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Am I worth it?

Many times, I get new photographers struggling with the same problem. Pricing. So, I thought I’d share with you something I wrote in response to a frustrated photog who was being hounded by the budget bride:

“Hey Dustin,

I’ve heard a lot of great things about your ability to run a profitable photography business (several, it seems). I think you would be the perfect person to demystify this issue.

How does one deal with potential customers who have very tight budget restrictions? I have several weddings under my belt, and I’m just starting a business here in Dallas. A bride back in Austin was referred to me by a friend and wants me to come back in January to shoot her wedding. However, she expressed a desire to pay no more than $500. She has admitted she doesn’t really understand how expensive wedding photography should be, but insists she has a tight budget.

I was thinking I could offer her à la carte services, but I wonder…how do you make it clear that this is a valuable investment, and going cheap isn’t necessarily wise? I hate to turn down a potential customer, but is $500 even worth traveling down to Austin? I spent a great deal of time and thought on my prices and I’d planned my wedding packages to start around $2400. Did you ever (or do you still) have to deal with frugal brides when you were starting out? Am I just being a diva?

Thanks a bunch, Dustin.”

Here’s what I wrote in reponse:

“No, you’re not a diva :) Accurate pricing helps to guratantee that you will still be in business for years to come. Trust me, you don’t want clients that don’t see the value of your services.

Choosy brides are typically not worth the hassle. They nitpick everything and end up taking up way more of your time than it’s worth. My basic rule of thumb for weddings is this:

For every hour I spend shooting a wedding, I expect at least 2 hours to spend on producing that wedding (photoshop, editing, album design, uploading, online hosting, etc.). For example, you shoot a 7 hour wedding, expect to spend 21 hours total on the wedding and post-production. Should you only get paid $500 for that much time? Plus, you have debts to pay off (rent, student loans, equipment, etc). Think of everything involved to shoot that wedding.

Trust me, it’s much better to let her go find her super-cheap photographer than to hire you. You have experience, a degree in photography, expenses, marketing, production costs, equipment charges, all of those things you have to pay for.

I would just politely tell her that your starting prices are competitive for Dallas and Austin rates. However, if that doesn’t work, you would be happy to refer her to someone else.

The best practice ever is to stand in front of the mirror and “I’m worth ($3,000)” or whatever price you see fit. Repeat it over and over until it becomes second nature. Because the more you believe you are worth $3,000, the more confidence it shows to potential clients. The clients that don’t question your reasons for your prices are the ones you want to work with because they find value in you.

It sucks starting a business, trust me I know! But hang in there, set your standards and stick to them. In the meantime, if you’re serious about shooting weddings, think about where your referrals are coming from. Go meet with some local wedding planners whose prices fall in line with yours and try to get their business, build their trust. Cut them a killer deal that they can offer to a bride to get a chance to work with them. A $500 bride can only refer you other $500 brides.

I hope this makes sense. Thanks and take care!

Dustin Meyer”

and here is her response:

“Thanks for the advice! You make a really good point in saying that $500 brides will only refer you to other $500 brides. I hadn’t thought about that. You’re right. It really does also take a lot of confidence to go out there and comfortably say “I’m worth so and so, and I’m sticking to that.” Guess I’ll have to practice :)

Thanks, Dustin!”

Disregard any particular price since your own city will have different pricing that can be supported by your current market. However, the principle is still the same: “Be confident in your work, and back it up with confident pricing”  Everything else will follow suit.


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