Pricing Your Wedding Photography

Building a plan for photography profitability

Pricing your wedding photography can be difficult. There really is no exact methodology to assign monetary value to your work. However, with a little market research you can determine what newlyweds are willing to pay in your area. It’s prudent to critically consider your portfolio when factoring your pricing. Do you have an expansive portfolio? If you don’t already, you need one. If you meet with potential clients and plan to charge top dollar for your market, you need a collection of weddings to display that reflect that quality. You never want perspective client’s thinking you are inexperienced and with only a couple weddings in your portfolio it’ll be obvious to them.

If you are just getting started in weddings it’s possible to gain experience as a second shooter. This is an excellent avenue to improving your portfolio and will help to obtain the skills to eventually charge top dollar. If you already have a portfolio. Great! While potential wedding client’s are generally not photography experts, they do know what they like. The imagery you display to them must be something that’s in high demand. Are your images comparable to others in town? What are these competitors charging? Can you fetch the same? Study popular trends and other’s imagery to recreate these looks in your work and you will be in higher demand.

Once your calendar starts filling up our recommendation is that you incrementally increase your rates until you find your point of resistance. You can identify this point of resistance as your bookings will began to slow, at which point you will have determined the top dollar for your photography in your market. If you have put in the work to achieve this popularity you should be proud of yourself! Change gears and stop increases in order to focus on additional services or products that can further improve your bottom line. Ultimately you must find a pricing model that best balances the amount of work the studio intakes, while creating the best possible profit for your effort.

Your prices are not made up
It’s important for you to realize this. The cost of operating the business, healthcare, and salary all matter. The best way to figure this out is by looking at your operational budgets. How much are you spending on your photography gearMarketing & SEO expenses? Cost of building a website?  Oh and don’t forget those hours put into Social Media. You need to figure out these and all the studio’s total costs annually and we’ll call it the overhead. Now divide the overhead by the number of events you plan to shoot each year. This is your overhead cost per job and it needs to be figured into your price per job. Obviously, this is something that will be constantly changing and should be assessed often. Once you have this figured out you can start to size up your local competition.
Learn Your Market
It’s absolutely essential to assess your local market and figure out what local couples are paying for the services that you offer. Fortunately tools exist to help asses the playing field. Cost of Wedding has an awesome website that surveys past brides for information about their actual past wedding and the budgets they used to plan them. You can see what actual weddings in your area cost in their entirety – they even have the data divided up by vendor type. Keep in mind that these figures are only the averages for your market and it offers merely a starting point.

Now that you know what weddings in your area are worth you need to seriously asses your work against others. Research the wedding venues around town that you’ve shot at frequently in the past. The venues often have preferred vendors listed (typically available on the venue’s website). You can then investigate these photographers on their list. What do they charge? Is your work comparable? Perhaps you could start in this range with success. It’s important to not overprice yourself at the start or you will have difficulty booking jobs. If you are just starting out it makes sense to book smaller weddings and work your way up.  This will allow you to make money while building your portfolio.

Price Range
It’s important to realize that not all prospective clients will have exactly the same budget, therefore offering a range of services at different price ranges increases your audience’s size. If you were to create exact pricing from Cost of Wedding’s average budget alone you would certainly capture an ideal market share. However, you will be missing out on client opportunities. To illustrate our point, let’s take a hypothetical couple with a budget is $20k for their entire wedding.
This couple has allocated 14% (higher than the average photography percentage) of this budget to their wedding photographer, giving them a $2800 budget to allocate to the photography. However, Cost of Wedding states that the average wedding for this market is only $2200. If you offer only a single package geared towards this price point, our hypothetical couple will likely not select your studio. Why? If they have a larger budget than your services offer they are going to spend it. The bride wants to ensure she best fulfilled her wedding day photography needs, while staying inside her allocated budget. This is why we suggest having tiered services that appeal to a small, medium and large budgets is essential. You want to maximize the potential amount of jobs per season to ensure your studio’s profitability.

Public vs Private pricing
As you start your local competitor research, you might realize that some photographers have public pricing, while many choose to only publish a contact option. How do you decide to make your prices public vs private? Well, it depends on how you choose to run your business. We choose to keep our prices private to ensure that prospective client’s contact us for access. By requesting that our clients complete a brief “about you” form we are certain to have their contact information. This allows us the ability to follow up or even negotiate should we really want to book that day. However, if our prices are public and too high for a prospective lead they will likely leave and no opportunity is to be had at all. However, if you are charging higher prices and you want to pre-qualify your customers, then public prices can be very useful for finding the perfect clients who can afford your services.

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Pricing Models
Wedding Photographers often choose either the package or the a la carte pricing model. Both are popular methods and neither is right or wrong. It’s important to figure out what is popular for your market. Are other photographers mostly offering packages or are they more a la carte based? You will want to offer something similar to the other photographers in town whom with your prospective client’s likely meeting.

Packages -This is the probably the most common pricing model that most studios rely on it. Packages can maximizes profits while making decisions more simplified for the couple. This works exceedingly well because your clients have literally a million things on their minds while planning their wedding day and simplification is often welcomed. Wedding packages can also maximizes profits by allowing your studio to bundle other products that client’s may not have initially thought they wanted. Albums and/or canvases are often bundled into packages to increase the overall price you can fetch while incurring minimal additional overhead costs.

A La Carte – Many customers love the a la carte system as well. These customers either really like to customize their wedding day photography, or don’t want specific products or services bundled into their package. Either way, you can appeal to certain customers with this pricing structure. However ,you could be leaving money on the table. If you do choose this method exclusively, we recommend having a reasonable number of additional products and services for clients to draw from.

Hybrid – This is our preferred pricing structure and we have been refining it to best fit our market. For the hybrid pricing structure, we have base packages that include the time we will be onsite at their event, the number of photos they will receive for the amount of time they booked and a print credit for our full packages (C & D). Here is an example of our current offerings:

Package A – 4 Hours yielding 300 images
Package B – 6 Hours coverage yielding 400 images
Package C – 8 Hours coverage yielding 500 images + Print Credit
Package D – Unlimited coverage yielding 600 images + Print Credit
A la carte items – Additional hour, Bridal or TTD Session, Photo Booth, Books & Canvases. 

Included in all packages
To keep your brand consistent you might consider across the board inclusions for your packages. For every package we book we include a complimentary engagement session. We also include a USB HD with all the finalized images from their event, including a print release allowing for full printing access to the images. In addition, we provide an online gallery that the couple can share with their friends and family after the big day.
Deposits & Limited Events
It’s imperative to require deposits with every single event. As a wedding vendor there are only so many calendar days that we can work. If you book with someone and they cancel 30 days before the event you are unlikely to book that date again as weddings tend to be planned further in advance. It’s important to get a deposit large enough that clients won’t change their dates or get flakey about which photographer they finally do choose. We require a 50% non refundable deposit to reserve a date, which has proven to be sufficient cancellation prevention.

In Conclusion
Photography is an awesome job and it can pay quite well if you can reach your ideal audience with the products that they demand. Once you have put in the legwork and you have figured out your pricing make sure that you reassess your prices regularly. You should be increasing your prices if your costs are going up, while remaining competitive for you market. Pricing is certainly not a static process and will require occasional analysis and modifications to perfect, but once you have a formula for your photography studio, you can rest easy knowing that you’ll be maximizing your profits for your efforts.

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