How to Plan a Wedding: 8 Ways to Get Affordable but Amazing Wedding Photographs

mckinley rogers

Anyone that’s been reading my blog for a while will know what an advocate I am of getting the very best wedding photographer you can afford for your big day. I’ve written about it on numerous occasions (here, here, here and here).

I know that budget can be a huge barrier for some of my readers but that still doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to get the most amazing wedding photographs that you can. Whenever I speak to couples after their wedding they always say “It went by so fast!” or “the whole thing was such a blur, I don’t really remember the ceremony!” And it’s so true. You’ll be feeling so many emotions on your wedding day that often it’s very difficult to recall a lot of the details afterwards. That’s where your wedding photographer and film-maker come in.

Wedding photography is something that you shouldn’t try to DIY. Your uncle with a fancy camera will never get the same results as a professional with years of experience. It’s a massive cliché, so much in fact that I almost hate saying it, but it is totally true – once the wedding is over, the cake has been eaten and the flowers have died, the photos and video are all you’ll have left to remember the day. I love looking back at my parents’ and grandparents’ wedding photographs and if we ever have children ourselves I can’t wait for them to see how mummy and daddy got married too.

One of the biggest things my readers say to me whenever I address this topic is that while they understand how important photos and video can be, they simply don’t have the budget for them. So today, I thought I’d share a few simple ways that for you to get great wedding photographs without having to spend thousands of pounds.

assassynation

1. Do your research

Wedding blogs are a great place to start. Look through the real weddings on your favourite blogs and click the adverts running down the side of the sites. The more people you look at the more likely you are to find someone whose work you love and that suits your budget.

Speaking of pricing, it will fluctuates massively depending on the photographer’s location, experience and what kind of coverage they offer, but as a rough guide, in the UK for a wedding photographer with decent experience, you’ll likely be looking at around the £1200-£2500 mark. Same goes for a film-maker.

2. Have short coverage

Some photographers will offer shorter coverage for a lower price. They might not always do this on peak, high season days (i.e. a Saturday in the summer) because, quite frankly, shooting a short wedding for less money on a day that they’d be able to book full coverage isn’t a very smart business decision. But if you’re getting married on a weekday, or in the winter, you might be able to negotiate this option.

As a side note to that, often other suppliers will give discounts for off-season or weekday weddings too. Especially venues, they are ALWAYS more expensive to hire over the weekend. So if you want to save money across the board a Wednesday wedding is the way forward!

sara dalrymple

3. Have a post-wedding shoot

If wedding day coverage from a professional is just completely out of the question, then why not book a pre or post-wedding shoot? You can wear your wedding clothes and still get some beautiful images to remember your union without them actually being there on the day. You could even bring some of your wedding things (centrepieces, jewellery, flowers) for them to shoot too.

For a few hours couple shoot you’ll be looking anywhere from £200-£500 (dependent on the photographer’s experience). It might be a little more if you want a longer shoot or to do some something more complicated, but it’s certainly going to be cheaper than hiring that same photographer to shoot your full wedding day. And remember, on your actual wedding day you might only get 20-30 minutes (max!) for couple portraits anyway.

4. Book a newbie

It can be quite a risky strategy because you won’t really know how the photos might turn out, but if you want to spend less why not look at less experienced wedding photographers? Everybody has to start somewhere and while a newer photographer is still learning the ropes they’ll be charging much less.

If you’re going to do this make sure you ask to see a few full weddings that they’ve shot. This way you can see if they were able to capture the whole day well, or if they’re just sharing a few choice images or the best of a bad bunch in their portfolio!

www.philippajamesphotography.com-1157

5. Cut corners elsewhere

This is something I wish we’d done so we could have afforded a wedding video! If the photos are important to you, think about where else you can cut corners to be able to afford your dream photographer. I truly believe that as long as you feel fabulous (read: you look hot) and you have a great photographer, your wedding photos will turn out awesome.

I’ve featured weddings before where half the couple’s budget has gone on the wedding photographer because they valued the images that much. I’d personally get married in my parents’ back garden and wearing a Topshop dress if it meant I’d get amazing photographs of the day.

