DC wedding photographer | Amber Wilkie Photography » Photography for awesome people.

Pricing and respect

[Note: I’m not trying to insult the majority of photographers out there with a different pricing structure than mine.  We all figure out the best way to serve our clients.  This is a personal opinion and you can take it or leave it.]

I was reading a book by Seth Godin (something I do frequently and highly encourage others to do as well) and came across this passage about not disrespecting your clients with your marketing.  It really struck a cord with me, as I thought this is why I set up my pricing like I do.  Seth was talking much more generally about marketing, and probably about big companies, but his article was nonetheless insightful to a small business owner:

I believe that it’s all about to come crashing down on slash-and-burn marketers. Consumers (especially the business-to-business buyers) are getting ever smarter, cagier, and more sophisticated. They won’t sit quietly as marketers steal their time and attention and money. Ask yourself a simple question: If all of our customers were well-informed, would we do better — or worse? For many companies, the answer is grim. McDonald’s was stung when it was caught slipping beef flavoring into its supposedly all-vegetable french fries. And Kmart went bankrupt for committing contempt of consumer — telling its shoppers, “Hey, it’s cheap. What do you expect?”

As I was reading this, I realized that not only is my pricing “structure” easy on my clients, but it also trusts them to be able to make their own judgements and makes the process of buying (yes, buying, not “investing in”) my services as transparent as possible.

I have a price.  One price for coverage.  For all-day coverage, with two photographers, because I honestly believe there should be two photographers at most weddings – both to capture everything and also as an important backup in case I trip and break my leg or crash my car at the wedding.  This includes full-resolution digital files.  All day because I don’t want you to have to pick and choose what to have captured from your wedding.  At the same time, if I’m going to ditch my husband on a Saturday, it doesn’t make much difference if I’m gone for 6 or 8 or 10 hours.  Sure, I’ll be more or less tired, but it really works out to about the same.

That is, I don’t have packages.  When I was first getting all my pricing together, I started to put together packages.  6 hours and digital files here, 8 hours and a small album here, 10 hours and a big album with parents’ albums here!  None of this makes any sense to me.  What if you have a 6-hour wedding and want an album?  What if you don’t care about an album but want 10 hours of coverage.  I honestly don’t know where the wedding photography industry gets all this stuff from.  Everyone else has packages, so you figure you should also.  Everyone else calls it an “investment” so you should too.  Everyone else likes to put their lowest package on the site and say that’s where things “start”, so write me to find out what you’ll actually pay.

So I threw all of that out.  And here now reading this article, I realize this is about respect.

My clients are grown adults.  They can make their own decisions about what products they want from their wedding day.  I respect that they know what their budget is and will choose whatever tangible items they want from my extremely short list of things to buy.  Offering one price, with whatever add-ons they like, makes me feel like I am not talking down to my clients, like I am not trying to talk them into anything they don’t want.

In the meantime, I haven’t created any “anchoring effects.”  That is, if I give you a package at $2,000 and one at $3,000 and one at $4,500, most people will be drawn to the $3,000 package as a comparative “savings” from the big package.  This is silly and (take it easy, photogs) seems sort of deceptive or underhanded.  I in no way want to trick my clients into buying something they don’t want.  My clients really seem to appreciate this approach and I’m always pleased when someone tells me it was easy to understand my pricing, referencing other photographers they researched with confusing package “options.”  It makes me feel good to make it easy on them.  Maybe I’m leaving money on the table but that wouldn’t bother me as much as feeling I was tripping up my clients.

And I’ll wrap up by saying that it isn’t necessarily disrespectful to present packages.  I’m sure many photographers would say they are helping their clients choose items they want, or are offering discounts with the bundled products.  Others have time limits on their day or charge hourly rates – great!  We all have to figure out what works for us and our clientele.  I know one photographer who never works more than 8 hours at a wedding.  He is respecting his family.  Others don’t offer coverage without an album purchase, because they truly believe an album is necessary to enjoy the photographs from the wedding day.  But for me and mine, 100% in-the-open, no-comparisons-to-make pricing is how I show my clients I respect their values, priorities and budgets.

facebook comments:

SarahApril 25, 2012 - 12:55 pm

Amen sister 🙂

Faraz ShahApril 25, 2012 - 3:01 pm

It is so refreshing to read such honestly in this profession, I have a lot of respect for you for writing this post and for doing business the way that you are doing.

Katie WannenApril 25, 2012 - 5:08 pm

Awesome post! Though I’m not a photog, I’m launching my small (event) business this summer and completely agree with you about respecting the clients/customers. I love your pricing philosophy, really great. Thanks for this! Which Seth Godin book(s) do you recommend, by the way?

The Elegant DJApril 26, 2012 - 3:30 am

Very refreshing. I struggle with this concept as well. After all, the equipment is bought. And it’s out talent that the client is really purchasing.

Erin LassahnApril 26, 2012 - 2:57 pm

I whole heartedly agree! I switched from packages to one ‘Creative Fee’ almost a year ago and I find not only is it easier on the client but its easier on me! Now I don’t have to remember what comes with what and so on. There’s a creative fee for me & a second (because I two firmly believe there should be two shooters) the dvd and an engagement session (because I also feel strongly about clients doing engagement sessions)

Everything else, albums, prints, canvases, extra sessions, rehearsal dinner coverage, etc is extra and at the discretion of the client wether they want to buy.

I also got rid of the ‘Investment’ word ages ago too, because not only is it not really an investment (wedding photos don’t appreciate in value) but it just sounds douchy! 🙂

Nice post!

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