Why Are Wedding Photographers So Expensive?

Why are wedding photographers so expensive? If you’re a future bride or groom planning your big day, this is likely a question you’ve asked already.

Wedding photography lands in the top-five most expensive vendors for couples on average, and with so much of the process digitized today—not to mention smartphones that can take near-professional quality photos—it’s not surprising that couples are asking why photographers are still such a significant expense.

At Perennial, we think it’s important to be totally transparent about it. We want our couples to feel 100% comfortable and confident about making photography part of their wedding budget

In this article, we’ll walk you step-by-step through everything involved in shooting a wedding, a detailed expenses breakdown, and why—even though iPhone photography can indeed be amazing—there is really no replacement for hiring a professional to capture your wedding day.

Quick Takeaways

  • There’s much more to wedding photography than what clients see on the day. Expenses also include business operations, communication and prep time, and editing (among other things).
  • Fixed photography expenses include cameras, lenses, website upkeep, CRM software, hard drives, gallery hosting sites, accounting, and taxes.
  • Variable photography expenses include second shooters and assistants, travel costs, marketing, and continued mentorship and education.
  • Most importantly, you pay for your photographer’s experience, expertise, and dedication to meeting your unique expectations and needs.

Why Are Wedding Photographers So Expensive: A Breakdown

One of the first things we find important to share with couples when they ask about the cost of photography is exactly what goes into shooting a single wedding. Our clients see us on their wedding day, but they may not fully realize the time, planning, equipment, and other expenses that go into capturing it perfectly.

The next sections will break down the most common wedding photographer expenses to give you a better idea of what their bundled pricing packages include.

Fixed Expenses

Fixed wedding photography expenses are the ones we have consistently for every client, plus those required to keep our businesses running. They include things like:

  • High-quality cameras — $4-5K each, replaced every few years
  • Lenses — $500-$1.5K each, purchased separately to have a variety of options for focal lengths, light settings, apertures, and visual quality
  • CRM Software — $400/year, needed to manage new leads and client information
  • Website — $3.5K for design and $300/year to maintain
  • Accounting — $100/month to keep the books
  • Online Gallery Provider — $400/year for easy sharing and client viewing
  • Hard Drives + Storage — $100-$200 to keep all client photos backed up safely
  • Taxes —$25% of profit earned
Photographer holding expensive wedding photography equipment.

As a photography business grows, many of these expenses increase, which is partly why you see prices go up.

Variable Expenses

Variable expenses are expenses that may change depending on the client and/or that are the result of incidentals and timely business needs. For photographers, these costs often include:

  • Second shooters and/or assistants — $50-100/hr, as requested by client or needed for the job
  • Travel/gas — Varies, depending on market cost and length of travel
  • Marketing — $12K/year, includes digital marketing activities like SEO and blog writing
  • Mentorship — $2500, a key part of learning to hone new skills and grow a business
  • Education — $7K/year, another essential part of skills development and business growth
  • Salary — Regular income to the photographer/business owner

These expenses can ebb and flow based on market conditions and current business needs, and are sometimes responsible for changes in pricing over time and/or for different client segments or portfolio offerings.

Additional Factors

There’s so much that goes into making your wedding photos perfect that’s totally separate from the day spent shooting the wedding—behind-the-scenes stuff we love to do but that you as the client never have to worry about! Things like:

  • Pre-Wedding Prep + Communication — 10+ hours, includes time spent on prospect calls, getting to know new clients, scouting locations and planning logistics, and planning resources like assistants, second shooters, and equipment
  • Editing — 20+ hours. After every wedding, photographers go through all of the photos to edit them. They make necessary adjustments to color and exposure so every shot looks perfect
  • Digital Galleries — Adding photos to an online gallery for clients to view
  • Album Creation — Curating albums with clients’ final photo choices and sending them off to be treasured forever!
Photographer sitting at a laptop editing photos after a wedding.

We spend these unseen hours making sure every client receives photos that tell the authentic story of their wedding day. While it might happen behind the scenes, it’s just as important to the final result as actually taking the photos.

The X Factor: Authentic Connection

There’s one thing you pay for as part of your wedding photography budget that won’t show up on an expense breakdown list, and that’s authentic connection with your photographer.

Most of us aren’t used to spending the day being photographed, and it can be nerve wracking. Add to it that your wedding day is one you want to go absolutely perfectly.

You need a photographer you feel connected and comfortable with—one that makes you feel 100% yourself and confident in your own skin. One who understands how you want your love story to be portrayed through photos.

This is part of what you pay for when you find a photographer who you know is right for you.

Couple posing with their wedding photographer on their wedding day.

It’s really all about the entire experience: the connection, the expertise, the photography style, the responsibility and commitment to meeting your expectations, the personality that fits with yours, and the art reflected in your photos.

Because here’s the thing: Unlike your caterer, or your DJ, or your florist, or any other vendor you hire, your photographer provides what you will take with you from your wedding day for the rest of your life—the thing you and even generations after you will use to look back on the day.

And that? It’s really invaluable.

Deciding on Your Wedding Photographer

There are amazing and talented wedding photographers at every pricing level. If there’s a piece of advice we want you to take with you, it’s to choose the one that comfortably fits your budget and that feels right for you.

Take your time getting to know potential photographers and don’t be afraid to ask questions. You can ask about photography style, gallery turnaround times, example albums, how the day of is executed, and why they’re different from other options in your market. When you find someone that’s a great fit for you, you’ll know!

Learn More About Perennial

At Perennial, it’s our top priority to capture your day authentically and tell your unique love story through your wedding day photos. If you want to learn more about our photography, philosophy, and customizable pricing packages and plans, schedule a call to talk to us directly!

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