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Old 7th of February 2005 (Mon)   #1
tbfoto
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Default Pricing myself out of business?

I started shooting weddings about three years ago and did the first one for free. The next one I did for the cost of printing and then made a few $$$ on reprints. Then I put together a "package price" and shot several more at a modest cost to cover expenses and pay for my time. I don't do any advertising and depend on word of mouth. I always talk to the bridesmaids and let them know who I am and give them all a buisness card for "future" reference. All brides have known from the beginning as to my experince level and this has not been a problem, In fact I will admit that my finished work has been very well recieved. I thought all along that the more experence I gain the more that I would charge untill I reached a point that was close with the going rate for my area. I shot several weddings last year and this year I raised my rates by $200.00. I'm still nowhere near the top end but feel that I'm going in the right direction. I've had two brides call me so far this year who knew of me from being in other weddings that I had done. I went to talk with them and their parents and when I presented my price sheet I got the same reaction from both of them. That this is more than their frind had to pay and they did'nt think that I was that expensive. I tried to explain that the going rate in the area was much more and that this was still a good opportunity for them to get quality work at a fair price, but I have not heard back from either one of them and am now worried that I've reached a price point that is costing me business. Should I offer a discount for brides that come to me from a "reference".

BTW, I'm only at $800.00 for a full wedding where I shoot approx. 250-300 shots.

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Old 7th of February 2005 (Mon)   #2
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Default Re: Pricing myself out of business?

Depends if its worth your time to do it for cheaper. It might just be better to find some other way of getting clients. No point doing it for nothing.
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Old 7th of February 2005 (Mon)   #3
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Default Re: Pricing myself out of business?

The problem as I see it is that if you rely purely on word of mouth, one of th the first questions that people will ask is "How much did he charge you?" You are then on the backfoot from the word go when you turn up to talk to the couple - they already have a price in mind and have allocated the money for it already - if not actually at least in their mind. If you offer the discount to these new people you are then trapped in a vicious circle.
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Old 7th of February 2005 (Mon)   #4
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Default Re: Pricing myself out of business?

If you start giving discounts to your referral customers, and your customers are all from referral...

The only value to the discount is if you artificially mark your prices up on your price lists, maybe add 30% to all your current prices, then, when people say "you charged my friend a lot less" you can explain that you were offering a good deal to gain experience, but that you are currently charging more but... you give referrals a 30% discount.
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Old 7th of February 2005 (Mon)   #5
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Default Re: Pricing myself out of business?

This is what happens when you shoot anything for free and/or underprice your services "just to gain experience." Or "sell" a photo to a publication just for the credits. And this is part of the reason the industry is so goofy.

Moral of the story is JUST SAY NO.

So yes, TB. You have done yourself harm because of low pricing. However, I doubt it's permanent, especially since you're still well under the market price, but then there's that dilemma staring at you again of under-pricing.

It's a grey area for sure, but you've got to be careful. I do hope you have contracts and insurance and you should also consider a biz license and incorporating if it goes much further...

Good luck.
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Old 7th of February 2005 (Mon)   #6
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Default Re: Pricing myself out of business?

Check out Bloo Dogs posts. Not only are they hilarious and well written, there's a lot of advise in them too.
Having read them, I'd say you should tell your referals "Sorry, that was discounted to gain experience. I'm charging more now because I'm a better photographer for that experience, so will be able to do a better job at your wedding" I'd be surprised if that didn't work. All girls (all) are competitive, and if you plant the seed that her wedding album will be better than her friends, there will be an evil gleem in her eye, and a cheque in your hand!
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Old 7th of February 2005 (Mon)   #7
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Default Re: Pricing myself out of business?

This folks is known as the discount blues, or Bloos if you wish. It is so easy to get work when you are doing it dirt cheap and trying to gain experience but, when you gain that experience and try to up your prices to be more in line with what your worth, nobody is interested in paying more than what they were told you did it for last year.


You reading this thread Claire?
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Old 7th of February 2005 (Mon)   #8
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Default Re: Pricing myself out of business?

Indy,
Yeah, I'm reading it. *chuckle* Ok, ok I get the picture. Charge, charge charge. I'm starting to wonder in all honesty what the Swedish amateur photographers that charge 13 000 Kr (app. $183.62) for say 16 pics in an album or 795 Kr/hrs ($112.29/hrs) use equipmentwise. And those are actual prices among a couple of amateur photographers that have been mentioned in a Swedish wedding forum. Started getting curious about their equipment now, probably should do research...
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Old 7th of February 2005 (Mon)   #9
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Default Re: Pricing myself out of business?

