Colorado Wedding Cost | Photography Pricing
How Much Should a Wedding Cost?
The answer to the questions about how much should I pay for a wedding venue, how much should I pay for a wedding photographer, for a DJ, for a wedding planner, and for what feels like the hundreds of other things is actually a subjective answer based on what you value. For example, you may put more into a photographer than a caterer if you value remembering your day, all the emotion experienced, and the artwork on the walls of your home. Here are a couple steps we recommend:
Step 1: Determine what you value as a couple.
Step 2: Determine a budget. Currently 70% of our photography couples are paying for the wedding themselves. While parents of the couple are helping out more than in past years it is likely you are paying for most of your wedding. We do not know if this is going to be a trend across the industry but we are seeing pricing at 1.5x what it was in the past. For things like food one way around this is inviting less guest but for other areas expect to have a bigger budget.
Colorado Wedding Market Research Averages
Below are the averages couples spent on related wedding services. It covers the cost for those local to Colorado, the destination weddings to Colorado, the mountain weddings, and city urban weddings. Please note these numbers are based on Colorado averages and are likely a little higher for certain areas due to a better market.
$1933 – Attire (Dress, Tux, Accessories)
$171 – Makeup and Spa
$2855 – Entertainment (Band, Musicians, DJ, Master of Services)
$1947 – Flowers and Decorations
$822 – Gifts and Favors (Parents, Wedding Party, Tips)
$1006 – Invitations (Save the Dates, Programs, Guestbooks, Postage, Thank you cards)
$4,690 – Jewelry (Engagement Ring, Wedding bands)
$4,352 – Photography (Photographers, Engagement Session Albums, Prints, Images, Videographer)
$8,134 – Planner (Wedding Consultant, Day of Coodinator, Full Service, Getting Started)
$15,547 – Venue (Location rental, Catering, Alcohol, Rentals, Officiant, Limo, Hotel after Reception, Rehearsal dinner)
Step 3: Get a 2nd job if you are paying for the wedding yourselves. Well at least it might feel like that for many after seeing the average costs. Realistically there are some things you can do to have a beautiful wedding without having the high end cost. There are some wedding planning tips on our Planning Tips blog section.
Colorado Wedding Photographer Average Costs
If you have done much research up to this point you will find a couple of things:
1. Everyone seems much more expensive than the photography prices noted below. This is because the best photographers run successful businesses and therefore are easier to find and connect with. This is also due to many people not using professional photographers. Perhaps we are just biased but we believe as photography is the one thing you have after the wedding and for years to come its not the place to cut corners on cost. You can read about how another was impacted by trying to save and go with a lower cost photographer in this post on how to find a good photographer.
2. Everyone packages their photography and related services differently. For this reason note that these numbers below are averages and primarily focused on the cost of getting a photography team, engagement session, and digital images. Wedding albums and videographers are two additional costs that can be rather pricey and vary based on what your looking for in both.
Here is the Average a Couple Spends for Colorado Wedding Photographers, Engagements, and Images Only [Per Market Research]:
< $1,127 – 39.1% / 14,541 Colorado weddings
$1,127 – $2,000 – 18.9% / 7,013 Colorado weddings
$2,000 – $2,340 – 7.7% / 2879 Colorado weddings
$2,340 – $3,510 – 18.1% / 6,731 Colorado weddings
$3,510 – $5,850 – 9.1% / 3384 Colorado weddings
$5,850 – $11,700 – 4.1% / 1525 Colorado weddings
> $11,700 – 3.0% / 1116 Colorado weddings
What is the reality based on actual Colorado Wedding Photographer Pricing?
Inflation Impact on the Colorado Market
- The average starting price for photographers is $3442
- 77% of couples want to spend under $2500
- The average price increase between 2021 and 2022 is $932
- 46% of photographers are currently charging between $4000-6000 for 8 hours coverage
If you want a photographer for ‘Adventurous Couples’ good new is there are 57 of them. The bad news is the average starting price is $4257. In fact 70% of those photographers are charging over $4000 for a wedding.
For ‘Full Wedding Coverage’
(8 Hours, Images Only, 1 Photographer, No Engagement)
< $1,000 – 1% Colorado Photographers [-1% Change]
$1,000 – $2,000 – 4% Colorado Photographers [-12% Change]
$2,000 – $3,000 – 16% Colorado Photographers [-15% Change]
$3,000 – $4,000 – 26% Colorado Photographers [-9% Change]
$4,000 – $5,000 – 29% Colorado Photographers [+17% Change]
$5,000 – $6,000 – 22% Colorado Photographers [+17% Change]
$6,000 – $7,000 – 9% Colorado Photographers [+8% Change]
>$7,000 – 3% Colorado Photographers [+3% Change]
Photographer Pricing List Range
(What you will likely find online)
< $1,000 – 1% Colorado Photographers [-2% Change]
$1,000 – $2,000 – 4% Colorado Photographers [-16% Change]
$2,000 – $3,000 – 16% Colorado Photographers [-8% Change]
$3,000 – $4,000 – 26% Colorado Photographers [+2% Change]
$4,000 – $5,000 – 24% Colorado Photographers [+6% Change]
$5,000 – $6,000 – 15% Colorado Photographers [+9% Change]
$6000 – $7000 – 6% Colorado Photographers [+3% Change]
> $7,000 – 4% Colorado Photographers [+4% Change]
Key Implications from Data:
- The average photographer charges $4000-4500 for just 1 Photographer, 8 Hours, No Engagement (Up from 2500-3500)
- There has been a dramatic price increase in the past few years. Most every photographer has gone up $500 in pricing.