6. Ask your friends

If you’re having trouble finding anyone suitable, ask your married friends who they used, how much they spent and what their experience was. The benefit of doing this is you can actually see how the photos turned out for someone you know too. If their photographer made them look worse than they do in real life then they might not be the photographer you want to choose for example!

7. Enter competitions

This is another biggie – enter lots of competitions! Someone always has to win them and you have just as good a chance as anybody. Here’s a little unknown secret (which I’m probably not really allowed to tell you but…) too – if you’re having a super cool alternative wedding then you probably stand a much better chance of being picked as the winners.

Why? Because many wedding photographers really want to shoot awesome, creative and fun weddings! This is usually the main reason for them hosting the contests in the first place. They want to shoot some rad weddings that they can then put in their portfolio to help them book other, similarly rad weddings.

I run these kinds of contests about four times a year on Rock n Roll Bride so be sure to keep an eye out.

Tim-Scarlett-Tea-Party-Wedding_Miki-Photography-123

8. If it sounds too good to be true… then, you guessed it, it probably is

Think about it this way: if you find a photographer who’s charging £500 to shoot a wedding, they’d have to be shooting at least 60 of them a year to make just £30,000 (from which they have to pay for all their equipment, insurance, tax and actually live off). In fact the likelihood is they’re probably shooting more like 100+ weddings a year.

Now, if a photographer is shooting 100 weddings in a year – that’s at least two a week – how much care and attention do you think they’re going to be physically be able to give to all those clients? The first thing to suffer will be their customer customer service. They won’t have much time to reply to your emails or take your phone calls.

They’re also probably going to be pretty highly strung and frazzled because they’ll be doing everything themselves, they’ll have no extra money to outsource anything. And finally, how much time are they going to actually have to edit your wedding photos? If they’re shooting an average of, say, 600 photos per wedding (a conservative estimate) and they’re doing two weddings a week that’s 1200 photographs they need to edit every seven days…! Yes, during the busy summer months most photographers will probably be shooting multiple weddings a week, but they won’t be doing this every single week of the year.

There is a reason why most of the wedding photographers and film makers I know shoot no more than 20-30 weddings a year, because the old assumption that they only work ‘one day a week’ is total rubbish.

So, what about the video?

As a little bonus I also just wanted to add a little aside about wedding videos. A video is something we didn’t have (simply because we didn’t have the budget) but I really, truly, wish we had. If I’m being honest, back then, I also thought they were kinda cheesy but wedding videos have come a long way in recent years. In fact ‘wedding videography’ is now a very outdated term, most wedding video creators prefer ‘cinematographer’ or film-maker… because that’s exactly what they’re doing, making amazing mini movies of wedding days.

I wish we’d taken something else out of our wedding so we could have had this. One of my friends filmed me walking down the aisle and the emotions that come rushing back just when I watch that 50 second wobbly clip are immense. I can only imagine how much more amazing it would feel to have a professionally shot and edited video to look back at.

california girls: juanita + teresa

So please spend as much as possible to get the very best photos and video that you can. You’ll only regret it if you don’t. The number one thing people tell me again and again when we speak about what they’d do differently post-wedding is that they wish they’d prioritised the photography more.

Have you booked your wedding photographer yet? Are you having a wedding video made? Who are you working with and where did you find them? Tell me all about it!

This is part nine of a ten part series on how to plan a weddingIf you missed the previous articles, be sure to check those out now too. 

Next week we’ll be talking through some ways that you can make your wedding ceremony personal and unique.

Supporting Cast

37 comments

  1. Some great tips here – definitely well worth doing your research and looking at weekday discounts. As has been said above, getting your wedding photography on the cheap is never the way to go – you’ll likely just be wasting your money.

    Look at getting married later in the day – that often saves on costs, even if it’s just cutting out the canapes! Every little bit can help.

    I just booked a client whose original budget for photography was £500 (and they freely admitted that they had no idea how much a good photographer should cost!) and after talking to me, rebalanced their wedding budget to include realistic figures.

