Average Cost of a Wedding Photographer 2024

June 29, 2023

a bride and groom embrace one another during their couples portraits on their wedding day in Bracesville, Ohio. A true love story. Friends of more than 20 years before dating. And now finally happily married! Photo taken by Cleveland Wedding Photographer Aaron Aldhizer

The Average Cost for Wedding Photography

If you’re wondering how much you should spend on wedding photography, you’re in luck! This article aims to provide you with valuable insights into the average cost of wedding photographers. You likely know wedding photography is an essential investment. After all, it is likely one of the only tangible things you will have left after your wedding is over.

Determining the average cost of a wedding photographer can be challenging due to the wide range of options available at different price points. Many sources suggest allocating a specific amount or a certain percentage of your overall wedding budget for photography. However, it’s crucial to consider the various factors before making a decision and determine what value you want from your photographer.

If you search for the “Average Cost of a Wedding Photographer” on Google, you might come across articles stating that it’s around $2,000 (like this one). but they don’t tell you anything else… (Also if that’s the average, is that how much you should invest in wedding photography?)

The overwhelming number of photographers that appear in search results can make it challenging to choose the right one for your wedding day. But fear not, as I’m here to guide you through this process and help you find a photographer who will deliver the quality and experience you desire.

By reading this article on the “cost of wedding photographers”, you’ll gain valuable knowledge, including:

  • Gauging the average cost of a wedding photographer in 2024
  • Debunking the “10% myth” and how to determine the right investment for your photo needs
  • Exploring the factors that influence the cost of wedding photography and determining the ones that matter most to you
  • Is the wedding photography market overcharging?
  • Taking an in-depth look at wedding photography prices in the Cleveland and Northeast Ohio area
  • Deciding how much you should invest in wedding photography

This article will provide you with a thorough understanding of the cost of wedding photographers, differentiating between various types of photographers and their respective price ranges. You’ll gain insight into their level of experience, expertise, and whether they are beginners or seasoned professionals. These considerations are vital to ensure you make an informed decision that aligns with your vision and expectations.

Groom and bride happily walk down the aisles of a vineyard at Gervasi Vineyard located in Canton Ohio. Photo taken by Cleveland Wedding Photographer Aaron Aldhizer

How Much Do Wedding Photographers Cost?

When it comes to determining how much you should spend on a wedding photographer, it’s crucial to shift your focus from “the average cost of a wedding photographer” to “what do I really want from a wedding photographer?”. The average cost is EXTREMELY theoretical. But understanding the value that each photographer brings to the table will help you make an informed decision.

Instead of solely considering the price, it’s important to evaluate the value and quality each photographer offers. This approach increases your chances of booking the RIGHT photographer who aligns with your vision and preferences, rather than simply basing your decision on what others are spending and booking an AVERAGE photographer.

To help you overall gauge how much your average photographer should cost, let’s break the average cost of a wedding photographer into six distinct groups:

Brand Spanking New: $0-$500

What to expect: These photographers are likely just starting out and may have limited experience or no wedding shoots under their belt. While having a friend or family member offer to photograph your wedding for free may seem appealing, it’s important to be cautious. Without proper experience, they may struggle with posing, lighting, and delivering high-quality results. The risk of receiving subpar photos or missing crucial moments is extremely common with this range of wedding photographer.

Beginner: $500-$1200

What to expect: Photographers in this range are typically new to wedding photography or consider it a side hustle. Their skill level may vary, and they may lack natural posing abilities or the experience to provide a consistent and okay experience. Additionally, they might still be using entry-level gear, resulting in below-average image quality. This is an interesting price range because you’ll see A LOT of diversity in terms of quality and service. So there’s a risk of not knowing exactly what you’re going to get.

Amateur: $1200-$2000

What to expect: Photographers in this range are in the average wedding photography price range for most Northeast Ohio wedding photographers. They tend to have more experience than the previous two ranges of photographers and shoot weddings regularly. However, their demand might be lower due to style inconsistencies. They are usually small business owners who can deliver a satisfactory experience at a sustainable price point. While some photographers in this range provide reliable service, proceed with caution, as you may also find some bad eggs in this price range as well. Beginner photographers posing as seasoned photographers or hobbyists who don’t truly care about their couple’s. Just out looking to make a quick buck.

