“But, all you do is take pictures…”
“Now, can you explain to me why your pictures are so expensive?”
“I just can’t seem to wrap my head around the price…”
“I mean, how hard can taking pictures possibly be?”
“Is that for one day?”
“Wait, where is the decimal place?”
“I love your photos, but I don’t understand the price.”
“Your photos are amazing, but it’s above our budget. Can you give me a discount?”
If you’re a photographer, I’m sure you’ve heard these comments, right? Comments like these can be very discouraging especially when you have to deal with someone who doesn’t know much about photography or the wedding photography industry. But, that’s a part of being a professional and knowing how to understand clients who are purchasing something only once in their life time. I mean, how do you expect couples who have never been married before to know? So, if you want to sell yourself, you have to know your worth, why you’re worth your price and educate your clients instead of being afraid or get offended at those kinds of comments. Again, as we have said before in other blogs, there’s no one perfect way of growing a wedding photography business. Everyone has a different story, different lifestyles and circumstances, and different ways and pace to succeed. Here are the ways in the last 7 years how we have increased our price to where we are now.
Study your market.
What does this mean? You have to know the market in your area. We are in Atlanta, and we know that the Atlanta market is different from that of San Francisco, New York City, Chicago or Miami. Housing market is different, standard of living is quite different… You may be able to get a mortgage for $1500 a month in the suburbs of Atlanta for a very nice, spacious home, but that won’t even get you a one bedroom apartment in San Franciso for rent. We are all in the same country, but the economy in each area is different, so you have to do some research to know what the low end and high end of wedding photography market is where you live. A $4000 wedding photographer in Atlanta is probably equivalent to a $6000 wedding photographer in California or New York. So, if you follow someone who reside in New York City, don’t be so quick to be discouraged at what they charge if you don’t live there. So, study your numbers!
Know your value.
As a wedding photographer, you’re selling a service, not a product. Your talent is what you’re selling, so essentially, you’re selling yourself. Unlike a product, you can’t just put a retail value on yourself… As your talent increases, so does your value. As your customer service gets better, so does your value. As your experience and knowledge grow, so does your value. As you begin getting booked and become busier, you’ll realize that your time is worth more and that clients have to pay more to get your sought after talent. As your demand grows, so does your value because hey, there are only 24 hours in a day and no one can change that. So, evaluate your level of photography and business experience and give yourself a fair price tag.
Now, we all have to start somewhere. Our first wedding was $400. Our average wedding package now is $5000. That’s more than 10 times above where we began. Where we are now is a dream that we thought would never be able to achieve. If you asked us 5 years ago how we would get to this level, we would have just said, “I have no idea… it’s impossible.” We now look up to photographers who are better than us and strive to achieve their level, but because of how far we’ve become, we now know that it’s possible.
I asked a photographer mentor once, “When do you know to charge more?” His answer was very simple… “When you know someone is willing to pay for it.” It took me a bit to process that, but once I soaked it in, processed it and realized what that meant, I just knew. It clicked. You will come to many points in your business when you just know that it’s time to increase your price because the demand rises. We grew slowly and steadily. We didn’t go from $400 to $5000 overnight. And, you can’t just put a higher number just because you feel like it and you think you deserve it one day. You can’t just make up a number and slap it on your website. It comes with a business plan, it comes with better customer service, it comes with a vision! If you expect your clients to pay you, you better have a great experience that comes along with that. This is where you make “you get what you pay for” come true for them.
For example, when you go to a high end restaurant, you pay for more than just the good food. You pay for the atmosphere, nice linens, decor and lighting that makes you feel special, and customer service that caters to your needs. Say that they gave you fancy food, but you received rude service, what would you think of that place? Would you ever go back? Would you ever refer that restaurant to anyone else? Most likely not… In fact, you may even demand your money back or write a bad review. All that to say, as a professional photographer, it’s beyond your photos. It’s beyond what you can create through the lens and on your computer. I promise you… no matter how amazing your photos may be, if they don’t like you, they’re not coming back and they’ll make sure others don’t come to you either. Photography and photography business is totally different. When it becomes a business, you have to become an entrepreneur.