    So, by planning ahead and being smart with your money, great photography on a low overall wedding budget IS possible :)

  2. Natasha

    I made the mistake of hiring a friend for my wedding photography and regretted it immensely!! While he was a fab ‘traditional’ photographer it just wasn’t the style i wanted but i never said a thing.

  3. Great article!

    I think the most valuable advice here is that if you see a photographer whose photos you really like, your best bet would be to have a post wedding shoot or to arrange your wedding not on a peak day like saturday.

    I think most photographers get inquiries about shooting a couple hour weddings, but as Kat mentioned – it would not be smart, because you could book half your season with budget weddings and really hurt your business.

  4. I had quite a DIY wedding and made most of the decorations and favours myself, I got a discounted venue because my dad worked there, I got friends to do flowers, I even got my dress for £30 on Ebay, however the only thing that I didn’t scrimp on was my photographer who cost a fortune, but he was incredible and to me the beautiful pictures are priceless.
    I always agree with you when you say that brides should invest in a good photographer even it it means cutting back elsewhere. I’m so glad I did.

  5. Steph

    Such great advice… The photos were so important to me so I’d also recommend giving the photographer a list of what you want and who you want in pictures… We spent a lot of money on a photographer and some of my pictures are fabulous. Unfortunately, all I wanted was the traditional ones with family, bridesmaids etc, and ones of the guests… But despite me asking over and over again on the day I didn’t get them. I cried when I finally found a picture with my aunt and uncle in the background, as I’m so close to them and they weren’t in any pictures!

    My friend made an amateur wedding video… I wasn’t bothered about having one in the slightest but it’s amazing and I’m so glad she did, it’s by far the best wedding present we received.

  6. I don’t know that I agree with this. I think this is encouraging brides and grooms in the wrong direction. Statistics show that over 70% of couples prioritize “fun” as their #1 wedding priority…which means an amazing DJ, photo booth, etc. Plus, the #1 wedding regret is not having a VIDEO of the wedding…still, not photo-related. I just feel couples continue to think all wedding DJs are terrible because wedding blogs continue to tell brides to spend 3% of their budget on a DJ (so, of course, they keep seeing the bad ones) but to splurge on flowers or photos, which do not help make the wedding FUN. Did you know statistics also show nearly 100% of brides polled a week after their wedding wished they’d spent more on wedding entertainment–100%!!!! That’s insane…..I wish wedding blogs would acknowledge that statistic (from the St. Louis Bride + Groom magazine, btw) and stop teaching brides to under-budget + under-prioritize their DJs. Where’s the article that starts out: “Anyone that’s been reading my blog for a while will know what an advocate I am of getting the very best wedding DJ you can afford for your big day.” Maybe because you’re a wedding blog, photos are more important to you. I’ve also seen another statistic that said (source: ThinkSplendid.com) 68% of brides + grooms want to see less styling on wedding blogs–i.e. less “blow the bank on a photographer” + more practical stuff. How about starting a wedding music guide on R+R Bride and featuring some ridiculously awesome DJs like Our DJ Rocks in Orlando, Toast + Jam in Chicago, Liz Daley Events in Virginia, Lost in Music DJ in Seattle, Disco Shed in S. Hampton…there are so many good ones!!!

  7. I run a competition once a year and my winner this year has a smasher of a wedding and it meant she could afford her Pettibone dress… lots of photographers do one in conjunction with a blog (as I did ) so def worth a look x

  8. I couldn’t agree more! Of course being a wedding photographer I’m biased, but the old cliche about photography being the only thing that lasts, rings true.

    As former photojournalists my partner and I believe that we are recording history. The wedding may not change the world but it is the biggest moment in the couple’s life so far. The only larger life moment is when your children are born.

    Those photos are the only wedding investment that lasts.

    Cheers,
    Eric
    http://starkbellamy.com

  9. Your wedding images will be with you long after the cake has been eaten… Usually only the photographs and the wedding rings are the most tangible reminders of the day so it is so worth to get the best you possibly can.
    Also thank you Kat for pointing out that a photographer can reasonably only shoot 20-30 weddings a year without compromising on quality and service!

