How to Save Big Money by Not Hiring a Professional Wedding Photographer

Do you REALLY need to spend thousands on a pro? I don't think so.


What if I told that you could get wedding photos at a fraction of the cost that professionals will charge you, would you be interested in that? I bet you would because there are a heck of a lot of people out there that think wedding photographers are way too expensive, charging you thousands of dollars just for a few pictures.

Now, I’m not proposing that you have your guest snap shots with their iPhones. I’m also not going to propose that you wear a hat with a GoPro attached to it. With my plan, you will use the same equipment, the same software and the same techniques that the pros use to get you those super fancy wedding photos you see people posting on Facebook and Pinterest.

My plan will show you how to do everything the pros do so that you can save your precious money and spend it on something more valuable like his and her diamond-encrusted wedding cake toppers.

Everyone wants to look beautiful in their wedding day photos, but do you really need to spend thousands on a photographer?


Introduction: The average professional wedding photographer is going to charge you hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

Now, as you know, the average wedding photographer is going to charge you big bucks for taking a few pictures. If you’re like most people, you’ll probably end up paying about $2,500 for a professional photographer. Now, of course, they will have an average of about 5 to 10 years experience and probably have shot scores of weddings, but come on, thousands of dollars for a few pictures?

I’m going to show you how to do it for a fraction of the cost they will charge you. You’ll save so much money you can buy those customized monogramed M&M’s with each of your initials that will look beautiful on the cake table.

Wedding Photographers like this guy will charge you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars just for pictures. You’ll notice many photographers wear shades to avoid direct eye contact with you when discussing their rates.


Step 1: Rent the same cameras and lenses the pros use (Estimated Cost — $1,170)

If you want the same result you’re going to want to use the same top notch equipment the pros use. Most people know that the secret to awesome photos is the camera. So let’s go right to the source and avoid the silly middle man and save some big time money. There are places like and where you can go and get wedding rental packages that the pro’s use. These places are awesome by the way, I use them all the time.

Since professionals usually have at least two photographers at an event, I am going to recommend that you get two packages. You’ll need two lens bodies and two multiple lens packages and strobes. My recommendation is to get those packages for at least a week because you’re going to need to train your recruits (newbies right off the street) to use those fancy cameras the right way.

I added it up for you and you can basically get two Canon 5D’s and wedding lens packages each for about $1,169. That includes the insurance, mind you. If someone drops the camera in the fountains of chocolate, you don’t want to be on the hook for the $3,000 or more to replace the camera.

As you ponder all your savings, let your mind wander to the possibility of hiring Celine Dion to fly in and personally sing your wedding dance song for you because that could happen with all the money you are pocketing at the moment.

Rent the Canon 5D. These cameras seemingly produce extraordinary photographs on their own.


Step 2: Rent your tripods, soft boxes and memory cards (Estimated Cost — $250)

Now, it’s a bit annoying but let’s not forget some of the accessories that you’re going to need to pull it off. You’ll need two soft boxes to diffuse the light to get that “Wedding Look”. Also, you’ll need some stands to hold the lights, a couple of tripods and of course memory cards.

I priced it out and we are still doing great. For about $250 you can get all these necessary extras to complete your package. *cha ching!* — ring up the savings. Is it too late to call the hotel and upgrade to the Deluxe Seafood Towers as appetizers for the guest instead of those little mushroom caps filled with spinach?

You are going to need some soft boxes to get that “Wedding Look” with your photos.


Step 3: Recruit two friends or starving college students to snap the photos for you (Estimated Cost — $320)

Now that you have the best cameras, which will practically shoot award-winning photos on their own, you can recruit people to do the shooting for you. My recommendation is to recruit two semi-distant friends who are not already guests and who won’t be offended that you didn’t invite them in the first place.

If that’s not possible you can always recruit some starving college students willing to work on the cheap. When I was in college someone actually paid me to lay down a cement driveway for them and I had no experience in that, so why the heck not. The driveway had a real rustic and uneven appeal to it I must say, but the best thing of all is they saved money!