Growing Amateur: $2000-$3000

What to expect: This price range encompasses the majority of wedding photographers. While they may still be part-time, they invest in better gear, continuous education, and developing a refined style. They prioritize each client’s needs and provide adequate support, striving to deliver consistent results. This range is suitable for couples with tighter budgets who still value quality work.

Professional: $3000-$5500

What to expect: Professionals in this price range are typically full-time photographers with years of experience and a highly sought-after style. They focus on delivering not only high-quality images but also exceptional client experiences. Choosing a professional wedding photographer significantly reduces the risk of disappointment. While the cost may be higher, the level of expertise and commitment ensures you receive top-tier results. This range is recommended for couples who prioritize high-quality images and a superior wedding experience. This is the level in which I operate for weddings. View My Website To See An Example.

Luxury: $5500+ (e.g., starting at $8k, $10k, $20k, or higher)

What to expect: Luxury photographers have established themselves as masters of the craft, with a refined style and offerings tailored to high-profile events or destination weddings. They are highly sought after for their exceptional quality, products, and services. Booking a photographer in this range is recommended for clients hosting large, luxurious weddings or international destination events. Their expertise and reputation make them the best choice for those who seek the absolute best in the field.

By understanding the different types of wedding photographers and their respective price ranges, you can make a more informed decision that aligns with your preferences and budget. Remember to consider factors such as experience, style, expertise, and overall quality when selecting your photographer.

Regardless of your budget, there are talented photographers available at various price points. Remember to prioritize the quality, experience, and style that resonate with you. Wedding photography is an investment in your memories, and finding the right photographer ensures those memories are captured flawlessly.

bride and groom in a white dress and black tux, kissing in Cuyahoga Valley National Park on their wedding day. Photo taken by Cleveland wedding photographer Aaron Aldhizer

Why You Should Focus on The Photography You’d Want Years From Now (The 10% Myth and Why You Should Disregard It)

In the ever-changing landscape of wedding planning, one popular rule has been circulating for years is you should spend about 10% of your budget on your wedding photographers. While this guideline isn’t inherently bad advice, it falls into the trap of being too cookie-cutter. Let’s explore why you should disregard the “10% myth” and instead focus on the photography you’d want years from now!

The average cost of a wedding in Ohio in 2022 was $26,000.

It’s not uncommon for couples to make cuts in other areas, such as the guest list, before considering adjustments to their photography budget. This demonstrates the importance placed on capturing the essence of their special day. If you prioritize exceptional photography, it’s worth building your budget around the photographer you must have.

To follow this alternative philosophy, create a list of your top priorities and determine the pricing for each. Add up the total and evaluate whether it aligns with your budget. If the total exceeds your budget, start considering where you can make adjustments at the bottom of the list, only moving up as necessary.

Groom shares a dance with his bride on their wedding day, surrounding by all their friends and family during a private lakeside wedding in Rocky River, Ohio. Photo taken by Cleveland Wedding photographer Aaron Aldhizer

How Much Do Wedding Photographers Cost?

If you and I are anything alike, you would love a quick and to-the-point answer to the question “how much should I spend on wedding photos?”. “Aaron, how much do wedding photographers cost?”

The short answer is $0-$20k, or maybe even more!

I get it – that is a wide pricing range. But that is due to several factors that influence a photographer’s demand and, consequently, their pricing structure and packages. While exceptions exist, it’s generally true that you get what you pay for. Exceptional photographers tend to have high demand, resulting in higher prices.

It’s difficult to give a one size fits all answer, but you’ll gain a good idea of the pricing in your area as you move forward in making this huge decision.

