WHAT ARE YOU WORTH


WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE WORTH?

Either you compete on price, or product, depends on how you sell your work:  If you do budget and sell numbers, a thousand to twelve hundred shots for just 300 dollars, that’s a lot of waste, and if you had booked 52 bookings in year, that’s a $15,000 a year job.   About half of the poverty level.  Not a good full time investment, and that why so many are weekend warriors.  Starvation is not a good business plan.’

Upping the ante, offering more, say $2300 a Wedding, that’s 120,000 dollars a year.  The converse is true, the $300 shooter says he only gave them four hours of his time, that’s all he had, and back to his day job. Only about 50% are happy with this as they must do all the post processing and grunt work.

THOUGHTS

  • I can tell you several things good pro’s in this business do.  Think like a soldier.   Machine guns and snipers.  A good photographer can handle both.  Get the volume when the situation presents itself and get in sniper mode when you get the candid’s, those shots are usually more spontaneous, people go crazy over them.
  • Even some of the nuts doing strange things. But do not put then into albums or presentation. Put them into a separate folder explaining you are not a judge, it’s the Brides choice.  This approach wins points actually showing you care about what happened there.
  • A few good shots sell more than a bucket of dead fish. Spend some time sorting sifting and rejecting images that mean little to anyone involved.  It's a people game, we don't need 45 shots of the sneakers the bride wore under the dress since she never ever wore heels.
  • Scope the battlefield before the war. The Chinese General Tsun said knowing the mind of the enemy is the key to victory, knowing the terrain and the enemy's moves is the process by which you win.  
    Get to know the couple, their emotions, passions and idiosyncrasies, and the terrain you will be operating in.
  • Find the leader.  On the introduction page, I explained what I had learned from the Carnival people.  Get to know who the stick is.  The stick is the one who wields the checkbook (the stick) and makes the real decisions.  Know who are the key players so you do not have to be arbitrating with those who really can't make the call.  This is critical if there is a meltdown at the wedding.
  • Gear checks, make sure you are at 100% and have backups. Don’t miss the money shot because one of those AA cells was dead when you swapped them.  Blanks are a poor choice in combat.   Be on time or earlier, deliver on time or earlier. You will be alone because 75% of brides and Weddings never start on time.
  • Price yourself based on the actual components: Understanding your market, competition, financial condition of your clients
  • The time and effort and accessories like special Photoshop work, table books and so forth.  The best way to charge more is do great work and develop a reputation.
  • Shop the local competition to look at their work. Pick them up at their studio for a lunch so you can get an idea of what he or she is doing.  Have a circle of associates that will honestly critique your work. It hurts sometimes but in the end, you will heal and do better work.

 

PRICING YOUR SELF IN THE MARKET
A couple wants to get married. They lay out their plans and the cost of the wedding peripherals comes up and that includes flowers, reception, the DJ, other entertainment, limos, the photography and / or videography. They start interviewing photographers, shopping around and weeks later they are confused.

Some compared the experience to buying a car and they will tell you they would rather go to the dentist than buy a car.  

We decided to put it to the test.  Asking those folks buying a car, what criteria do you feel is most important in a choice of what you buy and where you buy?  

The answers were surprising.   Where to buy was based on closeness or proximity to the dealership and product reputation.  I like the product and I want to be close to the dealership.  Pricing came in later.  There is a new game in town now:  Do it yourself car sales. No salesman, just like when you see twenty cellphones at a wedding.  Things might be changing.

In each area wedding shooter prices are like buying a car, cars go from basic transportation to high end sophisticated luxury cars.  In a comparison, pricing a wedding photographer is similar, with both low-end, low-cost DVD presenters to full boat table top books with careful editing and story-telling albums.  

Just like no two cars are alike, no two weddings can be the same.  Similar but not the same. This goes for the photographer too.  No two photographers are the same, they are separated by style, attitude, impression, structure and sheer talent and interpretation.  He should be flexible in what he offers and there is no such thing as one size fits all.

Read on, this is a stretch but not a big one for the first part of the question.


NUMBER ONE ANSWER  
Again it was, not the best price.  People wanted the fairest price for the quality of the work done.  It was not the lowest price, nor the cheapest package of accessories, the answer was the fairest deal they could negotiate.  About fourth or fifth on the list was the actual price.  Confidence, in the professional doing their wedding.

But some of the photographers we interviewed in high traffic and shopping areas seem to think it’s all about pricing and that determines what they do to make the deal.  What they should be doing is thinking what they can do to improve their deal.  It is just a wrong impression they have of their industry, very foolish thinking. 


PRIME ANSWER
For research work I did for Chrysler Corp, The prime answer was from a dealer base of 500 customers we interviewed and there was a commonality in their answers.  Fairness, things like “I didn’t want to pay more than what the others paid for it.”  And if you had equal deals what would determine who you would buy from?   Proximity or familiarity, experience and reputation.

Highly competitive businesses are like that. All the customer is looking for in the case of buying a car, the second largest investment they will make was:  how close they were to the dealer.  The proximity to the dealership was a first choice amongst many which proves people like to deal locally with community spirit.

Looking at your prospective clients, they are looking to be treated equally.  The winners in the long run in the Wedding Photography business are those who treat it professionally and run their business for the long run. The bad shooters, low-ball advertisers (the $100 Wedding for 20 minutes and gone) the ad bumpers and sellers, sure made it tougher for the real people interested in a long time career and a business they enjoy doing.

Listen, this is a business with no policing, guidelines, few requirements, rules of engagement (pun) and various levels of workmanship and interpretation.   And it really doesn’t matter what part of the world you are from. Whether you live in Australia, the US, Europe, or Sweden the problem is basically the same all over. It’s so diverse.

It is a business of full timers, part-timers, professionals and amateurs. It has members who play by the book and those who never have nor will read the book and some who burnt books.  It has those, who are good savvy wise business people who have legitimate registered businesses with taxes, licenses, and regulations adhered to. And some folks who run it from the trunk of their car and pay no sales tax though they collected it from the bridal couple. 

It has those with major investments in time, finances, facilities and training and those certainly participating with nothing more than a camera and a small knowledge of photography.   It will on occasion disappoint the best of detectives. The most lacking thing in the industry is the lack of professionalism, no organization though they have tried has addressed this since there are no legal standards or licensing. Probably there never will be since anyone can call themselves anything they want. 

 

THE RESULTS THAT BRIDES WANTED
So at the Bridal fest in Tampa we asked similar questions to potential Brides. They wanted good quality work expressing the love, warmth, solemnity, beauty, of the most important day in their life. They wanted you to tell their story.  The second concern was the three R’s reputation, respect and reliability.   The answer we received most from photographers we asked as to what was important was price. 

Close to the Chrysler Neilson survey answer’s for buying a car.  While everyone is worried about what the other guy is charging, few mention what they will do to improve their first impression on the first contact with the customer, future client, potential consumer.  

Good business practice tells you your ads are for getting the interest or herding the business your way where an accurate assessment of what needs to be done ...can be done in the proper atmosphere. May I suggest a studio, office, showroom, place of business.