3 Ways To Price and Package Your Wedding Photography To Stay In Business

I’ve been reading a ton of rants this past week on the state of wedding photography, and whether a photographer can truly have a full time business photographing weddings. Those of us that have “been there, done that” know its more than possible – I routinely pulled in $250,000 and more each year photographing around 25 weddings. Yet those consistently charging “nothing” for their services are turning the industry into something that makes it difficult to earn a full time living with.

So in this post, I thought I would share 3 tips to help you price and package your wedding photography better, and hopefully answer many of the questions I hear every day when it comes to selling your services.

1. Quit confusing your potential customers.
I randomly chose a wedding photographer out of Google (I see the same type of wedding packages everywhere) – here was his pricing structure.

Wedding Package 1pricing and packaging wedding photography

  • Up to 5 hours of photography.
  • Over 200 4×6 professional prints plus the same images on copyright-free CD
  • 11×14 Portrait Print – choose any image from your wedding photos
  • Choose $50 in additional prints
  • Online gallery of your wedding photos to share with friends and family worldwide.

Wedding Package 2

  • Up to 5 hours of photography.
  • Over 200 images in print and on copyright-free CD
  • 20 page 8×8 or 8×10 album
  • 11×14 Portrait Print – choose any image from your wedding photos
  • $75 in additional prints
  • Online gallery of your wedding photos to share with friends and family worldwide.

Wedding Package 3

  • This package includes six hours of shooting time on your wedding day plus a 20 page custom designed album.
  • 6 hours of photography.
  • Mix of color and black and white, creative effects.
  • 250+ professionally processed wedding photos, in print and on copyright-free CD.
  • 20 page custom wedding album – all prints on archival quality Kodak Endura Pro Paper
  • Album is top quality, elegant and built to last a lifetime.
  • 11×14 Portrait Print – choose any image from your wedding photos
  • $100 in additional prints
  • You wedding album is displayed online as it is created so you can comment on it as it is designed


Wedding Package 4

  • 6 – 7 hours of photography.
  • 300+ professionally processed wedding photos, in print and on copyright-free CD.
  • 20 page custom album.
  • 16×20 Portrait Print – choose any image from your wedding photos
  • Choose $125 in additional individual prints
  • Includes your choice of the Engagement Photo package, or $100 in additional prints

Wedding Package 5

  • Includes everything in Wedding Collection 4  plus……
  • Wedding albums for Mom – one album for each of your moms.  Same photos as the bride’s album
  • (2) additional 11×14 copies of your portrait print

All five packages ranged from $1000 – $2100. Now lets analyze them. What’s the difference between 1 and 4? 2 and 5? How about 4 and 5? Difficult to tell, right? Sure, it’s a few photographs here, and an extra hour there. But if its hard for a photographer to tell the difference, how can your prospects tell? Do they really understand the difference between 50 photographs? And does one extra hour truly mean that much? What if they book the bottom package, and need an extra hour – they won’t even ask. They usually just book and let you deal with it the day of the event.

Don’t create too many packages that it leaves very little difference between them. Instead, focus in on huge differences, and make your customer instantly aware of what they need.

2. Watch your words.
Let me give you a set of words. Think of the meaning of each set, and which one appeals to you more.

Shoot  –  Photograph
Images  –  Pictures
Collections  –  Packages

See the difference? Watch an ad for BMW, or look through ads for elite stores like Nordstrom. They speak differently about their products and services than companies like Kia and Walmart. Because they are charging more, and reaching out to a different clientele, they speak in a different manner.

The same goes for your photography. I read comments by people all the time wondering who would pay $10,000 or more for wedding photography. If a bride is having an original Vera Wang gown (not dress) created for her, would she really hire a photographer who’s only charging $1,000? Of course not. The math doesn’t add up. If she spends $5,000 on her bouquet, and $7,500 on her cake, why wouldn’t she spend $15,000 or more on her photographer?

But she also would never hire anyone who is going to “shoot” her. She wants an elegant collection or original images that capture the beauty and grace of her special day.

3. Restructure the order.
In the above example, the photographer listed his cheapest package first, and proceeded to build from there. As the price goes up, the bride gets more confused, she shuts down, and quits reading forward. Why should she pay any more for a package – why not just take the first one and get it over with?

Instead, start with your top package and work down. Stick with 3 of fewer collections, and again, make a dramatic difference between the two. Now look at the following collections, and see what you think.

