How do I make a profit as a Wedding Photographer?Personal pricing challenges & how to estimate for the worse case scenario

Dear JFWP,

I ran into some trouble recently with pricing. I currently offer hourly rates during the quiet season for couples who only want the key parts of the day captured (often this is perfect for low budget weddings or couples getting married for the second time). However, last year I ran a promotion where I offered a second photographer for free with bookings made that week BUT I forgot to specify that it was for all day prices, not for hourly ones. As a result of this promotion, I now have a wedding where I need to cover the cost of a second shooter out of my own pocket – which is a lesson learnt the hard way. To make matters worse, this bride is an anxious one and wants to have several meetings before the big day with me & her other suppliers (her planner, venue etc) – which, of course I’m fine with – but it means that it’s cutting into my time and any remaining profit margin. I’ve also now just found out that the Ceremony is at a venue that I have photographed at before, and the lighting is horrendous… (thanks to where the sun sets, the bride & groom will have their top half in sun and bottom half in shade!) which also means that my time in post production & editing will be much more than usual as well. ALL of these mistakes mean I will lose money, for all the time and expenses involved. How would you recommend pricing for something like this, with factors (like the venue) that are outside of my control?

Sincerely, pricing panic


Dear Pricing Panic,

Let’s just get real for a minute… pricing is still something that I struggle with today, 4 years into my business – and honestly, I think it will be something that is always a negotiation. Making changes, seeing how the market responds, making more changes and around & around we go. BUT, more than anything, I think it is great that you tried, tested & learnt something from this new promotional idea. I honestly believe that sometimes the best lessons are learnt the hard way (it seems to be the only way I learn anything!) so I want to give you a huge virtual high five for not being afraid to try something new and learn the hard way either.

To answer your specific question about structuring your pricing to cover elements that are out of your control, I thought it might be helpful for me to explain my own approach to pricing (which I also talked about in more detail here). I offer my couples four packages to choose from: an elopement package, a basic package with just one photographer, a mid-range package with two photographers and then a super package with so much included – it almost includes the kitchen sink. I know from my past years that majority of my couples don’t pick the cheapest package but they don’t book the most expensive either (my couples are normally paying for the wedding themselves so are responsible with their cashola – or like to think that they are), so generally they select the mid-range photography package.

Understanding this, I have ensured that this mid-range package is priced appropriately to cover my fixed & variable costs and my time, so if I was booking 30 of these every year – I would be running a super profitable, successful photography business. Now, pricing for everyone is super personal… we all have different fixed and variable costs & we have varying meanings of the word successful (for some people, successful means booking 15 weddings and earning a little on the side to help cover the kids ballet lessons, while others want to hustle and shoot as many weddings that they possibly can – there is no right or wrong but it is different for everyone) but I would suggest re-evaluating your pricing and using a tool to work out whether your cost of doing business is accurate for what you want to earn – here’s a link to a calculator that I’ve used in the past! When I calculate my cost of doing business, I always assume the worst. I assume the couple will want a lot of face time. I assume that I’ll be driving further than usual to photograph the wedding. I assume that I’ll be paying more to outsource my edit than I usually do. By working on this worse-case scenario means that you’re over estimating how much the wedding will cost you to photograph and therefore, you’ll always be more profitable than you think. Whether this is right or wrong, I don’t know. As I mentioned, I’m still working it out too when it comes to pricing and won’t pretend that I have it all together – but so far, this approach has worked for me!

I really hope this helps and as always, if you need help or support getting through this issue (or any others) don’t hesitate to email me! I’m here for you – believing always in community over competition, K.

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