For about $20 an hour my guess is that you can get two newbie photographers for about eight hours or even the entire day. That’s only $320! Thinking about how wedding photographers charge thousands really chaps my hide when I realize how much can be saved.

Modern fancy cameras have made photography so easy that photographers are essentially like robots clicking buttons for you.


Step 4: You’re going to need a couple of books and video tutorials (Estimated Cost — $200)

Now the fancy equipment you’re using is going to require some basic working knowledge of the camera itself. I would budget in about $200 to cover the cost of some photography books, video tutorials and to pay the recruited photographers for their time to learn the camera equipment.

You don’t want your photographers not knowing the absolute basics of photography before entrusting them with the most important day of your life right?

As you are perusing your photography books don’t be surprised if you find yourself Google searching the possibility of having the entire wedding party carried into the ceremony by a parade of Arabian Horses and Belly Dancers. You’ll need to spend all the money you’re saving on photography somewhere else and that sounds like it could make for some interesting photos actually.

You’re gonna want a book like this at least a few days before you get married to study up.


Step 5: Shoot away, tell the photographer to go nuts (Estimated Cost — FREE)

This is the best part. All the photos that you want to take on your wedding day are free. So instruct the photographers you have recruited to go ballistic. Machine gun blast photos everywhere of everyone. Get right in front of the altar if necessary and shoot at 9 fps to get each and every nuance.

Now professional photographers are going to know exactly when and where to shoot and how to do it with minimal intrusion on the ceremony or guests, but that’s just not feasible here. So I’m going to recommend the shock and awe strategy of having your photographers machine gun shoot as many shots as possible.

Instruct your photographer to be aggressive and absolutely everywhere at once for the best results. If they are not conspicuously shooting everywhere at 9 frames per second, they are probably missing something important.


Step 6: Photoshop those pictures! (Estimated Cost — $200)

Thank God for Adobe Creative Cloud. Now instead of spending thousands on Photoshop tools that the photographers use, you can subscribe to a monthly service and get it for about $100 for a couple of months while you work on your pictures.

Now, you’re going to want to get some tutorials and books to help you learn how to use Photoshop so make sure you budget that in there too. Bottom line, however, is that your Photoshop costs in total are going to be a steal at around $200 for everything.

Since Photoshop is extremely tricky, I am going to recommend that you spend at least 40 hours learning the basics of cropping, layers, filters, plugins, masks, dodging, burning, vignetting, selective blur, overlays, lens correction, sharpening and smoothing. These are just the basics, however, and we can’t expect you to reach pro level. After all, many of those professional wedding photographers probably have several thousand hours experience working with Photoshop and associated tools.

They also probably have at least $1,000 worth of additional Photoshop plug-ins to make your pictures look beautiful. But remember, the objective here is saving money! And we are!

With Photoshop you’ll be creating glamorized wedding shots that make the bride look amazing, just like this actually.


Step 7: You’re going to need to store and share the pictures. (Estimated Cost — $60 first year)

You are nearly there and you are saving money! Now you are going to want to use a site that will allow you store those photos so that you can share them with friends and family. You will probably have thousands and thousands of pictures to store.

Storing them is cheap though. You can use a site like SmugMug and get a full year of beautiful photo sharing for only about $60.

Step 8: Get your prints (Estimated Cost — $200)

Since most professional photographers are going to give you a couple of hundred prints with their packages, you’ll want to budget in about $200 to get 200 high quality 5 by 7 photos from the event.

You can even go to WalMart and get super cheap budget prints and that will only cost you about $120. There are tons of ways to save money on wedding photos! By now you’re probably wondering why you didn’t plate your wedding cake in edible gold with the money you saved on photos.

Conclusion: You Just saved a boatload of money. You’re welcome.

You can thank me later for saving you a ton of money. If you followed my instructions, you just managed to shoot your wedding for a mere fraction of what it would have cost you with a professional. With my program, which gets you using the same incredible equipment and tools the pro’s use, you can save yourself an incredible $100. That’s a whopping 4% savings for you, Mr. DIY guy/gal.