Collection One

  • Unlimited amount of time, as our goal is to give you complete coverage from beginning to end.
  • Unlimited number of photographs – how can we count your images as they are being taken? What if we hit 200, and you haven’t cut the cake yet? We wouldn’t be professional if we didn’t promise to capture every detail, from beginning to end.
  • $2,000 credit to apply to any of our products, from album design, to framed portraits, to gifts for your parents and attendants
  • Full online viewing to make your selections.

Collection Two

  • Perfect for small, intimate gatherings with less than 25 guests.
  • Four hours of coverage, one location only.
  • Unlimited number of photographs during our time with you.
  • $500 credit to apply to any of our products.
  • Full online viewing to make your selections.

By putting your most expensive collection on top, they start big and work their way down. They often come up with a compromise towards the top of your price list instead of at the bottom.

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clientexperience@todaysgrowthconsultant.com' About Virtual Photography

We're the co-founders of VirtualPhotographyStudio.com and have been writing on this blog since 2004. We started Virtual as a way to help photographers stretch beyond a part time income, and develop strategies to become a Five Figure Photographer or a Six Figure Photographer. Ultimately its all about lifestyle, and if your goal is to live as a photographer 24/7, we think you should have the knowledge and the tools to do so. Welcome!

  • Jeff

    Excellent points. I will not only be re-working the structure & placement, but also the wording.

    Now what’s your take on posting the info within your site?

  • http://virtualphotographystudio.com Virtual Photography

    Great question. I’ve never been a fan of putting all of your pricing info on your site. I would rather have someone judge me after they learn more about me. That said, you still want to eliminate the time-wasters. So a simple “From $2500″ works perfectly.

  • Melissa

    I can appreciate the “watch the words” section! Thanks for enlightening me!

  • http://www.jessicashepard.com Jessica

    Thank you so much! I have struggled with packages and this helps a lot.

  • http://foliomojo.com Wade Holloway

    Pricing & packages seem to be one of the most difficult things for photographers, and for that matter any small business person, to wrap their heads’ around. Thanks for the great post! Keep em’ coming.

  • Matt

    I have just started a wedding photography business with my father. He is an amazing photagrapher and it has always been his dream to make a living doing what he loves. I am a good photographer, but nowhere near the level of artistry that he has. I however happen to be an excellent salesman while my father can barely say two words to “strangers”. My question is; how do I get people to notice our business and my fathers incredible photagraphic abilities on the very small startup budget we have together? We have taken some shots with my wife as our model to build up a small portfolio and have some beautiful shots. Alot of “pros” have told us that we need to shoot some weddings free first to build up a bigger portfolio and build some word of mouth advertising. I have done this for three people now and they love the photos, but my father doesn’t want to “give away” our hard work anymore. Im lost, can you help me?

  • http://virtualphotographystudio.com Virtual Photography

    Congrats on your new business!

    If you have photographed 3 weddings, I’m assuming you can use those as a part of your portfolio. Start there. You can show potential clients your results from those weddings, and build from there. During your first few weddings, transition every time you shoot, and keep adding them to your portfolio. My recommendation is to start with a small package – but don’t discount the price (keep this post in mind). Then when you’re comfortable and have a few more weddings in your portfolio, add another package that’s higher in price, and start raising your prices accordingly.

    It comes quickly – you just have to keep finding and upgrading every chance you get.

  • http://www.gorephoto.com Matthew Gore

    Great information here. I’ve only been in business for about a year, and I’m looking for ways to reach higher paying customers… good tips about the phrasing and package structure.

    – Matthew

  • http://www.glengoffin.com Glen Goffin

    This is my first visit to this terrific website and I’m blown-away by the quality ! This is real “meat-n-potatoes” advice. I plan to make this a daily stop in my routine. Thanks for such great work. Peace, Glen

  • http://virtualphotographystudio.com Virtual Photography

    Thanks! Glad you’re enjoying.

  • Lynette Burns

    Love your advice, very refreshing and exciting when having the desire to stand out from other photographers.

    Can I please ask what may be a silly question. With your second collection you offer a $500 credit, does that mean the client only pays $600 before their wedding, or have the payed the $2500 on top of the credit?

