Wedding Expenses: How I Chose Our Photographer

Last week, my fiancé and I spent one evening posing, smiling, canoodling, jumping on each other’s backs, and generally invading each other’s personal space for a solid 90 minutes.

Yep, we spent the evening taking our engagement pictures.

Our photographer was actually one of the first vendors that I booked for our upcoming spring 2011 wedding.  I solicited nominations on facebook and via E-mail and was bombarded with names and Websites and phone numbers.  I thoughtfully researched each and every name I was given.  Here’s what I found in the process:

Wedding Vendor Turn-Offs

Since I had so many photographers to sort through, I had to ruthlessly cut people off of the list of potentials.  There were a couple instances where I didn’t even consider someone for hire:

  • No Website: Hi there, Photographer.  Let me welcome you to the 21st century.  Here, you’ll find an abyss of information that us hipsters like to refer to as “the Internet”.  Get familiar with it and get a Website.  If you can’t handle that, start a blog for free on WordPress or Blogger.  Anything!  I want to be able to stalk you and size you up before I ever see you in person.
  • No E-mail:  So, we meet again, out-of-touch Photographer!  I’d like to introduce to you a new form of communication called “electronic mail”.  Get one or risk losing a LOT of clientele.
  • No Prices: If there are not prices on your Website, I will not be calling you.  No prices means one of two things: 1) you’re too expensive or 2) you’re not good at communicating your business with me up front.  Next!

As ironic as it is, the wedding industry is heartless.  Vendors play dirty so it’s up to us brides to fight back.  If you can’t measure up to the bride’s wish list, you’re getting chopped.  Buh-bye.

The First Impression

When I was first meeting with photographers, I was just trying to go cheap.  I came across a newbie photog that would shoot our wedding for just $600.  She was sweet, but it was immediately clear that she was also immature.  She giggled uncontrollably and talked 90 MPH during our 2-hour long consultation, barely letting us – the clients – get a word in edgewise.  We left the meeting numb, mentally exhausted, and trying to rationalize hiring her just to lock in a ridiculously cheap price.

Take note engaged-to-be-married couples: Your photographer will be with you for your entire wedding day.  They’ll be with you so much that they might as well be your maid of honor/best man.  Considering this fact, you have to enjoy spending time with your photog.  If you leave a simple 2-hour meeting (that really should’ve been only 30-60 minutes) feeling unhappy and mentally exhausted, imagine how you’ll feel on the most important/most overwhelming day of your life.  The two don’t form a winning combination.

After debating over the photographer for several days, I decided to bump up my price range and keep looking.  That was the best decision I’ve ever made – at least as far as wedding planning is concerned.

Finding “The One”

I’m not implying that all photographers that don’t charge much are bad photographers, or that all good photographers have to be expensive.  However, I think I was meant to meet with that first photographer to realize that some things are worth paying more money for.

My fiancé and I stumbled upon a different photographer a couple weeks later.  He was recommended to me by a friend after I’d requested recommendations on Facebook.  He wasn’t too much more expensive, but his work was undeniably better than any of the other photographers in the city.  We set up a meet-and-greet with him and were sold within the first 5 minutes.  His demeanor was calm, we clicked with him, he made us laugh, we made him laugh.  It was the most perfect first date meeting.  We signed with him that night without a second thought.  We knew he was the one.  Another piece of advice for you future brides: When you know, you just know.

After our 90 minute engagement session yesterday, I couldn’t be more happy with the decision to more than double my budget for my photographer (which was probably too low in the first place).  We left the shoot feeling excited and happy.  We had fun with our photographer.  He made us feel comfortable and we laughed the whole time.  You could tell he knew what he was doing and loved his work.  We also felt like we got more than we paid for.  We took pictures in the most unique areas – it wasn’t just cliché flowers and trees for our backdrops.

If our engagement session was that fun, I’m sure the wedding will be even more exciting.  I know that splurging on a skilled and professional – yet fun – photographer was one of the best decisions I’ve made in this wedding planning process.

Did you splurge or go cheap on a photographer for your wedding?  If you’re unattached, do you think you’d splurge on a photographer?

p.s. That’s not us in the photo above.  Just some models. 🙂


  • The thing that was most important to Wife Ninja and myself was having full rights to the digital negatives. Sure, we paid a pretty penny $3,500 for our photgrapher, but now we can print whatever pictures we want, and as many as we want without having to pay for prints. Getting the digital negatives was CRUCIAL to our decision.

    • I agree! We also got the rights to our photos. That was one of my requirements in a photog. I think we’ll buy some prints from him and maybe a pretty album, but we’ll have all the pics to take to a Kodak kiosk somewhere if we ever want to do that.

  • I definitely splurged on photographs, and it was worth every penny! My package, which included 100 wedding pictures, cost $3500. The photographer was one of the best in town, and the pictures look like they are from a magazine. I had two friends that got married the month after me, and they spent under $1000, but they were pretty disappointed with the pictures. They just looked cheap. Your pictures are the only thing you have after the wedding is over..dont go cheap!

