For couples getting married in the San Francisco Bay Area, one of the biggest-ticket items of their wedding celebration is their wedding photographer. After the venue and catering costs, the cost of wedding photography is often the next biggest item in most couple’s budgets.
As with most HCOL areas, the Bay Area average price of photography is significantly higher than the national average. And of course, San Francisco is widely regarded as a VHCOL area, the highest in the United States.
Here’s a more detailed understanding of what’s considered an average wedding photography price tag in the San Francisco Bay Area. This article has been updated in January 2023.
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Average price of a wedding photographer in the San Francisco Bay Area
According to a 2020 study by Snappr, the typical market cost of a wedding photographer in the Bay Area is $5,054.
According to a 2021 study by Withjoy, couples who hire wedding photographers in San Francisco spend an average of $5,500. To break that down further, the lower end of the scale comes in at $4,155, whereas the high end of the average range is $6,825.
According to my own anecdotal research as a wedding photographer, I think that these figures are accurate and representative, given that they are from 2-3 years ago.
Wedding photography runs between around $5,000 – $5,500 for a photographer that is neither in the budget range nor the luxury range.
A budget photographer might begin at around $2,500 while on the high end, there is no limit to what they might charge. $10k is firmly in the luxury range, but we’ve heard of photographers charging upwards of $25k. Obviously that isn’t common! : )
Historical and projected pricing
It’s true there has been a steep increase in prices following the 2021-2022 wedding boom. This is when most wedding professionals saw demand (and revenues) increase like they’d never seen before.
That elevated demand has started to go back to usual now, but slowly. Most 2020 reschedules are out of the way.
Some market analysts have predicted that prices may start to plateau with a looming recession and inflation. However, in my experience as a photographer, prices have increased very steadily year-on-year.
And when there is a slowdown period, there’s a rebound that more than makes up for a slow booking year. The slow times might be due to recession, inflation or any other cause. So it all evens out in the end.
Using some figures from Snapknot, a few years ago I predicted the following average wedding photography pricing trend. I used that year’s average ($3,900 back in 2014), and assuming a 4% year-on-year increase:
As it’s been accurate so far, we can extrapolate this further and look into the future.
In this exercise, it’s also important to assume:
- An 8-hour day, which is the expected duration for a typical wedding day
- A weekend, peak-season wedding.
- One photographer
- Minimal travel time (most photographers will travel anything between 50 to even 100 miles one way without travel costs)
- The price also includes all the edited photos available for download
- No prints, wall art or physical albums etc included
- No engagement session included
How can you save money on a wedding photographer?
To save money on these costs, consider having a weekday wedding or opting for a lower number of hours. However, during peak wedding season dates, you can expect that most coverage would come with an 8-hour minimum.
You can find out more about minimum coverage hours below.
Some marriers are tempted to go with cheaper photographers. They may include new photographer and that don’t specialize in weddings. While that may lead to a satisfactory outcome, it’s important to make an informed decision before committing.
There’s no replacement for an experienced photographer that’s led dozens (or in my case, hundreds) of clients through this process. We possess professional-grade equipment that functions like an extension of our own bodies, skills for every situation, an unflappable presence, and intimate local knowledge.
I would recommend looking at other areas you can trim your budget, rather than skimping on the photography. While that may seem incredibly biased and arrogant at first, hear me out. The photos are the ONLY thing you will take away from that day.
For most couples and guests, they will not remember the type of table linens you had. Nor will they recall later whether there were favors or if you opted for expensive flowers or simpler ones. But the photos are what you’ll pass on to your children and grandchildren, surviving all of us.
I believe so passionately that a good photographer’s skill is valuable and worth paying for. So much so that I created a list of creative ways you can save money on your wedding below:
While weddings are fun, they are also a serious business that many vendors put their heart and soul into. It’s an industry like any other. Millions of small business owners and employees make their livelihoods from it.
So naturally, there are professional standards to adhere to to ensure that we’re able to deliver a stellar product every time, and that no client is left disappointed after their once-in-a-lifetime event.
To find out more about why weddings cost so much, please check out my article linked below.
It may surprise you!
Value is different from pricing.
I love this quote from Ben Hartley, a photographer whom I heard speaking at a photography conference years ago.
“I charge $10k to shoot a wedding. What my clients don’t yet know is that the guy down the street who charges $1k to shoot the wedding is more expensive than me”.
What he means is that for what he is providing at his price point, he is delivering goods, services, expertise, understanding, transformational images and an experience that are worth more than the $10k price tag.
Whereas the other guy may lead to frustration, disappointment, regret – even no photos at all if he forgot to show up or lost all the files.
The price of a truly great photograph that moves you, that makes you laugh, cry, see yourself differently, that makes you remember someone who has passed away, that delights future generations – is priceless.