  10. RESEARCH!
    I had to relocate our business (from Brazil to US) and I found some g.r.e.a.t. professionals on the same situation.
    On this restart situation what we do is: advertise + price down.
    We are a high quality duet professionals (me and my husband) full of award and certificates + top quality of equipment + many years of experience and still charging almost like beginners… for now.
    RESEARCH!!!!
    Great post Kat!

  11. This is the only one I don’t agree with…
    4. Book a newbie

    It’s not a whole lot better than using uncle bob who took a few photo classes, which the article says is a bad idea (it is). Newbies should be learning by working a job where a competent pro is already hired, not practicing on clients who can never get that day back.

  12. Jenna, I totally see where you’re coming from, but I think the advice still stands – as long as couples know there is a huge risk, and they need to see lots and lots of example images from previous weddings from the newbie. Some couples get in touch with me, and really can’t afford me, so I have a couple of people newbies who are genuinely brilliant, but just starting out. I know they’ll do a good job, but the key is the couple know that it won’t be *as* good, its a last resort sort of thing.

  13. Thank you Kat for your ongoing support for pro photographers, I’ve had 3 enquiries this year already about wedding re shoots because brides booked someone cheap and regretted it so are looking to rock their frock again, it always makes me sad as you can never ever recreate the moment the couple first set eyes on each other, or the reactions to the best man speech, these are the moment us photographers live and work for, much love xx

  14. Thank you Kat for your ongoing support for pro photographers, I’ve had 3 enquiries this year already about wedding re shoots because brides booked someone cheap and regretted it so are looking to rock their frock again, it always makes me sad as you can never ever recreate the moment the couple first set eyes on each other, or the reactions to the best man speech, these are the moment us photographers live and work for, much love xThank you Kat for your ongoing support for pro photographers, I’ve had 3 enquiries this year already about wedding re shoots because brides booked someone cheap and regretted it so are looking to rock their frock again, it always makes me sad as you can never ever recreate the moment the couple first set eyes on each other, or the reactions to the best man speech, these are the moment us photographers live and work for, much love xxThank you Kat for your ongoing support for pro photographers, I’ve had 3 enquiries this year already about wedding re shoots because brides booked someone cheap and regretted it so are looking to rock their frock again, it always makes me sad as you can never ever recreate the moment the couple first set eyes on each other, or the reactions to the best man speech, these are the moments us photographers live and work for, much love xxx

  15. Maija

    Another option is to book a photographer from another country – we are getting married in Latvia (weive in Norway) and the costs of hiring a professional there varry from very low to low. We are paying about 500£ for full package and 14h coverage. You can see some of her work here https://www.facebook.com/agnetasbildes?ref=ts&fref=ts
    I am really looking foreward of Agneta shooting our wedding! :)))

  16. Amazing article Kat and fantastic points too. I love number 3 > have a couples shoot! Much more relaxed and like you pointed out, you can actually take more time too.

  17. Great article… newbie.. yeah we have all been one but not everyone who can afford a camera can take a good pic…

  18. Great advice here Kat! And sound advice too. Disappointing how many wedding “professionals” have spammed the comments section though. They look desperate for work unfortunately and show how difficult it can be for couples to find real professionals in an over saturated market.

  19. Great post Kat and couldn’t be more relevant to me right now. All my friends and family know that, to me (personally) the photographer we choose will be one of the most important decisions we make. More important than what I will be wearing in fact..it means that much to me. We’re organising our day to be a very relaxed family affair with everyone chipping in to help. Village hall, diy decorations, games..you get the picture. I want a pro to capture the fun, the family, the kids sliding on their knees, the laughter and we’re prepared to pay for that. Only problem will be choosing which awesome photographer to use!!!!

  20. Hia
    Soooo I’m a wedding photographer and I only charge £550 (gasp) I’ve been doing it a couple of years now so I guess I’m probably still classed as a ‘newbie’. There aint nothing wrong with booking a newbie btw but what I’d say is don’t just book someone based solely on price (just don’t do it, it’ll always end in tears) book a photographer because you like what they do and because you like them too! I’ll be around all day if you book me on the most important day of your life (probably) so make sure you book someone you click with or you’ll just feel awkward and look awkward in your photos too!
    I’m cheap, I know I am, and I like to offer an affordable service, I can do this because it isn’t my only source of income.

