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Advice for New Photographers: Don’t Burn Bridges

As I continue to mentor new photographers in the GTA as well as Canada-wide word has begun to spread and I’ve started getting random emails sent to me asking for advice.  Although these people aren’t technically in a mentorship program, I’m honoured that they took the time to write me and always do my best to write back as promptly as I can.  Sometimes the questions are simple and straight forward but sometimes a whole can of worms can get opened up!  I wanted to share this particular correspondence because I feel like the answer to this question is crucial in maintaining a quality standard within the industry.

Dear Ten2Ten Photography/Erika,

I’ve been shooting for just over a year now and have secured a couple of weddings.  One of my couples wanted to buy an album from me even though I didn’t advertise for albums so I found a few companies that I thought were good and gave a price to the couple.  At the end of the day I didn’t make much profit from it at all so I started wondering if I was pricing it too low.  I looked at what some of the other wedding photographers around town are offering and their albums are at least double or triple the price of what I sold mine for!  I don’t want to scare my clients away with an unreasonable wedding markup but I don’t want to work for free either.  I want to compete with the other photographers in my tiny community but I also want to pay my mortgage.  Can you shed some light on pricing albums without over-pricing simply because it’s a wedding product?  Thanks.

-T

Dear T,

Before I get into pricing, I want to touch on the topic of the ‘wedding markup’ you referred to.  Some people out there feel like wedding vendors simply charge more because it’s a wedding but what they don’t realize is that they GET MORE because it’s a wedding.  If you’re anything like me, you spend hours upon hours planning possible shots and perusing Pinterest, magazines and any available source for inspiration before the big day.  You go over each and every photo with a fine-tooth comb making sure the cropping is juuuust right and that there’s perfect detail in your shadows as well as your highlights.  You spend the day shooting; whether it’s 8 hours or 12 or even 16.  You barely get to eat or drink anything and you’re lucky if you get to go to the bathroom at all.  You’re climbing up on chairs or in windowsills and lying down in dirt – all to get that “perfect shot”.  A true wedding professional pours their blood, sweat and tears into their job because they know that they are providing a service for the most important day in that client’s life!

Guageing from your experience working for free on this wedding album, you should start to appreciate the fact that this mythical “wedding markup” doesn’t really exist.  Wedding products can be more costly than non-wedding products because you’re getting more.  If you plan on being a prominent wedding professional, you must support your fellow professionals and not imply that their services are “unreasonably marked up”.  This can burn bridges, badly!  Without support of fellow professionals you will always struggle for referrals.  A vendor that undermines other vendors is not a professional, no matter how good their work is.

That being said, the cost of an album varies from photographer to photographer but it’s based on cost of materials + time it takes to design the album.  It sounds to me like you forgot to include compensation for your time.  You can read a little more about the cost of wedding albums here; but I urge you to get out the calculator and start crunching numbers!  Decide how you want to design the album (whether it’s a custom design, drag & drop template or outsourcing it completely) and apply your hourly rate to it.  Then add the cost of materials.  You’ll notice that your albums are probably priced quite similar to your competitions now.

All the best,

Erika

 

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