So, You’re Looking for a #WeddingPhotographer ? | Part 3

Hamilton wedding photographer search selection guide tutorial tips course

We Have Arrived


Soon after I get into a wedding photography consultation with a potential client, the subject of cost comes up. Rightly so. Cost is without a doubt one of the most important and frequently asked questions, if not the most important and frequent. Money talks! Photographers and market reporters try to identify the average costs for a pro wedding photographer in magazine articles, blogs and video posts on YouTube. It is a shame that getting realistic numbers is so difficult. There are way too many variables that can affect the cost of a shoot.

I can tell you that no true pro in North America, Europe or Australia will shoot your wedding for the equivalent of CDN$100.00 or less (yes, this has been asked of me) unless they’re a really, really, really close friend or relative. Pro wedding photography is expensive; no ifs ands or buts about it. How expensive depends on what photography package you’re interested in. In Part 2 of this series, I listed the current packages of Modes of Flight (subject to change).

The best way to get a feel for what you’ll need to budget for is to consult 2-5 photographers that are within 40 km (25mi) of where you live (that’s usually substantial), go through their consultation processes and obtain price quotations on packages you are interested in and don’t commit to anything until the price is right.

Ask if the photographer’s consultation and quotes are free. Most are but occasionally you come across some that aren’t. I don’t charge for consultations or quotes, and I’m willing to re-quote until the cows come home. Bear in mind, however, that no photographer can devote an exorbitant amount of time re-quoting for a potential client when there are the needs of paying customers to be met. So, as with answering the “when to search and book” question, don’t waste time in your decision process.

Yes, I live and work in Canada, and throughout all of North America a couple should consider spending 10 – 15% of their overall wedding budget on wedding photography – varying packages also considered. This has been true since at least the late 1980’s, and appears likely to continue for many more years to come. In my research, this percentage range seems to be pretty standard around much of the world. The lowest I’ve come across was 7% from only one source in the UK.

Hamilton wedding photographer search selection guide tutorial tips course

The Journey Begins

What does the 10 – 15% range mean in Canadian or US dollars? It translates to costs between $2,300 to $10,000 depending on available packages with a chosen photographer. Prices for the world’s top wedding photographers start at around $7,000. Given the aforementioned price range, overall wedding budgets should be planned to be in the $23,000 – $67,000 range. Depending on how fast you can pay your debts, your budget will dictate how close to or far away from your wedding day you’ll have to start planning for your event.

These general costs also depend on region. A $2,300 package (usually bronze; the cheapest standard package offered by a photographer) in Toronto is likely to cost $2,900 or more in NYC. Both, of course, being major cities. Smaller cities and towns tend to be less expensive if their photographers have low overhead and operating costs.

It also depends on the number of photographers covering the event. I generally work alone as a still photographer, I don’t do videography. Even when my wife is my assistant, I’m the only one shooting. A solo photographer helps to keep costs down for the wedding couple. The potential does exist; however, for me to call in a fellow solo wedding photographer on an event that I’m being hired for or assist a photographer if he or she needs an extra shooter. Of course, there are plenty of wedding photography firms that regularly employ a number of photographers and videographers to cover an event. More photographers, apprentices, assistants and media used, however, translates to greater cost to the couple getting married.

There are all kinds of other costs that could be factored in such as travel, work visas, work permits and applicable taxes if you’re hiring a photographer who is from another country or if he, she or they are from your region but must travel to another country where you intend to have your ceremony.

Again, the aforementioned price ranges are just standard ranges. It is still possible to find good photographers who can well undercut or exceed these numbers. I’ve personally done a number of cheaper weddings. Here’s a hint, they were all customized packages. Discounts have also played a part.

Obtaining references can be good. Some clients, although they’re satisfied with their photographer’s services, don’t want to be contacted by strangers looking for verification that a particular shooter is a worthy candidate or not, so if a photographer can’t provide any references, don’t be alarmed. You may be better off just seeing examples of their work online or in person at your home, in their home, studio, at arts and crafts fairs, bridal shows, etc.

To make it easier, I do recommend that you voluntarily provide your photographer a written testimonial; with your name, after all services have been rendered and you are satisfied with the outcomes (the photography and the service). Do it on paper, e-mail, the photographer’s online interactive reference page or even on their blog. No, it’s not tacky.

Do you have to budget for feeding your photographer? It’s wonderful if you do but no, you are not obligated to. I have shot weddings in which there was no soup for me. Today, most shooters are aware that if they’re going to spend hours recording someone’s nuptial events, they should be prepared to tough out not eating for hours, or take something with them with hopes to find opportunities to discreetly nourish themselves. This is especially true for photographers who are diabetics or don’t want to become diabetics. In my experience, most wedding couples don’t feed their photographers.

