How Much to Invest in Your Wedding Photographer

couple kissing underneath wedding veil
Invest in Your Wedding Photographer, couple kissing while veil is flying in the wind

Invest In Your Wedding Photographer

When we planned our wedding, I, unfortunately, never had the wonderful opportunity to be educated on how much to invest in your wedding photographer and what you would actually receive from how much you invested. I truly just picked a number and decided that’s what I could afford to pay. But what I didn’t realize is that two, even three years later, I wished I had known what I was truly investing in.

I wasn’t just paying for one day of photography. I should have paid for a lifetime of loving my wedding photography experience and images. It’s really not “how much do wedding photographers cost,” but it’s “how much should I INVEST into my wedding photographer” so I can have an amazing wedding day experience with my wedding photographer PLUS have high quality wedding portraits to remember, look back on, and cherish forever!

couple kissing underneath wedding veil, Invest in Your Wedding Photographer

Why Wedding Photographers Cost What They Do

First of all, I wanted to give some behind the scenes information as to why wedding photographers cost what they do. To explain this, you need to understand that photographers do what they do because they are passionate about it, which is amazing! But, they also have to treat their photography as a business in order to protect their clients, themselves, and be able to keep photographing love stories for years!

And…businesses cost money to run, which means that every time a photographer books a new client, a portion of that payment goes back into the business just to keep the business running and a portion of it goes to paying taxes.

Below, I’ve broken down the numbers so you can see where your money is truly going!

What Couples Think Photography Costs

Many couples believe that the average cost for a wedding photographer is $2500 because they google this question, and google comes up with the number range of $2500 to $4000. And some couples automatically just think that $2500 is what a photographer should charge for a 8 hour wedding.

A lot of couples also think that $2500 for only 8 hours of work is super high pay; however, couples do not see all the other hours of work that photographers actually have to put in to show up prepared and ready to photograph your wedding day professionally.

This is why you see some photographers on wedding days who don’t know what they are doing and some photographers on wedding days who clearly know what they are doing. The first photographer just showed up with a camera thinking that they would just take photos of whatever happened, and the second photographer sat down with the couple long before the wedding day to help them plan their wedding photography day timeline so that their day would be smooth, stress-free, and celebratory!

Jennifer Cooke Photography smiling with one of her couples on their wedding day!

Helpful Insight into What Full-Time, Wedding Pros Do

I’m hoping to provide some helpful insight into what full-time, professional wedding photographers actually do. Here’s that real life example on how a $2500 wedding would be distributed.

First, 25% automatically goes to paying taxes. We have to pay federal income tax, state income tax (this depends on the state), self-employment tax, and sometimes sales & use tax (depending on the state). Second, 25% would then go to paying for business expenses. That leaves 50% that you might be able to pay yourself if you don’t have crazy high business expenses, such as your cameras or lenses break, and you need to fix it or buy another camera body or lens, marketing costs, and subscription fees just to run your business. Fifty percent of $2500 is $1250.

Also, anytime a client pays via credit card, we lose about 2-3% of the amount in business processing fees. Therefore, we lose about $62.50, so we really only receive $2,437.50.

three beautiful rings together on top of a white wedding invitation, Invest in Your Wedding Photographer

Client Communication – Invest in Your Wedding Photographer

Let’s talk client communication, editing time, and overall cost of doing business.

Within my business, I communicate with my clients A LOT before and after their wedding day. There are a lot of emails that go back and forth as well as text messages, and we do several zoom calls which can sometimes last for an hour or more. I would say that we probably spend at least 5-8 hours on communication with you before your wedding day.

How We Help Our Couples

We also help with wedding day photography timeline building, which we do over a zoom call with you. We provide you with a complimentary engagement session which is normally at least 5 hours of our time (sometimes more) including planning, shooting, travel, editing, and delivery. At this point, we are currently up to about 13 hours of work. Next, we photograph your wedding day for 8 hours, and then I spend several hours after your wedding day backing up your photos and delivering sneak peeks to you before I go to bed. I’ve been known to stay up until 2am completing these things to surprise you! After your wedding day is complete, I’ve normally put in a 14 hour day at least if not longer. I remember one wedding day was 16 hours of work within 24 hours.

Beautiful bridesmaids holding lavender florals on Jenna's wedding day! Invest in Your Wedding Photographer

Editing Time – Invest in Your Wedding Photographer

Next, we get to editing! Editing time can probably take anywhere from 20 hours to 32 hours, unless you choose to use AI editing. And many wedding photographers are using AI to edit their galleries these days to save time and complete galleries faster. However, you still have to pay for AI editing and it takes time to train the AI to edit into your particular style. And then we do a gallery reveal with you (via zoom), which is another hour. And there’s always communication with you after your wedding day!

