(The following is excerpted from the new book The Successful Wedding Photographer , by the editors of Photopreneur.)
We’ve seen that the price a client pays for a wedding shoot always includes a number of different elements. Those elements range from the time spent taking the pictures to the number of prints the client receives to the type and number of albums the photographer prepares.
By juggling those elements — by increasing or reducing the amount of time you spend shooting, by offering to print fewer pictures and by providing albums at different levels of luxury — it’s possible to avoid the question of whether to charge “low,” “medium” or “high” prices, and instead offer a range of different prices to suit everyone.
That’s the beauty of creating wedding photography packages. Let’s look at some of the ways photographers approach packages in their pricing.
Instant Memories: Clear and Precise
Instant Memories  is a collection of nine wedding photographers working in the Canadian city of Edmonton, Alberta. The company offers four packages that list precisely what the client will receive.
The Bronze package, for example, costs $1,500 and includes “three hours of service,” formals, unlimited digital photography, and no prints.
The Silver package, which costs $2,200, includes 275 exposures and promises photographs of the ceremony as well as indoor and outdoor formals.
For an extra $400, clients can order the Gold package and keep the photographer right through the cake cutting and the first three dances, and look through 400 pictures.
Finally, the Platinum package at $2,800 provides another 50 pictures and starts at the bride’s house.
It’s a pricing model that makes things very easy both for clients and for a photography business, and especially a business that hires other photographers to do the shooting. When clients are buying packages, rather than choosing from a menu of different items, the expectations are clear and there’s little chance of the photographer forgetting a shot that the client requested or having to create a unique item.
Choosing a wedding photography package becomes almost as straightforward as buying off-the-shelf, with content, pricing and expenses all clearly covered.
Danny Steyn: A La Carte Extras
Danny Steyn , a South African-born wedding photographer now working in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, takes a similar approach.
Steyn offers three packages with shooting times that range from four to eight hours and from 150–200 to 325–375 images. Clients who take his Gold and Platinum packages also get an assistant, and Platinum clients get a second photographer as well.
However, Steyn’s Web site also stresses that these packages are flexible, and he offers a range of different a la carte extras, such as albums of different sizes, canvas prints and DVD slideshows.
The result is a clear guideline for clients to the amount that they can expect to pay for their wedding photography — and an opportunity for Steyn to offer some extras that add to the price.
Julie Harris: Quoting the Minimum
Other wedding photographers take a different approach, reducing the amount of pricing clarity they give to clients in favor of the flexibility that comes by allowing clients to pick and choose the features they want.
Pricing the shoot becomes much more complex. While leads who visit Instant Memories’ Web site can see immediately how much they’ll be paying for their photography, leads interested in hiring photographers with no packages and only a la carte offerings won’t know exactly what they’ll be paying until after they’ve actually met with the photographer.
Julie Harris , a wedding photographer in Boulder, Colorado, declares on her Web site that commissions begin at $4,250 and that there are a “variety of wedding packages and options” available. The site then lists a number of features that clients may ask for in their package, including:
- Digital files, and permission to print and distribute copies;
- Black and white/color photography;
- An engagement portrait session;
- Online viewing (and purchase);
- A range of different albums and products, such as flush-mount albums and coffee-table wedding albums;
- Post-production image editing;
- And a lifetime discount on future portrait sessions, including maternity, infant and family photography.
Harris doesn’t provide a final price until consulting with the potential client. This requires a little more effort from the photographer; she has to meet with the client and explain the options on offer, personalizing each package to suit each lead.
But quoting a minimum price of over $4,000 also allows Harris to filter out those clients she’s less interested in serving.
Teri Bloom: Getting the Specs First
Another option is to not give clients any pricing information at all until meeting. Teri Bloom’s  Web site, for example, simply states:
Pricing is flexible and a la carte. Packages may include prints, digital files, engagement photos and a wide range of wedding albums. Online photo galleries are available so the wedding pictures can be shared with friends and family around the world.
I don’t believe in putting prices on your Web site or quoting prices without knowing the specs of any job, because it locks you in a box and to me, it’s unwise in a business sense. If your price is too low, you aren’t leaving room to charge more for a difficult job, and if your price is too high, you’re automatically eliminating a client who may have a short, easy job in the middle of off-season.
The flexible pricing for “difficult” and “short, easy” jobs is important, and Bloom will quote one price for a wedding with 60 people with the ceremony and reception in a small restaurant, and a very different fee for a larger wedding with 250 people and a 45-minute drive from the church to the country club hosting the dinner — a freedom not available to a photographer with fixed packages.
Many of Bloom’s weddings, too, are “destination” weddings. Clients will come to New York just get married and will only need one to three hours of photography. Her consultations then become more important. They’re not just opportunities to pitch her services, but chances for Bloom to understand exactly what the job will involve, and decide the appropriate amount to charge for it.
That makes the questioning important, and questions that Bloom asks during the consultation stage include the location of the ceremony and the reception; the times they’ll take place (“sometimes there’s a three-hour gap between the ceremony and the reception,” she explains); the number of guests the couple is expecting; and whether they want table pictures, as well the usual questions about whether they want digital files, a Web site, prints and an album.
The answers to these screening questions will help you understand how challenging the job will be, how much post-production is required after the shoot, and also give you a sense of their budget. It’s smart business to quote prices after you know the specs of a job, and you’ll also have a better sense of the personalities you’re dealing with after learning more about them.
Chris Leary: Constant Adjustments
Bloom isn’t the only photographer not to exhibit any prices on her Web site. Chris Leary , who also shoots in New York, constantly adjusts his prices and packages to reflect what has sold in the past and what people are asking for today. Each update is based on the questions clients ask him about pricing and is intended to be as simple as possible.
Leary, however, doesn’t put those prices on his site, arguing that placing the fees online can frighten clients who are already juggling quotes from florists, disc-jockeys, caterers and event halls.
Worse, he says, when faced with a price, leads stop associating the photographer with the images in the portfolio or the personality and style he or she brings to the shoot, but with the number on the page.
I don’t want to be a number. I want the couple to make an emotional connection with my images first. I want them to think about if they like the moments that I capture.
If they do like the images, Leary meets with them and tries to assess whether they share the same outlook and vision about wedding photography, and whether their personalities match. He will, after all, be with them throughout the most important day in their lives.
If he’s done his job, he says, they should feel that no one else can deliver the kind of wedding images that he creates.
It’s only at that point that Leary tell the leads his prices.
He offers three different packages. The most expensive, at $6,299, is for couples with large budgets who want extensive photography and custom products. His mid-range package costs $3,999 and includes eight hours of coverage, all the pictures on a disc and a wedding album. It’s the package, he says, that’s geared towards what most couples want.
The last package costs $2,399 and is aimed at people who want to save money or are willing to take on the post-photography services, such as printing and album-making, themselves.
All of the packages can be customized to suit each client’s needs — and provide maximum flexibility for Leary to close as many clients as he can.
Tomorrow: flexible pricing and upselling opportunities