What Influences A Wedding Photographer's Pricing?

Chances are if you’re reading this, you’re newly engaged. If that’s the case, congrats! You’re starting one of the most exciting stages of your relationship, but as you may have noticed it can also get complicated. Your wedding day is supposed to be just that – yours. You want to make sure everything is exactly what you’re picturing in your head, but there are just so many options. The worst part? Every option is wildly different in price, availability, and style. That variability is obviously not just limited to photographers, but in the interest of keeping this on the shorter end, I’ll stick to what I know.

How Much Does A Wedding Photographer In Maryland Cost?

Let’s get straight to the point. Photographers have a wide range of pricing. Even individual photographers have packages that range in the thousands. In Maryland, where I’m based, we’re situated between multiple major cities and rural Appalachia. This gives us a unique opportunity to work with an amazing variety of people and locations, but it can also cause the prices to vary dramatically. The short version of typical (yet realistic) ranges you’ll find for photographers in Maryland is from about $2,500 to $6,000 for a full day of coverage. You’ll see starting pricing listed as low as $1,000 but there’s a good chance you’ll spend more than that simply because those lower priced advertisements are banking on upselling you to more time, an extra photographer, a print package, you name it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but as someone who values transparency I personally prefer not to try to upsell you. There’s a reason I’m a photographer and not a salesperson.

What Factors Do Photographers Include In Their Pricing?

This is where it gets more interesting. There are countless things that we consider when we’re creating packages and determining what each one is worth.

  1. Time: Maybe the most obvious consideration. Of course we’ll spend time shooting your engagement session and your wedding, but we also have to take into account the time we spend doing admin work – emails, contracts, invoicing, Zoom calls, planning assistance, working with venues and coordinators, you name it. And that’s only the admin time spent on your wedding in particular. That’s not including all the other time we spend working on marketing, websites, social media (that’s a full time job in and of itself now), writing blog posts like these, and networking. Some photographers will outsource this work, but that only adds to the expenses.

  2. Gear: Sure, good cameras and lenses are expensive, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg. Cameras are one-time purchases and when we decide to upgrade we can sell them to help make up for the new expense. What can really start adding up is the monthly payments for the back-end services. The busier a photographer is, the more likely it is that they use gallery delivery services, CRM software, accounting software (it is a business, after all), large amounts of cloud storage, and of course our editing/cataloging apps. There are plenty of other monthly payments like insurance, web hosting, the fastest internet connections, you name it. In the past, you could purchase some of these monthly services outright but as you know we live in a subscription based world now. Not that spending thousands of dollars up front was better but again, one-time purchases can be pretty convenient. 

  3. Experience: I’d argue that no matter how important gear and time are to a photographer’s pricing structure, experience might be the most important. Experience might be tied to time, but it’s on a much broader spectrum. An experienced photographer not only knows how to work efficiently and take great photos, but they offer a premium experience for you as well. Many photographers will limit how many weddings they take on in a year and, in turn, charge higher rates. You’d be justified in being skeptical of higher prices for someone who’s less busy but when a photographer has fewer clients at one time, they’re able to give you the highest possible level of attention and care. As mentioned before, there is a lot that goes into the back-end of wedding photography and being able to cut back on some of that time spent can make a huge difference. Photographers with more experience also have more connections in the industry which can help simply because when we work with other vendors that we know and have worked with before, it’s that much easier to have clear and concise communication between everyone involved.

  4. Travel and Accommodation: If your wedding is taking place outside your photographer’s local area, additional expenses such as travel, accommodation, and transportation will likely be added on to your package cost. When you find a photographer you love, it may be worth it to have that person travel to wherever your wedding will be. Of course there are likely great photographers in that area as well, but as we all know, you can’t help who you fall in love with – or in this case, which photos you fall in love with.

Tips To Manage Costs

No matter what your favorite wedding blog says, you don’t have to break the bank if you can avoid it. Of course spending where it matters is very worth it, but there are ways to be smart about how you spend your hard earned money.

  1. Set a Realistic Budget: Talk it out and figure out your budget for photography early on. This will help you prioritize your spending and make informed decisions when selecting a photographer, especially if photography is high on your list of priorities like it is for many people.

  2. Research: Look up other photographers, review their portfolios, and read testimonials from past clients. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the only good photographer out there. 

  3. Effective Communication: Be open and transparent about your budget with potential photographers. It’s not out of the question for photographers to build a custom package that works for everyone. Worst case scenario we refer you to another photographer we love who has different packages that are better for you!

  4. Book in Advance: We tend to have busy schedules, particularly during peak wedding seasons (spring and fall). Booking early not only secures the photographer you want most but also keeps the door open to get that custom package.

Long Story Short:

Hiring a talented wedding photographer is an investment worth making. The cost may vary, but by understanding these factors and managing your budget effectively, you can find a photographer who aligns with your vision and captures the magical moments of your special day, preserving them as cherished memories for a lifetime.