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News & Insight

How to Charge $4000 For An Engagement Photo Shoot

By Hanssie on January 22nd 2015

Okay, so the title is a bit misleading. Though charging $4000 for an engagement shoot is not absurd in Asian cultures, in most parts of the world, $4000 is unheard of for a simple pre-wedding photo shoot. Yet, there are lessons that can be learned. Read on…


A Little Cultural Lesson

In traditional Asian weddings, the engagement session (more accurately, a “pre-wedding photo shoot”) takes place up to a year before the wedding day. Unlike the typical western engagement photos, a couple on the beach or in a field of wildflowers, Asian pre-wedding sessions are full on 8+ hour productions (speaking from personal experience). The bride-to-be arrives early in the day for full makeup (they even shaved one of my eyebrows off and drew it back in because it was imperfect), up to 6 different hairstyles, and gets racks and racks of wedding dresses to choose from. The groom also gets powdered up and gets his choice of tuxedos. (And no, these are not the actual wedding gown and tuxes for the day of).

From there, the couple is whisked away to various locations and studio backdrops. No less than 6 outfit/wedding dresses and looks later, the exhausted couple is treated to a nice dinner. A few days later, a gigantic album is delivered to them showing the fruits of their labor to display at their wedding. Less emphasis is placed on photography the actual day of the wedding (my mother suggested we not have a photographer at all).



Yep that’s me. Two hours of hair, makeup and one perfect eyebrow later….

$4000 For Engagement Photos?!

According to a report on CCTV, Asian couples are now flying to South Korea and spending quite a bit of money on their pre-wedding engagement photos. The couple featured in the report are twenty somethings who decided to pay for the experience of a photo shoot on the set of a popular Asian TV drama. The couple reenact scenes from the romantic comedy and even partake in the “famous” chicken and beer that the TV couple enjoys. The company highlighted in the video below, HowToMarry, provides experiences for couples in numerous Asian countries.

So why are couples willing to spend “at least 4x more {for an engagement session} than it would cost them to do so in other countries?” And more importantly, how do we translate that into our own businesses?

Here are three things to learn from this video clip:

1. Know Your Niche

Clearly, HowtoMarry caters to certain clientele. They know exactly who they are targeting and they price themselves accordingly. Their target market are not the nouveaux rich. They seem to be focused on middle class couples who thrive on attention and want to show off a little. HowToMarry knows exactly how their client thinks and what their clients want and most importantly, they give it to them.

Do you know your niche? Who is your ideal bride? Or do you just try to book every engaged couple you meet? Perhaps it is time to narrow that funnel a bit and zero in on the clients you want.

2. Give Them “The Experience”

Over and over again, in the video, the words “photo shoot experience,” was said. The reporter, the bride-to-be, and the representative for the photography company talked about giving the couple an experience. HowToMarry provides a translator, location, dresses, hair, makeup, hair and TEN people to cater to the couple that day, because that is what their clients want (see #1).

It was totally worth it. I really do think it was a really good experience…the price, I don’t think it is unreasonable, but it is a bit more than regular price; on top, you get, like, extra service. Ten people serving you throughout the day.” ~Jackie Ng, Superstar Bride

So how do you give your target an experience they will never forget; one they will brag about and show off to all their friends and family for years to come? What experience can you offer that other photographers can’t/won’t?


3. Think Outside of the Box

I’m sure many photographers through the years have said, “There is NO WAY a couple would be willing to pay $4000 for a pre-wedding shoot!” Yet, one company did it and others have followed suit. Think you can’t charge $1000 for an ice cream sundae. Serendipity did. As creatives, we are always trying to think outside of the box, but in our photography businesses it seems like we try to play it safe.

How can you think outside of the box, not only in your photography, but in your business as well? What is that “thing” that you think is super cool, totally out there, but you think a couple would never go for? Perhaps you should try it.


Is it that farfetched to command $4000 for an engagement session? One company is proving that it’s completely possible. As the video says, the recession is over. The US wedding industry is a $55 billion dollar industry. Now is a great time to be a photographer.

What do you think? What can you do to your business to up the value of your services? Comment in the section below.


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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Janna Slaback

    I love this idea! Thanks for posting this to help me begin to think outside the box!

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  2. Fernandina Zee-Fritse

    I cannot stop thinking: that will never ever happen in my country, the Netherlands. There’s is a dutch saying: Just act normal, then you are already acting silly enough. And where do you think “Go Dutch” is based upon? But perhaps it more a limitation in my head, then a limitation in a nation.

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    • Graham Curran

      Having worked in the Netherlands for 20+ years I understand their more “frugal” attitude to, well, pretty much everything.

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  3. Chris Holt

    Great shot of Vivian and David!!

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  4. Duc Hong

    It’s funny that I’ve just seen this news on a local channel, they also used the same video used here.

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  5. Kyle Farris

    It’s really not that pricey considering “Less emphasis is placed on photography the actual day of the wedding (my mother suggested we not have a photographer at all)”, and all the other items that come with the package (hair, makeup, 8 hours of coverage, dinner, etc…).

    Just think about it as shifting the heavy duty work from the wedding to the engagement shoot and treat the wedding day more like the engagement shoot.

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  6. Robert Moura

    $4000,00 is not take home pay, as I understand its a package which inludes, make up, hair stylist, scenario, etc.
    I wonder whats left over for the photographer?!

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  7. Anastasia Abramova-Guendel

    I’ve noticed a tendency in Europe for the upper class clients to go for film photography which costs more and has become associated with luxury and class, so maybe switching back to film is a great way to upscale the business ;)

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  8. Murray Severn

    Nice article! Those 3 points are applicable for everyone that’s a boss.

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  9. Brandon Dewey

    Very cool. Thanks for sharing.

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  10. Hannu Siika-aho


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  11. Justin Haugen

    I need to see if my cousin in Seoul can find me an agent!

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  12. Christopher

    @hanssie! love the personalized touch of showing your own wedding photo!

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  13. Basit Zargar


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  14. Grace Davis

    What a neat concept!

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  15. Rafael Steffen

    What an amazing market for something fresh and of high value!

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    • Hanssie

      If we did it here, maybe we can set up an engagement shoot on the set of Game of Thrones. I’d pay $4k for that :)

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