Paul Fletcher Photography » Sussex documentary wedding photographer based in Brighton.

How much should you expect to pay for a wedding photographer? Well, there are no hard and fast rules for pricing when it comes to wedding photography, however there are many factors to consider when choosing a wedding photographer who offers a style you love at a price within your budget. I would argue that you shouldn’t compromise too much on price because your wedding day can’t be repeated and that quality, creative wedding photography is an exceptionally important element of the day that will preserve many wonderful memories forever. Consider the old adage, “What you don’t know won’t hurt you!”. You’ll no doubt receive some nice shots if you choose a budget/amateur photographer, and although it won’t hurt you, you’ll never know just what opportunities you missed out on and what spectacular images could have been achieved with a competent professional wedding photographer!

Here’s my guide to what you should consider when booking a wedding photographer, all of which will be reflected in the rates they charge.

Experience.

Wedding ceremony at the Meeting House, Sussex University and wedding reception at Fitzleroi Barn, West Sussex, for Adam and Pip

Maybe you’re happy to take a gamble and hire a newbie breaking into wedding photography, or one who’s a part time wedding photographer with a good eye and price to match, or maybe you want someone with experience, one who shows consistently excellent results and will guarantee exceptional images at your wedding, whatever the weather and in any situation. The latter comes with experience and consequently there’ll be a premium attached, however that doesn’t mean you have to re-mortgage your house to pay for this service and it doesn’t mean you have to compromise on image quality either. You can get wonderful results like these for a fair rate that doesn’t break the bank. 


What points should I consider that are reflected in a wedding photographer
s rates?

So we’ve covered experience, or in some cases lack of it, however there are many more factors in pricing. Such as…..

Photographic equipment.

This is very important and will be reflected in the price you pay. Quality DSLRs (Digital Single Lens Reflex Cameras), fast lenses, off-camera flash and all the other pieces of kit are essential for great wedding photography. When you’re hiring a professional wedding photographer, the least you should expect from them is that they use professional equipment, with up-to-date DSLRs and top quality lenses. In the days of film, your camera was just a means of recording an image onto your chosen film, therefore one could argue that the lens and film were the most important factors in creating a high quality image. Now with digital cameras, the internal CCD image sensor takes the place of the film, and the camera and the lens have become the most important factors. Image sensors are constantly being improved and updated and the only way to keep up with current technology is to replace a camera regularly.

Have you considered the consequences of a photographer using a budget DSLR? There are two very important factors to consider, as follows:

The first can be the difference between complete DISASTER and success. DISASTER, yes DISASTER! Consider them both carefully and ask these questions of your prospective photographer.

A budget DSLR will have one memory card slot and therefore one method of recording an image. That sounds fine, until you consider that cards do fail, even though modern memory cards are solid state and they have no moving parts. A higher end DSLR, such as the Canon 5D MKIII (the cameras I use) has two card slots and will allow you to record the images on two cards, creating a duplicate set of images that offers a 99.9% guarantee that your images are safe, should a card fail. I know this can happen because a professional card of mine failed, thank goodness it wasn’t at a wedding, however the resulting loss of images cost me the £500 fee as well as embarrassment for me and disappointment for my client. After that I wasn’t ever going to take any chances and a second card slot was a must for my DSLRs. Previously I used multiple cards at weddings, changing them frequently to safeguard the images, however that’s far from ideal for obvious reasons.

Wedding ceremony at the Meeting House, Sussex University and wedding reception at Fitzleroi Barn, West Sussex, for Adam and PipThe second is a compromise on image quality, especially in low light situations, such as in a church. A budget DSLR will have a budget sensor and a budget sensor will have older technology that doesn’t deal with shadow detail very well at all. I don’t want to get technical here but suffice to say that a photographer with a budget DSLR will more than likely use flash in situations where there are lower light levels and in a church this is pretty much sacriledge, because the vicar or priest won’t like it and it’s very off putting for all concerned. I hardly use flash at all these days and that’s always an advantage at a wedding ceremony and gives a much more natural result throughout the wedding.

