Average Cost of a Wedding Photographer and Why

The average cost of a wedding photographer in Lexington, Kentucky is $2,000 to start, with couples spending $6,000+ on top quality wedding photography.

According to Brides Magazine, you can expect about 15% of your total wedding budget to go toward photography, but if beautiful images are important to you, you may end up using 50% of your budget or more. It all comes down to your priorities.

In searching for a wedding photographer to use, you may feel totally lost. The Knot and Wedding Wire each list about 200 photographers – and I’m gonna let you in on a secret about how they create their listings: They are 100% based on how much a photographer is paying to be listed, and nothing more. I recommend seeking out personal referrals, or looking to a non-monetized list such as Expertise.

Why Do Wedding Photographers Cost So Much?

You may be tempted to look at a photographer’s price tag and think, “If I’m paying $2,400 for 8 hours, I am paying my photographer $300 an hour!”

This may be true for someone new to the industry, but most experienced wedding photographers determine our prices around a base cost: our cost of doing business. The cost of doing business as a professional wedding photographer includes the following:

  • Education – Bachelor’s or even Master’s degree, online courses and ongoing education
  • Photography equipment – cameras, film, lighting
  • Editing equipment – computer, editing software, film processing
  • Backup system – cloud storage, external hard drives
  • Client management software – contracts, invoices, booking
  • Image delivery – online galleries, USB drives, prints and albums
  • Insurance – for both equipment and liability
  • License – business license, LLC status
  • Taxes – literally 30% of all profits, accountant
  • Marketing – website, online listings and ads
  • Our Salary – what we actually get to keep and pay our bills with

Professional wedding photographers use the cost of these expenses to determine a base rate we must charge in order to just break even. Then, we add an hourly rate on top of that to factor in the value of our time, experience, style and expertise.

Value vs Cost

It is important to recognize the value of using a professional wedding photographer. If you use a photographer who charges very little, chances are they are not offering something listed above. Maybe they only shoot with one camera body (leaving you in the weeds should it malfunction) or don’t pay taxes (which is either a liability or a power move depending how you look at it).

To use myself as an example, I made the decision two years ago to only deliver my client galleries online, in order to save clients the cost of ordering custom USBs and shipping materials. Other photographers splurge in this area, sending expensive chocolates and gift boxes along with your USB drive.

It’s important to find a photographer who is spending your money on the things that matter to you. Since I’m interested in using less packaging and waste, cutting out physical delivery was an easy decision to make. However, some folks really value the physical experience of opening a beautiful box with their USB tucked beside some goodies and that’s understandable, too.

Conclusion

Like most aspects of wedding planning, how much to spend on your wedding photographer is totally up to you. I recommend asking any photographers you speak with what goes into their pricing, so you can find out for yourself what you’re actually paying for.

For more advice on what to ask a wedding photographer, stay tuned! I’ll be writing a new article about that, soon.

At the end of the day, all photographers just want to work with people who love our work. In an effort to make my services affordable to folks planning a wedding on a small budget (I miss y’all), I recently started offering a limited number of sliding scale weddings a year.

Oh, and never be afraid to give your wedding photographer a cash tip once services are completed! You might just receive your finished gallery sooner :)