    If nobody ever booked any new photographers our would be an extinct species…

    I also do kind of agree a little with DJ staci, it’s pretty hard to capture fun if there isn’t any happening, atmosphere is so important and you don’t want photos of people pulling faces when your wedding DJ drops oops upside your head…

  21. Helen

    Fab article! I knew who I wanted to be my wedding photographer even before I met my hubby-to-be and when we initially looked at planning our wedding over two years ago I got in touch. For many reasons we’re only now finally setting the date and I’ve been in touch again, and he’s very very kindly offered to do the wedding at the 2011 rate he first quoted. Now it’s all getting real with budgets etc. I was having cold feet about spending so much on photography (even with the fantastic discount) but you’ve reminded me why I wanted to go with someone who’s photos make me happy every time I look at them – I can’t wait for him to capture our day and have them to look at for the rest of our lives!

  22. I booked a friend who is an amazing Dj has a huge portfolio of rock & country music and was almost what I paid for my tog. So a good band or Dj as in this case he sings too so had a bit of everything :)

    I’ve met newbies that are amazing togs and some who are qualified that I think ehh? What? However photography is Art!

    Not everyone likes davinchi or Dali however we all like art look at Annie leberwitz she’s good but I have many favourite styles very different from each other compare Lisa Devlin and Peter Prior they appeal to very different sides of my personality but I will never be either of them.

    I’ve also seen portfolios of photographers work liked what they do & then seen photos of a wedding they have done and it is out of what was seen & caused upset.

    Quality not quantity and sometimes a little luck helps too. Every person I’ve ever spoken to about photography I always say budget for about £2000 for your photographer even if you don’t spend it it will give you more buying power and you will get someone’s work you love, maybe make a new friend and you will have your photos immortalised in print capturing the magic of your day.

  23. Yes we need more photogs to add value to their clients by offering them prints and albums. The CD looks like crap hanging on the wall. ;) thanks for posting this.

  24. Other suggestions:
    * I offer a payment plan so you can spread the payment monthly rather than have to fork it out in one or two goes.
    * gift vouchers: ask the guests to gift you an hour of photography or pages of an album.
    * have an album later- after the honeymoon, or even 1-2 years later, it spreads the cost
    * get married during the week or off peak season- say between October and March.
    * Haggle – but fairly, I had a couple who made me an offer, they were fab people, loved their ideas and personalities, they loved my work. Working with the right people counts a lot for me, so don’t be shy.

  25. Ok, you may say I am biased being a wedding photographer myself but as Eric Bellamy said, your wedding pictures are a real investment a value and importance of which people often underestimate. If I was to get married again (purely hypothetically speaking :-) I’d definitely shop around for quality and style, not ONLY price.

  26. Emily

    I find this advice a little disheartening really, that budget for the photographer would be our budget for the whole wedding! Then what? What’s the advice for the person that has to ask their uncle with the fancy camera (exactly my situation)?

  27. Sally

    I’m booking a newbie (only £660 for her, another second photographer and an engagement shoot, shock horror!)

    I didn’t pick her purely because of price. I did my research thoroughly and she was the best that I had seen (I had been looking at professionals charging 3 grand for one day). I know its a huge risk, but I have been following this girls career for more than 10 years – her style is amazing, I’m in love with her portfolio, she is incredibly gifted with a camera and clearly knows what she is doing. Being a wedding photographer is her career choice, I know its something she is passionate about. She will be working with other professional wedding photographers as a second photographer for the next year and a half, and will be doing her first wedding next year, just before mine.

    I have complete confidence in her – theres so many blogs out there that tell brides to stay clear of newbie wedding photographers. It makes me wonder how hard it must be fore someone starting out to get work in this career. I feel glad that I can offer that to someone. Even if the photos somehow go wrong, I’m just happy to be married to a person that I love, and have celebrated it with people that are close to me. I don’t feel I need perfect photos to look back at what a good time I had, when my own personal memories will always be there.

    Thanks to the comments on here, I’ll be spending more money on entertainment. I hope there will be a blog post on here soon with some DJ/ Band booking tips and some links!