    • I completely agree with that. I could not be more happy that we didn’t go cheap. The photos are the only visual memories you have afterwards!

  • I did middle of the road much like everything else for our wedding for budget reasons. Our Photog was right up there with the minimum that most of the good ones were charging but no higher then I could reasonably budget for. For me that was around $1500-We spent $1600. I could not do much more. Would love to for some of the awesome photogs I found-some 3k- but just couldn’t do it. We didn’t do engagement photos either to cut down on expenses. We also didn’t meet our photog prior. Luckily it was just fine and we are happy with what we got.

  • I am not married or engaged but I think that when I do get married I would definately consider the photographer to be a top priority! The pictures are what you are left with when its over so you want them to be spectacular.

  • I definitely plan on splurging. My best friend just got married, and when I started getting frazzled before she arrived at the location, it was her photographer who calmed me down. The pictures were gorgeous, and until I saw them I didn’t realize how well candids could capture the day.

    • Aww that is so nice of the photog to do that! A good photographer is SOOO much more than pictures and your comment is a perfect example of that. We really love our photog now, so we would have gladly paid more for him just based on that. 🙂

  • I think for us we are splurging but for the wedding industry it’s pretty low/middle. We will be paying about $2000 for the photog for the whole day and rights to the photos. He isn’t the best but we like his style and his professional demeanor and the kind of work he does. He was one of the few photographers we both liked and was somewhat reasonably priced.

    • Mine is $2,200 for the whole day/engagement sesh/rights to photos. That price is upper middle for Kansas City. The lower prices are all around $1,000. It’s interesting to see the price ranges across the country! Where is your location again?

  • I hired the first one I talked to! But to be fair, he was really good and equally importantly, had a good easy-going and fun personality. He was a bit of a splurge, but definitely on the lower end of LA photogs

  • I had a lot of issues around wedding photography while we were in the planning process. While I LOVE pictures and am often affectionately called a “camera-whore,” I don’t particularly care for staged shots and am ambivalent about details and other aesthetic themes that often mark wedding photography. I was also incredibly peeved by the declaration people often make, that once your wedding day is over, the photos are all you’ll have to show for it, because it is just not true, plain and simple, and I think it leads to this frame of mind where people start to think of their wedding as a production or a photo-shoot, and it’s not. There’s a well known wedding blogger who often says ‘all you need is one great shot,’ which really resonates with me, so that’s the approach we went with.

    We DID hire a professional couple for a few hours, and got an AMAZING deal ($400 for 4 hours and all post-production work) because they’d just uprooted their successful business from one state and were sort of re-establishing themselves here and needed to quickly get to work on building a local portfolio.

    I also did something that is virtually unheard of when it comes to weddings and photography: I took my OWN camera to my OWN wedding and took pictures. LOTS of them. Like, literally, on our camera alone, we came away from the wedding weekend with over 500 photos. We also collected tons of photos from friends and family who brought cameras.

    And you know what? When I look at ALL of the pictures of our wedding day, the ones I love the most (and the ones we’ve got on display in our house) are almost entirely those that we captured ourselves, or were taken by friends. The photos that our pros took are beautiful, but they’re deliberately captured stylistic snapshots, and they just don’t capture the day the same way that the candids do.

    If I had it to do over again, knowing what I know now, I would skip the professional photos altogether.

    • You know, you bring up a really good point. One of my bridesmaid is a pretty obsessed with taking pictures, so I think I might give her my camera on the wedding day to take some shots. That will definitely help ease the pain of waiting a month to get the pics back AND I’ll probably get a lot of great candid pictures like you mentioned. Thanks for the idea!

      • Another thing I’d suggest is that if you have any friends who have iPhones, ask them to download the hipstamatic app (I think it’s $1.99, plus .99 cents for about 6 different add ons). It enables you to take AMAZING photos using various types of lenses and film. 🙂

  • Spent around $3800 for pictures.. Totally worth it! They look like they came from a magazine. I had a couple friends that spent around $1500 for pictures are were pretty disappointed with the results. Remember, photographs are the only thing that you keep after the wedding–don’t go cheap!

  • This is a rule I use in everything in my life:

    No Prices: If there are not prices on your Website, I will not be calling you. No prices means one of two things: 1) you’re too expensive or 2) you’re not good at communicating your business with me up front. Next!

    No price means they don’t want to sell it

  • Amber,

    My wife and I went with a family member. We knew she would do a great job, and she would be cheaper than anyone else in our area. We basically decided where we wanted to spend extra money, and then cut corners in other areas. We spent the majority of our budget on the venue, with an ocean view. Decisions, Decisions, Decisions, in the next months you get to make so many decisions. Have fun!!!!

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