Before I start this post, I just want to make something very very clear: Wedding photographers are absolutely worth every penny that they charge. If you question the value of a wedding photographer or think that they are overpriced, please read this first before continuing.
Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way let’s continue, shall we? Photography is one of the larger expenses in the wedding budget and unfortunately it is also one of the hardest areas to save money as it’s the one expense I would ever advise cutting out. You’ll probably never miss that champagne fountain or the gold chiavari chairs you opted not to rent, but I guarantee you will regret skipping out on photos. So what do you do if you’re on a super tight budget? Well, I went straight to the source for this post; I asked a handful of my featured and trusted photographers what advice they could offer to brides and grooms on a budget and here’s what they had to say:
1. Hire Somebody with Less Experience
Getting started in any business is tough and newbie wedding photographers rely on people to take a chance on them despite their less than prolific body of work. Because of this, they often have lower rates or may be more willing to work with couples on a tight budget in order to build their portfolio. Now, hiring somebody with less experience might seem risky, but the key to success here is lots of research and good referrals, especially from other photographers.
Pros: Newer photographers may be less professional, less creative, and may not be able to achieve the exact results you desire
Cons: You’ll be helping someone start their career
2. Skip the Engagement Photos
Some photographers may object to this tip, and while I do agree that an engagement session is a great way to get comfortable with your photographer and practise being photographed, it is an easy way to cut a few hundred bucks off of your budget.
Pros: If you hate having your photo taken you will love this option
Cons: If you hate having your photo taken an engagement session is really good idea before your wedding day
3. Get Your Wedding Photography Gifted to You
Now this is a tip I never would have thought of, but two photographers I spoke with mentioned this same idea and I think it’s a really great option. If you are creating a registry for your wedding that allows you to add whatever you want to it, consider adding your photography package onto it. You can simply break up the cost of the package into reasonable gift amounts or add specific items like your album or a certain size print. Depending on how your registry works you might want to speak to your photographer beforehand to make special arrangements. Similarly, you can let your relatives know who your wedding vendors are. If they know that you are on a tight budget and unable to afford certain things, they may or may not offer to cover the cost of something as a gift.
Pros: You’ll be able to get more coverage and/or services than you originally budgeted for
Cons: Only works on certain registries
4. Know What you Want and Plan Ahead
Like with many services, it’s usually cheaper to bundle. So before you book your photographer make sure you know what products and services you want from them; do you want a photo booth? a wedding album? thank you cards? Booking everything at once will be much cheaper than adding a la carte products or services on at the last minute. Similarly, if you know what you don’t want, you can avoid overpaying for a package that includes a bunch services and products that don’t suit your needs.
Pros: It’s never a bad idea to plan ahead
Cons: You may change your mind closer to the date and have to add a la carte services to your package anyways
5. Hold your Wedding During the Week or in the Off-Season
Photographers are much more inclined to take on clients with a smaller budget if their wedding falls on a week day or in the off-season when they are less likely to have any other bookings. Even if you only want 4 hours of coverage for your wedding, but you want to get married on a Saturday in July, that means that your photographer would have to turn down a client willing to pay for a full coverage package to work with you instead. If you were getting married on Wednesday, however, there’s probably nobody else vying for their business on that day and they would be more than happy to take you on as a client.
Pros: You’ll save money on your venue as well
Cons: Not a great option if you have a lot of out of town guests
6. Be Honest, Kind, Generous, and Appreciative
I know this sounds like a strange tip, but bear with me while I explain. The thing about people is that we prefer to help and work with others that are kind, generous, and appreciative. Photographers are no different; they prefer to work with clients that they like. So how you communicate with a potential photographer is a really important factor in whether or not they will work with you. Firstly, It’s very important to be upfront about your budget when contacting any photographer and graciously acknowledge that you understand if they are unable to accommodate you. Don’t just mass email a bunch of photographers telling them your budget and asking them if they’ll do it for that price. I guarantee you will not get a lot of response from that and if you do, it will not be positive. Take the time to write a personal email to your favourite wedding photographer detailing why you love their work and want to work with them; tell them about yourself and your fiance and about the vision for your wedding. Essentially, you want to try and establish a relationship and make the photographer want to work with you. Just don’t be insincere about it. If they feel a strong connection to you or think your wedding sounds amazing, they maybe more inclined to find a way to work within your budget. And even if they are unable to take you on as a client, they will be much more likely to help you find somebody who can. No matter what your budget is, building a great relationship with your photographer is never a bad idea; they are capturing one of the biggest days of your life, after all!
Pros: You’ll build a great relationship with your photographer which will result in better photos
Cons: There are no cons to being nice
A Few of my Additional Do’s and Don’ts:
- DON’T “hire” your uncle Jimmy, cousin Fred or Aunt Milly to take your wedding photos. This is a recipe for disaster on so many levels.
- DO do your research. Look at as many portfolios as possible, ask as many questions as you can think of, and get some referrals.
- DON’T hire the cheapest person you can find. While the adage “you get what you pay for” isn’t always 100% accurate, it does carry weight.
- DON’T assume your guests will take more than enough photos. They will take plenty of photos for sure, but in half of them your mouth will be open mid-sentence, your eyes will be closed, or you’ll be doing your ugly cry; not really the wedding memories you hoped to capture for eternity.
- DO understand that a smaller budget will mean less hours of coverage, fewer locations, and less flexibility. Be open to the advice of your photographer on the best way to use their time.
- DON’T assume your favourite photographer is raking in the cash and will be able to accommodate you. Photographers are small business owners and while some may have enough wiggle room in their pricing and in their business to occasionally take on clients with smaller budgets, many don’t.
- DO treat your photographer like a guest. Give them a meal, a table to sit at, and send them a thank you card. Anything less is rude.