Groom Duties

5 Easy Ways to Save Money on Professional Wedding Photographers

Illustration by Dorothy Cury

Like every other wedding expense you’ve never thought about, the cost of the wedding photographer will take you by surprise. But with a little strategic thinking and contractual haggling, you can get the price down.

According to recent surveys, the average cost of a wedding photographer in the U.S. is somewhere between $2,500 and $4,000, making it the fourth largest expense of the wedding. If you live in an expensive city like New York or San Francisco, you may have to fork out as much as $10,000. That money could buy you a lot of Blue Hawaiians as you sit by the beach on your honeymoon, so you’ll want to budget this one hard. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways of shaving costs without having to settle for substandard wedding pictures.

1. Get A “Personal Use Release” In Your Contract

Any wedding photographer worth his or her salt will have a contract for you to sign, spelling out what they’re expected to do and who has what rights to the final photographs. Despite what you think, you do not own your own wedding pictures. The photographer will almost certainly insist on retaining the copyright, which includes the right to sell the photographs for commercial purposes. (If that creeps you out, talk to them about limiting the use of your image).

What you can negotiate, however, is a personal use release. This gives you the legal right to take the photos in digital form and print them out yourself, as well as post them on social media or on your wedding website.  Not all photographers will go for this: their business model is based on selling their clients professional prints of the wedding portraits. But if they are open to it, and you don’t mind most of your pictures being online-only, you can save a significant amount.

2. Get Your Own Wedding Album

Some photographers offer packages in which they take the photographs, print them, and put them all in a fancy album for you. This is not a Plunge-approved strategy. You should buy your own album (it will be cheaper) and organize the pictures yourself, whether you get them as prints from the photographer or as digital files which you print yourself. You will know better than anyone else how to tell the story of your wedding (and let’s be honest, your fiancée will probably do most of the work).

3. Book Your Photographer For Part Of The Day

Do you really need a photograph of every second of your wedding? If not, see if your photographer has an hourly rate. This way you can pick which moments you want to immortalize, and which moments can be consigned to the dustbin of history. This also cut down on the number of extra hands the photographer will need. Less assistants means less money for you to shell out.

4. Enlist Your Guests

In the olden days, wedding guests would concentrate on eating, drinking and having a good time. But modern guests will spend half the night taking photos and posting them on social media. This is a resource you can leverage, especially if you’ve decided on hiring your photographer by the hour, as above. Create a #hashtag and make sure everyone knows it. Then sit back and relax while the pictures come streaming in, gratis. (Note: this is not meant to be a replacement for a professional photographer, but a supplement. Your friends are cool, but they aren’t Annie Liebovitz).

5. Include The Cost In Your Registry

If none of the above bring your costs down to a level you can live with, add the wedding photo costs to your registry. Surely some rich relative would be glad to fund the photographer. Some wedding photographers even offer this as a payment option; they can breakdown the costs for your guests so they know what they’re pay for ahead of time.

Bottom Line

If you want to save money on your wedding photographs, you need to skip the photographer’s package deals and do some of the work yourself.

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