One thing we hate to discuss while planning a wedding is “the budget”. Unfortunately, the sky is not always the limit and you must set priorities but also figure out the market rates. But how can you budget when you don’t know how much things cost? The best resource is to hire a local planner. But if you plan to do the heavy lifting yourself, you are left to your own research. Many resources online, such as the knot.com, mostly reflect bottom to average prices for creative services such as photography, videography, floral, and design. And maybe you are looking for more than that.
For a photographer in the Los Angeles market, prices can range from as low as $1,500 and as high as $20,000+. So why such a wide range? Most photographers price themselves based on experience, volume, and demand. Let me break it down for you.
Experience doesn’t always mean someone is better but they should have more knowledge, ability to troubleshoot situations, navigate timelines, work with bad lighting, difficult backgrounds, and most importantly make you look good!
Preparing for the Event
Your planner may give you a timeline or maybe you put one together yourself but an experienced photographer should go over every single event with you and review your expectations to make sure it works. For example, when you are planning to do immediate family only vs extended family of 30 cousins, you need to make sure the appropriate time is set aside to avoid missing other events. Under estimating these events can cut in to your portrait time or cause you to miss your cocktail hour (which maybe wasn’t the plan).
When you’ve shoot hundreds of events, you’ve surely seen it all. I’ve experienced things such as grandma wandering in the aisle for the first kiss to people shutting off the lights as the bride entered the ceremony. An experienced photographer can think quickly and use techniques that will disguise just about any problem. They also take in to consideration so many factors such as wind, lighting, crowds, accessibility, parking, permits, etc; they’ve seen it all and can help you avoid any mistakes.
One of the common mistakes photographers make when first starting out is to shoot the event for themselves and not the client. When you are building a portfolio, it’s easy to have your website, blog post, and marketing opportunities in mind vs the clients wants, needs, and desires.
I wish every event had the most ideal light and backgrounds but not all do. A professional wedding photographer should be able to walk in to any venue and any situation and make it beautiful. With the right technical knowledge even the toughest venues can be made in to a dream.
Now that you understand how experience comes in to play, let’s talk about price.
Less than $2,000
For this price range you can typically expect a photographer with less than 3 years of experience or one who works with a large volume studio. Most photographers in this range have shot less than 50 weddings and own basic equipment and are still building a portfolio. Many photographers at this price range shoot at a high volume and are sometimes unable to offer a personalized experience.
For this range you can typically expect a photographer with 3-5 years of experience who has roughly photographed 100 weddings . A photographer in this range should have more than basic equipment and more knowledge regarding lighting and posing. But may not be confident shooting just any lighting situation (always be sure to ask). They may also shoot solo and skip hiring a team. Many photographers in this range shoot at a moderate volume and can most times focus a little more on their clients experience.
For this range you can expect a photographer with 5+ years of experience with an average of 200+ events. They should be able to walk in to any lighting situation and be able to master it within minutes. Photographers in this price point typically shoot at a more manageable volume and are able to offer their clients a more personalized experience. They will also bring a larger team of 2-3 people to each event to assist, style, and second shoot. This will ensure that your details are perfectly styled, your crowds are managed, and all of your guest are captured. The extra staff also allows your main photographer to be able to focus on the most important events.
Photographers in this price range should be experts and many will shoot high-end to celebrity events. These photographers can travel internationally for events and have sometimes been recognized by many prestigious publications. They will typically bring a larger team of 3-4 people to each event to assist, style, and second shoot or even third shoot. This will ensure that your details are perfectly styled, your crowds are managed, and all of your guest are captured. The extra staff also allows your main photographer to be able to focus on the most important events. Some photographers will also hire additional photographers to have a sole responsibility for the day. For example, one photographer may be in charge of only photographing events while another is to only shoot the details.
Albums can cost anywhere from $800-$2,500 depending on the size and quality your photographer offers. Albums are a wonderful way to ensure your images are permanently archived for your children and grandchildren.
Engagement sessions can range anywhere from $300-$1000. These sessions are a great way to get to know your photographer, see how you photograph, and also capture your everyday life. An engagement session will build confidence for your wedding day and give you the opportunity to offer your photographer feedback.
Rehearsal dinner coverage can range greatly based on how your photographers schedule their weekends. I’ve seen prices anywhere from $800-$2000+. Most weddings are not just one day. Many rehearsal dinners are attended by a more intimate crowd which also lends for more speeches and touching moments. This is a great way to ensure your closest people are all properly photographed.
Prints and Framing
This can vary greatly but you can expect $100+ This is typically something most couples will add on after the wedding. Printing and framing is a great way to display your photos in your home or office and enhance your decor.
How to Budget and Hire the Right Wedding Photographer
Do Your Homework
Not all photographers are the right fit simply based on experience and price. I’ve seen amazing photographers who have just started out and very expensive photographers who’s work and customer service was underwhelming. It’s up to you to find the right fit. Here are a few questions you can ask and things you can check
Ask to See a Full Gallery
Ask to see a full gallery that was recently delivered to a client. If they have one similar to your wedding style and lighting situation that is bonus points. This will tell you how many pictures you will receive, what the photographer focuses their attention too, and how well the final product is edited.
Make Sure you Feel Comfortable
Make sure you feel comfortable talking to your photographer. Working with a photographer can be a very intimate experience. If you feel uncomfortable or annoyed it will most of the time show in the final product.
Ask About the Client Experience
Ask about the client experience. Do they work closely with you on timelines, locations, and details prior to the date? Or is that more left up to you. Do they offer a final meeting and what will they discuss with you? Ask for examples and to be walked through the process.
Ask a Hard Question
You know that annoying interview question “what is your greatest weakness?” When you really sit down and think about it, we all have weakness but we have to learn how to overcome them. And that is only fair to allow someone to not be perfect. Ask your photographer about a time they failed or something they aren’t the best at and how they overcome or overcame that obstacle. This will give you an idea of your photographers dedication to customer service.
While more reviews online are from happy clients, really read what drew a past clients to this photographer and what they enjoyed about their experience. And also what kind of problems they solved or tough situations they handled. Do you feel like you relate to these customers and what you are looking for?
Go With Your Gut
Over the years I’ve blown my budget or picked the first person, simply because it felt right. Sometimes our intuition just knows. But also make sure to do your homework. Highly talented and popular photographers book quickly so you don’t want to drag your feet and miss a date. Many will try to keep you in the loop but it’s not always possible if another client sets up an appointment and books on the spot.
Have more questions or want to know more about my services? Contact me to set up a free consultation.
A Los Angeles based Wedding + Family photographer on a mission to capture all the moments that make your relationship with your partner and family uniquely yours.
January 27, 2020