One of the things you have to do is sit down and count the cost. Count EVERYTHING! The gas you will need to go to the consultation when you meet with your clients, the travel time, average time that your meetings take, any expenses like drinks, engagement session costs, backup time, editing time, blogging time, uploading time, time it takes to email each client on average per wedding, album costs, canvas costs, website cost, phone bills, database fee, online gallery fee, insurance, license, permits, second shooter fee, taxes, CPA fee, etc… You see, it all adds up. The numbers will surprise you! I can’t tell you how many photographers we’ve sat with and made them realize that after just counting the hours that they worked for one session, they weren’t even making minimum wage. Now, we all have to start somewhere. You can’t expect to set a high end price for yourself when your photography isn’t just up to par and you have no experience. We’ve been there and that’s when you start off and not make much if at all and still have another full time job. This stage may take a few years. But, after those steps have been taken and you’re now a full time professional photographer, you have to know your numbers and really know what you’re making. This is a business after all and if you’re not making a profit, you’re in the wrong business.
No one’s compliment can be good enough if you don’t believe in yourself. Do you know and believe that you’re a great photographer? Do you know what your style is? Do you doubt yourself? With information, ideas and news from others being bombarded at us 24/7 especially through social media, it’s harder than ever to find ourselves. There are times when we feel like, “hm… maybe we should do a little more of that style…”, but we have to put our foot down and say no. Once you start compromising, there’s no end. We are who we are as photographers. We love our artistic, dramatic style and know that our clients come to us for who we are. Our style is what we are passionate about and what drew us to photography, so we strive to be better in that more and more everyday.
Make sure to do your homework and know your numbers and be confident about it. Don’t get easily discouraged. And, we say that because we have felt that way. Once you increase your price and your first rejection comes, you feel like you made a mistake. NO! You’re not going to get every single client out there… People can sense confidence and if you’re uncertain, you’ll start giving discounts because you feel bad or you feel like maybe you shouldn’t be charging “that much”. Discounts are a huge no, no in this type of business (trust me, we learned the hard way with this) unless it’s the same kind that you offer EVERYONE. Keep at it, do some marketing research, get some fresh ideas, learn how to speak to your clients and write your emails. You will get better and you will get there!
Never cease to learn.
I’m a self taught photographer. I never went to college. I never took a class. I believe that information is literally in the palm of hands these days (your phone :)) and if you set your mind to it, you CAN educate yourself and become a master of your craft. Guys, there’s just no excuse! Your knowledge will increase your value! Know what you’re doing! Google anything you need to know about wedding photography and you’ll find it! Follow the right people. Follow the experts, not expert wanna be’s. Don’t be fooled by number of followers… it’s overrated. Follow the experts who really know what they’re doing and have success in their business and know how to make money! If you can’t teach yourself, pay someone else to teach you. Invest in your knowledge which will become your experience. And practice, practice, practice…
Here are our top 3 photographers that we follow:
Zach and Jody Photography for photography, husband and wife business partnering dynamic and business education.
Baronz Studio for inspiration.
WEDIF for inspiration.
We constantly educate ourselves through others and simply by just studying. On a frequent basis, we watch photoshop workshops, lighting workshops, business and marketing workshops for us to continue to stimulate our minds and innovate.
Below are the top 3 communities we follow. Check them out!
We try to set our own trends and try ideas all the time. Some fail, but hey, that’s ok! Keep trying… give it all you got, stay true to yourself and be original!
Never stop dreaming, but don’t just dream… make your dreams come true by setting goals and putting plans in your business. Dave Ramsey said that a goal must be written down, have a deadline and be specific. The new year is coming and there can’t be a better time to set a new vision for yourself and your business! What’s your vision for 2017? We can’t wait to hear about it! So, what are you waiting for? Stop reading and get to work!