Have you considered the consequences of a photographer with only one DSLR at your wedding? The least you can expect from your wedding photographer is that they have a backup DSLR that offers similar quality to the main DSLR, should it fail. Shooting weddings means you shoot lots of images and when you are talking hundreds or thousands of images at one wedding, it’s clear that a camera will have a limited lifespan and can go wrong at any moment. A back up DSLR is a must for any wedding photographer and it has to be easily accessible at any point. I carry mine on a double camera strap around my shoulders, which is by far the quickest and most sensible option.

Excellent quality lenses are just as important as the DSLRs themselves. A photographer using fast, high quality lenses will have more opportunity in any given situation and the results will be far better than cheaper alternative lenses. Light levels come into play with lenses and a high quality lens will reduce the need for flash when light levels are low, combined with a high quality DSLR means that the photographer has fewer things to worry about. High quality lenses, such as Canon L Series lenses, are also important because they are more robust and can therefore handle the inevitable knocks and scrapes at weddings. Lower quality lenses can’t cope with this kind of treatment and will fall apart after a short while or just stop working after a bump. Photographers, don’t compromise on quality because you can’t use a lens that’s always in a state of disrepair!

A wedding at St Mary the Virgin Church, Ringmer and an English garden wedding reception on the South Downs in Lewes.

Accessories, such as off camera flash. This is a fairly new addition for me because I favour using ambient light (natural light) without flash. There are situations that flash is essential to maintain a balance between the background and foreground or light two subjects independently, and for this off-camera flash is the best and most natural way to achieve this. Also, a photographer with the skills for off-camera flash will create exceptional images that are a wonderful addition to a wedding and that are impossible to achieve without flash. The scope is endless, especially when the sun’s setting and you have an adventurous bride and groom at your disposal. Exciting times and possible award winning opportunities!

Multiple professional high capacity memory cards (32GB/64GB), spare DSLR batteries, spare flash batteries, filters, tripods, stands, cleaning kit, etc…. the list goes on and these are all essential pieces of kit that need to be updated and replaced

Creativity.

Wedding at the Brighton Grand Hotel for Suzy and AlanA great wedding photographer will be creative, but one important thing to consider, where creativity is concerned, is that a professional photographer who is comfortable and competent shooting weddings will have more time available to be creative, simply because they are in control! Being in control does NOT mean controlling the flow of the wedding, it means they are one step ahead of the proceedings and have time to consider their surroundings and opportunities, without feeling rushed or pressurised. This will only be the case if the technical side of their photography is second nature, allowing the thought process to be assigned to planning ahead and creativity.


What style of wedding photography?

Wedding at Brighton Town Hall, the Chilli Pickle and Pub Du Vin for Emily and JoeReportage, documentary, alternative and traditional weddings. What do they mean? Reportage and documentary styles are pretty much mainstream these days and they pretty much mean you’re just an observer who records the day in pictures with no intervention, however there are very few photographers who are true documentary or reportage wedding photographers. I say this because having no input into the flow of the day or any intervention is very difficult, in fact almost impossible. How can you photograph the bride and groom around the venue successfully if you have no intervention or communication? If you have a bride and groom who have very definite ideas for their images, it could be achieved, however most brides and grooms look for some direction from the photographer, which is completely understandable.
Wedding Brighton Registry Office and Hotel Du VinThe truth is that the majority of a wedding is shot in true documentary or reportage way and the remainder has an element of direction from the photographer that will ensure the opportunities are maximised, with subtlety. Alternative weddings are very creative and arty, but as a result have more intervention by the photographer. A competent reportage and documentary wedding photographer will combine ‘alternative’ elements in their work, I certainly do and it complements my style well. Traditional wedding photography has pretty much died out these days, although I will be controversial at this point and say that there are elements of ‘traditional’ in some alternative wedding photography, sold as art but sometimes lacking in artistic quality!


