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Stop Including Engagement Sessions in Your Wedding Packages

engaged couple embracing on rocky beach at sunset

One of the challenges wedding photographers encounter is how to structure pricing for their services. One common mistake is to include a free engagement session in all wedding packages. There are a few reasons why you should offer engagement sessions only as an add-on to wedding packages.

"Free" Implies No Value

Even if you don’t specifically use the word “free,” including a complimentary engagement session in each of your wedding packages implies that they are of no real value. In fact, the opposite is true: engagement sessions allow you to establish a better relationship with your clients, help them to get comfortable in front of the camera, and will give them beautiful and meaningful images that they will cherish for the rest of their lives. These sessions require a significant investment of time and effort from you as the photographer, which clients may not fully appreciate if they are simply thrown in to a wedding package as a free bonus.

Clients sometimes treasure their engagement session portraits more than their wedding photos, and this value needs to be established when selling wedding photography packages.

Your Clients Will Do a Better Job of Preparing for Their Session

If your clients feel as if they haven’t paid for their engagement session, they will be less likely to carefully plan what they are wearing, where they would like to have the session, and discuss with you the kinds of images that they want to get out of the session. Creating beautiful portraits that your clients love will benefit not just them, but your business as well, giving you better images to promote your business and thrilled clients who will refer you to others.

You Can Price Your Packages Lower

One effective strategy of pricing wedding packages is keep your starting prices low, and promote additional sales by communicating the value of various optional add-ons during the initial consultation. For example, instead of offering a $3,000 wedding package that includes an engagement session, you could offer the service for $2,500 and communicate the importance of a $500 engagement session when you meet in person with your prospective clients. This pricing strategy will prevent you from scaring off potential clients with high all-inclusive package prices before you have had a chance to fully communicate the value of your services to them.

You'll Get Larger Print Sales

If you offer printed products as part of your services, you will be more likely to sell printed products from a session for which the clients have paid, rather than one that is simply included as a “free” part of their package. Even though the cost of an engagement session may be built into a package price, because there is no defined cost breakdown in the package, your clients will likely undervalue what they are actually paying for their engagement session. Building the value into the images they receive from their session will make it more likely for them to invest in prints.

There is always a lot of trial-and-error when deciding how to structure your wedding packages. The next time you revamp your price list, try leaving out engagement sessions from your packages and see if it helps you to book more weddings and boost your profits.

Jordan Pinder's picture

Jordan Pinder is a photographer and print artist specializing in outdoor portraits of families, children, and dogs. He is based out of Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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Good article!
By day I'm a pharmaceutical sales rep and I see, first hand, how people who are so very good at something are woefully unprepared to run a business making money at that thing (doctors running a business).
I've also seen first hand in my city how some of the best photographers are horrible business owners. The inverse is also true.
I think it would behoove many creatives to take a handful of business courses.

While I cannot argue with the business reasons, the biggest reason I include engagement sessions is that it allows me and my clients to get to know each-other and become comfortable working together. I've found both the bride and especially the groom to be much more relaxed come the wedding itself which yields better photos on the end. Also, I don't ever say the session is free - it's *included* as part of my wedding package.