What Should I Look for in a Wedding Photographer?

Lisa Raffo Ashley, the founder of Wedding Artists Co., breaks down wedding photography on a budget

Photo by Samm Blake

Surveys say the average cost for a wedding photographer is around $3,133 or 6 percent of your budget, but anyone looking at top-level work is in for a shock. For a weekend event, expect to pay a minimum day rate for eight hours of coverage. If your guest list is 200 and up, you may pay more or need a second photographer. So when your budget is tight, it’s best to cut your head count or have your wedding on a Thursday, when photographers are more likely to negotiate. Any wedding planner will tell you the same, because the cost of everything will scale down. Think quality versus quantity, especially if you have your heart set on a specific person to capture your big day.

Timing is also a factor: There is less flexibility on pricing during peak months (June, September, and October) as well as on weekends, especially if you want to book far in advance. Also, an engagement session or rehearsal dinner costs extra ($1,000 to $3,000); for out-of-town events, factor in travel expenses, plus added day-rate fees. Set your priorities: One bride wanted to pay $600 an hour for the late-night after-party; my tip was to give Instax cameras to guests, who will have a ball taking snaps of each other.

A basic package includes a gallery of around 600 watermark-free photos sent in high-resolution files and/or a USB drive. Delivery time is 6 to 10 weeks, and here’s why: Some 5,000 digital photos from your wedding get downloaded, backed up, and reviewed. That takes time. Those who opt for film will get an online gallery of images and often a box of print proofs as well. Know, too, that your wedding album costs extra; it’s easiest, but also more expensive, to order a leather heirloom version from your photographer. (Here’s a thought: Register for that instead of a mixer!) For you DIYers, why not create your own signature keepsake on Artifact Uprising?

This story originally appeared in the June/July 2019 issue of Brides, on sale beginning April 30.

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