Knowing Your Value

So you’ve decided to take your photography to the next level and now you face one of your toughest challenges yet – what to charge. (For this blog I’m going to stick with the example of weddings)  Maybe you’ve been second shooting for sometime, or maybe you’ve only shot a handful of friend/family weddings and you’re ready for your business to step it up. What is a fair price? Obviously this price is going to be different for everyone primarily because of your location. If you live in small town, USA like we do, and a city of even 50,000 is over 1.5 hours away your pricing may look a little different at first than someone who is starting out in the Chicago metro area. Cost of living is different, median incomes are different, lots of factors come into play here.

I’m just going to dive right into it (as I can be one to type more than needed). I often scan around on facebook a lot of photographers to see what they are up to, what they charge, and take a look at their work. I enjoy doing this as taking a break to look at others work is often times inspiring. I came across a facebook page that this photographer charge just $125 to shoot a wedding. Now, I know we all start somewhere and I will never forget where I started, but I think a person needs to be reasonable here. I also know that all couples are different and some may value other things above the other. The reality is – after the wedding is all said and done, after the last plate has been cleaned off, the last flower has withered, the dress has been packed away, etc. The pictures and video are what remains throughout the rest of your lives together. So whether you spend 1000 or 10,000 on your photographer – the pictures are still very important.

It’s almost saddening to see someone advertised as $125 for a wedding because here’s the breakdown of what that $125 would pay for

Engagement session – 2 hours of shooting and around 4-8 hours of editing?
Communications prior to engagement session and wedding – total of 2-4 hours (if you met with the couple)?
Wedding day – 8-12 hours
Editing the Wedding – 30 hours (give or take depending on your ability)?
Communications after wedding, print order and Album Design – 9 hours

That’s a max total (in this example) of around 65 hours. That’s overtime for a lot of jobs. So you just worked around 65 total hours (probably in the span of 2 months or more) for only $125. If you worked for McDonalds at minimum wage for 65 hours, you’d make close to $600. Sure, photography is fun, shooting weddings are great – but are your really putting the value of your work at $1.90 per hour? Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t know anyone who would go to a job interview and accept a job where you are paid $1.90 an hour. The reality is, as a wedding photographer, our job is more than just laughing and having fun with a couple. Shooting a wedding you have only ONE chance to capture a moment, you have memory cards that could possibly fail, a computer that could fail, cameras that could fail… there’s a lot that could go wrong and I’m pretty sure the stress of working McDonalds during the lunch rush is much less stressful than even 1 hour of shooting a wedding. For me personally, I strive on tense situations. Thankfully, stress is not an issue with me, but these moments of one chance to capture a moment are what drive me.

Let’s break it down another way; a couple just went out and bought their invitations and they ship them out with postage there and a self addressed envelope with the rsvp  card with a stamp to ship back. This would easily total in the $500+ range. So as a wedding photographer who is going to spend 65 hours of work, with only one opportunity to capture a moment and all the other issues that could go wrong, is the value of the one thing that will remain after the wedding day (the pictures) really worth less – in this case much less – than the postage alone to ship the invitations? I’m pretty sure the answer should be no.

In closing, I remember when I started into the business, I’m sure you’re nervous, I’m sure your confidence isn’t too high (here’s a secret it probably never will as long as  you are in this business 🙂 we are our biggest critic) and both of these often have an effect on where we start our businesses off on pricing. Now I could get into all the other technical mumbo jumbo with the cost of running a business, but I’m pretty sure I’ve touched on that enough. This blog is about the value of yourself as a photographer. You are worth it – you’re definitely worth more than the stamps for invitations – so don’t be afraid to charge a price that you would be happy with. To expand on this, an absolutely amazing photographer, David Jay, started a site just for photographers whether you are starting out or have been in the business a while. I have found it very informative and I constantly go back to it for inspiration – The System <—- go to it. 🙂 And to wrap things up, here’s a picture from our last wedding just for fun.