What I want most for you is to focus on is the value that you really want and will be happy with in the long run, and then after that, determining your price range. This leads to the question you may be asking yourself now. What else goes into their pricing? What determines their value? Why is wedding photography so expensive (or so cheap?) There are several factors that go into how photographers price for weddings. Such as:

Location

Pricing is heavily influenced by the location. If you live in an area with higher living expenses, the standard pricing for photographers in that area will likely be higher. For instance, a professional Cleveland wedding photographer may start at $3000, while a professional Los Angeles photographer may start at $8000 or more due to the increased cost of living. Generally, larger cities with higher median incomes tend to have higher standard prices.

Lifestyle

A factor that might not immediately come to mind is the lifestyle of the photographer. Their stage in life and personal circumstances can impact how much they charge. Factors like age, marital status, and financial responsibilities (think education costs if they have children, mortgage if they have a home) play a role in setting pricing. You might find yourself drawn to certain photographers because you can relate to them based on where they are in their lives. It’s natural to be drawn to someone you admire or someone with whom you share similarities. These photographers might charge a premium to provide a certain level of service and maintain their desired lifestyle.

Experience

Experience is invaluable when it comes to wedding photography. Although experience and expertise don’t always go hand in hand, photographers with a wealth of experience have likely encountered various challenging situations and learned how to handle them. They have refined their skills and developed strategies to adapt to different venues and changing conditions (schedule changes, timeline troubles, tension between family members, heck the church losing power for a majority of the ceremony, etc.). An experienced photographer understands your venue and has a plan for capturing specific moments effectively. It’s important to note that photographers with extensive experience often have higher costs due to their expertise.

Expertise

Expertise encompasses not only photography skills but also client experience, wedding planning, problem-solving on the wedding day, and business ownership. A photographer with exceptional skills in various aspects brings tremendous value to the table. They possess the ability to handle different lighting scenarios, manage interpersonal situations (like family that doesn’t get along), make everyone feel comfortable, and deliver consistent results through their business skills. Expertise typically raises the premium because it directly correlates to their desirability and demand. Reviews are good ways to peruse a photographer’s expertise. So when determining their value, be sure to check their reviews on multiple sources.

bride and groom happily lean in to kiss on their wedding day in Solon, Ohio. Photo taken by Cleveland wedding photographer Aaron Aldhizer

What Comes Standard in Their Collection?

Photographers offer different collections, and understanding what is included can help you determine the value they provide. Some photographers begin at a higher price point, including certain items in their collection, while others offer more basic collections and allow you to customize and add on additional services.

Consider the following examples when evaluating a photographer’s collection:

  • Do they include one or two photographers? Is an upgrade to two photographers available?
  • Do they include a heirloom-quality album?
  • Is an engagement session included in the package?
  • Do they include any timeline review sessions and/or venue walk-throughs?
  • How long will it take to receive the final photographs?
  • How do they deliver the photographs? Are digital files provided, or are prints included?

By considering these factors, you can determine the value you’ll receive from a photographer’s collection and make an informed decision.

Groom and bride embrace one another during a private moment on their wedding day at The Ponds Venue in Beach City, Ohio. Photo taken by Cleveland Wedding photographer Aaron Aldhizer

Are Wedding Photographers Overcharging?

An accusation often thrown at wedding vendors is that they charge exorbitant prices “simply” because it’s a wedding.

It’s not just a wedding though. Is a birthday party really the same as a wedding?
Weddings are once-in-a-lifetime occasions that require extensive pre and post labor, often span multiple locations, and can last up to 20 hours for vendors.

It’s important to recognize that the mental and physical workload of a wedding far surpasses that of other events.

While every photographer is unique, let’s consider the direct hours of work involved in a single wedding day:

  • 1-3 hours of initial emails/meetings
  • 2-3 hours of an engagement session (including local travel and shooting time)
  • 1-3 hours for engagement session upload, editing, export, and delivery
  • 2-3 hours of timeline preparation and pre-wedding planning
  • 10-20 hours of day-of work (including setup, local travel, coverage, tear down, and photo transfer/backup)
  • 7-30 hours of editing time
  • 1 hour for backup and miscellaneous activities

That’s potentially 60+ hours of actual labor per wedding, without even considering expenses.

