I’ve never been directly asked “Why is wedding photography so expensive?”, but just like every single photographer out there I’ve heard from some couples that didn’t reply once I sent my prices, and others that simply said I was over their budget.

That always makes me a bit sad because I love what I do and I want every couple to have great photos of their wedding day. But I have to accept that everyone’s different, with different needs and budgets.

So one of the first things most couples probably do when researching wedding photography is see what the ‘average’ price is and go from there. But what is the average cost of wedding photography? Absolutely no idea! And I think it’s a mistake to consider this as a starting point because there’s so many variables that go into it.

For example, the cost of living varies dramatically across the country. Not every photographer will have the same experience and skill. They probably all shoot and edit in a very different style. And they probably don’t all offer the same package from booking through to delivery.

But good wedding photography is undeniably ‘a lot of money’ to most people. Whether it’s £1500 or £3500 it’s probably the second or third highest expense after the venue and catering. So let’s look at how wedding photographers calculate their prices and see how ‘expensive’ it is in context.

What wedding photographers base their price on

Every wedding photographer has their own figure they need to make to pay the bills and stay in business, and circumstances are all different. Generally speaking, though, these are the main factors that determine fees:

  • How much experience your wedding photographer has
  • The package & service you receive
  • When you’re getting married
  • Where your photographer is based

Where your photographer is based

The cost of living varies all over the country, and that’s going to have an effect on the minimum fees a photographer needs to charge to stay in business.

For example, rents and mortgages in the London area are obscenely higher than they are in, say, the Glasgow area. So, theoretically anyway, a London photographer would have to work much more often, or charge a much higher fee, just to pay the same bills as the Glasgow photographer.

However, I know many very talented and in-demand wedding photographers based in some the cheapest parts of the country that charge as much as similarly skilled London photographers. So while their location and how often they can shoot does play a part, there comes a point where experience, reputation, and demand become more relevant.

How location affects my wedding photography fees: I’m based in Surrey, and 70% of my weddings are in central London, Surrey, and Hertfordshire. My ‘all day’ fee currently includes travel within those areas, and if I need to book overnight accommodation or travel further afield I just add the expenses to the invoice without markup.

I’d need to book at least 35 full day weddings a year at £2000 to make what I need to make in London, if I only did weddings. But the amount of time and energy I put into my weddings, I’d burn myself out before summer was over, so I limit myself to around 20 a year, charge a little bit more per wedding, and fill in the gaps with other photography work for businesses, families, and private individuals.

When you’re getting married

Most couples want to get married on a Saturday in spring or summer, naturally, but there’s only about 20 of those available, with some so popular they attract dozens of enquiries. To get around this many couples go for a Friday or Sunday instead.

But while some wedding photographers are happy to shoot two, three, or even more weddings on consecutive days, consider if you’ll be getting the best from them if you’re not the first in their back-to-back bookings.

It’s often suggested by wedding blogs to go for a mid-week off-season wedding date in order to get a discount. The thinking goes that wedding photographers and venues etc will be glad of the income in their ‘quiet season’.

But many wedding photographers will have other corporate or private clients that book all year round, so they don’t ‘need’ the work as much. Plus every wedding deserves the same amount of time and skill dedicated to it, which is the bulk of what you’re paying for really.

So there’s no harm in asking if there’s a discount for mid-week off-season weddings, but it’s best not to expect it.

How your wedding date affects my wedding photography fees: I’ve been known to occasionally offer a discount for local mid-week weddings – and by local I really do mean ’15 minutes door to door’! But I’m lucky enough to be in demand seven days a week for most of the year, so to be fair to all my couples I typically charge the same price all year round. 

The package & service you receive

When I talk about service, I mean the difference between the high level of personal service you might receive ordering a bespoke watch from an artisan watchmaker, for example, versus what you’d experience ordering a cheap watch from Argos.

With a good wedding photographer the service you receive starts from the moment they offer a meeting to get to know you before booking, and continues through every stage of the booking and planning phase before your big day, right through to the editing and delivery afterwards, and all your interactions with them in between.

And the package covers things like: how many planning consultations are included (if any); if any venue visits are included; if travel is included; how long they’ll stay on the day; the degree of editing that goes into finishing your images; whether you get a gorgeous online gallery to share; and any other goodies such as albums, slideshows, etc.

