How to Have Awesome Wedding Photography When You’re On a Budget

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So you’re now engaged and your finally getting around to planning your wedding.  You’ve already figured that the Castle Wedding in Scotland is probably out of your price range, but even things in your area surprisingly expensive.  And then you start looking at wedding photographers, the price ranges can be dizzying and so can the range in portfolios.  But there is one trend you do notice, wedding photography is expensive. So how in the world can you save any money here and still have beautiful images to remember your wedding by?

Naturally, I’m coming to this post from a fairly biased position.  I think wedding photography is important, so much so that I made it my profession.  So I’m going to make the assumption that you’re not booking me (even though I would love for you to), and just give you advice as someone who knows this industry well.  I fully recognize not everyone can afford my packages even if they do really value wedding photography. I honestly want you to have great wedding photos, even if I don’t photograph your wedding.

So I’ve compiled a quick list of options that you could consider if you do really value wedding photography but you’re not sure how to make it work on your budget.

Tip #1: Have your wedding on a weekday or an off-peak time.  

Most all weddings take on Saturdays, followed by Fridays and Sundays.  Many of these weddings occur from April-October. Simply put, wedding photography is a limited resource on any given Saturday in Summer. You may really struggle if your looking for a partial day package from a experienced wedding photographer on the Saturday Bank Holiday in August.

However, there are equal amounts of Thursdays, Mondays and Wednesdays available in the summer for your wedding.  You may also are more likely to find better deals on other wedding suppliers as well.

I got married on a Monday in December and it worked perfectly.  Everything from my ceremony venue to reception worked out to be cheaper.  (You can see a blog post about my own wedding here).

Even though Laura and Steve’s wedding was in early spring, everything from the light to the weather turned out fantastic.  Check it out here.

Tip #2: Consider having a photoshoot session in your wedding clothes with your dream photographer on another day.  

Dreaming of having a certain photographer take your photos?  See if they are up for doing a photo-session in a really cool location with your wedding clothes.  Many wedding photographers love the chance to have a relaxed session where they can have more time being creative and coming up with something unique.  So email your dream wedding photographer, tell them that you’ll love to just have a chance to be in some of their photos, even if it’s just for a photoshoot.  You’ll still get a photo of you and partner in your wedding clothes that you adore.

These images below are from a shoot I did awhile ago for Rocky and Miki.  They were visiting London and wanted to do photos in the fantastic city that is London.  We took the entire day and did photos in loads of locations.   A lot of Asian countries actually see the pre-wedding photoshoot as the norm now.

Even though they are in their wedding outfits, we did a full day session on a weekday in Central London and they had awesome photos to remember their trip.

Tip #3: Move money around to make it work.

In the course of normal everyday life, I get asked what I do for a living.  When I say “wedding photographer”,  I usually get several reactions, one being “Wow that’s cool” (it totally is), and sometimes I get “I really regret not having a wedding photographer” or “I really wish I invested more in my wedding photos”.  That post-wedding regret is real.  Your wedding day is may be the only time in your life where you have all of these family and friends together in the same room together, and your wedding photos will only grow in importance to you over time.

That being said, if you see the value of photography, perhaps there’s another area of your wedding you don’t value as much?  Just because weddings traditionally have something doesn’t mean that your wedding has to.  You might have a few family members questioning why you’re not having a 15 tier cake or 20 bridesmaids but you can just smile and say that other parts of the wedding are more important to you.  Everyone always has an opinion on weddings, but it’s your opinion that matters the most when it comes to your own.

The thing that makes a wedding the best experience is the people that are there, not the venue or the decoration.  You can fill a room full of love anywhere. I’ve seen grandma getting down the dancefloor with just an i-pod as a DJ, amazing gatherings held in village halls and family gardens turned into wedding venues. Those weddings were equally as lovely as ones held in more expensive venues.

Family photos, even the funny ones, are such an important part of a family history. This is from Colin and Edd’s Pembroke Lodge wedding this summer.


Tip #4: Talk to your dream wedding photographer

Most couples email a photographer with their wedding date and ask them for a pricing brochure.  They see the pricing brochure and say “oh that’s over my budget” and then just turn away disappointed.  However the conversation doesn’t have to end at that point.

I’m not saying to ask for a straight up discount.  When you’re asking someone who is self employed for a discount, you could be essentially asking them to take a pay cut.

What you could do is talk to them about your wedding and why that photographer is a perfect fit.   See if there are ways that they could work in your budget.  Perhaps the price you were looking at includes a USB, so ask if you can do direct download instead to save them time preparing the USB?  Perhaps the price you were looking at includes an engagement session, and maybe you could take that option off?  Maybe their package includes an album or print credits?  If there’s anything in the package that you don’t think is a good fit, then discuss with them a custom quote based around exactly what you need.

While I can’t speak for every wedding photographer in the world, I know I wouldn’t be upset having a conversation with someone who’s really trying to make it work and have me there. Perhaps theirs an out of the box solution we can come up with?

Ryan and Rishma got married in Canada, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t have another photo-session with me in the UK.

Tip #5: Ask about a payment plan

I know many wedding photographers would also be happy to discuss a payment plan option as well.  You might not be able to afford the entire bulk cost, but spread over a year it may be more affordable.  Even if they don’t have it listed on their pricing brochure, many photographers would be happy to accommodate.

Tip #6: Ask for wedding photography to be a “gift” 

There may be a lot of family members who want to figure out a way they can help in you plan your wedding.  Having some parts of the wedding “gifted” isn’t an unusual idea.  I’ve been “gifted” more times than I can remember.  I would also say for at least 30% of my clients, the parents usually foot the bill for wedding photography.  These photos can be a part of your family history, so there’s nothing wrong with purchasing them as a family.

Tip #7: Book your wedding way in advance 

Wedding photographers increase their prices over time to reflect the changing costs of doing business.  Some wedding photographers will have adjusted prices already set in advance for future years, while others (including myself), will book weddings for the next year at the current years rate.  You’ll also have more time to pay off the cost of the package, and you’re booking the future years wedding at this years prices.

Finally, just a few more things: Don’t just ask a friend who has a nice camera to shoot your wedding just because you’re on a budget.  This is a once in a lifetime event, that you can’t redo. You might even run into hurt feelings or a difficult relationship with that friend if the photos turn out differently than you had hoped.   If you’re not sure, have them do an engagement photo session and see how the photos turn out. Please do read this article on Rock N’ Roll Bride about a bride who asked her friend to photograph her wedding.

It may be tempting to hire a student photographer or someone adverting their services for cheap on gumtree. When it comes to photographing weddings, experience is the most important thing you can have.  Talk to them about backup equipment, find out if they are insured and what their plan is if their sick, see full galleries of events in difficult lighting conditions.   Ask a lot of questions to make sure you’re  completely comfortable with the answers. Wedding Photography has a lot of expenses, especially when it comes to professional gear and backup gear.  If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.