What To Do If You Don’t Have A Photographer for Your Wedding

brides shoes in front of a chruch

After looking at your budget, are you considering not having a photographer for your wedding?

In talking to brides and working in the wedding industry, I know that one of the most essential parts of wedding planning is photography. And for a good reason! You want to walk away from your wedding day with great pictures of you and your loved ones having an amazing time on the most important day of your life. 

But it can be a little pricey for some brides to consider if you have a lower than average budget.

What is a normal budget for a wedding photographer?

According to a recent survey from the Knot, the average cost of a wedding photographer in 2022 is $2,500 – and it can get even higher. Almost 47% of couples getting married in 2021 spent more than they expected on photography. 

Photography costs can also vary depending on where you are and what you want in a wedding photographer. There are a lot of solo photographers who charge lower prices for their services because it’s just them. Bigger operations can offer more add-ons to their packages, like extended hours, a second back up photographer, a videographer, and even memorabilia like printed out wedding books and framed photos. 

Location can also matter when it comes to wedding photography. Bigger, metropolitan areas might come with a higher cost for photographers, while smaller areas where weddings don’t happen as often can be cheaper. 

Bride Megan in Corpus Christi, Texas spent $3,800 for just six hours of coverage with two photographers, and this did not include a video. But Emily, who got married in York, Pennsylvania, spent only $2,300 on her photography services, which is less than the average. 

Not sure how much you can afford to pay a photographer?

You can check out my free budget guide if you sign up for my newsletter. It automatically calculates what you should spend where based on your budget and guest count and helps you stay on track. It’s like the fairy godmother of numbers.

What if you can’t afford a wedding photographer

If you can’t afford a wedding photographer or just would rather put the money elsewhere, you still have some options available to you. Some couples have friends who are in the business that offer their photography services as a wedding gift. 

Alyssa got married in the fall of 2020. She had a friend from her church offer to take her wedding pictures and only charged her $300 dollars and gas to get to her venue. 

I also talked to 2021 bride, Willow, about what she did to cut costs, and she had a great idea. 

“We wanted pictures, but didn’t want to pay the crazy prices – and we thought it would be nice to help a student from our alma mater build their resume and make some cash.” She added, “We just emailed the photography department at our school and asked if they could have students send some examples. We picked the one student we liked best and paid him $500 for the whole day, which was a million times less expensive.”

bride throwing a bouquet in an amateur wedding photo

You could even hire a photographer and ask them to come for only a few hours to take posed pictures. Then rely on guests to take pictures of the reception and other moments. This normally costs way less than having them there for the full day. 

If your budget is $10,000 or less, I have some additional tips for how to factor in a wedding photographer into your budget. Here’s an article for $10,000 wedding budget couples. And another for $5,000 wedding budgets.

What to do if you don’t have a photographer for your wedding

If you don’t have a wedding photographer for your wedding, there are still a ton of ways to capture pictures from your wedding day. Here are some creative ways to get the pictures you want for your wedding:

Assign certain people to get images of certain moments

Not only is it an alternative to getting a wedding photographer, but asking friends to take pictures can also be fun! Ask a group of friends or family to be in charge of getting pictures of specific moments during the day. Having a few people in charge of different times makes it so that they aren’t worried about getting pictures the whole time and not enjoying their time as a guest. 

Have disposable cameras or polaroids around the reception

This is an old trick. I actually heard it for the first time watching one of the last seasons of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. But it’s a good one. This should probably be done in addition to the idea of having someone taking pictures digitally through a camera or phone so that you also have those pictures, but putting a disposable camera around the room and collecting them at the end of the night could be a great way to save money. It’s also a fun way to give your guests something to do throughout the night. 

Hire a photo booth vendor

This still costs money, but having a photo booth for guests to use throughout the night is another cheaper alternative. Guests can also have the strips of photos as favors. And most vendors will save copies of the photos taken for you to have. Starting packages for photo booths normally start at about $550, but can get pricier with add on’s.

Use The Guest App to sync your guests’ photos

Unless you’re having a completely unplugged wedding, your guests are going to take pictures. Get all the images your guests take using The Guest app. It’s an app by the Knot where you can provide your guests with a link to an album. They can link their phone’s album to it for the duration of the wedding. It uploads all the pictures to one shared album that you and everyone at your wedding can see. This way, you get pictures to laugh at as you’re on your way to your honeymoon. The best part… it’s free! 

man pinning a boutonnière on a groomsman

So, do I need to have a photographer for my wedding?

The answer is really no if it’s not within the budget. With today’s hacks and technology available, it is very possible to get pictures of your special day without a professional wedding photographer. While there are perks with having a professional, for some brides it doesn’t make up for the cost. 

It’s really all about what you want to spend your money on for the wedding. If you would rather put money toward food and drinks or attire, that’s what you should do. 

There are a few cons to not having a photographer that you should know about:

  • Photographers are good at getting creative shots
  • Professionals will make sure every moment, and important people, are captured
  • Better equipment leads to better photos
  • Editing skills are important to getting high quality photos
  • A professional photographer will be more efficient at getting all of the looks you want

If you feel like a professional photographer for 10-12 hours is out of budget, you may want to consider alternatives for a few special shots. For example, you could book a 1 hour post-wedding photo shoot for a lot less money. Get dressed up in your wedding attire again with hair and makeup. And have the photographer create some special shots of just you and your partner. That way you can have a few frame-worthy photos for a lot less money.

Need additional tips from other like-minded brides? Whether you’re planning a wedding at the last minute or on a budget, check out our free, exclusive Facebook group – Wedding Planning Club


Jaime is the owner of Loud Bride and Coast Designs LLC. She got married in 2017 in Geneseo, NY and designed her own wedding invitations and programs for the occasion. Now, she designs bespoke wedding stationery and affordable templates for other couples. She lives in New York city with her husband and two children.

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