How much should you invest in a wedding photographer?

September 1, 2023

Ocala Photographer – Wedding at the Rockleigh in NJ

Let’s talk wedding photography! This is a big decision for many couples, and the cost can definitely be confusing. There are tons of photographers out there, all with different prices. You might see some blogs suggesting a specific dollar amount or percentage of your budget, but it’s not that simple. The price can vary depending on where you’re getting married, the photographer’s experience, their shooting style, and what’s included in their package.

Let’s cut through the fluff and get real about what you should spend on your wedding photographer. I know you’re eager for a straight answer.

I understand, transparency is key! You’re right, there are many moving parts when it comes to wedding photography pricing. I hear you, and forget the one-size-fits-all answer. Let’s dive into the factors that truly influence what you’ll invest in capturing your special day.

How Much Should You Spend On Wedding Photography?

Ready for the answer? Between $0 and $20,000 or more!

You may have come across the 10-15% rule, which is a good place to start when setting aside a budget, it doesn’t take everything into account. If beautiful, lasting photos are a priority for you, you might consider allocating more. After all, these are the images you’ll cherish for years to come. Interestingly, many couples find they’re more comfortable downsizing their guest list or floral arrangements before they cut back on photography.

You want your wedding photographs to be like you: authentic, dynamic, and full of life.

Picture this: Stress-free planning, stunning photos. What more could you ask for?

When you choose Visual Arts Wedding Photography, we’ll get to the heart of what matters most to you, and focus on those moments on your wedding day.

Give yourself the gift of not having to worry about your wedding photographs, and celebrate your love for a lifetime.

Schedule a consultation and let’s chat about your dream wedding.

Lakeland Wedding Photographer – Wedding at the Rockleigh in New Jersey

Instead of adhering to a cookie cutter rule, one alternative method is to find your dream photographer FIRST, and build your budget around that. Make a list of your top priorities, research pricing for each, and add it all together.  adjust as necessary to fit your budget. If you go over your budget, start by cutting costs at the BOTTOM of your list, before making adjustments to your top priorities.

What we really want is to first focus on the value that you really want, what is going to make you so happy in the long run. Only after that should you determine your price range. That way you have complete confidence in your investment and you get what you really want.

A few factors that effect how much wedding photographers are:
•What is included in their collections
•How much you are going to enjoy spending your entire wedding day with them


This may not be something you even considered to be a factor when determining how much a photographer costs, but it is the most basic factor to determine how much a photographer should charge.

For Example, if a photographer is single and are living in a place where expenses are minimal, their priorities are going to be very different from a photographer who has a family and a mortgage.

Maybe you relate to one of those (or any other type of lifestyle), but you most likely will find yourself drawn to someone you want to be like or relate with. That person may or may not need to charge a premium and provide a level of service needed that will allow them to live the life they are living.

A photographer that cannot balance their life style with the work they produce and the profit that is required to support that lifestyle is destined to go out of business. They will not be happy, they will feel over worked, and they will not be efficient. 

When an emergency arises for your wedding, like a date change or postponement, photographers who are not profiting may not be able to accommodate such changes.


Much like when purchasing a home, the location plays a crucial role in determining the price. For instance, if you reside in a city like Chicago, it’s not unusual to spend $15,000 on a wedding photographer due to the high cost of living. On the other hand, in a region where the cost of living is significantly lower, you can find a luxury wedding photographer for half the price. The greater the cost of living in a particular area, the more you can expect to pay for a wedding photographer on average.


Think of expertise as how able a photographer is to photograph a wedding, as well as how well they can adapt to how the day unfolds. They should be able to produce high quality images no matter where a wedding takes place, not just the super luxury wedding venues. Expertise and experience do sometimes go hand in hand, but not always. A more “Experienced” photographer may have 10 years experience, but not nearly as much technical skill as a photographer who has only been around five years.

Expertise usually involves the following:

Actual photography skills (e.g., skills in handling different lighting scenarios like bright light and low-light and everything in between

Skills in posing and creating authentic portraits that portrait the personalities of those being photographed.

Skills in handling interpersonal situations (e.g., ability to help guide day-of communication so that full cooperation between multiple people in achieved, such as getting family organized to do family formals, bringing bridal party together, etc.)

Skills in problem solving and leadership (e.g. ability to identify problems and find solutions quickly, create back up plans, take the lead to solve problems)

Emotional and communication skills to put you and others in a relaxed state of mind.

Business skills that create confidence, stability and consistently delivers results that go above and beyond.

The expertise of a photographer can increase the  due to their desirability in their city and demand from future clients. To evaluate a photographer’s expertise, review their portfolio and read reviews from past couples.