I'm hearing what you are all saying but is there anyone who started at the top? I have NEVER had a bride tell me that the cost doesn't matter as long as its top quality. Maybe if I had a studio in LA? I have thought about (and even did once) inflate my price then cross out my price and offer the same package as "discounted". That seemed to make that bride seem "special", but I didnt feel good about doing it that way and didn't want to have to do that all the time. I think for now on, I just up the anti, and say "take it or leave it". The one thing I found out after doing this type of work is that I put in alot more time than I thought I would. The average wedding I've done has been an 8-9 hour day just at the event. Not counting the hours going over proofs and.....well you know. I have the experience now. I have the proven work to show. I'm not getting rich and I'm not ripping anyone off either. Just a simple man trying to find a small piece of the pie.


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Old 7th of February 2005 (Mon)   #10
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Default Re: Pricing myself out of business?

I'm honestly very curious to read what Bloo Dog has to say about this thread when he responds. I'm sure he'll have some great advice.

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Old 7th of February 2005 (Mon)   #11
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Default Re: Pricing myself out of business?

I've read alot of Bloo Dog's posts and I think I know what he might say as far as "your only worth what you charge", but come on...a guy has to start somewhere. Honestly I'm not doing this to make a living and that bothers those who do. I have had many discussions with other wedding photographers both online and in person who do this and only this as a means to a paycheck and I can tell you that they do not like any weekend warriors in there way. I do not consider myself in that catigory as I take it far more serious than that but I can understand how someone else might look at it like that.
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Old 7th of February 2005 (Mon)   #12
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Default Re: Pricing myself out of business?

Read this: The $39K Schmuck by Mike Johnston.

http://www.photo.net/mjohnston/column32/index.html
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Old 7th of February 2005 (Mon)   #13
defordphoto
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Default Re: Pricing myself out of business?

TB: No. No one starts at the top. However, what most people do to get into the wedding business is to assist someone who is a pro and gain experience in the business from shooting, dealing with clients to pricing and proofing. And yes, many offer free assistance while learning the ropes before diving into a somewhat complicated and sensitive area of photography.

You have chosen a different route and that's okay too, but there are some disadvantages starting out that way. Mainly in pricing that can hurt you down the path, but also in the business aspects. We're just offering advice from experience. No one's saying what you're doing is wrong, though it's not what many would consider the most viable and lucrative path.

You have gained good experience it sounds like so you can take or leave all the advice given here to grow your business hopefully into something that can make a few extra bucks and maybe develop into a permanent business.
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Old 7th of February 2005 (Mon)   #14
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Default Re: Pricing myself out of business?

Here is something to burn in your memory - "There is doing the job for a price, and there is a price for doing the job". You should always pride yourself in applying the latter.

Simply walk away and look for people that will pay your rate. Yes, you will lose business, but the profitable business you will get in the long run will far more than make up for that you have said no to. Profit isn't a dirty word, and enough profit to make a living from your work is what you have to achieve, not aim for, actually achieve.

The words "shoot" and "foot" come to mind, and it is now way harder for you to claw your way back up the pricing slope than it is to allow the odd slip down it. Just be firm and don't give in to the idea that something is better than nothing. You will get there.
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Old 7th of February 2005 (Mon)   #15
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Default Re: Pricing myself out of business?

There is one film photographer, who shall remain nameless, who had been shooting weddings professionally since the mid-1990's. Apparently he was pretty good shooting with a medium format film camera, so pretty soon he established his standard "wedding rates" that went from $1500 minium to $4500 maximum, and each of those standard packages included variable amounts of time, film shot, presentation in an album, etc. That worked pretty good for business. But, that started back then when digital cameras had not really emerged as a practical tool for wedding photographers. Medium format dominated weddings.

By about 2002, digital cameras were emerging, and by about now, digital cameras have arrived. Medium format is still there, especially for the big society weddings that have the production budget of a moon landing. However, for the average middle-class parents that just want to get their daughter married off nicely, budgets get in the way more and more.

I am of the opinion that there is less and less business for the $4500 wedding job, and there is more and more business for the $1000-1500 wedding job. There seem to be lots of so-called photographers out there for the $1000 job. Maybe it is just a quality thing.

Let's say that you offer three standard wedding packages, $1000, $2000, and $3000. Say the first friend hires you at the $1000 level, you do the job, you collect the money, and business goes on. Business gets really busy, so you decide to increase your rates by $500 on each level. Then the second friend asks to hire you at the $1000 level, just like you did for the first friend. You inform the second one that you no longer offer the $1000 job, but one at $1500. They will think you are trying to rip them off.

Simple. Instead of increasing rates by $500 each, discard the entire three level pricing. Offer two levels, $1500 and $2500. When the second friend inquires, you answer that you had to change your entire pricing structure to streamline it, and this is what you have today. They'll get over it. You have to move the customer away from the attitude of $X for Y photos. You have to show them your recent work and explain that your vast experience will attain superior results, even if constrained to two hours or three hours.

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