Wedding photography prices for beginners may look different than what seasoned pros charge, but when setting up your pricing, it is crucial to ensure that they are both attractive to your target market as well as bring you the profits. But if you are finding all the number crunching a little confusing, let us tell you that you’re not alone! Honestly, putting a price tag to your services and keeping prospective clients hooked at the same time could be a bit of a challenge. But taking the time to properly set up your pricing can help ensure that your clients aren’t pushed away by your rates while also keeping your business profitable. And to help you get it right, in this blog, we bring you an extensive wedding photography pricing guide. Read through!
Wedding Photography Packages & À La Carte Pricing
When we talk about wedding photography prices, we often see them set up as either wedding photography packages or as an à la carte price list. And to understand which pricing model might work better for your business, it is important to look into each of them and study their pros and cons.
A package is an amalgamation of multiple services put together in one deal. It provides a cumulative value rather than separate pricing. For most wedding photographers, package pricing is the easiest way to offer their services. If you are just starting a photography business or looking for wedding photography prices for beginners, utilizing a 3 or 5 package structure for your clients to book can be a great place to begin.
On the other hand, an à la carte pricing structure allows your customers the freedom to choose individual services as per their needs - and pay according to the services they choose. It could also be a great option to include additional services (engagement, adventure engagement session, etc.) to your pricing board as a stand-alone.
Just as the average cost of a wedding photographer per hour or session differs based on demographics, market standards, as well as other factors (we have discussed them in detail ahead), so will the choice of your pricing model. Reflect on your business requirements as well as the requirements and preferred choice of your target audience in the area where you operate. And if you are still confused about what to choose between packages and à la carte pricing, try to find a middle ground, while keeping options open for customization (as a personalized package).
Things To Consider For Setting Your Wedding Photography Prices
1. Analyze Your Skill Set
Be true to yourself when critiquing or evaluating your skill set as a photographer. Trust us when we say this, you are your best judge when it comes to setting your pricing. We all want our profits to skyrocket and our highest-priced package or service to be a bestseller. However, just labeling a high value to your services won’t make your prospective couples opt for it. Especially, as long as your photography doesn’t sell it. And who better to gauge that than you?
Are you new to the market? Is your portfolio a clear representation of what your ideal clients seek? What makes you better than your competitor? What is unique about your photography style? What more do you bring to the table as a professional wedding photographer? These are all the questions that you might want to ask yourself and reflect upon honestly to accurately evaluate yourself from the point of view of a prospective bride (or couple). If you are new to the industry, start by charging a reasonable price and work toward building your portfolio and honing your skills. The increase rate of your prices is directly proportional to your expertise in the field.
Quick Tip: As a beginner, work on building your brand’s image by updating your portfolio with relevant work, building your business’s website, working on its UX/UI, and increasing your social media presence on various platforms.
2. Reflect On Your Business Goals
What is it that you look forward to achieving in the first few years of running your business? Are you solely focused on wedding photography or do you also plan on providing additional services (such as family sessions, engagements, high school senior portraits, maternity shoots, anniversaries)? How many weddings do you wish to book in a year? Do you want to target your services to book high-end weddings or are you more comfortable photographing smaller weddings? And most importantly, try to put a number to your targeted net income.
Your pricing structure, if set right, will play a major role in helping you achieve all these numbers as well as meet your set expectations. However, to make your pricing work in your favor, it is important that you have a clear understanding of your business goals.
3. Study Your Competitors
In addition to having a clear understanding of your business goals, it is important to closely monitor and study your competitors in your operating location. Visit their websites, take a look at their work, and learn more about the pricing structure they follow. Monitor their base prices and their most popular packages. Do this for all of your competitors and then compare. Not only will this give you a better understanding of how to price your wedding photography services but also provide you with valuable inputs on how to make the most of competitive opportunities.
Having a strategic plan in place could give your business the impetus it needs to stay ahead of competitors. And even if you didn’t get it right in the initial few jobs, don’t fret, rather incorporate the learnings. In the words of John W. Holt, Jr., "If you're not making mistakes, you're not taking risks, and that means you're not going anywhere. The key is to make mistakes faster than the competition, so you have more chances to learn and win."
4. Study The Area
Another integral factor to take into consideration is the operating base of your wedding photography business. Location plays a crucial role in how you price your packages, as the value of doing business differs in different cities and states, depending on the spike or fall in demand and supply. Hence, the need to tweak your prices accordingly. Study the market in your area as well as the competition to get an idea of what’s the average wedding photographer charges are.
