This is a hot button issue. Price too low and you get demanding budget brides who want everything for nothing. Too high and you hear crickets, unless you have the work, experience and business know how, quality and customer service to back it up.
My first few wedding were 300 to 500 dollars in price. My ego quickly inflated to 800 even though I really did not know enough about what went into shooting weddings. I then upped it to 1200. I had steady weddings, booked like crazy, but I was there all day 15 hours shooting a wedding.
I would have people say oh well that is still 80 dollars an hour! No it isn’t. The emails and phone calls back and forth, engagement session, editing, wedding, editing the wedding.
They say for every 1 hour of shooting is two hours of editing. So you have about 45 hours right there per wedding.
You then might say oh that is still $26 an hour.
No it is not.
From that 1200 you need to take out your business insurance, camera equipment, gear repair, gas, cost of goods for usb drives, packaging etc, and sales, state and federal taxes.
So if you take out the usual 30% in state and federal that is minus 360, 10% for sales tax is $120 so 1200 minus 480 in taxes alone is $720
Take out 30 dollars in insurance, 690, Cost of Goods, say very conservative $50 brings you down 640.
We say $45 in gas, 595.
Now if I divide the 45 hours by that we get 13.20 an hour. This does not include the money you paid into your gear, tax person, website, marketing.
And that is just business did you pay your mortgage, electric, medical?
You can see why this is so tempting to just try to do everything under the table and not pay taxes. You will get audited.
They are following Facebook and tracking websites. When they catch up to you they will go through all of your emails and bank statements.
I have a friend who did not pay her sales tax, after one year they audited her and she ended up owing them 30,000 dollars. Scary yes!
Sit down with someone and figure your budget. Your living expenses, business expenses, taxes and how many weddings you need to book to make it.
I will give an example below:
Business Expenses- *this does not include all the initial startup costs of equipment which around 8 grand.
Monthly insurance- 30
usb drives and packaging-60
client expenses- lattes and food- 50
gear cleaning repair purchase- 350
Child Care- 400
Acct for taxes- 600
Cellphones-220 (about 100 a month for just me and can claim mine on my taxes for business but put it under personal because I am also paying for two other family members phones.
*extras- gym membership, cable/streaming services, book addiction, Credit Cards, college fund.
Go through your last six months of bank statements and see where your money is going, 17 Hats can help with that and so can a program called Minted. This will help you budget.
There are 56 weekends in a year. You know that in colder winter months you book a lot less and warmer months you can book a wedding on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Some photographers like to keep their sanity and will not do a double header or back to back weddings.
12 months say six months you will only do one and the other six you shoot 3 a month which is 24 weddings.
If I times the grand expense total by 12 months it equals 58,260 needed to make it (this is before taxes too!), divide that by the 24 weddings you book is 2,427.50 for each wedding.
If that is the minimum you need that should be the cost of your lowest package.
There are always ways to upset too! Adding on a second shooter, or wedding album, or bridal session.
My first year I booked 3 wedding, the second year 7, third year 25, the next couple of years until I had my son and stopped shooting weddings was at about 45-50 weddings.
I had four packages-
3600- 12 hour 2 photographers, 12x12 30 page flush mount wedding album, custom engagement session, all images edited and given to you.
2700- 10 hours, 2 photographers, 10x10 20 page flush mount album engagement session all images edited and given to you on a usb drive.
2000- 8 hours, 1 photographer, engagement session edited and given to you on usb.
1300- 6 hours just me, files edited and given
*If you paid attention to COG you would see that the above prices are not high enough. Also know that I am a kept woman whose husband pays the mortgage! lol
My two middle packages were my biggest booker, but I still did quite a few elopements at my bottom package I would say 15 of the 45. A lot of the times my clients would buy my second package and then later buy the album at tax or christmas time.
Half of my brides would also add on a boudoir session as a day of present to their groom. Which would also lead to additional album and print sales.
I made an online pdf and flip book of my pricing for clients to go through. I will say do print it out on really nice paper though.
A lot of clients still like to look at and hold the physical pricing sheet.
I branded it with my logos and fonts. I included all of my ala carte items to tempt. I priced them descending in price order from highest package to lowest. People usually book your middle package. I left the lower package very cut and dry in description but expounded on the detail and luxury of what you get in the top two packages.
An Engagement Shoot in the lower packages became a personalized planned engagement session centering on what you lovebirds like to do!
I named each of my packages after ice cream I loved.
Which clients loved, they thought it was fun and the names were easy to remember. I also had a good story to tell as to why my packages were named after ice cream.
*I was shooting an engagement session with a bicycle in a field with a fun couple. Just as we ended the session we looked up and realized a storm was coming fast. We high tailed it back to our cars but nothing was around except a small ice cream shop. A funnel cloud was forming right overhead. Tornado season in Nebraska hits fast! The owner of the shop came out and got us and offered us shelter. We spent the next hour eating ice cream and playing 80’s Trivial Pursuit, which I won by a landslide because they were born in the eighties but I had lived through them! Kinda like cheating really.
At this point my clients laugh, say "No way!" and also feel like I will get through most any situation with them.
One of my favorite weddings had me booked for a year. It should of been the usual wedding. They lost their funding. Ended up having it in their backyard under an old oak tree with barbecue and cupcakes and personally made decorations. They spent 4000 dollars total on their wedding. $2700 of that was on me. Photos were important to them. Sad to say these clients are the exception and not the rule.
I will say research your market. You usually have to have the quality and experience to back up your pricing. There was one year I met with four brides that didn’t book with me. The next year I discovered that they all referred friends to me instead of the photographer they had gone with since the less experienced photographer they went with botched the job.
I also experienced what we call Budget Brides, it would seem like most of my brides who were below the 1400 mark where the most demanding, hardest to please and wanted the world for nothing. I had one bride come in who originally wanted my top package. She informed me that two months before their financial situation had changed and she would only be booking my bottom package but that she still wanted me all day and with a second photographer at my bottom package price. A sane person laughs and says no way and walks away. I was nervous, I needed the money so I agreed. I ended up not making a dime off of the wedding. Was it her fault? Nope it was all my own for not valuing my work and for letting a client walk all over me.
Stand your ground!