How Do I Choose a Photography Package That Is Right For My Wedding?

So you have found the PERFECT photographer or videographer for your wedding. He or she has the most beautiful portfolio, glowing reviews from former couples, and has ample experience shooting at the venue where you will get married. Now it is time to select which package you want to book with them, and you are at a loss! You haven’t planned a wedding before, and you aren't sure which one is the right fit for you! No one wants to pay for too much coverage, but you also don't want to be stuck without enough. 

Photo courtesy of  Anna Shackleford Photography

I am going to break it down so you can make the best decision on the onset of planning for your wedding. When I think about the clients I have worked with, many overestimated or underestimated their needs, so they ended up overpaying from the beginning OR being subjected to some hefty charges for extra hours of coverage on the wedding day. I’d like to save you from making those same mistakes!

So here it goes! 5 steps to take when deciding on your wedding photography package:

1. At what point you want your photographer to begin capturing your day?

Do you want shots of your hair and makeup being completed? Do you want to capture any details before the wedding, like your invitation suite, dress, shoes, bouquet, etc.? Do you want photos of you and your bridesmaids in matching robes before you get dressed? If you want your photographer to be present for these moments, let her/him know ahead of time. He or she will often need to get there early to be able to capture these details/moments. 

2. Do you want to do a first look?

While I will tell you that I 100% regret not having a first look, I totally respect the couples that want to wait to see each other for the first time during the ceremony. The first look is an awesome way to calm your nerves, get to see your favorite person for the majority of your wedding day, and to minimize stress in the hour following your ceremony, but it is optional, and many traditional couples prefer to wait. It will ultimately affect when your photographer needs to start. You will need to get ready earlier in the day and you will be taking more photos before the ceremony starts, so they will naturally need to be there longer.

3. Know your ceremony start time and work backwards with your photographer, wedding planner, or wedding coordinator to figure out how long before the ceremony they will need to get there.

Once you decide how much pre-ceremony coverage you want by answering the questions above, work with your photographer (or wedding planner) to determine a good start time for your photographer based on when your ceremony will begin.

Pro tip: If you don’t have a required time that you have to start your ceremony based on venue restrictions, ask your photographer or planner to tell you the best time to start based on the sunset that day! If you want pretty natural light in your photos, planning your ceremony around the sun is essential.

4. Decide how much of the reception you want the photographer to capture.

I know, I know… you’re saying, “...but OF COURSE we want them to capture the entire evening!” But hear me out on this one! Photographers, or most of them at least, charge partly based on how long they will be there on the wedding day. More hours of coverage = more work on the wedding day and hundreds, if not thousands, of additional photos to cull and edit on the back end of your wedding.

Most photographers I work with charge somewhere between $400 - $800 dollars per hour of coverage. You will lose around 2 of those precious and expensive hours to them snapping nothing more than what I call “sweaty dancing photos” if you want them to stay to the end of the night to capture your exit.

So I ask you this: Are you going to print that photo of you and your new husband running through a tunnel of confetti and hang it in your home? Is that one particular photo worth $800-$1600 dollars to you? If your answer is “yes,” then make sure their coverage doesn’t end until your formal exit is over. If your answer is “not a chance,” allow them to come earlier in the day to capture some lovely details and sentimental moments that you will be more likely to cherish forever, or save that money and get a package with less hours. Trust me--any more than 30 minutes of sweaty dancing photos will become repetitive. 

Pro Tip: If you want to have more candid photos during the "sweaty dancing" portion of the evening without the heavy price tag, opt for a photo booth, polaroid cameras, or maybe even some disposable cameras a la Monica and Chandler from Friends (just make sure you don't lose them!), and use those methods to document the end of the night instead!

5. Decide if you want any add ons in your package.

After you have determined how many hours you need with the help of your trusty planner or photographer, you will need to decide what additional services or products you want them to add into your package. They will often give you a better value on these services if you couple them into one cohesive package from the beginning. Here are some extras you might want to consider:

  • Engagement session (often included in every package, and I recommend it so that you can get more familiar with your photographer)

  • Bridal portrait session, if desired (If you’re from the South like me, mama may want this! Also serves as a great time to do your hair and makeup trial to give your whole look a test drive.)

  • Rehearsal dinner coverage (another opportunity to get some treasured photos with some of your favorite friends and family)

  • A beautiful, heirloom wedding album (You don’t want all of those gorgeous and important photos to live on a flash drive forever! And trust me - the photo albums that photographers make for you are way more high quality than buying them online and having them printed yourselves)

  • Additional professional prints (see above!)

  • Online gallery for viewing/downloading/ordering (often included these days) or a flash drive with all of your images (or both!)

  • A second shooter (Depending on the circumstances of your day, a second shooter may be a great addition, but isn't always necessary.)

Hopefully, this information will help you as you start to sort through the different packages that your photographer offers so that you will get the coverage that is best for you. Every wedding and couple is different, so talk about your priorities with your fiance so you can get a perfect combination of products and services for your wedding. We do our best with our planning clients to ensure that they book a photographer who is not only a good fit for them, but a package that is the best fit for them as well. This means we can avoid headaches down the road and anticipate the overall spend of the wedding more accurately.

Do you have more questions about wedding planning, or are you looking for a planner or coordinator to help bring your vision to life? Click the button below to contact us about your wedding!

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