Photo: Aesthetic Life Studio
Photography is one of the most important elements of your wedding since it preserves all of those sentimental, unexpected, funny, special, and joyous moments of your big day, so it is often the thing many brides and grooms chose to “splurge”on. Getting a fabulous photographer, however, doesn’t always mean paying full price. Here are some tips (with some insider advice from professional wedding photographers!) on finding an affordable photographer, negotiating prices and packages, and ending up with the pictures of your dreams…
1. Do your homework: start by searching for photographers and their prices in your area. Knowing the price ranges of packages as well as the services they include is the best way to make an informed decision about photographers and the value of the packages they offer.
2. Really look at packages. Make sure to examine each element of the package when narrowing down your selection. Photographer A might be $200 cheaper than Photographer B, but if B gives you a complete album and A doesn’t, it may be worth the extra money. Be sure you are comparing apples to apples when considering that bottom line.
3. Look in nearby towns. Photographers based in small towns usually offer lower prices and will travel for free or a small fee, which could be easily worth it given the price break you’ll get. Look at the map for areas an hour or less away (that’s an easy cut off and a typical travel region for a photographer) and begin to search for photographers in those areas and compare prices.
4. Don’t forget that photographers, like many wedding vendors, give discounts for weddings that are not on weekends. A wedding photographer package on a Friday, for example, can get you a discount of up to 25% of the Saturday price. That’s a pretty sweet deal if you ask us!
5. Book in the winter slump. January through March is a slow time for weddings, which means limited income for wedding photographers. During these few months, full-time photographers are often living off the deposits of new bookings, which means they are anxious to generate new business. This is where you come in! You can use this to your advantage by booking during this slow time. Many photographers offer discounts or promos and incentives during these months. Some photographers may also be more receptive to negotiations during this period.
6. Negotiate. It’s always worth a try to negotiate to have a photography package meet your needs and your budget. Sometimes it’s easier to negotiate a free element to be included in the package than a lower price. Choose one element that you would like to be added at no cost to the package and see if the photographer is willing to work with you. Things like a free engagement session, bridal shoot, or after the wedding shoot are good bets because the photographer could earn additional income on the resulting prints that you and family members order.
7. Customize your package. Even if you are getting a reasonable price, you are not getting a good deal if your package includes things you don’t care about. Who cares if you are getting 200 thank you cards when what you really need is an extra 11x14 for Grandma? Work with the photographer to change elements of the package that meet your needs- that way you’ll know you are getting a good value for your money.
8. Skip the professional album and get the rights to your photos instead. If your budget doesn’t allow a complete photography package, opt for an affordable photographer that you love and then just pay for the required hours of photography services and the rights to the photos. Your photographer will give you a digital copy of all of the images and you can produce prints and make a wedding album on your own.
9. Hire a professional photographer for just a few hours to cover the ceremony and the portraits of the wedding party. Then have some artistic friends and relatives agree to take getting ready pictures and candid shots throughout the reception. You can compile all of the photographs for complete coverage of the big day, and minimize the fees of a professional photographer.
10. Still can’t find a photographer within your budget? Look for a student photographer or someone who is looking to break into the wedding photography business. These are often best discovered by word of mouth, through local photography clubs, or through the photography departments at local colleges and universities. Usually these student and amateur photographers will be willing to accept a fraction of the cost of a professional photographer in order to gain a reference and work for their portfolio, but they may not be able to offer you complete packages with prints and professional albums. Make sure they have professional-grade equipment and that you hold the rights to reproduce any pictures after your big day.
11. Shop local online auctions. Auctions for non-profit organizations often offer photography packages that sell for much less than the retail value. This is a great way to get discounts on a photographer and help a local non-profit at the same time! Definitely check out the details first. This is usually best for an engagement session since packages typically include a photography session and a few prints. And sometimes these will give you huge savings- in some areas we found final bids at 60 and 70 percent off of the value! Our favorite place to search is Bidding for Good, a collection of online auctions for non-profit organization around country that anyone can bid on. Sort by zip code to find your area or by keyword and then let the bidding begin!