Photographers can always have a nice healthy debate on how to price wedding photography, there is no one definitive way that works for everyone and all systems have pros and cons. But I would say this is a good point to review whatever structure and rates that you have. Why? Because the market has shifted, possibly we are experiencing the biggest change that the industry might ever face. Big change means a catalyst and I strongly believe that if you don’t realign your pricing, you might not struggle to survive this time.
Wedding Photography Market
We now have a dual market situation. By that, I mean there is a short market for couples who will just go ahead and get married when they can. That might be a micro wedding, an elopement or even a minimony – where a couple have a small legal wedding now followed by a larger celebration at a later date.
In addition, we have the long market – for the couples who do not want to compromise, they would rather hold out and have the wedding of their dreams with no limits on the guestlist. They are planning weddings for 2022 and 2023 in the hope that restrictions will all be lifted by then.
The two products are quite different so do you need to approach pricing them differently? I am seeing many photographers panicking over this. I understand that when bookings dry up and/or enquiries start to run thin, it seems like lowering your rates is the most obvious path. We are very far from the only industry that has been hugely affected by the pandemic and if we look at fashion retail, almost every company is offering slashed prices to try to boost sales and start recovering. So is this what we should do?
Weddings are a luxury market, and within them, photography is a luxury product. Nobody needs the photos to be legally married, they are a bonus. Weddings are also a long game and I think that you always need to be conscious of that. Even though right now we have a glitch in the matrix when it comes to the market, you could compromise your overall reputation by being seen currently as a cheap option.
One could argue that now could be the perfect time for the opposite, that in fact you should be increasing your rates. Those that are planning their big dream weddings potentially have more budget now to throw at it. They’ve been waiting and saving, maybe more so than ever as none of us can book a holiday or eat out. Also bear in mind that many folk have sailed through this time with no dents in their monthly salary. Couples are also less likely at the moment to be planning an elaborate honeymoon or dropping a chunk of their budget on the evening entertainment. There could well be quite a wait before either of those are the norm again. Meantime, the Chief Economist at The Bank Of England is predicting a dramatic springback from all of this. Now is the time to get ready so that you will benefit when it does.
At the beginning of 2020, this was a Buyer’s Market. It had been for some time as the number of wedding photographers increased but the percentage of couples getting married didn’t so much. We were competing in a very saturated market but fast forward to now and it’s highly likely that we will be flipping into a Seller’s Market. Not every wedding photography business kept operating in these past months and many of the ones that did are now looking at calendars full of postponements that they need to fulfill. So if you still have gaps, you should be more in demand than you might have been. Couples will find it a frustrating business to reach out to photographers only to find that they cannot accommodate them. As demand rises, so could your revenue.
The Short Market
But what about the smaller weddings that will be booking last minute? Do we offer them a deal? It might surprise you to know that I haven’t had to alter my pricing in order to survive in recent times. This is because back in 2018 I switched from any kind of package to charging an hourly rate. I just felt that offering packages was feeling quite stale – that we were all offering some version of the Gold, Silver and Bronze package that was the standard when I started in weddings two decades ago. Weddings have moved on, I felt that pricing needed to reflect that. Most other service providers work on an hourly rate, why shouldn’t we? It simplifies everything and as a pricing model, it is robust enough to withstand the pandemic. I can offer any client the same hourly rate in any given year. Two hour micro wedding or ten hour maxi wedding. They all get sent to the same pricing page and they choose how many hours that they need.
Even if you are not keen on shifting to an hourly rate, I would say to offer a short coverage package that works out around the same per hour as your larger offering. This keeps things simple for you and none of your customers will feel like there is a better deal that they are not accessing.
Considering everything that folk have been through recently, photographs and videos – our visual records, mean more to us all. The less that we have seen our loved ones face to face, the more that we want to see images and videos. Now is not the time to sell yourself as the bargain photographer. Hold your nerve, even if others around you are panicking. Work instead on presenting your brand in the best possible way, thinking about what your customer wants rather than what other photographers and videographers are doing. Consider if your packages fulfil those customer wants or if you could do more. If you are unsure, do some customer research. You could poll your past couples or just contact a past client that you feel would chat to you on this topic. I recently spoke to one of my 2017 brides about how she felt around image delivery, getting an album, and printing her images. Whatever you opt to do, my advice is to have offerings in place for short-term bookings and long-term ones plus set out to make connections with your potential customers, so they focus less on pricing and more on their bond with you.
We have this fantastic Pricing Calculator Tool that you can access for free to help you figure out your rates.