"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur."
I often see the question of what the average cost is for a wedding photographer. A few months ago I answered this question on some discussion boards. I thought my blog readers might be interested in hearing my response, so I updated it and cleaned it up a little.
Average cost is relative to a lot of things.
The cheapest of course is to have a guest take pictures or have all of your guests take pictures. This could be the most expensive mistake on the other end. Likely you may get a couple decent images out of each guest. Plus if your guests are taking pictures they will not be able to enjoy your wedding. And if they are drinking, dancing and experiencing the wedding, then they are not putting the time into making the pictures that you would like to put in an album, hang on your wall or remember your day. Even if one of your guests is a pro or semi pro photographer, they will want to experience the party. I can tell from experience that when I am shooting a wedding, there is sometimes barely enough time to eat, let alone drink and enjoy the party.
$1600 is what you should expect to pay for an average photographer (About $250/hr for coverage without a package.) That would only include coverage and not a package (Such as a DVD or Album). I would say the less you pay the more risk you are taking. Remember this is an "average" photographer and about half are better and half are worse. Most people plan for a wedding above average and you should consider that you probably want it documented that way.
The more you pay the more creative, more experience, awards, reputation and better chances that the images at the end of the day will tell your story as you want to remember it.
If you are looking for above average, plan on spending at least $2400-4500 for coverage and probably a DVD. Albums are another subject, but they usually are $700 and up.
If you are looking for the top of the pack photographer then expect to pay $5000-10000. These guys have usually been around for quite some time. They are respected by the industry and usually the photographers who other photographers would ask to shoot their weddings! These are the photographers who's photos you will find at The PDN Top Knots contest or ISPWP's Contest
If you are looking for a luxury wedding photographer, then expect to pay over $20,000. They aren't always necessarily the best of the best, but they will offer a service that it takes a certain type of person to give. They are at your every beck and call and they know how to do it right. Their attention to detail is usually beyond anything that would probably be necessary for even the pickiest of brides.
Ask any photographer for references and access to the most recent wedding they shot online. A portfolio only shows the best stuff and can hide flaws. If you can see an entire edit, you will get a much better feel for how they will cover your day. Definitely look at blogs. These show how well photographers do on a regular basis.
When you do decide on a photographer don't be afraid to ask a lot of questions, and not the questions about what type of equipment they have. Make sure that you and the photographer click on a personal level. You are going to be spending many hours with this photographer on your wedding day and you don't want any friction.
Some places to look for good quality photographers are http://www.wpja.com, http://www.ispwp.com, and http://www.modernphotographers.com. One place to find reviews of photographer's is http://www.weddingwire.com or just look at Google Maps
But don't just base it on what other people say, find someone who you trust, who knows photography and get them to help you look at the photographers. Then just trust your instincts. If you don't LOVE the photography you are seeing, then there is a good chance you might be disappointed. It's like when you are searching for that perfect dress, you try a lot on that you really like and you look good in, but when it's the right one you know it!