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Why are wedding photographer prices so high?

I obviously can’t speak for every wedding photographer. There is a vast difference between a family member fumbling with an old camera and a world-class photographer with a staff of hundreds of photographers generating millions in sales each year.

Professional cameras.

A good camera is the basis for any wedding photographer. Many of today’s cameras are excellent, including many entry-level cameras and iPhones and iPads. Obviously, someone who has invested in the newest professional line of camera will have more features than those with an entry level camera. Those “automatic” or “program mode” produce pretty decent results, but falter in comparison to a professional model camera operated by a photographer skilled in using it.

We show up at a wedding with two Nikon professional cameras for each of our 3 team members. That’s six cameras costing thousands of dollars. Why two cameras per photographer? First, it allows us to use different lenses; that gives us unparalleled coverage of a wedding. Second, assigning each photographer two cameras is insurance in case one malfunctions at a critical point in the wedding; the photographer picks up the other camera and keeps shooting until we get a break and can fix it.

Professional lenses.

Amateur lenses typically are made with plastic composites and less costly materials. Professional lenses are made using lightweight alloys and purer glass elements with superior coatings for optimum images.

A Nikon 50mm 1:1.8 D lens costs $132 while the 1.4G lens costs $460. The 1.4G adds just a little more light to enter the camera in low light situations. The professional photographer will make that investment. The amateur photographer won’t.

Amateur lenses sometimes are designed to “do everything” from a wide-angle to an extreme telephoto view. Professional lenses frequently do one job extremely well.

Each of our cameras is equipped with a different lens. One has a wide-angle lens designed to capture the entire church. Another is equipped with a telephoto lens that can capture your first kiss from the back of the church. We use zoom lenses designed to capture fast moving events in different locations. Our Nikon 50mm lens used for taking formal portraits because it is so sharp. We use a close-up lens just to photograph the wedding ring. We feel comfortable knowing that each of us is using a lens optically perfect to capture a certain aspects of a wedding.

Amateur versus professional flash units.

Cameras typically are built with “in-camera,” pop-up” or flashes that can be attached to the camera. Some have the ability to trigger flash unit placed in different locations. All flash units are very effective in illuminating scenes during a wedding. Less expensive flashes have lower output power than more expensive professional flashes. Professional flash units can illuminate larger areas (reception ballrooms, for example). Some less expensive flash units, however, can do an excellent job.

Officiants don’t allow flash during weddings.

Officiants frequently ask photographers to turn off their flashes during the wedding. That places a heavy burden on photographers who cannot adjust their camera’s sensitivity to light (ISO) without creating a “grainy” look to the images. This challenges older cameras, but newer (and most expensive) cameras are able to capture good images without flash. Your wedding photographer should be equipped with the cameras that can work in low light.


Asking your cousin to take photographs of the most important day in your life is taking a big gamble. How long has he or she been taking photographs? How will they react if something goes wrong? Do they know the rules of composition? Do they know where to stand during the ceremony? Can they continue shooting when the use of flash is prohibited? Will the camera’s batteries last from the first photograph they take to the moment you leave? Will they deliver consistently exceptional images of your wedding day? Probably not. That’s why you don’t have to pay much for a beginning wedding photographer.

Photographers with the training, skill, and experience gained by photographing many weddings will anticipate where to be, with the right equipment, at precisely the right moment to capture those fleeting moments of joy and excitement. That’s what you are paying for.


Individual versus team approach:

There are many individual photographers who produce spectacular results at a wedding. An 8-hour wedding, however, places a strain on any photographer who gradually begins to tire. A team approach allows coverage of different aspects of the wedding in a slower, more methodical manner. For example, a female photographer can photograph the bride and bridesmaid getting dressed while her male counterpart can be photographing the groom and his groomsmen getting ready. After four hours one member of the team can take a break while the other keeps shooting. A single photographer for a short wedding might be more economical, but two or more photographers will be worth the investment for a longer wedding.

How much time will your photographer spend on the wedding?

The standard wedding contract is usually eight hours. However, many photographers travel an hour or more each way to your venue. Good photographers will show up early to scout out the location. They want to know where the sun will set and where shadows form in the late afternoon. It takes time to unload the equipment and calibrate their cameras. It’s not uncommon for a team of photographers to spend 12-14 hours traveling to a wedding, doing all their work, packing up and driving home. Dedicated wedding photographers may even drive to the venue a week prior to the wedding to make sure they know the lighting conditions and locate alternative locations for formal portraits in case of rain.

While you are enjoying your honeymoon, the photographers still have plenty of work ahead of them. Those six cameras could hold several thousand unprocessed images that need to be reviewed, kept or deleted (when someone is blinking, making a strange face, or when someone suddenly moved in front of the camera). Going through each image and making corrections can take up to a week. That time is included in many wedding packages.

Wedding package offerings:

Some photographers contract to provide only their photography services during the wedding day. Others might offer attractive incentives as part of a wedding package. These obviously add to the cost of the wedding. The bride and groom need to carefully review each package to see if they are receiving real value or if they can select a la carte for only those items that are of interest to them.

Our Luxury wedding package includes a free artist designed 10x10-inch album with 10 spreads (20 pages), a leather cover, and a debossed title on the cover page. We include a walnut album box to protect the album. We offer a complimentary mini 6x6 album for the bride’s mother. Next, we give the newlyweds a $500 print credit. Finally, we provide a complimentary engagement, bridal, and post-wedding photo session.

These free items are not “free” to us: we have to pay for them. We pay the artist to design the album. The leather wedding album with the walnut box is quite expensive. We must pay the $500 print credit to the company that handles showing and printing all our wedding photographs. The “free” engagement, bridal, and post-wedding photo sessions are worth thousands of dollars if booked by themselves.

Why are wedding photographer prices so high?

I can’t speak for all wedding photographers, but for our team, we’ve invested heavily in some of the newest and most sophisticated Nikon equipment to capture wedding images that other photographers can’t. We’ve trained for years and know what it takes to take stunning wedding photographs. Our team can be in three locations at one time taking our time to produce great photographs. We offer our clients luxury albums, free printing, and complimentary photography sessions. Why are wedding photographer prices so high? That’s why.

What is expensive today is priceless tomorrow!


Williams Photography of Fort Mill, South Carolina, LLC. offers wedding photography in North and South Carolina, but also accepts destination wedding photography elsewhere in the United States and overseas.

Jennifer Brecheisen Photography in Chester, South Carolina offers similar services, but provides different wedding packages that might be attractive to brides.


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