You’ve heard it before:  photography is one area of your wedding that you want to splurge, because you’ll have those pictures forever.  But, the actual cost of photography can be a hard pill to swallow if you have never planned a wedding before.  You just want to marry your partner and have a fun party, right!?

If you are unfamiliar with weddings and photography, as most newly engaged couples are, you might be wondering:  Why do those photographers charge do much, especially when my wedding is only eight hours long?


Photo Credit: Sarah Culver Photography

We went right to the source.  We polled photographers in the DC, Maryland and Virginia wedding community.  We talked to all different types of wedding photographers who shoot weddings of all different budgets, who charge a diverse range of prices for their work.  We asked them how much time they spend on each client after they are hired for a wedding.  There was one thing that was consistent in their responses:  Photographers in DC, MD and VA spent a lot of time on each wedding.

Here are the total number of hours that photographers in DC, MD and VA said that they spend on each client:

  • Less than 20 hours – 2%
  • 20 hours – 19%
  • 30 hours – 13%
  • 40 hours – 30%
  • 50 hours – 13%
  • 60 hours – 10%
  • 70 hours – 8%
  • 80 hours and more – 2%


Photo Credit: Korie Lynn Photography

Wow!  That’s a lot of hours, right!?  So, what are you actually paying for?  Believe it or not, taking the pictures on your wedding day is the shortest of their list of to-dos.  It isn’t easy, but it is the part of the job that takes them the least amount of time.  Included in those 40 to 50 hours are things like:  Planning, walk throughs, travel, consulting with clients, meetings, rehearsals (sometimes), engagement sessions (sometimes), shooting the actual event, culling through images, image editing, uploading images, archiving, blogging, social media sharing, administrative tasks, billing, print ordering, album designing and more.

Direct from the pros:  “For every hour of shooting I estimate about three hours of post processing work.  This post-processing includes uploading, backup, culling, color correction, basic editing, blogging, DVD burning, and gallery upload.  So, if I shot a nine-hour wedding, I leave the wedding day with approximately 27 hours of work ahead of me.  This doesn’t include e-mails, consultations, album design, album edits, equipment preparation and more,” said Katelyn James.

Now that you’ve seen the hours, ask yourself this:  How much do you expect to be paid for 40 to 50 hours or more of work?  Add on top of that to cost of their expertise, artistic perspective and experience.  You also have to include cost of travel and photography equipment, like cameras, lights, computers and other funky things that I’ve seen photographers use but I don’t know the names.


Photo Credit: Elisa B. Photography

Direct from the pros:  “I spend around 40 to 45 hours working for each wedding.  Usually around 10 hours on the wedding day, 2 to 4 hours of meetings before the wedding, 25 to 30 hours of editing and blogging.  Albums add an extra 10 hours of work,” said Kristi Odom.

A wise photographer once told me once that all photos are edited, which means that the photographer “treats” the photo with different processes, like adding more light or taking it away or making it black and white.  There all types of ways that a photographer can edit your photos and make them look pretty and presentable.  However, editing each picture takes time.  A lot of time.

“The majority of our work begins once the wedding day is over.  After the 7 to 12 hours spent photographing the day, we spend hours upon hours archiving, editing and creating master images.  Making the decision to photograph only 10 to 15 weddings a year has given our studio the freedom to spend more quality time serving each and every couple.  From the initial meeting, to the ‘get to know you’ engagement session, to the final delivery of each couple’s custom storybook wedding album, it takes anywhere from 10 to 12 weeks of custom work,” says Laura Ashbrook.


Photo Credit: Sweet Tea Photography

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not faulting photographers who charge high prices or those that charge small fees.  Every photographer has their own reasons for their prices.  They can charge whatever they feel their craft and their time is worth.  I want to present to you, the engaged couple, the number one reason why wedding photography costs what it does.  I was blown away the first time I heard that a photographer spends 40 to 50 hours or more on a wedding.  I had no idea.

Good luck searching for a photographer and happy photography week!

*  Kristi Odom Photography is one of our fabulous sponsors.  For more on our editorial policies, please click here.

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