- Most couples don’t use full time / all in professional photographers.
- To decrease cost basic services are cut (coverage time, 2 photographers, number of images, image editing)
- The market average starting price is $3345 for a photographer but these packages do not include what you need and are often an elopement size.
Cost Implications of Being A Wedding Photographer
According to the U.S. Census Bureau the average Denver income was $66,870. That means to be a true professional you would need to shoot about 55 weddings to make $30,178 after taxes. This assumes you have no overhead business expenses (equipment, marketing, insurance, travel, etc) which is not possible so the number is likely more like 80 weddings per year. That means to be a professional at that level you really would need to put less time into the photography (editing, selecting images, communicating with a couple) to keep up with the workload. You would also need to cut corners in expenses by download images online and only offering prints online to save your time and cost. The equipment used by those in this category are likely older and rather used which increases the likelihood of failure. We shoot with $6,000-$8,000 in our hands at any given moment. Using over $60k in photography equipment and having the overhead of liability insurance, marketing, and travel makes it nearly impossible to operate under a certain price. So what does this mean for you? Cost savings increases your risk of not having the kind of photography you would want.
Photography Business Costs Breakdown by Dollar
Joe and Robin Case Study
The chart shows the historical mapping of where every dollar has gone from our business over the years. While no businesses are built alike the general principle will still apply that if you cut the price in half taxes would be a little lower but that would eat up all the profit to run the business at the same level. As much as the passionate photographer may want to work for free or functionally lose money we believe that really is not the reality of a professional photographer. The other way to cut costs is to use less expensive equipment or rarely update it with the best stuff out there. One take away is to consider when asking for a lower price to consider the implications of what that means.
What Taxes do to a Photography Business
Lets assume you hire a photographer who made $100,000 from weddings last year. There are only 11 in Colorado but hey you found the needle in the haystack. You would think they certainly are doing quite well – heck you might make $40-90,000 and you certainly work more than 30 days a year! Well assuming they are full time and a single photographer shooting only in Colorado they will lose $21,066.75 to federal taxes, $15,600 to Social Security, and $4530 to state taxes. After the 41% loss of income to taxes ($41,196.75) they will have $58,803.25 left for living off of plus the business overhead. Likely what happens is there are tax deductions that can be found in the $20k range which will keep around $8,500 in the pocket but that to run a business you are spending $20k to execute those weddings for the business overhead (equipment, marketing, insurance, travel, etc). Realistically, this means you likely are going to come out with $47,303 from that $100,000 you made. Should you then be shocked to find photographers charging over $4000?
SBA PPP Findings:
We have found over 215 advertised wedding photographers in Colorado. There were another 65 that ended their “businesses” in the past few years. Only 29% appear to actually have a real business. There are 63 active wedding photographers in Colorado from 2020/2021 that could report profits to obtain a Small Business Association (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan. This is something that was for real businesses to get a way to fill the gap caused by mandatory shutdowns. This self reported data shows that the average actual photographer makes $49611 per year or $4134 per month. The data also shows that 71% of ‘wedding photographers’ do not have enough of a business profit to even collect the SBA PPP funds.
Here is the implication – there are only 23 wedding photographers in Colorado that this could be their actual profession were they make at or above the average income in Denver. The reality is based on the PPP loan data there are actually only 11 true professional wedding photographers in Colorado as of 2020/2021 when this program was used.
If you want to find these 11-23 photographers you can go through the SBA PPP listings or look at our blog on how to find a professional photographer. What has really happened out there is that the industry copies others. 26% of Colorado Wedding photographers as of the last time we updated this blog were directly copying us / our branding. The top 7 most expensive photographers were copying our branding. Interestingly enough those copying us were just looking to make a quick buck and were not actually the ones running real businesses getting the PPP loans.
How Much Should You Pay For a Wedding Photographer?
This might be the wrong question. You really should ask ‘What do we value as a couple’. When we were married we paid less than we would now pay a wedding photographer. We have been comforted by hearing that this has been the story of a number of the best wedding photographers in their respective market who really don’t have anything all that great from their wedding. This motivates us to write things like this post and others to try to help understand what to value in wedding photography, what to think about when talking to a Denver wedding photographer, and so on.
For us today it wouldn’t be about the price but rather connecting with our photographers. We can look at their work online and see its consistency (quality and regularity). We can read reviews and hear what others thought about going with them for their wedding photography. We have learned there is always someone that can go lower in price, give a better discount. You should pay for what you value.