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Why Are Wedding Photographers So Expensive?

At some point during wedding planning the time arrives for the loving soon-to-be bride and groom to start looking at wedding photographers.

You may already know of one or two photographers through recommendations from friends or family, but if not, the 3-step process for finding a local wedding photographer is straight-forward:

  1. Go to Google and type in "Wedding photographers in Cardiff".

  2. Look at the websites of Cardiff based wedding photographers in the search results.

  3. Open dialogue with the photographers that take your fancy to see if they are available on your wedding date.

While you're in the middle of step 2 it's perfectly normal for the couple to question "why are wedding photographers so expensive?".

Whenever I'm discussing photography with someone and mention that I shoot weddings, many drop in a "good money in that" comment, or something similar.

British sterling cash notes with overlaying text as a quote saying "Wedding photography? Good money in that  ain't there fella?"

I don't get annoyed by such comments because I totally understand that most things related to weddings are super costly, from venue hire to bride and groom attire to food per head to wedding photographer. It feels as though everything comes at a premium.

According to Hitched, the average cost of a wedding photographer in the UK in 2021 was £1600 - £2000.

This has to be taken somewhat with a pinch of salt as the cost of very similar packages can vary wildly based on the location. For example, a London based photographer may charge far more than a photographer of similar experience operating in a small rural village in Wales where the cost of living is far less.

Anyway, for those who do believe that wedding photographers are expensive, I'm going to try to tackle the elephant in the ceremony room and break down why that's the case.

Things That Make A Wedding Photographer Expensive

There are many things that a wedding photographer factors in when deciding how much to charge - this is also why most photographers offer a range of different packages at different price points.

When determining how much to charge for a specific wedding photography package, a photographer will typically consider the following:

  • Wedding photography experience

  • Camera gear

  • Travel to and from locations

  • Insurance

  • Hours communicating and meeting with clients

  • Hours photographing the wedding

  • Estimated editing hours

  • Inclusions such as photo book design and prints etc.

View of bride and groom posing for wedding photo through viewfinder of old vintage camera

I'll give an example using one of my own wedding photography packages below before diving into more detail about some of the considerations.

Breakdown of Expensive Wedding Photography Package

Each photographer is a little different in their approach when it comes to choosing what they include in a package and what they charge, so I can only use myself in this example and outline why I charge what I do for wedding photography.

Let's take my most expensive photography package as an example - I charge a whopping £1450 for "The Bells & Whistles" package (less than the UK average, I'll add!) - I mean, I charge this at time of writing. If you're reading this several years later and I've yet to come back and update this article the price might be frustratingly more!

So, what does £1450 get you?

This price means that the couple, in total, receives:

  • Approx. 20 years photography experience and professional-grade camera gear;

  • Estimated 2-3 hours in total communicating with the couple (e-mails, messages, phone calls) plus fuel to visit them to discuss the wedding photography and the day in general in more detail;

  • Fuel and my travel time to and from the wedding venue(s) on the day - usually no more than 2 hours total (or 1 hour if ceremony and reception is at the same venue);

  • Estimated 10-or-so hours of total wedding day coverage from bridal prep through to first dance;

  • Estimated 25 hours culling and professionally editing images in both colour and black and white versions;

  • A £20 wooden engraved USB stick;

  • Estimated 10 hours designing a large photobook;

  • Printing of the high-quality photo book that costs approx. £100;

  • Delivery of USB and photo book - often in person if in South Wales, which often takes up to 1.5 hours for return journey, as I prefer to ensure they safely arrive!

So, let's now do an estimated mathematical breakdown of this package:

Estimated Working Hours = 50

Package Cost Income = £1450

Expenses From Estimated Cost of USB and Photobook = £120

Typical Total Fuel Expenses = £20

Package Cost (£1450) - USB and Photo Book Expenses (£120) - Fuel (£20) = Revised Income (£1310)

Let's get an hourly rate from that....

Revised Income (£1310) ÷ Working Hours (50) = £26.20

So, a typical £1450 wedding package nets an equivalent £26.20 hourly pay before tax.

Not bad, certainly far above the current minimum wage, as if an out-and-out wedding photographer shooting this package can land enough weddings per year to account for the typical 2,080 annual working hours (this would mean 40+ weddings), this would put them on a pre-tax salary of £52,400.

However, I am certain that very few photographers could commit to 40+ weddings year after year - that is some tiring work in an industry that's very seasonal. This is why most photographers shoot a wide range of different things (portraits, headshots, events, parties, sports, animals etc.), plus there are additional costs that I haven't even included here that a photographer may pay such as insurance for equipment and public liabilities.

Those few photographers who do turn such high numbers of weddings per year are likely to use a trusted company or work in partnership with a second shooter who shares photo editing duties, which would incur additional expenses or the splitting of income.