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Essentials For Booking Weddings For Photographers

The other day, I got a surprise phone call for a wedding photography shoot in January. She was referred by a bride's mother from a wedding that I shot last year. Since I wasn't expecting any new business until Spring, I found myself a little rusty and unprepared on the business and sales side.

So I thought I would post a few tips for all you wedding photographers, to make sure you guys attract and KEEP your business rolling throughout the year, not just Spring and Summer.

Before meeting your potential client, be sure to have an answer for these questions (because I've been asked them hundreds of times):

How much do you charge?

This one may be tricky to determine, but it usually depends on your experience, the quality of your portfolio and if you came highly recommended. My advice start free... yes free, for your first wedding.
  1. Charge only for the price to develop or print out your photos and the price of the proof book. Put the best of the best from that shoot into your portfolio.
  2. Then, the next wedding start low-balling. I'm talking about ridiculous prices ($100 -$200). And explain to your client that you are "just starting out" and to give you a chance and you'll give them their money's worth and much more. Then give the client a full workup package (unlimited hours, six 8x10s, two 11x14s, etc...). Basically you won't make any money off of this shoot either... BUT now you have a GREAT looking portfolio and your client will be proclaiming your generosity to the world!
  3. Make sure you have pimped your name out to your first clients with extra business cards and freebies, asking them that, in exchange for your low price, would they mind giving a testimonial that you could quote and use in your marketing and to please pass my name around to anyone they know that has a wedding coming up.
  4. After 2 or 3 weddings like that, you'll have an AWESOME portfolio that will sell itself and you can slowly start charging "regular price" and putting together packages to maximize sales.
Why are you so expensive?
There should be several reasons that you can explain to your client the big WHY in wedding photography:
  • Intangible Artistry. Photography is a skill and an art. A professional doesn’t simply memorize what all the camera buttons do; you are able to capture the beauty and emotion of your client's day in a unique way. Good photos are more than just technically correct, they are the culmination of the skills you have learned and your creative "eye".

  • Like professionals in any other field, wedding photographers have worked out their pricing system for a reason, and it's not just to part your client from their money! Professional photographs are a wonderful way to capture memories. They are not essential, but they are priceless. A good photographer will provide the client with photos that are worthy of becoming part of their family's history.

  • Equipment. High quality camera bodies can cost $5,000. Lenses can cost $1,000 each. And at 2,000 to 3,000 frames per wedding, even a good camera will need to be replaced every couple of years not to mention flashes, light meters, tripods, camera bags, etc...
  • Hidden Work. Every meeting with potential clients is an investment of his time, whether you get the job or not. You will spend time with them before the wedding to go over your plan for the day, the shot list, and the design of any albums you may wish to purchase.

  • Once the wedding is shot, you will spend hours editing, retouching, and color-correcting hundreds of images and then creating an album and/or online gallery of the final wedding photos.

What do I (the client) get if I go with you?
This is up to you and how much you are charging. But make sure your client knows the answer to this up front.

How long will/can you work?
Make sure there is an hour limit or hourly rate in your contract (charging for overtime after a certain amount of time), or you'll be at the reception till the cow's come home... literally.

Do I get the (digital) negatives to make copies for myself?
According to federal law, images produced by a professional photographer are copyrighted the moment they are created. Federal law prohibits copying or reproducing copyrighted material without permission from the owner of the copyright, i.e., the photographer. If a client copies or scans your photos, the photographer should be paid just as if they were buying reprints. If you or your videographer transfer the proofs to videotape, the photographer should be paid just as if you were buying reprints.

BUT, photographers are free to negotiate and sell their negative rights away to the client for free or for a fee. I suggest negotiating a minimum fee for the rights that would be the same price as a client would spend purchasing reproductions or enlargements from you. That way you both come out ahead and the photographer doesn't lose enlargement sales.

What kind of packages do you have?
Be creative with this, but there are some standards. Have "Small, Medium and Premium" type packages and make the Premium package be a better deal for the client (give a slight discount for the individual items). Then they are more likely to buy the Premium.

Next time:
How to encourage your clients to close on the wedding booking/sale...

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