If you’re a bride on a budget, amazing wedding photography can seem impossibly expensive. You want beautiful images of your day but don’t want to spend a small fortune to get them. Luckily, there are many ways to save money on the photography of your big day.
Hire a photography student for most of the day.
My journey to becoming a professional wedding photographer started while I was in college. A friend of mine asked me to photograph her wedding; she had seen my portfolio of posed photos of high school seniors and candid shots and loved them. She wanted me to capture her big day and, since I was a friend, to do it for free. I was excited to gain experience and broaden my portfolio.
I was also slightly apprehensive; I didn’t want to miss a big moment with my inexperience. The bride hired a professional for the ceremony only, at my urging. I took photos during the nuptials along with the professional photographer. Since the ceremony was only 30 minutes, the photographer only charged $150 – a steep savings from over $1,000 for a full day of photography. I handled the traditional group and bride and groom shots, the bride dressing and the reception. By hiring a professional for essential shots and letting a student handle the shots you’d like to have but aren’t overly concerned about getting, brides can save a hefty sum.
I used to give client-friends steep discounts or even free wedding photography when I was starting out. As a student in college, I didn’t feel that I had the experience or equipment to charge very much, if anything, for my services. I was, however, very passionate about getting great shots and capturing important moments. This paid off for brides who were willing to let a then-amateur photographer capture their special day. Since I was very inexpensive and a good photographer looking to hone my skills, it paid off for me too.
According to bridalassociationofamerican.com, the average couple spends over $2,200 on a photographer. That can be money well spent, but the cost is often too much for a couple on a budget to consider. If you’re willing to take a chance, you can get outstanding images for a very reasonable price, by hiring a photography student. Keep in mind that the images taken that day will be what your children and grandchildren will look at, long after the day itself is done, so make sure the quality is up to your expectations. Ask to see a portfolio of images, and possibly get a professor’s recommendation.
If you’re looking for a videographer, the same applies. Students can do great work and editing. Your day can double as an assignment for them and really gives them real-world experience to showcase their skills. Get comfortable with either option by asking them to do your engagement photos or record the bridal shower. Since either situation is much more relaxed than a wedding, you’ll be able to preview more of the student’s work and find out if you’re comfortable with your choice.
Limit professional time.
Like any sane professional, I charge much less for something I can have done in two days over something that will take a month. If I have a full day’s worth of shots to edit it will take much more effort on my part than if I had just shot the ceremony and/or group photos. Remember, you’re not just paying a photographer to take pictures. You’re paying for adjustments, color corrections, glare removal, general editing, sizing and much more. It can take hours and hours to fully edit an entire wedding day – the costs will come out of your pocket. Visit bridesupnorth.com to get a general idea of where your dollars go when you hire a professional.
If hiring a professional photographer is a priority, consider hiring for just a few hours instead of a full day. If shots of the ceremony are really important to you, hire for the ceremony and a few group shots before or after. You’ll often get a good discount because the photographer won’t have as much work to do – both at the wedding and while editing.
Another move I’ve seen brides use is to have the dances and bouquet toss and speeches at the reception right away – before dinner. The photographer can get the shots the couple wants without having to be paid through dinner and time the bride and groom spend visiting guests. Personally, I love this option. I don’t feel obligated to stick around and eat, I get home at a decent time, and as an added bonus, everyone still looks good! No need to worry that the groom spilled red wine on his shirt or that the bride got a spot of sauce on her dress.
It will be up to you to decide what shots are must-haves for you and which would be nice-to-haves. Communicate with the photographer to find out what is reasonable for the amount of time you have. If you work with a local photographer, try to negotiate. While you don’t want to ask for an unreasonable discount, you might be able to get $50-$100 off by simply asking. I booked a wedding last year for almost $200 less than I normally charge because the bride said she really liked my pictures but I was out of her budget.
Print photos yourself.
Personally, I don’t even like selling prints. I’ll do them if requested, but they are not something I bring up. They take extra effort on my part – size the photos, send to the printer, pick up from the printer, inspect, make sure all of the colors match perfectly, and finally deliver to the couple. That’s a lot of work on my part that I have to charge for, on top of what the printing company charges me for the prints. If you do it yourself, that can translate into some great savings.
Most photographers will sell CDs of their work to happy couples for a much more reasonable price than prints or albums. If you order prints, your expenses for photography can grow very quickly. Prints are nice but many brides I know create their own photo books or albums. Many companies have very easy to use templates that you can drag and drop edited photos into creating a very professional looking way to display your day. By buying the CD, you can also share your photos via social media or email instead of trying to get a quality scan of a print photo.
Make sure you get a release so you’re able to print photos for personal use. Without a release, many companies will not allow you to purchase your prints. Even if a student is photographing most or all of your day, it is still important to get this document. At the very first wedding I shot, as a student, I completely forgot about this important step. The bride called me from the store counter in tears because they wouldn’t let her take the pictures. While I did take care of the issue in minutes, I’d advise not getting into the situation to begin with.
Ask friends and family to help.
Ask a few friends or family members to bring their digital cameras to the reception. You’ll get some fun and interesting shots. While they aren’t likely going to take the most professional photos, they’ll provide a different angle of all of the fun. Because you won’t have to worry about the expense of developing film, this can be a very reasonable option for some photography fun. You can even buy a few memory cards to provide to your guests for under $10 each. Make sure they leave the memory cards with you before they leave!