Now, granted, you did have to spend close to 100 hours of your time renting, learning and editing, but that has got to be worth all the money you saved. If you saved $100 and spend 100 hours additional time that means that you just earned an incredible $1 an hour for every hour you spent. Now, that has to feel good. Let me know how this works out for you.

About the author: Frank McKenna is an amateur photographer based in La Jolla, California. You can find him on his blog, 500px, Tumblr, and Google+.

Image credits: penny-pincher by theilr, Canon 5D photograph by Charles Lanteigne

  • Christine

    You have missed the point of the article completely.

  • Reasonistreason

    He didn’t miss the point. He’s just not riding the wave of hyperbole like all of the “pro” photographers on here.

  • Christine

    Didn’t read the whole article? You missed the punchline.

  • Christine

    The article was satire. You get what you pay for, period. So when you get crappy, poorly composed & exposed photos, thank god you saved all that money by not paying for skill, talent & experience. Clearly, most of the people complaining about pricing have NO idea about the cost of doing business, as numerous pros have pointed out.

  • Reasonistreason

    Or, have a budget wedding with a budget photographer, and put all of that money saved into a down payment on a house. Starting a life together with thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars in debt is not smart, regardless of how “beautiful” your wedding is. It’s just one day that will determine how couples live the next 10 years of their lives, financially speaking, and those are the years that are really deserving of a couple’s time and effort.

  • Reasonistreason

    It’s a totally sincere article wrapped in satire, further wrapped in sarcasm. A lot of people are writing this off as satire, but the author is completely exaggerating the alternatives in order to persuade readers into hiring a professional photographer. It’s not a “get what you paid for” article, it’s a “hire a professional, of you’re going to get worthless pictures for nearly the same price”.

  • Reasonistreason

    Is the professional photographer the one who horribly photoshopped out the arm holding up the baby’s head?

  • kpinco

    I hate posts like this. Like hate them so much I want to find the person who wrote them and shake them violently.

  • Kevin Johnson

    did i just read that right,it said everyone knows that the secret is a camera like the pros,without the knowledge of how that camera works,and all the setting for all the lighting situations from the day,the camera becomes a very nice paper weight,good luck with this advice,made me laugh,

  • Tom Woodward

    Of boy.. LV.. You are out on a limb, aren’t you..!! “Andie” (as a photographer) is simply telling you he has many many images, and probably videos as well (hoping he has a good backup workflow). Regarding the article.. this is the prototypical argument that “anybody can shoot a great image.” Just like if you need great legal representation, you should run down to the library and “begin” for your time in court..!! That’s just too funny..!! “Professional” means the task at hand is YOUR practice, YOUR 20 thousand times hitting the shutter button, honing in on “HOW TO DO IT” SKILLS..!! You get what you pay for.

  • Paul McQueen

    Brilliant piece. Makes a good point. Shame so many commenters have had a sense of humour bypass.

  • areyouserious

    Lol. Good luck with that. You get what you pay for.

  • Yadka Blimov

    I’m laughing at this article as it is ridiculous and very misguided. The individual who wrote the article obviously knows very little about what it takes to photograph a wedding in order to produce professional results. Someone with little skills in photography absolutely will not be able to create professional results simply by renting professional-grade equipment as you need to know photographic principles and the equipment thoroughly in order to rapidly respond to the many continuously changing conditions (ambient lighting, people constantly moving, maintaining proper white balance, etc.). I once had a friend who is a seasoned cinematographer assist me at a wedding (who has twenty five years creating films professionally) who had difficulty consistently creating images at the wedding which were in focus, properly exposed, etc. which was a major eye-opener for him. Then of course, there is typically around thirty hours of post-processing of the imagery after each wedding to adjust each image for density, contrast, etc. Also, the use of direct on-camera flash (which is typically used by photographers who don’t know what they’re doing) is by far the worst way to light a scene since it looks very “flat” and artificial. If you want to take the advice of this article and “cheap out” feel free, but please realize that it is highly unlikely that you will end of with good results (which would be a step below truly professional results!).