    Thank you, Lynette

  • http://www.larissaphotography.com TJ

    Matt,
    You should also start thinking about building up your network of referrers. We are members of our local BNI chapter, and that has helped us out a lot. Also, if you’re considering giving a cash reward for referrals, you may want to add your business to http://www.referralrewardsnetwork.com

  • http://virtualphotographystudio.com Virtual Photography

    Hi Lynette

    If you are using collections like this, you charge a fee for photographing, and then a credit to apply to purchases. So let’s say $1,000 to shoot the wedding, and a $500 credit to apply to purchases. Which would mean you would collect all $1,500 up front. The $1,000 is to you for your services and doesn’t apply to anything else. Only the $500 is used for actual products.

  • Lynette

    Thanking for making that clear to me. I will be working on it for my business.

    Lynette

  • Tracy

    Hi this is completely helpful! I am a part-time photograhper and just lost my full-time job. I’ve been reading up on blogs to get me going to start my part-time into a full-time gig. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • http://www.iloriphotography.com Don

    Thanks a lot for the tips. I just started my part time business and yet to do a wedding. I will look into doing a few free weddings just to add to my portfolio.

  • Allan

    Thanks for this great article, for me came in a great time I’m staring a photographic business and right now I’m making the structural part of the business, I found this book very useful for this part http://amzn.to/b9zOWL

  • Leslie

    I’m shooting a wedding (sort of my 1st; my bro-in-law was the actual first wedding – on Film) I have to say I’m pretty sure I have improved on my photographic technique and what I love! My question is : Collection price is $800.00 which includes – up to 12 hrs including, bridals, engagement photos, wedding and reception. We are including a Disk of all photos, edited, colored and b/w, also included is a Wedding Photo Book (Bound). I am also offering ala cart prices @ $15.00 for an 8×10 sheet, and have not priced any other sizes above 8×10. 2nd photographer.
    How do I get them to order the photos from me since I have given them a Disk of their collection? And is this too much time or too many freebies? Note: I do not have a website – only a Facebook and Flickr account. Thanks

  • http://virtualphotographystudio.com Virtual Photography

    How do I get them to order the photos from me since I have given them a Disk of their collection? It’s probably not going to happen.
    And is this too much time or too many freebies? Yes and yes.

    Here’s why.

    When you give a bride and groom the CD before ordering, they see your prices and run. Why spend that much when they can head down to the big box store and print whatever they choose for a fraction of the price. You can never give a CD first. If you have to hand over the CD, it has to be an enticement. They can have it in your biggest package – a $2,500 collection, or whatever you truly need to succeed.

    Now take a look at what you are giving. 12 hours of time, plus a 2nd photog – 24 hours of time. Plus production time before and after the event. Costs from the book, photos, editing, etc. Plus your expenses, including rent, camera equipment, car expenses, insurance, etc. If you add it all up, you’ll be in the red. I walk through this in detail in my Pricing Your Photography training, and what people are always amazed at is when they actually see its costing them more to do a wedding, and they aren’t profiting at all.

    Start with the simplest idea, such as creating two packages – one with only shooting time, one with extras including the CD. Hands down you’ll up your income immediately. Once you see how you can effectively boost your income, you’ll do it again. I’m not saying you have to shoot for $25,000 weddings. But you do have to get to the point where it makes sense for you to do it.

    Good luck!

  • Angela

    I’ll definitely be restructuring some things. After my last wedding, my husband (an accountant) put pencil to paper and guess what? I made LESS than minimum wage! Live and learn. I won’t be letting that happen again, believe me. This article was especially helpful, thank you!

  • Sarah

    Hi, this article has given me some amazing advise,

    I have photographed 3 weddings so far, my 4th will be in 2 weeks. These I have virtually given away my services at bargain prices so I can build my portfolio and now intend to charge more as my portfolio grows. I have never photographed a wedding for Free, and I personally think thats a bad idea all together, even if you just charge your costs to get your foot on the ladder when you start off.

    I have made 2 more 2011 bookings since re-working my pricing structure and after reading this I still think I should be charging more for my services and not including a CD in both packages.

    I am on the learning curve of becoming a wedding photographer, but the mistakes ive made on pricing weddings has made me learn to charge more appropriatley.

    we are our own worst critiques when valuing our own work and services so this site has been a bit of an eye opener,

    Thank you

  • http://virtualphotographystudio.com Virtual Photography

    Thanks Sarah – sounds like you are on the right track. It does take time to build, but you’re already over the hurdle of understanding value within your own packages. Good luck in 2011!