I know of some photographers who don’t care about meeting before booking, or even before the wedding day, barely edit the photos, and send a plain Dropbox link instead of presenting everything in an online gallery.

And I know others who bend over backwards to make sure you feel cared for from booking to delivery, with all the bells and whistles you can imagine.

What you want from your wedding photography experience is up to you, but the photographers who are always there for you and take pride in their attention to detail will charge a premium for that, while not necessarily making a lot of profit depending on the expenses they incur providing that experience.

How package & service affects my wedding photography fees: I care a ridiculous amount about your experience, and I’m always looking for ways to improve it. I spend about 40+ hours in total on each wedding from the moment I meet with you, to the moment I deliver your finished photographs.

I pay for a number of specialist tools and services to help me give you the best possible experience, including an online client portal to handle booking and pre-wedding questionnaires, video messaging services to keep in touch personally, specialist software to edit photos and create slideshows, and online gallery services. Plus all the expenses of purchasing, maintaining, and insuring my equipment, accountancy fees, public liability insurance for your venue, etc.

How much experience your wedding photographer has

In general (although not always) the longer a photographer has been shooting weddings has then the higher their prices will be. All that experience should help them to know where and when to be for the best shots, and give them the adaptability to handle just about anything on the day without missing a beat.

And hopefully, the longer they’ve been in business, the better and busier they’re likely to be. There’s only so many weddings a good wedding photographer can do without burning themselves out and letting someone down. So in-demand photographers can afford to charge more, allowing them to book fewer weddings and spend more time on each one.

Someone with a couple of years experience will generally be charging a lower fee. But they could be using cheaper equipment not suited to the demands of the day, or be unaware of how to get the best angles of the key moments, and they could even miss important moments entirely.

Then afterwards they may not have the experience to properly edit and finish your photos, resulting in bland images that don’t feel special.

But price isn’t always the best way to determine experience or quality.

For example, there’s nothing to stop an amateur with only one ‘good’ wedding under their belt putting together an impressive portfolio and charging £3,000.

And some great wedding photographers do it as a hobby, subsidised by their 9-5  day job, letting them charge less than full-time wedding photographers. If their portfolio is solid that’s great for your wallet, but if it’s not their full time job ask how much time they’ll be able to dedicate to your experience before and after the big day. And weddings can be tiring – will someone who’s put in a full time working week be firing on all cylinders come Saturday?

Finally, don’t always assume paying more guarantees a perfect experience. It’s not unusual now for ‘big name’ photographers to be so busy they double-book dates and send associate photographers in their place. Ideally, you’d want to meet that associate in advance and discuss everything in detail with them but that doesn’t always happen.

How experience affects my wedding photography fees: I’ve been shooting weddings since 2007. I started at around £1350 for ten hours and by 2022 I was charging around £2100. I’ve learned the value of preparing well, including a venue visit if possible, and am happy to spend time on calls with you planning the day and answering questions. I easily spend over 40 hours in total from the moment I meet a couple until the day they receive their finished album. And each year I raise my prices by around 5% on average.

So, is wedding photography really that expensive?

It’s all relative to what you want, and what you can afford. The £2250 photographer may look and sound expensive compared to the £1500 photographer, or very reasonable compared to the £3500 photographer.

But if £1500 is absolutely the most you can afford then there’s absolutely no shame in that. I cared as much about my work back when I was charging £1350 as I do now. I just didn’t have the experience and skill then that I have now. So you should invest the most you can afford, but for goodness sake don’t go broke over it.

If you want my advice…

The best advice I can give you is make your shortlist based on the quality of their work first and foremost. And as much as possible based on their websites consider what they’re like as a person – do you want to spend your whole wedding day with them?

And don’t think about price AT ALL at this stage. It’s worth including that £3500 photographer you love just for the satisfaction of realising that actually you prefer the £1500 photographer anyway… 😉

And then when you’ve got a list of four, five, six photographers maybe, start considering what you can actually afford, and what you could potentially stretch to if they’re as amazing in person as they sound on their website.

Just don’t let price be the only factor you ever consider. The photos they make for you will last FOREVER, but the cake and the champagne won’t even last the night.