How to save money on wedding photos and still get awesome photography
by Stephanie

Gorgeous photo of the bride and groom after the wedding. Photo courtesy of Marissa Maharaj.
Gorgeous photo of the bride and groom after the wedding. Photo courtesy of Marissa Maharaj.

You might not know it, but hiring your wedding photographer is one of THE most key hires you'll make when it comes to planning your wedding. I mean, this is someone who's going to be up close and personal with you and your fiancé(e) on the big day. From the first moments when you're getting ready to your send-off, your photographer is going to be up in your business with a camera, capturing the awesome moments of your wedding. Needless to say, you're going to want to make sure you REALLY like this person.

Not only do you need to get along with your wedding photographer, you also really need to make sure you LOVE their work. These are your wedding memories we're talking about, after all. When all is said and done, you'll be married... but you'll also just have spent the last year (and thousands of dollars) planning this memorable event that's over in just one day. Don't you want to make sure the person who is capturing these wedding memories is going to deliver photos that you'll love and cherish forever?

That's what I thought. Which is why I'm a firm believer in the idea that if you're going to skimp anywhere in your wedding budget, it should NOT be your photography. Wedding photography really is a "you-get-what-you-pay-for" situation; and while that doesn't mean you should hire someone outside your budget (please don't do that), you should definitely not book the first affordable photog you find and move on.

With the rising costs of weddings, it's no surprise that a great photographer's day-of packages can give even the most laid-back bride sticker shock. But like I said, you don't need to go into debt to hire an awesome wedding photographer. All you need to do is find a couple of awesome photogs and find a way to fit your budget to their prices. Here's 6 tips to help you find that perfect wedding photographer for an awesome price, and how to save money on wedding photos!

1. Do your research!

Totally gorgeous boho bride with flower crown.  Photo courtesy of Marissa Maharaj.
Totally gorgeous boho bride with flower crown. Photo courtesy of Marissa Maharaj.

The first rule of finding your wedding photographer at a reasonable price? Do you research! The average price of a wedding photographer will vary based on where you live. I've seen amazing photographers in more rural areas charge $2k for their starting wedding photography packages, while  photographers with similar styles in an urban area may charge quite a bit more. The key is to shop around and gather price points from a few different photographers in your area. Once you get a handful of quotes, you'll get a sense of the price range you're looking at, which will help you make a more informed decision about what your baseline cost will be.

Again, I firmly believe that wedding photography is not a place where you should skimp, but that doesn't mean the most expensive photographer is the best. There's no need to rush into a contract with an amazing photographer if the price point is out of your budget, just because it seems like that's the price to pay for quality. If you're in love with a certain look or style of photography, chances are there are a few different photographers in your area that offer their services at varying costs. You just have to make the effort and search for those photographers — patience is really going to pay off in this vendor search!

2. Look for newly transplanted photographers

Stunning vineyard wedding ceremony.  Photo courtesy of Marissa Maharaj.
Stunning vineyard wedding ceremony. Photo courtesy of Marissa Maharaj.

Wedding photographers, like normal every day people, sometimes will move from city to city. Finding a newly transplanted wedding photographer in your area is a great way to find a talented, seasoned photographer for a slightly more affordable cost. Because the photographer needs to build up word of mouth and wedding cred in the area, they may offer their photography services at a lower price point to initially build up their client base.

3. Network with your current vendors

I've found that the best way to find wedding vendors is through the vendors you've already booked. As someone who you've booked for their wedding talent and trustworthiness, many of your vendors will have worked with other amazing people in the industry, including photographers. If you've already booked a venue or wedding planner, make sure to ask them what photographers they may recommend. A planner will know what it's like to work personally with the photographer and your venue will probably have a list of photographers who have shot gorgeous weddings and the location before — both will probably also know great photographers in your price point.

Gorgeous photo of a beautiful bride! Wedding photography by Marissa Maharaj.
Gorgeous photo of a beautiful bride! Wedding photography by Marissa Maharaj.

Bonus: many times, vendors are willing to give brides a small discount on pricing if they have been referred to them. So don't forget to mention how you found the photographer when you reach out!

4. Don't be shy about talking numbers

It can feel really weird to talk numbers and wedding budgets with complete strangers, especially when you're trying to hire them. But guess what? Wedding photographers know that almost every bride is on a budget of some level, and the really awesome photographers are masters at making you feel comfortable and understood when it comes to talking about pricing.

Lovely snoqualmie falls wedding. Wedding photography by Marissa Maharaj.
Lovely snoqualmie falls wedding. Wedding photography by Marissa Maharaj.

If you're in talks with a wedding photographer that's a little bit out of your price point (but you totally LOVE), don't be afraid to tell them what your photography budget is. If your photographer is excited about your wedding and really wants to shoot it, chances are they'll be open to adjusting some of their standard pricing to fit your budget. No photography package is set in stone in terms of pricing and features, so don't be afraid to be honest (but kind!) about what you're able to afford.

5. Skip engagement photos

Engagement photos seem to be ubiquitous these days, and it's easy to fall in love with the idea of you and your beloved in similar pretty & romantic portraits. But guess what? There's no wedding rulebook that says you have to take engagement photos!

Fun outdoorsy engagement photography. Wedding photography by Marissa Maharaj.
Fun outdoorsy engagement photography. Wedding photography by Marissa Maharaj.

I do believe that taking engagement photos will help you and your partner get accustomed to the feeling of being posed in front of a camera, but again it's definitely not required. If you want a great photographer but the price for their wedding day coverage and engagement photos isn't going to work for you, then why not skip the e-session? You can always take pretty portrait-like photos on your anniversary when your wallets have recovered from wedding shock!

6. Look outside your city lines

A warning about this next tip: it's not going to work in all circumstances. Finding a photographer from out of your city or state means you'll have to pay for their airfare, lodging and ground transportation at minimum. Factor in that they might require you to cover the cost of their meals or second shooter to travel, and before you know it, your photography budget might be looking a bit thin.

However, if you live in an area with a relatively high average cost for a wedding photographer (I'm looking at you, SF and NYC), it's worth exploring the pricing and travel costs for non-local wedding photographers. Like I said earlier, there are amazing photographers in non-urban areas that charge a lot less than the typical urban fine art wedding photographer. Just make sure you crunch the all the travel numbers before you sign the dotted line!

Stunning sunset wedding ceremony. Wedding photography by Marissa Maharaj.
Stunning sunset wedding ceremony. Wedding photography by Marissa Maharaj.

So there you have it, brides. The takeaways? Don't skimp on photography when it comes down to your wedding budget, but know that that doesn't mean you have to spend a fortune! There's a way to balance the two, and you just have to be smart about who you're hiring and look for the opportunities that'll get you the best photography at the best cost.

How did you hire your wedding photographer? Are there any brides or vendors here that agree or disagree with these tips? Let me know in the comments!

All photos in this post  are courtesy of Marissa Maharaj! (My awesome and supremely talented wedding photographer)