Even though it isn’t directly related to expertise, experience is still very important. A photographer who has shot a high number of weddings has been able to figure out how to navigate and solve tough problems like timeline issues, inclement weather, and other tense situations. 
An experienced photographer preparing to shoot at a new venue to them will know the value of visiting the venue and creating a plan before the wedding day. You should have a clear understanding that your photographer knows the wedding venue and has a specific plan on locations for things like the first look, bridal party portraits, family formals, etc. 

**Keep in mind, this photographer will more than likely be above your average cost**


It is important to point out that style is very much subjective. There is not one style that is better than another. Higher end photographer have the ability to edit a photograph to compliment any lighting situation in their style. They can adapt to changes without creating photographs that are inconsistent. 

Think of it like Starbucks. You go in, put in your order, and expect your coffee to be delivered to you exactly the way you ordered it. One hundred times out of one hundred, that coffee is going to be put in your hand the same exact way. Starbucks is incredibly consistent with how they make each type of coffee.

A photographer who can be true to their style and deliver consistent results are going to be more in demand due to the level of expertise they are displaying.


Some photographers are going to have base packages that cost more, but provide you with more value. Adversely, others will have a low starting cost, but include almost nothing. Luxury photographers are going to have a base collection that will include the minimum level of time, customer care, and experience needed to deliver what is consistent with their brand values. Everything is customized after that because in all actuality every wedding is unique.

Some examples of what to look for that is included or not are:

•One or Two photographers? Do they know their second shooter? Are they a Husband and Wife photography team?

•Do they include engagement sessions?

•Do they back up your images?

•Do they provide Heirloom Wedding Albums?

•What is the turn around time?

•How are photographs delivered?

Do Photographers Overcharge?

The simple answer is no, the value of what you sell can only be set by those who are willing to pay for it. If there is no demand, then they must lower their prices. If they limit the amount of weddings they take per year, it makes them even more valuable overtime as demand stays steady as wedding days available decreases. Also take into the account the uniqueness of a wedding compared to other events. 

•This is a once in a lifetime event for each couple. This is the only time they will ever get married to each other, there is no room for mistakes.
•There are hours of pre-wedding and post-wedding work. Learning about you, timeline prep, communicating back and forth, traveling, scheduling the travel, editing the images, designing the album, meeting up with you to go show you the design, backing up the images, etc.
•Sometimes these are multi location events that require taking all gear and everything else to wherever the next location on the timeline is going to be. The drive time on a wedding day can add up to being longer than the wedding day itself.

This can be applied to any vendor, it’s a lot more than you think. Weddings are not the same as a birthday party, a corporate event, football game, or anything else that doesn’t carry the same mental or physical workload.

Every photographer runs their process differently,  but a single wedding day can account for the following direct hours of work:

•1-3 hours of initial meetings/ emails
•2-4 hours of engagement session (shooting time, travel)
•1-3 hours of engagement session upload, editing, backing up images, delivery
•2-3 hours of timeline prep & pre wedding planning
•10-20 hours  day of work (set up, local travel, coverage during day, tear down, photo transfer/backup)
• 7-30 hours of editing
• 2-3 hours of Wedding Album design
•2-3 hours for the photo Reveal and Album finalization.

So that’s potentially 60+ hours per wedding of actual labor, not counting expenses. Keep in mind that does not include the time and $$$ that goes into paying for a second shooter, money for gas, education/improvements, business insurance, keeping our software up to date, advertising, etc. Let’s not forget camera gear, which by the way is SUPER EXPENSIVE. A single professional grade lens can cost anywhere between $500-$3000+, and we have 8. That’s not even counting professional lighting, camera bodies, memory cards, etc.

It is safe to say when you take everything into account, a photographer spends around 75-100 hours per single wedding. 

So a simple example: Let’s say a photographer needs to make $50k a year and they shoot 40 weddings a year (which 40 weddings a year can take a serious toll on the body and mind). At a MINIMUM they need to charge $1750 per wedding on average.

This comes out to less than $15 an hour. Don’t forget, that is before taxes (Self employment tax rate is 15.3%).
So if you are paying for a photographer that is charging $1750 and is giving you both a main and 2nd shooter, we would bet you either have a photographer that has invested next to nothing into their business, or is working themselves to the bone for less than $15 an hour.

Now of course when you are just starting out $15 per hour is fine. When we are talking about someone who is a specialist and artist of capturing once in a lifetime moments that can never be recreated, $15 an hour just isn’t enough. 40 weddings a year is a ton of work for a one photographer. It demands so much of them mentally and physically. Exhaustion and fatigue will eventually set in, and that could be at someones wedding where they breakdown, potentially ruining it. That is why luxury photographers limit the amount of weddings they take on. To keep themselves healthy and to fully be there for their clients.

Let’s check photography off your list

You’ll Have Us at Hello

We’re excited to hear from you and will do our very best to accommodate your date. Please fill out the form below and reach out early for Friday nights, Saturdays and Sundays as our schedule books up 6 months to one year ahead on average.

Lakeland Wedding Photographer – Visual Arts Wedding Photography


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