One of the hardest things for a wedding photographer to do is figure out what their time and talent is worth, so setting prices can be very difficult. Most photographers don't even know what to charge per hour or will work for free just to gain experience.
Here, we'll address these issues and explain why giving away your services for free hurts the entire freelance photography business.
1. It is important not to sell yourself short.
If you want to be a professional in the photography business, then you have to charge for your services. Even your friends should pay. Feel free to give friends a discount here and there, but this is how you make money, so hopefully they will respect that.
When you give your services away for free, you bring down the market for other freelancers around you. Customers start to think, "Well, this photographer doesn't charge anything. Why should I pay your rates?" Remember, you want to have competitive rates but you also want to be able to live off your work. Even if freelance photography isn't a full-time business for you, it is for others, so keep that in mind when setting your rates.
2. As far as creating wedding photography packages, the easiest way to find a starting place is to start research what other photographers in the area are charging.
Look at what they charge and how they put packages together. I would even contact them, tell them you are new and looking for advice, and see if they are willing to meet for coffee. Every region, city and town is different, so by looking at what others are charging for weddings, you can see where to start.
3. Include editing time when calculating your hourly rates.
Most wedding photographers have wedding packages based on how many hours they are going to work on the wedding day. This doesn't include editing time, which is why photographer's hourly rates are doubled. Give yourself at least an hour of editing for each hour of work. So if you're thinking of charging $50 an hour for a shoot, then actually charge $100 an hour. Then you can have a base when a bride asks for six to eight hours of work because you know in the end, it's really going to be about 16 hours of work.
Most customers don't understand photo editing and how much time it takes after the fact. Be honest with your customers if they ask, and feel free to break down your work estimate before anyone signs a contract. Honesty and transparency are key when dealing with your rates and customers.
4. Price out additional services.
Many photographers also have packages that include unlimited hours, and price them significantly higher. You can also offer add-ons for the couple to choose from. These can be anything from bridal or engagement portraits to trash the dress sessions. It's much easier to sell these items in the beginning, so have a price sheet ready to discuss.
5. Dealing with budgets.
You are going to run into a budget bride here and there. Don't let this discourage you or make you think you are charging too much. I once had a bride ask if I would charge less if I let her husband edit the photos. The answer to that question is always no!
Once you become skilled at editing, you develop your own style and it will become part of your brand, and an important part to the whole job. If you feel you are inexperienced and shouldn't charge as much as a veteran photographer, then charge a little less.
Usually brides pick their photographers because they like their photos, so if a bride is seeking you out to be her wedding photographer, take it as a compliment and go for it. We all have to start somewhere. Once you see what others are charging, put together your own packages and be your own judge on where you are experience-wise, but don't sell yourself short!
Come back to the Bluprint blog tomorrow for tips on creating your own photography Web site.