Wedding photographers provide couples with moments they will cherish forever, but how can you put a price on these moments? Prices for wedding photographers can range anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars just for the wedding day alone. Photographers can negotiate wedding prices depending on the client they are working with and their pricing strategy.
Can you negotiate wedding photographer prices or should you? Photographers set prices for a wedding day session based on their experience and value. Typically this price is set in stone, but there are ways to negotiate with photographer. When this happens, a photographer can negotiate the counteroffer to reflect their skills, time, and value they bring.
As a photographer, it is your decision in where you draw the line on pricing negotiations for weddings. Photographers are working professionals who need to take home a certain level of income at the end of the day and negotiations may cut into this value. It takes time, energy, skill, and equipment to execute the final product couples want on their special day.
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How Photographers Price Weddings
Wedding photographers spend the day alongside the bridal party catching precious and candid moments. Each photographer is different in pricing their weddings. With the many components that go into providing couples with their wedding photos, prices can add up.
Let’s break down what goes into a wedding photography price and why it is often expensive in the eyes of clients.
Planning and Preparation
Before the wedding day itself, wedding photographers spend time ensuring they are ready for a flawless day. As professionals, they understand the standard they are held at on one of the couples most important days. Many photographers will meet with the couple prior to the wedding to discuss their wants and needs in regards to photos.
This helps the photographers know what style of photography the couple wants, how the day will go and who they need to get photos of. Photographers will also ensure their equipment is prepared and packed for the day. Depending on the location of the wedding they may need additional equipment including lenses, lighting equipment, and props.
The planning stage may seem like a minor detail in the grand scheme of things, but photographers often spend hours ensuring they are prepared to capture everything perfectly on the wedding day. Clients often do not realize that this time must be reflected in the price.
The Wedding Day
The wedding day itself is another reason that the cost can be high. It is not uncommon for photographers to spend over 12 hours taking pictures and working with the bridal party throughout the wedding day. When taking the amount of hours worked on the wedding day into consideration alone, it is understandable that the fees begin to add up.
Wedding photographers spend their time taking photos of the bride and groom as they get ready, photos of the venue, photos of the ceremony itself, group photos, family photos, reception photos, and other significant moments throughout the day.
Depending on the photographer the bride and groom choose, they may capture more or less of the moments mentioned which varies the time they spend taking photos on the wedding day.
Editing photographs after the wedding can be the most difficult and time consuming portion of executing wedding photos. Photographers often pay monthly fees for editing software like Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop to produce perfect photos.
They spend days softening skin on people in photographs, adjusting exposure, creating unique lighting, and making sure everyone is blinking and without hair blowing on their face by editing out imperfections. Depending on the level of editing done by the photographer, the process can take days of high level expertise for the photographer based on the amount of photos they have to edit.
After the photos are taken and edited to meet the expectations of the bride and groom they must be returned. Photographers have the option of handing over the digital rights as a whole or per photo. When giving the photos to the bride and groom without a logo they sign away the rights to what they have created. Many photographers chose to not hand over digital rights and charge for prints.
Going through the process of receiving print orders, submitting each order, and ensuring their safe delivery and arrival requires a lot of effort from a photographer. While prints do not require as much time as other components of the process, they can be costly to the photographer.
Fees the Photographer Faces
It may seem that photographers put the money they make straight into their pocket, but that is not the case for most. Photographers have to put much of it back into their business to pay for their space, investments, and equipment. In addition to the fees photographers have to pay to maintain their business, they are often faced with high taxes and costs for things like healthcare.
Simply put, photographers are often small business owners that face high costs to maintain their business.
How to Handle Negotiations with Clients
Couples may try to negotiate to a lower price for their wedding photography. It is your role as the photographer to draw a hard line on your fee or be willing to negotiate with them. While you may lose clientele if you do not negotiate, you also maintain full control. When negotiating, be sure to be very specific and settle on a price that does not diminish your worth.
Be Detailed With Your Fee
When you present your pricing to the client, make sure you are specific and note where costs are coming from. This will show the client that you have taken the time to map out how you got to a specific price, and it also puts a value on your time and efforts.
If you do opt to negotiate a fee, do not change your hourly rate or creative fee. This should not change from client to client as it reflects the value of your time and experiences. You can negotiate in areas regarding services offered and take these away if the couple has issue with the pricing.
Consider Offering À La Carte Pricing
The amount of time photographers spend with the couple on the wedding day contributes greatly to the overall cost. It can also be a great way to cut down on costs if you are willing to slice up your services.
If the couple is willing to cut down on time by not requiring the photographer to be available for certain times of the day, there can be an opportunity to fairly lower the price.
Of course, you will need to think about which services of the package cannot be cut versus those that reasonably can.
If couples are struggling to compromise with the prices that are given by a photographer, consider offering a payment plan. This is a compromise for both the couple and the photographer. The couple still pays the full price but can pay in installments instead of paying it upfront.
Make sure that you are given initial money for the time spent in pre-production as well as the event time and efforts. Final products should be withheld until payment is fully paid.
Don’t Be Afraid to Say No
Say it with me now, “it is okay to say no to a negotiation.” You should have a bottom line in mind for a price you are not willing to go under for an event. This value should reflect what it takes to keep a profit at the end of the day. If you choose not to negotiate, you will work with clientele who are willing to accept these prices.
Most creatives simply haven’t defined who they serve and what their services are. They just go in looking for work in an area that interests them. I know this is easy for successful photographers to do, but what about the beginners or those with a small portfolio?
I would push that it is still the same. I did this both with freelancing computer services and WordPress services. For example, I did do a few low fee websites with my WordPress freelancing. But then my fees for standing up a small WordPress website started at $2,000 and then the entry fee became $5,000. This is insane for most people to comprehend, as $200 to $600 websites are the norm. If potential clients complained at my price, I even referred them to my “competition” who could do the website cheaper for them.
You know what? I still got work and the clients who picked me up were happy with my services. The crazy thing is, even though it’s not that crazy, there are agencies out there offering $20,000 to $30,000 WordPress websites. These websites are not as complicated as you might think.
So, what I’m trying to say here is, don’t let your prices hold you back in either direction. If you are brand new and you find that almost all potential clientele finds your prices too high or you struggle to find business, consider reevaluating your fees. Your craft experience and client experience serve as the backbone to supporting your fees, so prioritize those experiences in the beginning.
Conclusion: Take a Personal Approach
Your approach to negotiations should be based on personal preference. Negotiating your fee can be uncomfortable if not handled professionally, but does not have to be. Setting clear expectations and maintaining a very professional manner will go a long way.
You want to make sure you are valued for your time and experience while still booking clients.
An open dialogue regarding your policies and expectations for payment upfront will prevent any confusions or miscommunications happen. The energy can then be focused on helping them celebrate their special day. Focus your effort in easing tension on their special day, and you will go a long way.