To conduct comprehensive wedding market research and get a better understanding of the demographics, you can seek the help of The Wedding Report. This website is often used by wedding vendors, photography businesses, and couples to research, compare, and estimate the market cost and statistics. It helps your fetch the data for over 30,000 U.S. geographical locations.
5. Get To Know Your Target Audience
Your ideal client persona and expectations are two things that you should aim to know like the back of your hand. Oftentimes, while booking wedding clients, you are not playing the numbers, you are playing the person sitting across you. Is your ideal client someone who is planning a big fat wedding and doesn’t mind over-the-top settings and flamboyant wedding images? Or is your ideal client in love with the idea of eloping and a small intimate wedding? Whatever be the case, as a wedding photographer, you need to be aware of their tastes and photography visions. Another essential factor is the average guest count. The more the guests, the bigger the budget. And might we remind you, the budget matters! In general, wedding photography is one of the main expenses of a wedding budget. And couples tend to spend 10% to 15% of their wedding budget on wedding photographers.
6. Consider Your Wedding Photography Style & Services
For setting up wedding photography prices, also take into consideration your wedding photographer style and all the services you have added as extra. Are you a documentary wedding photographer or do you like to take moody wedding photos? Analyze what other photographers are charging for the same deliverables.
7. Analyze Your Costs
Accurately analyzing your cost of doing business and providing your services is a stepping stone to setting up pricing for profitability. It is important that your target net income is based on actual data, numbers, and analysis, rather than guesswork. Your input charge is a sum of everything that costs you to deliver what is required by the client. This could include the cost of your wedding gear and their repair, hiring your assistant, hiring a second shooter, post-production (or cost of a photo-editing software), album design, parking fee, permit charges, printing charges, office rental (if any), tax charge, etc. The more accurately you analyze your costs, the more accurate will be your understanding of how to price your wedding photography and why you need to do it in the first place.
8. Time Is Money
In addition to costs of living and doing business, do not forget to evaluate the value of your time. In the business world, time is money. You can either spend it on learning a new skill or bettering yourself as a professional, taking up more projects and adding to your income, working on managing your business, or expanding your network. The takeaway: Your time is not free! So every hour you spend photographing an event, editing a set of images, interacting with the clients, building a shot list, filing contracts, traveling to the venue, and drafting an official email comes at a cost. Therefore, it only makes sense to value your time as a professional photographer and include all these hidden costs in your pricing structure.
Understand that you are not simply spending your time, but investing it in the completion of a series of sub-tasks that are required to provide the end result. Even though a wedding photography gig might seem like a one-day job, if you take into consideration the time involved from start to finish of the job, i.e., from client consultation to photo submission, it is actually a long process and definitely takes more than just a day.
Suggested Read: How Fast Turnaround Time Helps Your Wedding Photography Business
9. Add Pricing Options
Imagine visiting an ice cream parlor only to find that all that’s available is chocolate-flavored ice cream. Disappointing, right? As popular as this flavor might be, as customers, we still love to have choices to select from. The same goes for any business. Don’t just set one pricing list or package as it is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Different couples have different budgets and plans for their weddings. While some might want to include every extravagant input as possible, some might simply be looking for an elopement or a sweet and simple backyard wedding.
Therefore, add variation in your packages and pricing so that your couples can choose what works best for them. A set of 3 to 4 packages are often looked upon as a preferred choice. However, you can customize it as per your requirements. Yet again, too many options can make choosing a package an even more daunting task for your clients. Try to keep it as simple and easy to understand as possible, all the while keeping an option for them to choose from. Remember, you want them to be crystal clear of what you are offering, and provide relevant pricing options, without making it all too confusing.
10. Include Add Ons
Don't leave out the additional services. It only pays to diversify your income. Weddings in themselves are a huge event and therefore can work as a stand-alone service. However, if you have been wanting to expand your services to your pricing list or set of packages, then state that. For instance, for weddings, you include engagement photography, bridal boudoir, save the date cards, thank you cards, the parent album, etc. Try clubbing together relevant services such as engagements and bridal boudoir in wedding packages. You can also plan to include portrait sessions in your list of services. For instance, family portraits, high school senior photos, maternity shoots, newborn baby photography, etc.
