Top 5 Most Common Pricing Mistakes for Wedding Photographers

Top 5 Most Common Pricing Mistakes for Wedding Photographers - Mastin Labs

Guest post by Mastin Labs Community member, Jeremy Chou.

Pricing. The mere mentioning of the word could send some photographers shivering in the corner. It’s definitely one of the most important factors in running a successful AND sustainable business. Price yourself too high before you are ready, you risk losing all of your clients & referral base. Price yourself too low, you risk booking too many clients & burning out before you even have a chance to grow. In my years of speaking with other photographers, pricing continues to dominate the conversation when it comes to the business side of things. While there’s no right or wrong pricing point to set for your services, there are definitely obstacles one has to overcome in order to have a sustainable business.

When a photographer starts his/her business, the very first decision you have to make is ‘how much should I charge’. While seemingly simple, it’s a fairly complex decision-making process. There are quite a few schools of thoughts on the proper way to price photography services, however, the basic concepts are essentially the same: figure out how much it takes to run the business (insurance, equipment costs, marketing costs, etc.) and then how much you want to make as profit. Divide that sum up with how many sessions you want to shoot. That will give a rough average on how much each session should be priced.

It might seem common sense, but the fact is many photographers who are starting out will not be able to command a price point high enough to maintain a profitable business. However, even if you are a photographer who isn’t able to quite yet command a higher price point, I truly believe we all should understand the following 5 common mistakes when it comes to pricing.

Top 5 most common pricing mistakes for photographers

1. Not knowing your business model.

2. Your work simply won’t allow you to command a higher price point due to lack of consistency.

3. Being in the pricing ‘dead zone’.

4. Overly complicated price guide.

5. No incentive for clients to book a higher package.

By Jeremy Chou Photography

1. Not knowing your business model.

Think Apple & Walmart. Apple focuses on a specific niche of the market sector with high-end pricing. And they are extremely successful. Meanwhile, Walmart is probably on the complete opposite of the spectrum when it comes to pricing & client base. Walmart focuses on everyday pricing and makes it up in great volume. They are also extremely successful. The same applies to photographers. What is your business model? Is it a volume based studio where you want to shoot 40+ weddings a year at a lower price point, or do you want a boutique studio that shoots 20 weddings, but at a higher price point that focuses on a niche market?

Here’s the simple math breakdown;

  • 20 weddings x $10,000 per wedding = $200,000 revenue per year.
  • 40 weddings x $5,000 per wedding = $200,000 revenue per year.

As you can see both models will yield the same amount of revenue per year, but with completely different price points. Before you set your pricing, know what type of business you want to run.

“Pricing is one of the most important factors in running a successful & sustainable business.” - Jeremy Chou

2. Your Work Simply Won’t Allow You To Command A Higher Price Point Due To Lack Of Consistency.

I admit this is harsh. Basically, I am saying if your work is not good enough, don’t expect people to pay a lot of money for it. The truth is, photography isn’t a ‘product’ that has an inherent value assigned to it. The value of what we can provide clients with has to do with branding, experience, consistency, and a host of other reasons. But often times it’s intangible. Then that begs the question, what is considered “good” when it comes to art? Since it’s so subjective, what’s “good” to one person might just be the worst photograph they’ve ever seen to others.

From my 8 years in the business, and over 300 couples, I can tell you this. The vast majority of my clients consider consistency in my work a “good”. thing. Meaning, when my clients book me 8 months to a year in advance of their wedding date, they have to be able to trust that I will deliver the same customer service, the same type of imagery, and provide them with the same attentiveness to their needs. This amount of trust is not blindly earned. I’ve earned my future clients’ trust by demonstrating that my work has been consistent throughout the years, and also a long record of happy couples. If your work isn’t consistent enough, you are instilling doubts in your clients’ minds. Consistency builds trust, and clients are more likely to book if they can 100% trust your brand.


