How To Competitively Price Your Wedding Photography

How To Competitively Price Your Wedding Photography


On no we didn’t…oh yes we did! We released a wedding guide on Valentine’s Day!

Today we present you with How to Grow a Wedding Photography Business – the first PhotoShelter guide dedicated entirely to the wedding photography industry. Whether you’re new to the wedding world or need to switch up your game plan to help your business grow, this guide will coach you to make the most of a career in this exciting industry.

Included in the guide are:

  • Strategies to grow your wedding photography business and set your services apart from the pack.
  • Successful wedding photographers’ firsthand accounts on how to innovate and beat the competition.
  • Key marketing strategies to build your brand and attract new clients faster.

Loads of goodies are packed into this free 41-page guide, and below is a sneak preview of the section on how to price your wedding photography.

How to Charge for your Services:

As the saying goes, the devil tends to live in the details – and wedding photography is no exception. Unfortunately, most artists have a devil of a time focusing on anything non-creative. But unless you have enough start-up capital to hire a business team, you will need to start thinking like an accountant in order to survive. And hire one too while you’re at it.

Every sob story begins with a wedding photographer doing it for the money, or letting the money dictate everything else. If we haven’t beaten the importance of brand to death at this point, then hopefully the long-term planning aspect of it still remains fresh in your minds. Wedding photography is not the get-rich-quick scheme many people mistake it to be. Building your business around the bigger picture might not mean cash right now, but it’s a much better guarantee you will still be working 5 years from now.

1. Begin with a Business Plan

Much like a clear brand strategy will guide the nature of your services and customer relations, a sound business plan gives you a foundation upon which to grow your business. When you are determining your prices for the first time, map out your larger goals. This will help you determine where to start initial prices and how to realistically grow them.

Whether or not you hire an accountant in the beginning, you ought to invest some time and research in learning simple accounting principles for yourself. An understanding of your finances is essential before deciding how to price your services, and having an accountant to help is worth the investment. (Check out PhotoShelter’s 2012 Photo Business Plan Workbook, another free guide, to help structure your business plan if you don’t already have one.)

James and Megan of Solas Weddings built their wedding business around the notion of being “kick ass wedding photojournalists”.

2. Consider Your Costs

$5,000 for a day of shooting sounds pretty great, right? Except you aren’t earning $5,000 for one day of shooting. There are the costs of pre-production, equipment purchase or rental, and materials (film, memory cards, hard drives). You also agreed to have a photo booth and need to hire an assistant to run it. Then there’s post-production, and the album you will need to print as part of the price. This is just the beginning of what $5,000 covers.

$5,000 is still a reasonable price, but you need to consider what each wedding will cost you and then crunch the numbers to see if your proposed pricing leaves you with a profit. This is why hiring an accountant is really worth the money. They can cross-reference and compare, while you focus on developing and improving the services.

Brian Dorsey notes that an upscale client experience doesn’t necessarily mean extravagant set-ups and loads of expensive equipment.

3. Consider the Market

Spend time researching your overall market, and what your competitors are charging. Just because you are starting out, does not mean you should undersell yourself. At the same time, overcharging can be equally damaging. Figuring out what your peers are able to charge will help you determine what is realistic for you, and how you might price in a way to give you a competitive edge.

When it comes to your target market, it is important to remember that you are not charging what you think your services are worth. You want to charge according to how your target market values the product. Researching competitors’ pricing will help inform this. Still, approach competitive research carefully. Do not assume that all of the other photographers in your market have made the best business decisions. You may be able to offer more value, charge more, or be more profitable than they are.

Don’t be intimidated by a large market like New York City weddings – Betsi Ewing saw it as an opportunity for a bigger client pool.

4. Consider Workflow Software

Aside from an accountant, many new wedding photographers are a one-man show. If this is the case, consider turning to software to help manage your workflow, pricing and products. There are plenty of programs tailored to photographers that provide customizable templates for contracts, product management, pricing, etc. It allows you to organize all of your clients in one centralized place.

Photographers we spoke with recommended programs like Fundy Software and ShootQ.

Cleveland-based wedding photographer Hunter Harrison also shares his Google calendar with colleagues so that everyone is on the same page.

5. Tiered Pricing

It might seem like a great idea to offer your clients the option to customize their own package. But too many options can stress out the client, and compromise your resources and finances. It is best to offer separate pricing tiers, with the option to customize.

If you’ve done your research and considered your costs, you should have most of the information you need to define your tiers. You might want to consider what variable will affect the price jump. These are some factors you may want to consider using, either alone or some combination thereof:

  • Hours: 6 hours, 8 hours, 12 hours, whole weekend
  • Additional services
  • Additional photographer
  • Additional deliverables

The best place to start is the base package. What is the minimum you need to charge based on your costs? Depending on which pricing variable or variables you settled on, you can build up your tiers based on where you set the base price.

Look for ways to differentiate yourself and your work, says Ryan Brenizer.

More tips on pricing

  • Four tiers are standard, but consider what makes the most sense based on your business plan.
  • Be careful to create tiers that leave you open to add-ons later.
  • Consider throwing in perks and “freebies” to higher tiers to entice clients.
  • Simplicity is key. Padding your packages with too many little things can get confusing. Make sure each package is clear and concise in terms of services offered.

Read more on pricing, marketing, client delivery, and more in the free guide How to Grow a Wedding Photography Business.

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There are 6 comments for this article
  1. KNairn at 2:44 pm

    I have a tendency to disagree with your Topic #3. Considering or depending on what the competitors in my neighborhood charge, can be extremely misleading. Let’s say 80% of my competitors have less overhead than I do. If I’m based in a physical studio (as opposed to home-based studio), then my overhead will be greater; and especially if I employ people and assistants. If one is going to research ‘the going rates,’ one needs to research beyond the competitor’s website(s). This is a given!

    Too many new photographers are just stealing info (wording) from other photog websites, and then placing rates just under the next highest charging photog in order to pull in customers. This is not competition; it’s de-valuing without consideration. Consideration for a fellow photographer and consideration of the value and time and overhead that is put into each shoot.

    How much do you want to make per hour of shooting? This is over and above your costs to produce end-products. How much do you charge for each individual item in your package? Are you discounting price because it’s bundled? If so, does it still leave you with room to pay your overhead costs? Do you know what your overhead costs are? Are you paying sales tax? Do you know how to back into that sales tax to pay the state its portion, if you are charging flat rates without tax add-on? There is a lot to consider and you’ve hardly hit the mark.

    Sorry but I do believe that the lack of proper information, education and research is in part, what is causing the undervaluation of a Photographer’s work as a whole.

  2. Pivko Photography at 10:43 pm

    Interesting perspective. I coded a package designer and calculator on my site. It is 100% transparent and customization. The people that ask to meet me rave about how much they love it. I don’t know if I will keep things this way, but certainly food for thought.

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