Hamilton wedding photographer search selection guide tutorial tips course


Students and Noob Shooters

The price range causes many to question whether or not it’s worth it to have their one day nuptials recorded professionally.

As alternatives to hiring experienced pros looking up photography students and other shooters, who are new to wedding photography but aren’t someone’s apprentices, can be a good idea. Some are really talented, and are willing to work dirt cheap in order to get some experience and hopefully get their names circulated. The drawback is that some others are limited artistically, technically, even technologically and lack too much professional know how in the business sense.

Where do you find these people? Call up colleges, universities and check out online classified ad sites like Kijiji and Craigslist. Also, consider contacting local photography clubs. Besides these, you may know of someone in your family or in your workplace who is beginning to pursue wedding photography, or a friend of a friend who is.

Please keep in mind that if you’re determined to obtain references, the chances of getting any for a student or new beginner are slim to none.

Hamilton wedding photographer search selection guide tutorial tips course

I Love You Mummy

DIY and/or Relying on Guests

Can you shoot your own weeding, with disastrous results? Yes. I don’t recommend it at all!

These days, the majority of photos taken at virtually any wedding are taken by the friends and family members of the wedding couple. Just about everyone can and does take pictures with all the smartphones, I-Pads, automatic cameras, DSLRs and more that have flooded the global market at a wide range of costs. For a short while, it even became fairly common in the early 2000’s for wedding couples to even place disposable cameras at the reception tables so that guests, with or without their own cams, can shoot to their hearts content. Many wedding couples swore that they were quite pleased with the results but this approach did reveal drawbacks . . .

  1. Most guests only “take” pictures. They don’t “make” pictures with the eye of someone who studies and practices photographic art. Acceptable photographic skills are also likely to go downhill fast if guests have had a little too much to drink before or during the ceremony or reception.
  2. If you put cams on the table, who will get stuck with the costs of printing images? You may never possess pictures that you were counting on being donated to you.
  3. If you put disposable cameras on reception tables, expect them to only be used during the reception. Don’t expect memorable images of the ceremony.
  4. Some disposable cameras are known to fail to operate (I’ve sporadically heard and read criticisms from guests and disappointed newlyweds).

While there are benefits to cheaping out and not using a professional photographer, there are also risks with it. A wedding is an extremely important time in your life. If you can, invest in a professional wedding photographer.

6 thoughts on “So, You’re Looking for a #WeddingPhotographer ? | Part 3

  1. Here in Australia I’ve never heard of anyone charging $100 (or close to USD/CND$100) for a professional wedding shoot but more like the budget later on in your post. I read this post with interest: I do like playing around with cameras, am no mean have a career as a professional photographer but every now and then one of my couple friends will ask me to take photos of them. Usually I oblige and happy to do it for a bit of fun and experimenting on my part.

    What these few spontaneous shoots thought me is that, well, they are completely spontaneous. As I was reading your post, it made me think while how many things can go right with shooting a wedding, there is the potential for so many things to go wrong. As you said at the end, photographers ‘make’ a photo as opposed to just capturing a scene. There’s just so much preparation that goes into a shoot that you are formally hired for – nothing like ‘shoot and go’. I already find packing a tripod and batteries and SD cards challenging already for a hiking trip to shoot landscape shots. With wedding and shooting any events really, there’s a need to know what’s going to happen and who’s going to be where and when you can actually take the shot you are hoping to get.

    • Oh yes! Wedding photography is an unforgiving, detailed and stressful undertaking. Even when done at the low end of cost, it’s high stakes. There’s no margin for error.

      Apart from selfie lovers and model hopefuls, many people are already impatient with any situation in which their portrait is to be beautifully composed. They always want to hastily cut through it like it’s a snap shot but any type of quality portraiture is just not done that way. If you flub the wedding shoot, even due to the impatience of the wedding party, it will cost you dearly in terms of money and reputation.

      So, under all associated stress elements, you either produce great work and service or you don’t. There’s no in between.

      In subsequent posts of this series, I will break down the parts of the wedding, and explain how prospective clients need to prepare for them in order for a photographer to shoot those parts. You’ll really get a sense of the difficulties involved as a wedding progresses.

      • I’m looking forward to the rest of the series. On one hand, a wedding can only go on so long, and the photographer has to work with the elements in the shortest time to get it all together. It’s probably a photography genre where practice doesn’t make you a perfect wedding photographer – bu each time you have to work to make that it all perfect.

  2. Excellent post on what to charge for a professional wedding shoot. And of course, I totally agree with you, in that it’s never going to be inexpensive. However, a lot of factors will determine the final price. Like Mabel Kwong I have never heard about anyone charging as little as the equivalent of 100 dollars. If so, I would not call it professional photography. 🙂

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