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

  • GTZaptos

    Thanks for mentioning ALL these other “things” that couples spend MORE money on than the only thing that will be left standing; “As I used to tell my couples, “After the champagne’s been drunk and the last dance is done, all you will have left are your love for each other and GREAT PHOTOS to remember that day”

  • GTZaptos

    “irony-ometer”- I want one of those….

  • GTZaptos

    ALL the other “things” that couples spend MORE
    money on, than the only thing that will be left standing; “As I used to
    tell my couples, “After the champagne’s been drunk and the last dance is
    done, all you will have left are your love for each other and GREAT
    PHOTOS to remember that day”

  • Joshua Dwain Frith

    Great! If I want a delicious meal I’ll purchase the same pots & ingredients Rachel Ray uses and my food will automatically taste delicious too!!!

  • Michael Montalto

    This is absolutely brilliant. Very tongue in cheek. Very well thought out. Very well written and you didn’t make the cardinal sin of going overboard and insulting anyone. I absolutely loved it. Well done! -mM

  • Jim

    You only included one camera/lens package in the totals! :)

  • Becca

    Thank you. At first I was concerned how this article would go (being that I’m a photographer) but I appreciated that the end definitely shows how getting a professional is worth it.

  • Mike Bing

    Great piece! Now I’m what you’d call an “advanced amateur photographer” but I wouldn’t touch a wedding with a 10-foot pole, I have a healthy and holy regard of professional photographers who not only know what they need to accomplish but also go out and come back with exactly thàt. The whole difference between myself and a professional is that I sometimes turn in a great shot, the professional does it each time, every time and doesn’t need to be babysat throughout.

    I wish amateurs like myself would learn to do what they do best: enjoy photography as the awesome hobby it is, NOT as a way to cheat couples out of beautiful images of a once-in-a-lifetime event (or twice nowadays) or a way to make a quick buck.

    A pro photographer is worth every dollar whether it’d be a wedding, a model shoot or product/food photography, full stop and end of story!

  • Beaugrand_RTMC

    Okay, I can beat that price: first, by getting used 35mm film cameras (I recently bought a like-new Konica FS-1, plus 4 lenses and gadget bag for $45), or medium-format TLRs (used Minolta Autocords can be found for around $100-$150). Walmart processing puts the images on a CD, you can print out the pictures you like on a laser or inkjet printer. Photo albums can be bought at just about any retail store.

  • Chris Abbey

    So your advice is to steal software and training… Great advice.

  • Peng Tuck Kwok

    Probably skipped reading that part me thinks.

  • flightofbooks

    How are you going to use math in art if you never learned art?

  • flightofbooks

    you don’t understand how income works, do you. and 2000 weddings over 42 or even 20 years is not that many for a pro trying to make a living.

  • Too_fast_for_you

    Renting for almost 1200? Yeah, right. You can buy it for that much, this is dumb. This is just from an idiot photog thats mad that they can’t charge TWO AND A HALF THOUSAND DOLLARS FOR ONE DAY OF WORK

  • Michael Clark

    That’s both photographers constantly using both 5Ds at the same time. :-)

  • ISO640

    “Alanis Morissette”

  • Rod Lamkey Jr

    Thank you!

  • Jason

    Is this for real? This has to be the dumbest thing I have read for 2013. Professional photographers are professional because they have the equipment AND the experience to take the photos AND the know how to properly edit them. It takes more than just pressing a button to have awesome photos. There are techniques, metering, framing and years of experience to get the proper photo. You won’t learn that in a day or a week or probably even in a year. The wedding is a one time thing. Guess what you are going home with? Your photos – that’s it! Your cake will be eaten and will spoil, the people will leave, your flowers will die and the only thing you have left is your photos. If anything that is the ONE area you don’t want to be cheap on. Saving on your decorations by doing something on ETSY is great but trying to cheapen your photos and you will be mistaken. I don’t even do pro photography and I know this just from working in the wedding industry. I can’t even tell you how many times people say to me, “I wish we would of gotten a pro photography”. They are too embarrassed to even show the photos and/or the ones they show are only a few out of hundreds they received. The pros went to school and do this for a living, that is why they are pros. PERIOD.

  • Mo

    Thank you, Sir. I’ll make sure to foward this to my clients.

  • Daniel Hine

    Hahahaha so well worded and spot on!

  • Eric Bohner

    I agree with your basic sentiment but your numbers are off.

    1. “Recruit 2 friends”… 1 day of work on your wedding day… anyone who I would call a friend would do it for Free.
    2. “You’re going to need a couple of books and video tutorials” .. Seriously? You have found the internet right? Who pays for information anymore?!
    3. “Photoshop those pictures” – Or Gimp those pictures (Or any of a dozen other free or much lower cost alternatives)… Free.
    4. “Your going to need to store and share the pictures”… Picasa, Flickr, Shutterfly, Photobucket… FREE!

    I agree with the rest of your costs and the fact that there is a significant time commitment to doing it yourself… But if you re-calculate minus the falsely inflated costs, the savings is much wider doing it yourself.

  • Matt

    She liked yours because it was you who took the photos, an emotional connection. Most people care about emotional connection and not technically good photos.

  • Matt

    I like to read comments in stories on wedding photography. So entertaining, all the emotion and self righteousness. It never fails to deliver.

  • Gatot Jaka Timur

    You save a 100 dollar AND YOU GOT ALL THE SKILLS!!!!! GREAT!

  • James

    Tristin – I think that you’re the one missing the point. The above article is clearly satirical, as you will see if you read the conclusion. In the conclusion, the author clearly points out that by doing everything that he recommends, you will only have saved $100 or so, you’ll have spent hours of your own time, and your wedding photos won’t be as good as they would have been had they been taken by a professional. So, yes, it’s definitely satire.

