Finding the right wedding photographer is about more than just looking for someone whose work you like, or who fits best into your budget. It’s a decision that will affect the only tangible memories you have of your wedding, so it’s important that you take the time to make it wisely. Wedding photography prices and packages can vary from one photographer, so you should make time to compare the offerings from various photographers in order to find what works best for you.

1. Making Preparations

Before you even start shopping for a wedding photographer, you need to decide your budget for this part of your wedding. On average, most photographers and other wedding professionals say that a good starting point for your photography budget is between 10% and 15% of your total wedding budget. This does not include any extra additions you’ll want for your pictures, like touch-ups, special filters or other types of digital manipulation. This is only a baseline recommendation; if your wedding photographs are extremely important to you, don’t be afraid to allocate a larger budget for your wedding photography. This is definitely an area of your wedding where you don’t want to skimp; photography is a field where you’re very likely to get exactly what you pay for and quality is definitely more expensive.

2. Understanding Packages

When comparing wedding photography prices, it’s important to make sure you understand what’s included and what isn’t. Some photography packages include digital manipulation of a limited number of images, a set number of guaranteed photos or inclusion of the digital negatives for your wedding. These things should be specified in your package and in your contract with your photographer. If they’re not, you may find yourself without the photographic coverage you’re counting on for your big day. Be aware that most photographers will only provide digital manipulation for a set number of images. While you may receive the digital negatives for hundreds of pictures, you’ll likely only have touch-ups on a handful; a few dozen, at most.

3. Examining Costs

Package pricing for various wedding photography can be very different from one photographer to the next. However, in general, sessions for engagement photos cost between $300 and $500.  For wedding coverage, you can expect the price tag to come in between $2,500 and $10,000. The pricing should be broken out in an itemized list in the contract, and you should ensure you understand exactly what you’re getting for the price. Remember, if it’s not in the contract, it’s not included, even if you come to a verbal agreement with the photographer. Without those changes being written into the contract, you cannot expect them to be included.

4. Choosing Wisely

One of the most important things to remember when choosing your wedding photographer and comparing wedding photography prices is that real talent isn’t cheap.  With photography, experience is an essential part of being a professional who is able to capture the important moments of your wedding. However, even the most experienced wedding photographer will render mediocre results if they don’t have a flair for the job. Alternatively, a very talented but inexperienced photographer may not be able to deliver the shots you want, simply because they lack the experience to keep pace with the flow of your big day.

For this reason, you might be faced with a choice between a very talented photographer whose work you absolutely love, and a very experienced photographer who is likely to get the shots you want, even if they aren’t exactly to your liking. There may not be any difference at all in their pricing, so you will be left with the choice of experience or talent. Of course, your best bet is to find a photographer who is both experienced and talented. Be aware that such a combination may be considerably more expensive than less talented or less experienced photographers. In order to make the right choice, make sure you look at a lot of work samples from potential photographers.

5. Comparing Options

Wedding photography prices may not depend solely on what’s in the package.  For example, let’s say you have a choice between photographer A and photographer B.  Photographer A is offering a package that includes 6 hours of coverage and the digital negatives of your photos, plus photo retouching on 20 photographs of your choice and a printable digital album. Photographer B is offering all of that, plus hard copies of the retouched photos and an engagement session. Each of these packages costs $2,500.  You might think that the choice is obvious, but what if you really fall in love with photographer A’s work, while B’s sample photos elicit a so-so response?  Your decision should hinge on whether or not you think you can live with B’s work, knowing you could have had A’s services for a similar price. You don’t want to regret your choice of wedding photographer. Having more of something you only feel okay about is much different than having something that you really enjoy. The enjoyment aspect may be the tipping point in your decision. Less of something you love, or more of something that’s only “all right”?

6. Making the Right Choice

Ultimately, it is important to remember that your choice of a wedding photographer will not be predicated on price alone. Having an idea of average wedding photography prices and what might be included in various packages is helpful, but it’s not the final word on which photographer you should or should not hire.  Factors such as your comfort with a photographer, your appreciation of their work, their experience and skill, knowledge of different formats and styles and many others are just as important as price when you’re making your final choice.

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