But there are plenty of bad photographers who will take advantage of your uncertain priorities.
“It’s fine for him to say that, he’s a photographer” – Sure, I might be biased about this issue, but I’m not writing this as a photographer, but as a married person who wishes they’d prioritised photography more in their own budget on for our big day.
What is all this tat?
If you’ve ever been to a wedding fayre you’ll know that there’s a wide range of . . . . (let’s be honest) shit that’s being touted. Weddings are one area of the economy that people have increased their spending year on year as it’s a once in a lifetime experience and it isn’t affected by short term economic trends.
But you get home and you chat about your wedding day and you’ll feel that panic that “our guests will be bored for an hour with just a bar, we’ll need a magician” or “but the floor at the venue is only parquet, we’ll need a light-up dancefloor” or even “It would be nice to have one of those wedding cars for the 15 minute journey to the church (in a convoy of 40 other cars, all with spare seats)”
Then there’s chair covers. I’m sure venues buy ugly chairs just to get a commission from cover companies. Nobody will ever remember what the chair they sat on to eat their meal looked like. Honestly, can you remember what chair you sat on last time you attended a wedding, or a pub, or a bar?
The Bridebook UK Wedding Market Report for 2018 says that 39% of couples go over budget, with the items couples are more likely to overspend on will be Food & Drink, Honeymoon, Hair and Make and Stationery. 17% of couples said that managing budget was the hardest part of planning their wedding day and the average wedding in the UK costs £30,355!
What will you be left with for the rest of your lives?
Photographs. I know it’s a cliche, but it’s true.
When the cake is eaten, the cars have driven away and the flowers have wilted you’ll just have the photographs to look back upon your day.
In Wales in 2018 the average cost of a photographer for a wedding was £1,435 with 66% or 2/3 of weddings having a paid photographer. 77% of those weddings had a professional full-time photographer as opposed to a friend or part timer. Only 17% of people booked a photographer package with a printed album included, which is a real shame in my opinion.
But your budget is limited, I get that.
So after a lot of thought and witnessing hundreds of weddings I’ve decided to offer my advice. Here are six ways you can work your budget to be able to afford your perfect photographer.
6 Ways you can work your budget to afford the best photographer for your south wales wedding
1. Prioritise what’s important to you and to your guests
If it’s music then make sure you take the time to research bands or DJs and find the right choice for you.
Maybe food is important to you. Then you can choose a venue or a catering company that has a reputation, that you’ve tried and who can deliver the creative tastes and experiences you want your guests to have.
It could be that it’s drinking and a party that’s your priority. You can negotiate corkage or allocate a part of your budget to subsiding the bar and giving your guests a drink or two on arrival.
It might be, and hopefully is, photography that is the thing that you know you’ll cherish the most in the long run and after research you’ll find your perfect wedding photographer. They may also offer albums and additions to their packages that you just must have.
But you can’t have all of these things at the top of your list and prioritising what’s going to have a no cap or limit in your budget it critical from the start.
Unless you have a HUGE budget it’s not realistic to have The Rolling Stones playing, Marco Pierre White cooking, a free bar and a top photographer to capture your memories.
2. Plan your budget before you start and try to stick to it
Weddings are expensive. Really expensive.
You’re privately hiring a venue. You’re then taking tens/dozens/hundreds of people out for a meal. Maybe two meals on the same day. You’ll need an outfit or a dress and maybe somewhere to stay for a night or two.
All of these things can cost thousands each. Even the smallest of venues can cost £3,000 just to hire and may charge £30-£200 per head for food.
What should I budget for wedding photography?
Put simply – you get what you pay for.
If you want a newbie with no portfolio to experiment on you and your wedding day, and you don’t care about the results you can pay under £1000 and see what happens. It would be like getting the Dorothy from your local creasy spoon cafe to do five star catering for you.
Employing a photographer under £1000 can carry it’s risks – check that your photographer has insurance, including public liability insurance. This will cover them and you and your venue against any damage, loss or injury that may happen during the course of your wedding day.
Another serious risk that many ‘low budget’ photographers carry is the lack of backup. Professional cameras (bodies over £2,000) should all have dual memory cards, something an amateur or beginner may not have. Storage and backup can be an expensive investment for professional photographers. I have invested thousands in drives and systems as well as cloud backup systems. Cutting a corner on what you’re willing to pay for a photographer could result in you receiving a “unfortunately your photos are all lost” email. Make sure you always ask these questions before booking.
£1000 to £1500 will get you a photographer who isn’t very confident in their own abilities. They may be still building a portfolio and experimenting with their style. It’s unlikely that your wedding will look anything like any others in their existing portfolio. You may have to wait a while for your photos and it’s likely that a few key moments will be missing.
£1500 to around £1750 will get you an established professional, a consistent set of photos. It will also buy you confidence that your day will be captured well.
Above Average Budget
Up to £2,000 will get you a set of photos in a style that’s consistent from someone established in the industry. You’ll receive excellent customer service and communication. They’ll compliment your wedding day and add something that you and your guests will remember.
Over £2,000 will get you a top professional who is in huge demand. You should expect every image throughout the day to be of the highest standard.
“But why does photography cost so much?”