  • chuck

    WOW, the only problem with this piece is that only it is very easy to skim read and draw a conclusion that isn’t what’s intended! The point is that to get an where near decent results you end up spending over 100 hours to DIY! Add a little ablum to that and there is no savings, just a lot of time invested! The whole point tot he article is THAT it IS actually worth it to hire a pro!!!!!

  • David

    The “supposed” $100 saved is not worth the headache of renting, returning, recruiting, and scheduling. Those services alone are worth way more than the savings. Besides, I don’t know where you (the author of this article) live, but your estimation on cost for photo services provided is way off for where I live and I am not alone on that. I shoot weddings all the time, am well sought after for these services, and I have NEVER charged over $1800 for the services, AND I include a custom photo booth themed to the wedding. Your post is off base, insulting, and misguided. Congratulations on hurting more people than helping.

  • ilo_photo

    You might want to re-read the post again…I think it’s quite obvious that not only is the $100 savings basically “a wash,” you’ve saved that $100 while having two college students machine-gun fire a camera from 3 feet away from you on your entire wedding day. It is entirely satirical!

  • Jenna H.

    Found this pretty amusing. I was irritated at first until I kept reading and realized… hilarious! A bunch of people who posted this on Facebook seem not realize that this is a satirical, sarcastic piece. Always a good reminder to READ everything before you post it, no? Thanks Peta Pixel, you made a nice case for the pros with this one!

  • robertwpf

    Well said and I totally agree. I left the business as professional in 2010 because I could not comprehend shooting a wedding for $200.00 and handing them over a disk. Last time I inventoried my equipment list I had $40,000 in camera equipment alone. Anyone shooting a wedding for $200.00 I can guarantee that they have a full time job and think they are a professional. Have those $200.00 amateurs ever bought a quality backdrop before. The last Muslin I purchased of quality was $800.00 I don’t get it and I suck at math but I’m to smart for my own good. I wish all of them good luck in their fad. I wonder how many startup photography shops the IRS sees a year? Just my thought for the day.

  • robertwpf

    What do you pay for a pound of hamburger now days? What do you pay for a gallon of gasoline? Can you really live off of $200.00 per week and stay updated with the best of point and shoot cameras. I bet you can’t? You are just jealous because you can not make enough to survive from photography.

  • Justin

    lol id love to see the images that come from this!!!

  • Anonymous505

    What a stupid article.

  • vision

    Sounds like both of you were overpaid. I have an engineering degree and work in a growing IPO but only make $35/hour roughly.

  • Stabbin

    Or just pirate it.

  • Stabbin

    I’ve been using photoshop for about 12-15 years now, these people think this is some sacred skill but it’s something that can be picked up by a teenager.

  • Mike

    It isnt real. You did read it yes??

  • Darlene Hildebrandt

    you’ve never been in business before right? Just because we got $5000 for the wedding doesn’t mean we put that in our pockets! My company expenses at the time were over $50/hr just to stay opened! A wedding of that nature takes about 50 hours to produce so 1/2 of that gross sale goes to monthly bills just to keep afloat. THEN cost of goods for albums, prints, etc after that. Usually for most weddings – even at this price range – the photography is LUCKY to make $20/hr and that’s probably top end! I know at one point I calculated I was making about $12/hr which is when I raised my prices.

    Higher priced doesn’t necessarily mean more profit! It means more expenses to get those higher prices.

  • Darlene Hildebrandt

    yes that but doesn’t mean they can pose, light and compose!

  • Darlene Hildebrandt

    over 42 years and that’s his gross sales not what went in his pocket! If you’ve never been in business full time you have no business commenting on this – sorry.

  • John Spink

    Nice work Frank – the definitive reference for the ignorant or complaining wedding client! Thanks for your humor and time to write this piece.

  • Raminder

    I paid $7500 for my wedding photographers, every penny was well worth it. Every photo is amazing, solidifies the wedding as a great memory

  • James Thomas Canali


  • IGOR Photography

    I think this post is hilarious, sarcastic and true! I especially like “You’ll notice many photographers wear shades to avoid direct eye contact with you when discussing their rates.”

  • rubywhitworth

    So true!!!!!!!

  • Dana william

    So I sure every bride , because she’s saving a few bucks, will mind sacrificing her day chasing her friends around to assure the got all of those 1000 pins she saw on pinterest right. Because it is the camera that makes all the difference , not the person behind the camera or the training (years, not days) or passion . so renting camera, lighting makes so much more sense. Also because she has all the time in the world, after it it’s not like she’s planning a wedding or anything, to learn photo shop and successfully use it. Right, just like she could go to some clinic out back and have her boobs implanted for a fraction of the cost, hell, who needs to pay 20000 for a medical procedure . Or go read a couple books with her friends on how to replace the engine in her car, why pay a real mechanic to do what your friends can do right. God forbid someone try to make a living and get paid for their services, shame on them! Btw, what do you do for a living? Perhaps we can hire our friends to just do your job for us.

  • TBP

    I love this! Thanks for posting!

  • Nina Stavlund

    Totally awesome article :o)

  • PDTA

    There is no reduction of price because the above does not make sense. There are multiple things that could cost much less in fact! Paying for photo storage, really? As if no one had portable hard drive these days. Or paying for newbie photographers? There are so many amateur photographer these days, who can get a very decent picture that you ought to have one amongst your friends. Paying for tutorials? You know that thing they called the Internet, where you can get so much information for free?

  • JW

    Is this a joke?