  28. I also find this article a little disheartening. My own wedding budget was 5k. Doing the deed and my guests enjoying themselves was my priority. And at this point, photography was not a big part of my life. I was perfectly happy with my wedding photography.
    I charge £650. I have been shooting weddings for a year and it’s true, I don’t NEED the income, I’m a stay a home mum the rest of the time. But not everyone has 2k to spend on a photographer and it’s unfair to insuiate that unless you pay the big bucks you’ll get rubbish pictures. Not the case! However I appreciate you’re trying to educate people who will opt for the cheapest photographer that photos are important, but as mentioned, everyone has to start somewhere and as long as you have seen and loved your photographers previous work then that is enough, be is £600 or 6k…

  29. Great post, great advice Kat.

    To the “don’t book a newbie” crowd…not all noobs are created equal and every photographer was one once.

    After deciding to switch careers in my early 40s, and with no foundation in photography beyond mildly addicted hobbyist, I took my first three or four weddings on, for friends, for nothing more than expenses…travel, kit rental, that sort of stuff. So about £200 for what amounted to around 8 days work. Typical Uncle Bob under-cutting weekend warrior so far and I’m deffo not in it for the money. But I also need portfolio and everybody has to start somewhere. I took the deadlines presented by three or four impending weddings, with 9-11 months notice, as motivation to learn and practice the stuff I couldn’t possibly find the time to learn and practice before. Every wedding I took on since taught me something else, gave me a desire to learn a new technique, or whatever. And with each one, my price steadily increases. Still cheap, because I can’t justify to myself charging more until I know more. But with each bride, I made sure that she knew that she was taking on somebody who had limited experience and who absolutely couldn’t promise the sort of imagery that she might have seen on blogs and whatnot. Basic management of expectation. As it turned out, given the brides’s reactions, I under- promised and over-delivered. It can happen. It could have gone totally the other way too, but thankfully….

    So, Brides To Be: if you’re booking somebody who’s doing their first gig, then understand that you’re taking a risk. But if you’re prepared to gamble to save the money, know it could go either way and accept the risk you’re taking rather than getting bitter later if it doesn’t pay off. If your chosen noob professes to have done a few weddings, ask to see the pics, all of them. If they look ok, give them a go. But don’t be afraid to say no and, if you want an absolute guarantee, be prepared to pay.

    Btw, my own wedding pictures, 15 years old as they are, are crap. Totally shit. I’ve never, ever liked them. I got wed in December ’99 and it looks as though the whole day happened in the Black Hole Of Calcutta. They were taken by a long established professional of some years experience, and they weren’t particularly cheap. He was also recommended by a friend. And they’re still REALLY crap. But it doesn’t ruin my memories and my missus absolutely loves them. At the end of the day, with a photographer, as with much else, you pays yer money, you takes yer choice. Plus ca change…

  30. Heidi Dunn

    100% spot on our wedding is June 2015 and we are having a budget wedding but we are spending most of it on the photographer. We can’t wait we booked http://www.mckinley-rodgers.com…earlier this year as it was one of the most important things for our day.

  31. Sharon Mason

    Thanks for the tips. I am really struggling with this… I am getting married on a Thursday morning in December at a registry office, followed by a family meal in a pub in a little coastal village in Wales. A little different, no? So, I contacted a local photographer who was sort of in my budget but I just wasn’t feeling it….. I don’t have over a grand to spend either, I really just don’t. I’m struggling to buy my house and put my son through university so I have to prioritise them. I guess I’ll just end up going down the family-member-with-a-camera route, regrets or not.

  32. Booking a newbie really depends on their experience, they may only be 1 year in the industry full time but captured 6 weddings and have full albums to go through, of which are all high quality. The key is to view the albums, make sure they are consistently great throughout, and not just one or two great shots.

    A newbie who is a professional is certainly worth looking at, however a family member with a new camera is where you need to be very careful, this bride shared her experience and why she regretted it: http://www.yourperfectweddingphotographer.co.uk/article/regret-not-hiring-professional-wedding-photographer/

    The key is to maximise your budget for the photographer so you can afford the best you can.

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