  • http://www.arturogodoy.com Arturo Godoy

    This is a great advice, thank you very much indeed!!! I haven’t been much of a wedding photographer and I’m aware there is a market out there (well, I’m in Guatemala)… I’m most grateful for your tips!!! Regards!!!

  • Chad Andreo

    WOW! Incredible advice.
    Do you have similar post for other types of photography?

  • Heather

    Thank you for this info… I saw you mentioned in a comment that you had a “Pricing Your Photography training”. Where may I find this info?

  • http://virtualphotographystudio.com Virtual Photography

    Hi Heather
    I have a whole self-course on Pricing at http://pricingyourphotography.com/ It’s an easy guide to work through and you will have your pricing complete when finished – more importantly you will have a profitable pricing strategy in place! Good luck.
    Lori

  • http://www.cmphotos.net christine green

    I just read the part about unlimited hrs and unlimited photos taken I really find that loaded . The couples tell me how long they wish me to stay to cover its either just before they sit to eat or until the 11pm buffet table
    its clear up front . unlimited hrs could be till 2am with what ever price you set.

    unlimited photos I tell my couples i will take as many as i can with the time line that i am given
    unlimited means there is no end to the images

    another point i have been a wedding photographer for 12 years now and i hear constantly from others that have got married what is this all about giving 1000 images my brides find 500 prints a lot to look at and it takes them forever to pick for their album there are just too many I heard a couple had who was given 3000 on a disk . when do you draw the line.
    as i was going through them i was gettting bored far too many iwould rather take 500 really good images than over 1000 and they can’t decide I am the one having to go through them all after wards picking out the bad ones.

  • http://ottorascon.com/blog Otto Rascon

    I appreciate this article. It makes pricing and word usage less daunting to me. Rock on!

  • http://virtualphotographystudio.com Virtual Photography

    Hi Christine

    Unlimited does have its issues. We loved using unlimited photos and unlimited time. Yet when we were coming up with the timeline with the bride and groom, we simply brought up a few points to help them understand the true meaning of unlimited. If they want you there at 7 am as you head to the bridal salon, and there at midnight as you drive away, explain you are only human and the end photos will simply not be as good – nobody can realistically work 17 hours. They immediately get that. Then ask them what means the most. They really want the first dance, dance with dad, and a few candids. Yet the rest is things everyone else will get. The same goes with following them around while they sit, have breakfast, get their nails painted, etc. Once they start realistically looking at a time frame, you can get it down to reasonable levels, yet still be flexible for things that are unexpected.

    The same goes with unlimited photographs. If you hand them a disk with 2000 images, its too overwhelming. Instead, we took 2000 images, and incorporated them into a multi volume wedding album. I typically would show how about half of those images would look in a series of wedding albums – portraits, wedding, reception, intimate/getting ready, etc. And a lot of my clients would buy all of those albums, using the extra images to trade out images I used they simply weren’t fond of.

    The key is giving them more service – album design – and not just a shooter that hands over your concepts. They don’t know why you took some of the images if you don’t put it together in album layout.

    Lori

  • http://www.claywielandphotography.com Clay H. Wieland

    Lori,

    Thank you for your insightful information! I have been in business for over 25 years and agree about the Wedding Photography industry changing rapidly! I find in my business the biggest change is that customers do not want custom albums, even when included in the package, so they try and ask for a “credit” for the album towards the package? I have been trying to give those folks a credit toward reprints instead of an album. I have only booked a couple of Weddings using this so far. I also tend to advise customers that starting the day earlier and then leaving after the cake cutting and before the night gets too crazy will warrent much better images for telling the Wedding story, unless they are planning a great escape, such as a hot air balloon, horse carriage, etc.
    Thanks again,
    Clay H. Wieland

  • http://www.barneydelaney.com Barney Delaney – Landscape Photography

    Lori,
    thank you for sharing. I’m starting up in the landscape photography business and many of these principles are absolutely core to many of our respective disciplines.
    thanks again,
    Barney Delaney

  • http://www.vaughnbarry.com Barrie Wedding Photographer

    Excellent timing, the reversal of packages is quite interesting. I was just about to look into revamping my pricing. Thanks for sharing!

  • Danielle Lee Photography

    Thank you, this really helped me on deciding a few things. Very Helpful!

  • Rachel Miller

    you said all 5 are from 1,000 to 2,100 each… But i guess i am lost on what price to make each one?