Here’s a quick summary of what we do:

  • Communication Hours BEFORE Your Wedding Day – 13 Hours
  • Wedding Day Hours – 8 Hours + 2 HRs of Prep before we arrive + 4 HRs of Work after we leave = 14 HRs
  • Editing Time – 20 to 32 Hours of Work (including blog post & gallery delivery)
  • Total Hours Worked = 59
  • Pay Your Second Photographer $50/Hour for 8 Hours = $400
  • Business Processing Fees = $62.50
  • $1250 – $400 – $62.50 = $787.50 divided by 59 hours = $13.35/hour

Now, I’ll ask you. Is $13.35/hour a sustainable rate to get paid as a full-time professional wedding photographer with years of experience, education, and expensive equipment?

And let’s be honest, if you photographed 3 weddings per month at $2500, with the numbers above you’d only come out making $2,398.50 from 177 hours of work within 1 month. And people normally work 160 hours per week and definitely make more than this amount. So again, not sustainable at all.

Now, we can see why Professional Wedding Photographers have to charge a minimum of $3,000 per wedding, but normally that, just to make a living doing what they love and serving their clients well!

Lavender flat lay, Invest in Your Wedding Photographer

Overall Cost of Doing Business

Here’s a Blog Post I wrote about My Yearly Business Expenses, to provide clarity on the business side of photography!

So, we have come to determine that $2500 is not a sustainable rate for 2 wedding photographers on an 8 hour wedding day. It just isn’t. Long story short, if we just showed up and shot for 8 hours, your day would not go smoothly. It just wouldn’t, and we’ve learned that from years of experience. Anything valuable and high quality takes time and planning!

I wanted to explain this because I do think that there is a common misconception about how much photographers make but actually KEEP after all the work they do. Let me give you a real life example…

As wedding photographers, we truly want to tell you about this, so you can make an informed decision about your wedding photography experience. It’s going to be one of your most valuable decisions to make when planning your wedding day because you’re leave your wedding day with your spouse and your wedding photos to remember your day for the rest of your life!

groom kissing bride's shoulder surrounded by beautiful green and lavender florals, Invest in Your Wedding Photographer

So, How Much Should You Invest in Your Wedding Photographer?

There really is no average wedding photography cost because wedding photographers can range between $500 to $25,000. Yep, I’m serious. I’ve written this blog to help you understand the different investment ranges and what type of experience level you will be receiving when you invest different amounts of money.

Sweet couple on their wedding day posing for a photo, Invest in Your Wedding Photographer

Wedding Portraits Last a Lifetime

Imagine you spend 10K on your wedding photography experience, and you divide that number by 60 years (you are married for 60 years). That’s $166/year that you spend on being able to cherish your wedding memories on your walls and on your living room table for your entire lifetime. That’s an incredible investment for your life and marriage!

Now, imagine that you invest 5K in your wedding photography experience. Spread out over 60 years, that’s $83/year, which again is a steal to remember your wedding day memories for your whole life! Now, this is where you get to decide…if you want to have high quality photos from your wedding day to remember forever, OR if you’d rather save some money but risk being able to fully remember your wedding day forever.

Jennifer Cooke smiling for a photo with one of her JC Couples on their wedding day!

How to Pick the Right Wedding Photographer

Your wedding portraits will last a lifetime, so it’s important to hire the wedding photographer who you love and whose work you love. It’s not just about finding the most affordable wedding photographer for your day. It’s about finding the right photographer who you vibe with and will provide you with an amazing experience you will never forget! I truly believe it’s about finding a photographer who you truly connect with on a deeper level, and you want this person to be there for you on your wedding day!

How to Pick a Wedding Photographer (Coming Soon!)

Amateur Wedding Photographers

$0 to $1,000

Yes, you can find a wedding photographer for under $1,000, but can that photographer guarantee that you’re going to absolutely love your wedding photos forever? They can’t. It’s very unlikely a photographer charging these rates will be insured and be able to properly protect your wedding images by backing them up in three places until they are delivered to you because proper storage costs money.

This investment range will most likely not include a complimentary engagement session.

Unfortunately, this is one of the investment ranges that turn out to be scams and couples lose money; therefore, I would be extremely wary of this investment range and would highly discourage this range.

