Wedding Photography on a Budget

The “Typical” Wedding Photographer: $1500 — $4000
The wedding photos were one part of my wedding planning that was getting me a bit depressed. None of my close friends are professional photographers. I started looking around at local vendors and just about keeled over. Remember, my ENTIRE wedding budget is $4050. One local photographer billed himself as “affordable” with a price range of $1100 to $3000 for the day. The Knot advises you to spend $1500 to $4000 for photography services. Even Banker Girl, who’s planning a fairly frugal wedding, is spending $6000 on photography. My budget analysis recommends photography at 9% of your budget, so $1800 is reasonable if your whole budget is $20,000. However, my 9% is $365. For a while, I felt priced out of the whole market and a little helpless.

What made it all even more frustrating was the fact that back in my 20s, I fancied myself a pretty decent photographer. I loved taking pictures when I traveled, took classes on composition and darkroom basics, and even flirted with the idea of going pro. Now I wish I had gone into wedding photography! Since I know my way around a camera and am comfortable printing my own digital pictures, this is one element of the wedding planning where I didn’t feel like I wanted to be extravagant. I even toyed with the idea of just putting out all those disposable cameras and having snapshots for our album rather than professional pictures.

Avoid the Word “Wedding”
Along the way, I signed up for Stephi Stewart’s e-mails. Her website/book is called Fire Your Wedding Planner. She offers advice on how to save serious money on your wedding. Her main two pieces of advice are: avoid any services with the word “wedding” in them and be assertive in negotiating prices. I certainly agree with her, even though the negotiating is rather intimidating. I still didn’t feel like I wanted to track down strangers through their websites and try to negotiate them from $1600 to $350. That’s a pretty serious spread!

Be Patient
I’m learning in this process that good things have a way of emerging if I let them. I did find one photographer for $800 and was about to meet with him, when I started to do a little more thinking. One of Stewart’s e-mails suggested asking two amateur photographers who are friends to cover the wedding. That way, each won’t feel pressure to miss the “once-in-a-lifetime” shots, and you’ll end up with a great album. Now, my brother is a better photographer than I am. He can capture people well and has a real eye for composition. I’ve been amazed at how professional many of his shots look. So, I knew he’d be my first pick out of friends. I also have a travel buddy who does nice work, but I wasn’t a hundred percent sure if she’ll be able to make the wedding. Well, I figured I was halfway there, so I asked my brother and he agreed to take pictures in lieu of a wedding present.

Assemble a Team
This week, the final piece fell into place. My officiant’s boyfriend is an incredible professional photographer. His portraits are gorgeous, and he even flies around the country for shoots for a catalog that I bet is in everyone’s living room. I thought of him, but figured he wouldn’t be interested in covering a wedding and would be too expensive even if he was. One night, my officiant and I were chatting, and she mentioned that her boyfriend was going to do weddings again this summer and had already booked four. She talked with him, said he’d be willing to give us a discount, and I e-mailed him. The e-mail was a little worrisome, because my budget is so low. Finally, I explained that my brother would do the “photojournalism” style shots, but we’d like some formal portraits as well. I decided to ask if he’d do forty-five minutes to an hour of formal shots of the wedding party and our parents after the ceremony for $300. I knew it was really low, but figured I could go up a little if needed. Guess what? He’s happy to do it for $300, will give us a disc so that I can do the printing and even volunteered to do a few more shots if I didn’t mind. Hooray! Our wedding photography story ends happily.

Final Advice
As always, involve friends and family! My brother’s actually thrilled to do pictures because it gives him something to do all day. While I didn’t think our ‘pro’ would want to cover my little wedding, now it makes perfect sense, especially since he’ll like to have pictures of the officiant! My other big advice is to wait until something feels right. I could have rushed in and booked the $800 guy, but he just didn’t fit the spirit of the wedding. Everyone else involved knows me personally, so I really didn’t want one stranger hanging around taking pictures. Now, we’ll still have the intimate feeling that I want at the wedding, and I know I’m going to end up with top-notch photographs!

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5 responses to “Wedding Photography on a Budget

  1. That’s excellent! What a deal! We had a difficult time with the photographer for our wedding too, but held out and eventually got lucky. We finally found an excellent photographer who worked around our budget AND let us print our own pictures. He did a great job. I’m looking forward to your wedding to see how all your wonderful creativity plays out. Sorry I missed your call. I had a nice Birthday, thanks for remembering! Lets catch up soon!

  2. mydailydollars

    Thanks Jen! Yes, let’s catch up soon. I have something important to ask you. . .

  3. Pingback: The Financial Blogger | Carnival of Money Stories #54 – My Old Man Thoughts Edition

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  5. Pingback: Monroe on a Budget » Weddings on a budget: more on photography

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