11. Price Right: Find The Middle Ground
This is where you have to carefully consider all the above-mentioned factors, and decide on a price that not only does justice to your services and contributes to profits but also is true to the market value. To get a better understanding, if you are just starting out as a photographer, keeping reasonable rates can work in your favor to get more bookings so as to build your portfolios. On the other hand, if your target market is luxury weddings, then the prices would normally be comparatively higher - but still, lower than those of the pioneers in the industry.
In simpler words, try to start with reasonable rates and slowly work your way toward gaining more experience, enhancing your skill set, and modifying your prices accordingly. This being said, there are a few other things to take into consideration. First, try not to set your prices too low. The reason is that there are some services and products that when priced very low are perceived of low (cheap) value by many clients. And that’s the last thing you would want your clients to perceive when it comes to your brand image. In addition to that, undercutting the market value doesn’t always help in the long run. Remember, you too have input costs.
Secondly, be realistic with the pricing, try not to set your rates way too high (especially, during the early stage). Mainly because if your portfolio doesn’t add up to the wedding photography prices you are seeking, it might not work out for you. Moreover, gradually increasing your prices is an accepted norm; however, cutting down on your rates over time doesn’t always add up to a good rapport.
12. Set Up A Retaining Cost
Your pricing list or wedding photography packages are set. What’s more? Think of what will be your retaining cost. If you are wondering whether a retainer agreement is even required in the first place, trust us, it absolutely is! The retainer cost is only there to safeguard your expenses in case of a sudden change of plans (or if the couple backs out at the very last moment), putting you in a tight spot and incur losses. It is also a booking cost that often assures that you as a photographer have been booked for a particular date. The retainer amount is paid at the moment of finalizing the booking and often represents a percentage of the total amount.
How To Price Your Packages For Profitability
1. Share A Reasonable Starting Price
Start your wedding photography packages at a price that does not scare your target market away. Notice we said target market - so it’s okay if your start price scares the wrong couples away! Starting price refers to the price of your first package, which is your cheapest option. This says everything about who you are in your industry and even more about what the client should expect to spend. This is not the package you want to be booking a majority of the time, yet how you price this package is extremely influential in determining how often you book your higher packages.
If you make this package too cheap, you risk attracting clients who may not be capable of spending money on your higher packages. If you make this package too expensive, you risk pushing away clients who might have been able to afford your higher-priced packages. It can be crucial to your success to ensure your starting package is priced to sell your higher-priced packages.
2. Create Realistic Pricing Differentiations
Raising your prices by 25%-50% from one package to the next is usually a good range. This refers to the difference in pricing between your wedding photography packages. When brainstorming how to price wedding photography, ideally, you want your clients to be able to upgrade from one package to the next, and the difference in prices between the two packages plays a huge factor in this.
If you make your packages too close together in price, you will not create a clear distinction, and you may also confuse your clients. If you make your packages too far apart in price, your clients may not be able to afford or justify the price hike to go from one package to the next. In the photography industry, a good range to stay within is to raise your wedding photography prices by 25%-50% from one package to the next.
3. Promote Must-Have Products
“Must-haves” is not a business term, but they do refer to a popular business concept that is necessary to consider when thinking about your pricing model. It is the concept where your clients come to you with a set of expectations for what they want to receive from your end. A great example of a conscious must-have in today’s photography industry are the high-resolution digital files. Every client seems to know they need these. However, there are some must-haves that are not conscious. For example, your clients may not ask for a canvas print they can hang as wall art in their house, but this does not mean they do not want one - they just might not know that they can ask you for it! Knowing your client’s must-haves, both the ones they articulate and the ones they do not, is essential to putting together packages that are simple and can easily sell.
4. Promote The Middle Package
“Most safely shall you tread the middle path.” This quote by classical poet Ovid seems to hold true when it comes to pricing services and packages even in today’s world! Because one of the most basic yet important concepts in pricing theory is the middle. Basically, people love to take the middle path. Knowing that consumers love to buy what is in the middle, you would want to take these purchasing desires and combine them with the appropriate package. Use the middle package to your advantage, so you can book the package you really want to book a majority of the time.
In the competitive photography industry, one way to separate yourself from others is to create a consistent and unique style for your images. If your style is unclear, your clients will not know what to expect from you and their wedding images. Defining your style also allows you to create repeatable methods to achieve it, each and every time. Remember that less is more when it comes to the number of options you give your clients. Confusion is the #1 reason they will not book you, so limit your options to keep it simple.
