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I have wanted to write a post on wedding photography and budgets for awhile now, but was reluctant for many reasons. One, wedding budgets are always a touchy topic. And two, everyone has their own budget and it’s difficult to generally shout-out acceptable photography budgets to the masses. Budgets are always a subject that many wedding bloggers seem to write about these days. However, some bloggers offer great advice and some offer not-so-great advice. I always try to find out if a blogger has been in the wedding industry for a long time or if the writer does have knowledge about budgeting and weddings. So, today I am going to give you my no-nonsense advice on how to set a wedding photography budget that works for you. Setting a budget for photography can be simplified by following a few steps to insure that you choose the right photographer based on your budget.
Step One- Prioritize.
Write a list of your wedding vendors and decide what is most important to you and your fiancé. Is it the venue, entertainment, food, photography, or décor? If photography does not make the top two vendors, then you might want to spend your money on your top priorities and spend less on photography. If photography is at the top of the list, then budget accordingly and know that you may want to spend more for a photographer that is at, or above your benchmark price.
Step Two- Establish a photography benchmark price.
Start by doing an initial search to see the photographers available in your particular city or town. You can get recommendations from friends and family or just begin a broad search on sites like Wedding Wire in your city. And as a suggestion, you might want to pay close attention to photographers’ who have been in business for more than five years. Why five years of experience? Because overall, about 50-60% of new businesses fail within five years. And experience does matter in wedding photography! It took me over 4 years of being a wedding photographer assistant, working about 30 weddings per year to get used to shooting weddings and eventually starting out on my own. And yes, there are a few exceptions to every rule! During your initial research, you might find great photographers who fit your style, but have less than 5 years of experience. Or photographers’, who have experience, but are not the perfect fit. This is where more detailed research comes in. Narrow down your search to about 3-5 of your favorite photographers, ask for pricing and calculate a benchmark or median price for photography. You can then decide whether to go above or below the price. This also helps you gauge the market and have a pricing range to work with. Just as an example, in Chicago the price for an experienced photographer is about $3000-$5000+. But, in other towns and cities, the range will be totally different.
Step Three- Make a list of what is important to you in choosing a wedding photographer.
Style, experience, price, personality, customer service, reliability, responsiveness? What is important to you? Make a list! That way, you can always reference your list while you talk to each photographer and decide which one you want to hire. My suggestion is to initially talk with your favorite photographers’ on the phone first and make sure they understand your vision and what’s important to you. And then if everything goes well, meet with them in person to make sure your personalities will mesh during the wedding day. Depending on your list, and your budget, you might have to make compromises. For example, you might find a wonderful photographer whose style is perfect for your wedding, but is more expensive than your benchmark price. Or, a good photographer who is at the right price but is not the perfect fit. That is where the list comes in and you can make your decision based on which factors are a priority.
Step Four- Look at reviews closely and listen to recommendations objectively.
In this day of age, every established photographer on your list should have reviews, unless they are just starting their business. Read reviews very closely! I take the “quality over quantity” approach to reviews. If you find 7 reviews on a photographer that include many details about the photographer and speak about other great qualities, that trumps 21 reviews of another photographer where there are just a few short sentences for each review. Make sure to really read the reviews to understand the attributes and qualities of each photographer and whether they fit your style, personality and what’s important to you. Friend and family recommendations are wonderful as well. However, make sure their recommended photographers’ fit your vision and ask tons of questions! You may find that recommendations from loved ones’ will be a perfect fit and sometimes, may not be the right photographer for you!