Is your pricing holding you back from your goals? In the second part of this series on wedding photography pricing, we will explain how to create packages that compliment your goals and how to add value to your photography.
In Part 1 of this series, we learned the two starting factors in determining your pricing: the amount of money you need to make to be profitable, and the number of sessions that your business can handle. We then used those two numbers to set targets for your business that were the easiest to achieve. The second part of this series will build off of what we learned in the first part. For convenience, we will stick with my previous goal of 30 weddings at a $3,300 average in this explanation.
The next step will be to put together packages that enable you to reach your goals, but first, we need to spend some time on creating value. Value is often the forgotten piece when determining your pricing. Most people know how to do the math and find how much they need to make. Few people, though, know how to impart the necessary value into their business to justify the cost. That’s why so few photographers make it. The most important thing you need to understand when pricing your work is that a client will only book with you when their value for your photography matches or exceeds the cost.
It’s common sense. If another photographer offers the exact same thing as you and charges $1,000 less, they are probably going to book with the cheaper of the two options. You can, however, charge thousands of dollars more than another photographer with a similar style by adding value in other areas. There are many ways to do this that are usually some combination of proper branding, product offerings, and customer service. When you add to what you offer something that is both a positive and unique, you add value to your business. Value compared to cost should always be at the heart of determining what to charge.
So what determines the value of your business? The truth is, we are in an industry that honestly is watered down and oversaturated. It’s not the determining factor of success or an excuse of why businesses fail, but it is the reality of our industry. The majority of photographers are going to undervalue their work and therefore lower the expected cost for the service. The opposite side of that, which photographers tend to overlook, is that this makes it easier than ever to stand out from the crowd. So, what can you do that is different from the rest? Do you want your work to stand out? Then you should learn a skill that will differentiate you such as off-camera flash. Does your business need to stand out? Try investing extra time and money into your branding and your website. Or maybe you can offer something unique that others don’t. For example, don’t provide the same basic album that anyone can order online that every other photographer is offering. Take the time to find something different, and sell your customers on the value of that. Then price yourself in a way that not only covers the additional cost, but you also profit off of it. In at least one area, you need to be clearly better than the average photographer. This is how you build value and will be able to charge the price that you need.
Developing packages is difficult, but is much easier when you have the right starting point. There are a lot of theories on how many packages to have, but it seems that three to four are what I most often see. I have found that when I have three packages, clients seem to gravitate to the middle package, and when I have four, my average price seems to be near my third highest package. This should be normal because if clients are booking your highest or your lowest package every time, you are doing something wrong.
Let’s say we are going to have four packages. Since we know the amount we need to average, we can set the third package from the top as our target price. From there you can price your second package and your bottom package slightly higher and lower than that. The purpose of this is to give you a broader net to have more potential clients by targeting a wider range of budgets. Your highest package should then be significantly higher than the rest. This package has two purposes. First, you never know when you are going to have that one client that will walk in and immediately want your top package because money isn’t an issue. This has happened to me on a few occasions and I know I left money on the table every time. Second, it is much easier to sell a $3,300 package when it is right next to a $6,000 package. It’s not that the higher one is a rip-off, but it does give context to the client about what they could spend and therefore makes the cheaper package seem more reasonable. This is called price anchoring and is found in most industries.
Putting It All Together
Now that you have your packages and prices in place, you can build them up with contents that add the necessary value but still will make financial sense for the business. For example, my goal package of $3,300 would probably contain an average number of hours, an album, and an engagement session. If clients want to step down a package, then they will lose a few hours and the album. A step up will add extra time and a higher quality album. The highest package would then include the most time and the best album I can offer, and also have something additional like wall art or parent albums.
The two parts of this series will give you the understanding you need to develop a good starting point that will allow you to succeed. From here you can compare your pricing to other photographers in your area who have successful businesses. You can also set your pricing and then adjust accordingly every six months or so based on if you are in line with your booking goals. If you are booking too many weddings, then that is a great time to raise your prices. Pricing is a fluid thing. It will always need adjusting. The important thing is that you don’t undervalue your work and therefore don’t succeed. If you are consistently improving your craft, creating value for potential clients, and marketing yourself to the right people, then there will always be plenty of opportunities for you to thrive in this industry.