Asking a professional to bring thousands of pounds of equipment, utilise years of training and experience, work for 10-12 hours at your wedding, spend weeks sorting and editing and then deliver 500 photos of the highest quality with originality can be expensive.
Even the most productive and hardest working wedding photographers calculate they’re barely earning the UK living wage. That is once they’ve paid for insurance, taxes, equipment, training and other costs.
3. Imagine your venue full of people chatting, drinking and laughing
Groups of adults can have a pretty good time for hours with just a bar and people to chat to. Forced fun can sometimes backfire. Magicians interrupting conversations between long lost relatives to ask the to “pick a card” can be annoying. Lawn game sets usually only get used by the kids to bash each other with.
Some weddings have the best bands but still nobody is dancing. I’ve looked around and thought ‘there’s 100 guests here’. But then 20 are seated chatting, 20 at the bar, 20 outside smoking, 10 at the photobooth, 10 at the casino table, 10 at the buffet, 2 asleep in the bar and probably the remainder are in the toilet.
Honestly, simplicity is the key.
If you want people to chat and mingle, let them be free to chat and mingle.
If you want people to dance to the band, don’t distract them with alternative entertainment.
People will also do what you do – if you dance, your guests will dance. If you stand at the bar drinking, the majority of your guests will follow you.
4. Most good wedding suppliers are specialists
Sure, there’s cake bakers who also do flowers, and dancefloor suppliers who also offer giant love letters.
You might have also spoken to DJs who can also do photography while playing records, quite a skill. Hairdressers who can also do makeup or even photographers who can also video a wedding film while taking your photos.
Do you think any of them can actually do any single one of those things well in the first place? Probably not, which is why they have to diversify.
A full time professional florist is worth their weight in gold. Sure you can buy flowers from a petrol station or from the lady who also teaches ballet, but will they be any good?
Photography is one of the areas where specialism is vital. Although there are a few photographers who can photograph different genres and styles, expert wedding photographers are the only people who are going to deliver the best photos of your wedding day.
Like ninjas they’re predicting moments before they happen and getting themselves in the right position. That only comes with experience. Moving from inside a dark church into the direct sun or lighting a venue or dancefloor after the sun goes down is something that takes years of practice.
There really is just no way that a photographer can also make you a wedding film or run a photobooth while photographing your wedding to any sort of standard. They might be bringing along a boyfriend or wife do the filming, but are you really going to expect that do be any good and do you justice.
On our wedding we didn’t book a professional full time wedding photographer, we booked an amateur. And that’s what our photos are unfortunately.
5. Consider that booking someone may have a negative impact on someone else’s ability to deliver for you
It’s probably not a good idea to book two chefs to cook the two courses of your meal. They’ll get in each other’s way and the results will be below what they could have delivered with the kitchen to themselves.
The same is true for some photographers and videographers working together. You can’t expect both to produce their best work if they’re not working exclusively, although there are many exceptions to this.
Many couples book me to photograph their wedding day because I’m fun and relaxed. Although I’m engaged with the guests I still take a documentary approach. I appreciate it’s a wedding and not a photoshoot. But then I have had to work alongside videographers, or should I say ‘video production teams’, who have an opposing approach. Many have tripods in every corner. They have microphones fitted to suits recording everything, LED light panels destroying atmosphere and the newlyweds are asked to “walk that way, now this way, and back to us” over and over again.
And drones. I’m not even going to go there, and neither should you.
If you’ve already booked a videographer, or a photographer, then check with them and ask for their recommendations for providers they can work alongside and still produce their best work.
You might want to consider having just a videographer, or just a photographer, is enough for your wedding day and keeping things natural and relaxed for your guests is how you want things. That’s totally up to you.
6. Consider everything and leave out what you really don’t need.
Cars and transport
Your drive to your wedding ceremony will be the most exciting journey of your life, but it won’t matter if it’s in a Rolls Royce, a taxi or a transit van. I appreciate how cars and transport may be a priority for many people on their wedding day because it may be in their daily lives, but it will last a few mere minutes and will seem indulgent if you’re struggling to afford a professional photographer to give you something that will last a lifetime.
Instead you can ask a friend or family member for a favour or as a wedding gift to drive you – you can offer a valet the day before as a thank you and it’ll mean something to both of you.
Gifts and Favours
As a ‘thank you for coming’ why not offer your guests a meal or a glass of bubbly? Expensive favours eat your budget for the things that really matter and that people will remember.
Honouring the most important people in your lives with the opportunity to do a reading at your ceremony, have a role at your wedding or make a toast can be the greatest gift in itself.
Allowing your guests the opportunity to contribute to your honeymoon fund is an great way of saving them the stress of having to choose a present from a list or find something thoughtful to give you. This doesn’t have to be compulsory, but it does allow you to free up some of your own money to get your wedding day right and meet your priorities you should both care for.
Maybe after all of that you’re thinking “yes, a free bar and Michelin star chef must be a priority and we’ll forget about a photographer” then I don’t see that as a fail. You have to get your day right for you.
Don’t compromise on your priorities.
Photography doesn’t have to be your priority.
But don’t expect the best to come cheap if you’ve compromised your budget.