Beginning Wedding Photographers

$1,000 to $2,000

This investment range can honestly be hit or miss. Sometimes you hire a photographer who is amazing, but some couples have a not so good experience. At this price point, corners will definitely need to be cut so that the photographer does not go out of business but can still photograph your wedding day.

This investment range may or may not include a complimentary engagement session. It will depend on the photographer and what they can do. You’ll probably only be able to get 4 to 6 hours of coverage.

Bridal Portrait

Professional Wedding Photographers

$3,000 to $4,000

Professional Photographers in this investment range normally give a very good experience and deliver your images to you via an online gallery. These collections normally include a complimentary engagement session, but it will depend on the photographer. Some collections may include a second photographer, but some may not. You normally won’t receive any physical product in this investment range, unless you purchase it separately after your wedding day during the gallery reveal session. You’ll probably be able to get 6 to 8 hours of coverage.

Married couple smiling at each other on their wedding day, Invest in Your Wedding Photographer

Experienced Wedding Photographers – Invest in Your Wedding Photographer

$4,000 to $7,000

Experienced Professional Photographers offer more than just digital photos via an online gallery. They offer a unique experience that is custom to them in their business and their clientele as well as custom wedding albums and canvas wall art. We design your wedding album for you, and have them printed through a professional printing lab that guarantees color accuracy. These are high quality, legacy wedding albums that will last you for years to come on your living room table!

Photographers in this investment range will also sometimes provide the option for parent wedding albums (parents absolutely LOVE these)!

Wedding Photographers also bring backup equipment to your wedding day to ensure your wedding day is properly documented. They have systems in place to properly backup your images while also giving you an incredible experience that you will rave about to your friends and family members! These collections should include a second photographer to photograph the groom and groomsmen while the main photographer photographs the bride and bridesmaids.

You’ll probably be able to get 8 to 10 hours of coverage within this investment range.

Wedding photographers in this investment range are dedicated to providing you with an amazing experience, while also making sure that your wedding images are properly protected until you receive them and dedicating themselves to serving you well throughout the entire wedding photography process! You are investing in an experience with them, which means fun surprises along the way!

Legacy Wedding Albums

Legacy Wedding Albums are high quality and an absolutely stunning display of your wedding day and love story. Some couples even choose to have an engagement session album made to display on their wedding day!

Here’s a Blog Post I wrote about Why You Should Invest in a Legacy Wedding Album (Coming Soon)!

Canvas Wall Art

Canvas Wall Art is a gorgeous and artsy way to display your favorite romantic portraits from your wedding day in your living room or your bedroom! It’s an amazing way to remember your wedding day and how you felt for each other every single day of your life!

groom kissing his bride on her forehead on their wedding day

High End Wedding Photographers – Invest in Your Wedding Photographer

$7,000 to $10,000

Wedding Photographers in this investment range have normally photographed over 100 weddings and have placed an extremely high value on client experience, surprise deliverables, and fast delivery. They also take on fewer weddings per year to focus on serving their couples to the fullest possible extent. Photographers in this investment range will custom design your wedding album for you to enhance your client experience even more.

You’ll probably be able to get 8 to 12 hours of coverage within this investment range. You might even be able to get rehearsal dinner coverage!

Couples who invest this amount of money are looking for an incredible experience, a relationship with a particular photographer, and a custom heirloom wedding album to remember their wedding day!

Married couple kissing in front of Oxbow Estate

Experienced High End Wedding Photographers – Invest in Your Wedding Photographer


Wedding photographers in this investment range normally have hundreds of weddings under their belt and many connections within the wedding industry and with brides. They’ve dealt with pretty much every single wedding day situation that could arise, and they are there to make it all seamless for you! It’s all about trusting them to document gorgeous, authentic imagery of you and your spouse! You can be 110% confident that you won’t have to worry about a thing your entire wedding day.

This is normally the investment range for destination wedding photographers as well.

Luxury clients normally book within the 10K to 20K investment range. Luxury weddings are those clients who will sometimes spend a million dollars if not more on their wedding.

Couples who hire photographers like this are hiring them because they are the absolute BEST at what they do, and they can fully trust them to document their day without worrying about anything. Couples who hire these photographers have normally been following this particular photographer for 5+ years and have saved up to invest in the experience that this particular photographer offers!

Bride posing by a luxurious floral staircase

Will You Choose to Invest in Your Wedding Photography?

So, will you choose to invest in your wedding photography experience so you love your wedding portraits for the rest of your life? It’s up to you!

How to Pick a Wedding Photographer

Nashville Engagement Session Spots

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