shoot, high-end album for the couple together with copies for the parents.

Thank you - Northbrook Park wedding

In conclusion ….

As I said, this is just a guide. We know that where weddings are concerned, the sky’s the limit. Your dreams and your wishes only limited by your budget. But in the excitement of planning the big day, please don’t lose sight of what this is all about – celebrating the love that you have for one another with the people who mean the most to you in the world.

Quality wedding photography does come at a cost. Wedding photographers have no second chance to get things right. We can’t re-stage a wedding in the same way that a portrait photographer could ask you to come back to his studio for a re-shoot. We deal with whatever the day throws at us. Weather, venue, people ….. and hopefully we do it with a smile as well! 🙂

If you’re looking for more advice on wedding planning, then why not check out my “Advice for Brides” section by clicking on this link?

Contact Ian Now

About Ian

About ianH photography

Ian is one of Dorset’s leading wedding photographers. Based in Bournemouth and with over 20 years of experience photographing weddings across Dorset and Hampshire, Ian’s the perfect choice for couples who want unobtrusive, discreet wedding photography that captures the emotions of their special day. Read more about his own personal style of documentary wedding photography on this website.

Proud to be a recommended photographer for a number of leading Dorset wedding venues. 

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