Photos by Jeremy Chou Photography

3. Being in the pricing ‘dead zone’.

The pricing dead zone. Or, “photographer purgatory”. This is where all the good photographers and their businesses go die a slow and painful death (figuratively speaking). Imagine this, you are on the hunt for dinner, and you’ve decided on fast food. There’s a ton of fast food restaurants, all serving the same meals for roughly the same price. So how do you make your decision? It will most likely be based on one of these three factors; convenience, experience, and price.

For convenience, you might turn into the first driveway that you come across. Or you might go into one that has the shortest line. For price, you might base your decision on whichever restaurant that is currently having the best toys with their kids meals, or the one with $.99 drink special. Lastly, you might decide to go into a specific fast-food restaurant simply because it has been around the longest, and you haven’t heard any of your friends getting sick from eating there.

None of these choices will be about the quality of the product you are purchasing. Well, photography works the same way. If you’ve priced yourself amongst the average cost in your local market, you will win clients over by convenience (if you are available), pricing (if you are willing to cut your price), or years in business (all things being equal, you will get the job if you’ve been the business the longest). This is not a great place to compete. I would much rather compete on the quality of my work, and whether or not I can provide a better experience & product for my clients. Also, keep in mind, the longer a photographer stays in this pricing dead zone, the harder it is to get out. The referral base will likely be all from the same price range, and eventually, if a photographer doesn’t figure out a way to differentiate his/her brand, potential clients will eventually go to somebody who can do it for cheaper.

Photos by Jeremy Chou Photography

4. Overly Complicated Price Guide.

I am a firm believer in “less is more”. The less choice you can give your clients, the easier it will help them make a decision. A lot of times clients get overwhelmed with too many choices, and it actually paralyzed their ability to make a decision. We’ve all been to that restaurant that has 200 items on the menu, with every side item you can think of. While some may appreciate the choices, I’ve found most of my clients prefer the simplicity of my price guide.

I have an easy to understand four package system that includes some of my most popular services & products. I carry only one size of wedding album and a handful of color selections. I offer most common sizes for prints & canvases, etc.. I believe when my clients hire me, they are also hiring me for my ability to make the best decision for them since I am the expert in the field of wedding photography.

Photos by Jeremy Chou Photography

5. No Incentive For Clients to Book Higher Packages.

Many photographers build their packages by simply adding more and more items, but without taking into consideration how to give clients incentives for booking the higher packages. We are all consumers. We make decisions on what to purchase every single day. There are a plethora of reasons on why we would purchase one item over another item when we are given the choices. As consumers in a capitalist market, we all want the most return on our investment. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that concept at all. However, to entice potential clients to book higher packages require us to utilize some psychological triggers that we already know.

One of the prime examples of this is the analogy at the movie theater. As soon as we walk into the movie theater, we are faced with the concession stands. Small popcorn for $6, medium for $7, and large for $8. However, the large popcorn comes with free refills. Most consumers when they are faced with three choices, they will more than likely pick the middle choice. Because it’s the obvious ‘right’ choice. So you say to the cashier, you would like a medium popcorn. The cashier will then say “well, for $1 more, you can get the large popcorn and with free refills.” Notice the cashier didn’t say “For $8, you can get the large popcorn and with free refills.” Because by saying “for $1 more”, he’s trying to upsell you on the difference of ONLY $1, and not an $8 bag of popcorn. In addition to ONLY $1 more, you will also get a free refill. Now all of a sudden the $8 bag of popcorn seems like a much much better deal than the $7 medium popcorn.

This powerful psychological trigger can also be used in the way wedding packages are structured. Give your clients the large popcorn that they cannot refuse. Incorporate some of the most sought-after items in your top package, and include an incentive. For example, you can structure it to say “if you book the top package, you will also receive an additional hour of coverage at no additional charge.” Perhaps include more spreads on the album, a large canvas, etc.. Anything to incentivize the clients to go for the higher package.

Photos by Jeremy Chou Photography

Simply put, pricing can make or break a photographer’s business. Many times we will have to field test different strategies in order to find out what works the best for our intended market. I hope these five most common mistakes most photographers make will help others on the right path!