Furthermore, additional costs such as paying a second shooter, gas money, gear, education/improvements, business insurance, software updates, and advertising rates must be factored in. When considering all these activities, it’s reasonable to estimate that a professional photographer spends at least 75-100 hours per wedding.

Let’s take the example of a photographer who needs to earn $50,000 per year after business expenses (around $20,000). If they aim to shoot 40 weddings annually, they would need to charge an average of $1,750 per wedding. This translates to approximately $15 per hour, and remember, taxes are yet to be accounted for.

If you’re paying $1,750 for a main and second shooter, it’s likely that the photographer either invests very little in their business or works incredibly hard for an hourly rate of around $15 (before taxes). Considering the specialized skills and artistry involved in capturing one of the most important days of your life, $15 per hour seems rather inexpensive, doesn’t it?

bride and groom in a white dress and black tux, kissing in Cuyahoga Valley National Park on their wedding day. Photo taken by Cleveland wedding photographer Aaron Aldhizer

Average Wedding Photography Costs in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio

In Cleveland and Northeast Ohio, wedding photographers generally fall into the following price ranges:

  • $0-$500: These photographers are just starting out and may not have shot a wedding yet. They are not considered professionals.
  • $500-$1,200: Photographers in this range may have shot a few weddings but may lack high demand or a distinctive style that commands a higher price.
  • $1,200-$2,000: This range typically includes photographers who shoot weddings semi-regularly but may not be in high demand or considered full-time professionals.
  • $2,000-$3,000: Photographers in this range have a higher demand for their style, focus on providing more support to each client, and are beginning to enter the “professional” category.
  • $3,000-$5,500: This range is typically associated with full-time professionals who have a high demand based on their style and expertise.
  • $5,500+: These photographers are more established, offer a refined style, and provide luxury offerings.

These are general starting price ranges, and it’s possible to spend $10k with a photographer whose starting price is $3,000. Keep in mind that these categories are not fixed, and you may find a deal with a lower-priced photographer, but it often comes with some trade-offs and risks.

Bride and groom embrace each other and at sunset on their wedding day at Blue Heron Brewery & Event Center. Photo taken by Cleveland Wedding photographer Aaron Aldhizer

How Much Should You Invest in Wedding Photography?

Now we answer the question of how much you should actually invest. In essence, it boils down to a few questions you need to ask yourself. Also, forget the 10% rule. It’s a myth.

  • How much do you value your wedding photos and overall experience?
  • What type of wedding are you having (standard, luxury, elopement, destination)?
  • Where does the photographer live, and will they need to travel?
  • Are you interested in additional services like engagement sessions and prints?

PRO TIP: It’s worth mentioning that if a photographer you love is slightly out of your budget, don’t hesitate to inquire about payment plans. Many photographers offer them to make the investment more manageable for you.

bride and groom hugs and embraces while taking in a surprise firework display during their intimate wedding reception. Aurora Ohio. Photo taken by Cleveland Wedding Photographer Aaron Aldhizer

Conclusion

In the end, the cost of wedding photography depends on what you can afford and finding a photographer who aligns with your preferences and style. A wedding photographer is worth the investment if they have a solid reputation, produce photos you love, have a compatible personality, and make you feel comfortable. While some couples may spend $500, others are willing to invest $5k, $10k, or even $20k+. Higher-priced photographers often have more demand due to their skills and style. While you may find cheaper photographers who exceed their current price range, it can be a gamble.

However, the true value of a wedding photographer lies in their ability to preserve your precious memories for generations to come. They work tirelessly under immense pressure, and their contribution should be cherished. When making your decision, consider all these factors and remember that the photographer you choose will play a crucial role in documenting your special day.

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below I’d love to hear any other thoughts, tips, and experiences from couples and photographers!

Like what you read? Check out my other blogs!

© AARON ALDHIZER PHOTOGRAPHY 2018-2023