  • Yadka Blimov

    There is way more non-linear thinking used in art than there is mathematics….

  • Tophats Photography DanvillePa

    Wedding photography and photography in general is something you should never cheap out on …. because I can promise you will regret it later … every time I have a client say I am over priced (even though I have the best deals in my area in my opinion) And they go the cheap route and either rent equipment themselves or find some other cheap solution I always hear about a month or so down the line that they severely regret not paying more to get a Professional Photographer to do it ….

    Remember kids you get what you pay for

  • Drew Rothman

    The advent of modern computerized camera technology means that the amateur wielding an iPhone is likely to get get much better results than the same amateur would have with, say, a Polaroid or even a Canon AE-1. The gap in picture quality between the pro and the non-pro has been reduced such that the pro’s advantage is largely in their artistic eye, available time, and technique more than in their equipment. Some might say that’s always been the case, but I think it’s a tighter margin now that the equipment does so more much for you than it used to. It’s sort of like what’s happened in the recording industry – the quality of a home recording produced with $1000 worth of gear and software is, to the untrained ear, comparable to work produced in a million-dollar studio.

    Given that, if you want to save money on your wedding photos by not hiring a pro, go right ahead. It all comes down to what you want to achieve. 25 friends with iPhones can document your event nicely. If you’re not planning on making large prints, even an artistically-minded friend with an iPhone may be able to do a very good job. It all depends on what the priority is.

    If you’re a professional photographer charging $2,500 and you can’t show the prospect why your work is worth spending the money on, then either your’re overcharging, or the person you’re trying to get hired by wasn’t going to see the value in your work to begin with and you probably shouldn’t waste your time shooting their wedding.

  • Lindsay k

    This is the best. So true!

  • Guest

    Sounds like you, sir, are underpaid.

  • Rick

    Brilliant !!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Rose Peterson

    Really, you don’t learn photography in 5 easy steps. It takes years of studying and hands on practice. This is the most important day in a young couples life. Do you really want to in trust your wedding photos to an amateur? I’m the mother of two daughters and was a bride myself. Our photographer captured moments that we never expected. It takes a real photographer to capture the emotions and tell the entire story. And our photographer made everyone look fantastic!! Yes, a professional will cost you money. But after the weddings over all you have left are the memories and you photos. Do you want amazing memories of an amazing day or mediocre?

  • John Kaukk

    This post is just OOZING with sarcasm. I love it hahahahaha

  • Julia Martinez

    stupid !! stupid !! stupid !! oh my god !! this text is so stupid !!

  • curiousjosh

    Right… bulls**t.

    iphones don’t focus fast enough, or with the same accuracy as professional gear,
    They don’t operate with the same speed of continued functionality to work for 8 hours straight shooting 400 shots an hour., especially at night or in the dark (yeah, you want that “pre-flash” light constantly during the ceremony?)

    To comment that you can shoot a wedding with an iPhone, is really saying that you don’t understand what it takes to shoot a wedding.

    you can get a few good shots, but you can’t get tons of shots a minute which the modern bride demands and expects.

    Brides also expect you to work for 30-40 hours afterwards to deliver nice versions of all the shots you took during their wedding.

    Unless you were on an iPhone.
    and could only get a few.

    while people were standing still.
    in daylight.

  • curiousjosh

    He was being sarcastic to show people that they’re not really getting a deal by trying to go cheap on wedding photography.

  • Fashion Icon

    Perfect. Perhaps also consider how much two+ days of editing time means to you to carefully choose the best of the non-professional assortment of images and a generous week exploring how to soften everyone’s crows feet to a gorgeous notch above reality; and to remove Uncle Martin’s photobombing head from atop the Groom’s x27 frames. Add endless additional time after your Mother-in-Law calls crying about her double chin. Unless you relish the idea of retouching through to your first anniversary, spring for at least the 6K you will need for a seasoned photographer who knows what they are doing and spend your time enjoying marital bliss. #worthwhile