The complete service versus a simplified and more cost effective service.

If you have a team of assistants behind you, a complete service is exactly what a client should expect and the client will pay a premium for this. This allows a photographer to keep complete control of the output and brand, whilst ensuring consistency and providing a luxurious element to the client service, simply because there are more hands on deck. There will often be a restriction on image rights and how they are supplied and will invariably involve a number of meetings, before and after the wedding, which is not for everyone, especially those short of time.

Wedding and commercial photographer Paul Fletcher Profile Photo

All you need is lil ole me!

Ideally we’d all like to offer a comprehensive service before, on and after the day, however, one way for wedding photographers to keep their costs down and free up their time is to offer a simplified and more cost effective service to the client. This service is an image only option and they have become more popular these days, with many brides and grooms taking a D-I-Y approach to their wedding albums. If you’re a wedding photographer who works alone, covers 40+ weddings a year (as I do) and doesn’t want a tough schedule to compromise timescales for image delivery, offering an image only service is the perfect solution. It’s still vitally important to ensure that the image output is a consistently high quality and that the images are presented in a professional way, such as using a bespoke USB stick and bespoke packaging, but it needn’t feel like the service offered is somehow incomplete or inferior. Personally I favour this approach because it not only offers the client a more cost effective solution, but it affords me the time to concentrate on the most important element, creating exciting wedding images for lots of couples and delivering them in a timely manor.

Offering wedding image books/wedding albums can also be a part of a simplified service, however as an added extra it keeps the option for a professional wedding image book open and offers transparent pricing to the client. Please feel free to browse my wedding image book options.

You’ll no doubt want to meet the photographer before the wedding day and a meeting at the venue is the best way to do this. It’s part of most photographer’s service and an important opportunity to get to know each other a little so that you’re comfortable on the wedding day and to discuss and finalise timings and requirements. In my opinion it shouldn’t be compromised unless it’s unavoidable. Meetings for weddings further afield, nationally and internationally, can take place the day before the wedding with overnight accommodation sought to relieve the pressure of travelling on the day. This comes at a premium but is well worth the relatively small expense.

Offering engagement shoots and trash the dress shoots as optional extras keeps the cost down and once again completes the service whilst offering transparent pricing.


Be sure you enjoy your potential wedding photographer’s company and be sure you feel he/she gives you confidence that their service and personality will complement your wedding day!

Wedding at Upwaltham Barn for Faye and TonyPersonality is an important attribute for a wedding photographer and choosing someone who will perform calmly and confidently at your wedding can be the difference between a wonderful wedding day and one with uncomfortable memories for the bride, groom and their guests. You wont know exactly what you’ll get on the day from speaking to someone briefly, however you can check out their wedding testimonials and gauge whether their previous wedding clients felt the photographer’s impact on their wedding day was a positive one. You can’t put a price on personality but it’s worth paying a premium for someone you like and feel comfortable with from the offset. Who wants a bossy photographer to dominate one of the most important days of your life?! It does all come back to the photographer having experience and a technical knowledge that’s second nature, because then they’ll have no need to dominate the day, safe in the knowledge that they have it all covered, calmly and effortlessley.


So, how much can I expect to pay for a wedding photographer?

wedding-photography-sussex_0001Consider great wedding photography as a worthy investment to be treasured, rather than an expensive purchase. If your budget is under £1,000, look for a photographer who’s starting out but clearly has a good portfolio behind them to demonstrate their ability. If your budget is around £1,500, you can afford a fantastic photographer who will work with you to create exceptional mages to be proud of, with all the right equipment and expertise. If your budget is higher than that, well the sky’s the limit and you’ll also find a fantastic photographer who you will pay a premium for and whom you should expect the ultimate service from.

Good luck choosing a photographer who’s right for you and if you like what you see here, please do get in touch and check my availability via the contact form.

Best wishes

Paul Fletcher

 

 

 

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