How To Personalize Your Pricing
When it comes to your wedding photography business, it’s no secret that you want to stand out, especially from other photographers in your area. There are a number of ways you can make your brand unique through your website, social media, and the images you produce. Imagine if you could also personalize your pricing to center it around items and services that you knew your clients wanted? Here’s a little secret - you can! And most times, it can help you increase your bookings exponentially!
1. KNOW WHAT YOUR CLIENTS WANT
When you book a client, one of the first things you should note is WHAT they are interested in purchasing from you. Look for trends to see the one or two items that almost all of your clients order. As a rule of thumb, these services should be the ones that 80% or more of your clients are booking. Are you constantly booking an engagement session with your wedding, adding a second shooter, or including an album? If so, this is a good indicator that these items are your must-haves! Keep this in mind: The must-haves you offer are your clients’ must-haves, not yours! You may love some of the products that you offer, but that does not mean your clients feel the same way.
2. KNOW WHAT YOUR CLIENTS DON’T WANT
Just as important as knowing what your clients DO want, take the time to figure out the items that they don’t want. Are your clients continuously asking if they can remove a service from a package? If so, take that opportunity to re-evaluate and determine if it is bringing any value and profit to your business. Remember, the #1 reason for a client to not book you is confusion! Do not offer every service in hopes that you can please everyone - find your must-haves and stick to them! With all of the choices that a bride and groom have to make leading up to the wedding, they will appreciate you only giving them a few options and guiding them to what they really want.
3. SET UP PROPER PRICING
Once you determine the services that matter most to your clients, half of the battle is over! The next step is to get clients to order them, which can be easier said than done. There are several factors to take into consideration to actually get clients to order your must-haves:
Price: Even though you have determined that a certain service is a must-have, if your price it too high or low, clients are unlikely to order it.
Placement: Ensure that your must-haves are easily visible on your pricing sheet. You want clients to order them; so don’t clutter this section with unnecessary info.
- Simplicity: When it comes to describing what you offer, remember that less is more. On your pricing sheet, keep descriptions of services as short as possible - if clients have specific questions about all of the details of a product, they will ask!
4. Create An Emotional Connection
Let’s be honest - spending money, especially thousands of dollars on a wedding photographer, is not easy. So what can you do to make this process easier for potential clients? Create an emotional connection with them! Studies claim that 70% of your clients of your clients will make their purchasing decisions based on how you treat them. As you meet with your couple, strive to create a true emotional connection with them - not only will this set you apart from other photographers, but it can also help seal the deal for you as their wedding photographer!
By creating a strong connection with them and having your pricing properly set up with your must-haves, your pricing will speak for itself and clients will book you with ease. When you are educated about your clients’ ideal services, you will have the confidence to continuously book dream clients. You can personalize your pricing to focus on these must-haves that draw clients in and make them excited to book you because you offer exactly what they want.
Suggested Read: IPS Photography Business Tips For Wedding Photographers
Review & Revise Your Wedding Photography Pricing
As you grow your wedding photography business, you will learn a lot more about how to price wedding photos and the unique details that your target market expects, not only in terms of your services but also the products you offer. However, always remember that your pricing list is based on ever-changing factors such as your skill set, the market standards, input costs, demographics, your competition, etc. Therefore, it cannot be absolute and would require revisions and reflection from time to time to make sure those are the best options for your business and clients. A profitable pricing list is not a set value that was decided upon once (probably, at the start of your career) based on market research, but is the value that is constantly reviewed from time to time based on the changes in the aforementioned factors.
Further Read: Should Wedding Photographers Negotiate Their Prices?
Pricing your services could get complicated, but it doesn’t have to be a daunting task when you use the right strategies. Here's a recap: All you have to do is get to know your clients well and closely observe what the majority wants, rejects, and asks to modify. This way, you will also get a better understanding of what your wedding photography prices need to include. Study them, align them with your business goals, and then customize! The trick to set it right is to get to a value that strikes the right balance between what most of your target clients desire and what works best for your business. Happy planning!At ShootDotEdit, our goal is to take the “heavy lifting” of photo editing off your plate - giving you more time to run your business, spend time with your family, or even just have a weekend again! To learn more about our photo editing services, check out our pricing plans.