How to Actually Afford Amazing Wedding Photos and Video
Unlike your wedding flowers or dessert spread, your wedding photos will last forever, so you obviously want them to be amazing. Hiring a professional wedding photographer and videographer is truly the only way to get those crisp, high-quality shots and tear-jerking clips that capture every moment from your day. Realistically, you should plan to allot 10–12 percent of your overall wedding budget to photos and video. (For reference, the national average cost for a photographer is $2,679, and for video is $2,021).
It might be tempting to skip a pro shooter or to ask a friend to take photos—but trust us, not hiring photo and video pros is one of the biggest, most common wedding regrets for couples who didn’t. If you're on a budget, missing out on gorgeous images isn’t the answer—instead, follow these money-conscious tricks to save on wedding snaps.
1. Find packages you can customize to fit your budget.
Before hiring a photographer and videographer, make a list of the style and types of photos and video you want. That way, you'll go into the hiring process knowing what your package should look like. This allows you to pay only for exactly what you need, whether that’s a certain number of hours of coverage, extra sessions, multiple shooters or access to digital photo files. "The build-your-own package system helps clients use their budget in the most efficient way possible," says Nashville-based photographer Jenna Henderson.
To know what to prioritize, don't underestimate the value of your recently married friends, but also potential pros you interview. Ask them to walk you through the ins and outs of the services they offer, like whether you can realistically fit all your must-have shots in the minimum amount of coverage they offer or how many assistants make the most sense for the size of your guest list.
2. Wait to buy prints and albums (or include one in your package).
If an album isn’t a part of your photography package already, don't worry about spending money on one right now. Focus on hiring a pro who will take great shots. Think of it this way: A beautiful album is the perfect gift to give each other as a twist on the paper theme for your first anniversary. Some photographers, like Cory Ryan of Cory Ryan Photography in Austin, Texas, will include in their packages price of an album for up to a year after your wedding.
But waiting to create an album doesn’t mean you can’t see your photos for a whole year. You can still admire and show off your shots when they're ready a few weeks after our wedding. You'll get at least a portion of the digital files as soon as they've been edited—you may even get access to an online gallery too. The same goes for videography. Many videographers will upload your highlight reel to an online platform like Vimeo for you to watch on repeat and post all over social (no shame!).
3. Hire someone local to your wedding location.
The price of a pro will often increase if you hire them for a job they’ll need to travel to. Remember, they’re not just getting themselves there—they’ll be lugging pounds of expensive equipment with them too. In other words, if you’re from New York and getting married in California, it’s probably worth finding California photo and video teams. Another option? Some venues include a photography/videography in their package, making these two vendors less expensive than they’d be if you hired them outside the venue’s preferred vendor list.
4. Have your ceremony and reception at the same place.
Where you choose to say “I do” and party can potentially affect your photo and video prices. By hosting the ceremony and reception at the same venue, you'll have more time to take portraits, cover cocktail hour and more, since you won't need to spend time traveling to several locations. You'll actually end up saving in a few other ways too, like transportation, rentals and venue charges.
5. Shoot only the ceremony and first half of the reception.
Pair down the number of hours you’ll need both pros. Have them shoot the ceremony, then stick around for cocktail hour and the first half of your reception. They’ll be able to capture the your entrance, toasts, cake cutting and first dance (plan for these reception moments to happen earlier in the night), then let your guests take over toward the end. If you haven’t already, check out The Guest app, an awesome auto-sharing photo app that instantly uploads and aggregates all your guests’ snaps and videos in one place (it’s like a hashtag, but 10 times better). Translation: You'll have every awesome dance floor snap right at your fingertips before the night's even over.
6. Skip the raw footage.
Some videographers will send you the raw footage (untouched, unedited) after filming for you to preview before they start editing, in case you want to pick and choose which scenes to keep or cut. If you want to hold on to the raw footage for posterity, your videographer may offer it as part of your package. If it's not included in your package, it's not worth paying the extra fee for it, since it's likely you never even watch it (if you can't get through five hours of unedited video, your friends and family definitely won't be able to). Stick to a highlight reel and a typical hour-long video.
7. Get a referral from a photographer you love.
If you've crunched the numbers again and again and still can't make the photographer or videographer you want work for your budget, don't give up yet. They may still be able to help in other ways, like giving you a referral to another pro within your budget with a similar style. "I'm happy to suggest someone who's more affordable if my packages are out of a client's range. In the photography community, we're constantly referring to other people we admire," Ryan says. They may give you a few names of other pros they've tag teamed with before (often called associate or second shooters) who charge less simply because they're not as well known (yet). Before you sign any contracts, meet with alternate pros in person first (and ask them these questions)—you want to be sure you're comfortable with him or her because they'll be your wedding day shadow.