  • http://virtualphotographystudio.com Virtual Photography

    Hi Rachel

    The key isn’t in how much to price them, but more importantly not to have that many packages. It just doesn’t make sense and it completely confuses your potential clients.
    Lori

  • Sharon

    Glad I came across this site. I didn’t want to shoot weddings but was recently asked to shoot one. This one is basically a freebie but I will use this as a starting point if I want to do wedding photography. I will be bookmarking this page for future reference. Thank you.

  • http://www.fotografiaesencial.com Cursos de Fotografia

    Thanks for the tip and the structure on the different packages.

  • http://www.mtmphoto.com Lekan

    I haven’t read the entire comments section so I apologize if you’ve addressed this question already. What about those of us who have our business set up solely on the internet? My site is set up on SmugMug so I can’t really avoid putting all of my pricing info on my site. I’m in the process of putting together a wedding pricing page for my site so coming across this is perfect timing! What are your thoughts for those of us who don’t have a brick and mortar studio and instead have a “digital” studio?

  • http://virtualphotographystudio.com Virtual Photography

    Hi Lekan

    I still wouldn’t build a page “pricing” and have a first click into a page that describes your packages and pricing. It puts way to much emphasis on your pricing. The key is to get them interested in you, which is where a blog would come into play as well. Content is your key to success. You want people to read for hours if they truly have the time and desire before they ever come to your pricing. I don’t mind simple things like “starting at $2500″ or something like that. That gives people a ballpark and a really good feel for the type of photographer you are. But if you make it one of your top pages that’s clickable, you’ll lose out on people that start price shopping because they don’t know what else to do. You want them to love you first, and work out how to pay for you second. Not make a decision based solely on price.
    Lori

  • http://www.donhajicek.com Don Hajicek

    So great to find your article (and your site!) Funny, the example of confusing pricing that you use is a site I came across while doing research earlier today! I got about halfway through the page and threw my hands up in the air, unable to make heads or tails of any logical structure to those prices. I imagine that some of the potential clients that go to that site have the same reaction.

    Thank you so much for your insight! I have been shooting for a long time, but just started weddings this season. I started off by selling a $400 wedding day and by my fourth wedding I was charging $2,000. Service is my priority, and I seem to be good at adding fun the day. That’s what I am told, anyway. All while creating great images. My biggest mistake was that when I started trying to sell wedding photography, I booked that $400 wedding first… for late August. :) Then by the time August rolled around, I was charging other people $2,000. That lost Saturday in late August didn’t hurt too much, because it was my first sale, and it was necessary to get the ball rolling. But as it turned out, the cheapest wedding was also the biggest pain. The people had lots of money, and the wedding was extravagant, but they treated me poorly, in the end. I didn’t want to bail on the sweet bride, so I shot an extra hour and a half… and still got no tip. When they asked me to shoot their other son’s wedding next year, I said of course, but for $2,500. That made them angry. Like… actually angry. They asked why no repeat customer discount. Ha! The lesson is, if someone wants to pay you $400 for a wedding, they are likely going to make you regret it. Don’t udersell yourself.

    Past that, my only comment is that I can’t decide about including the pricing on the site. I like your suggestion, though. “Packages starting at $2,500″ then list all of the packages.

    Thanks again! Sorry for rambling. 😉

  • http://virtualphotographystudio.com Virtual Photography

    Hi Don
    Great comment, and I’m glad you learned the lesson early on. I think every photographer I talk to has the “$400″ bride story, and they always end up being the very worst clients. Plus you’ll never get a referral from them, so you did what’s best – shoot it and move on. Glad to see your prices are higher!

    Lori

  • Tomas Haran

    This is a phenomenal article. I’m in that third year of doing weddings where I’m ready to increase my pricing. Tons of newbies in this area, probably the same near you. This has given me a lot to think about.
    I would like to go full time in the next couple of year. I will check out that other link you posted regarding a pricing calculator.

    I find we improve so much from wedding to wedding, sometimes its not even the photos, but confidence, where to stand, what to look for, timing shots etc, that we should charge more for our experience and all those things you can’t learn from just taking photos.

  • http://virtualphotographystudio.com/photographyblog Virtual Photography

    Hi Tomas – Yes, you are right. With every wedding, you’ll always learn something new, and most won’t pertain to taking images.
    Lori

  • Brandon Perez

    Thank you for the helpful advise! You have really great ideas that I would like to to implement into my business.