How Photographers Should Answer the Question “Can I Get A Discount If…?”
Over the 15 years that I have worked as a wedding photographer, I’ve been asked some pretty interesting questions by potential clients when it comes to the negotiations about PRICE.
Today, I want to talk about just three of the more common questions that begin with “can we get a discount if…?”
I would, of course, love to hear your own comments on this topic; if you have any stories and/or tips of your own to share, please do!
DISCLAIMER: I do not condone the “shaming” of any clients under any circumstance, and I am strongly opposed to the “outing” of a specific person, for both moral and legal reasons. Or, just call it Karma?
Most clients ask these types of questions out of genuine curiosity or maybe naiveté, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Some clients just love to negotiate, even aggressively sometimes, and I get that too. Some people just enjoy the thrill of bargaining.
I never see it as an insult to my own value as an artist or a service provider, either. Asking for a discount is just something that some folks feel compelled to do.
Alright, without any further ado, here are my top three “Can we get a discount if…?” questions. Please feel free to chime in below in the comments with your own stories, and tips on how you deal with the questions!
Wedding Pricing Question #1: removing package items
“Can we get a discount if you remove [the engagement session, the album, print credit, etc.] from this package?”
My go-to response to this question is usually something along the lines of:
“Unfortunately that’s not an offer I can make, simply because the price of the package already represents a considerable savings.”
It’s that simple! No need to elaborate further, unless the client persists. If you’ve correctly priced both your packages, and the a-la-carte items that go into them, then any single item someone might ask to remove is probably almost “free” already.
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As a vague example, you can’t remove a $500 print/album credit, if the package already represents $500 in savings compared to the a-la-carte pricing of your hourly coverage rate! You’d actually be giving the client a $1000 discount.
Alternately, if they’re asking to remove a rather large item from the package, then you should simply suggest they consider the next package down.
(NOTE: If removing a large package item reveals that a client is in fact NOT getting a discount compared to a lower package, then you are not pricing your services and products correctly! To learn how to price your services and products correctly, check out or Photography Business Pricing Workshop in the SLR Lounge store, or consider a Premium Membership.)
If potential clients are asking this question about your most affordable package, you may want to respond with “this is simply the minimum amount that I can afford to do business at.” Usually, when you put it this way, a client will have to respect your firmness, even if they decide they can’t afford your price.
At a certain point, however, you may get a sense of whether or not this is the type of client you want to do business with at all. In other words, plenty of great clients may ask this question out of sheer curiosity, and that’s fine! But, if you sense that the negotiation is deteriorating from “curiosity” to “low-ball” …then I’d recommend simply drawing the line somewhere, and suggesting that they think it over for a day or two. As the saying goes, you can’t win ’em all.
Wedding Pricing Question #2: The Value of a Saturday
This next question sometimes comes as a result of my response to another question about why I charge a retainer/booking fee. (My message being, that Saturdays are extremely valuable to a wedding photographer, since almost everybody gets married on a saturday, and there are only so many Saturdays each year!) But, I digress. Here is what some clients ask…
“If your Saturdays are so “in-demand”, can we get a discount if we get married on a Sunday, a Friday, …or even a Monday etc?”
This may seem like an odd question to anyone who is new to wedding photography, but trust me, it will pop up at least a few times in your career! In fact, some venues may indeed offer non-Saturday discounts. This is why you sometimes have couples getting married on a Wednesday!
Or, it may be an auspicious date, such as 7/7/7. Wow, that was one heck of a busy date for inquiries! If you were a wedding photographer in 2007, then you’ll probably remember that date. (I guess the number seven is everybody’s lucky number!)
Anyways, here is the quick, easy response:
“With photography, the luxury of knowing your date is almost completely safe from being “taken” is the main benefit of paying a booking fee in advance. The price is the same because I’m always going to put the same amount of energy, passion, and hard work into each and every client who books me, no matter when their wedding is.”
The client may respond to this by insisting that if they have their wedding on a Wednesday, that means you’re still free to book Saturdays before and after that. Plus, nobody else is likely to book the same date, (unless it is an auspicious number!) …so, why should they bother to reserve you?
Again, mention the amount of hard work that you’re going to put into each event, and the fact that you simply can’t promise your availability any day of the week, even a weekday. Heck, weekdays are a prime time for us wedding photographers to take a quick 3-4 day vacation, too!
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Also, if anything, it’s actually more difficult to fit an additional wedding into your week, because it increases the workload if you have a rigid 1-2 week turn-around time for photos, and you do all your own post-production.
Personally? After 15 years as a wedding photographer, I’m almost inclined to charge MORE for a wedding on a Sunday, if I already have a big one booked for the preceding Saturday! Working a 12-14+ hour day can be a huge physical drain, and “bringing your A-game” two days in a row is an even greater challenge. To be quite honest, I don’t know about you but I really like to sleep in on Sunday morning after getting home at 2/3 AM from an all-day gig!
Of course, this one is also up to you. If you’re physically fit and have tons of energy, and/or if you out-source your post-production, or have the help of a studio manager/post-producer, then maybe your Monday-Friday 9-5 schedule isn’t a problem, so it’s no big deal to offer a slight discount for a weekday wedding. Your call!
Wedding Pricing Question #3: Up-Front / Cash Discount
“Can we get a discount if we pay in cash? Can we get a discount if we pay in full right now?”
This one is even more up to YOU, fellow professionals! To me, however, the word “cash” does NOT mean “tax-free”. I run a legitimate business, and I’d like to be able to sleep at night if I ever find myself bumped into a higher tax bracket and getting audited. ;-)
However, cash is still awesome! It can go into my bank account right then and there without waiting for a check to clear, without paying a credit card processing fee, etc.
So, if you’re in a good mood, or if you’re in a tight spot and cash-in-hand would be really great, there’s no reason to feel like you’re being “shady”, or selling yourself too cheaply, for allowing a (small) negotiation on price. Personally, I wouldn’t offer more than a single percent or two, and no more than a few percent depending on the total package price.
However, if you are so desperate for cash flow that you’re considering doing a 5-10% discount, then you might really be in a tight spot. This might be OK once or twice in your whole career, however if it’s a common occurrence then you have a real problem, period. You should strongly consider setting up a clear business plan, and maybe even hiring someone else to do your sales, and/or manage your finances.
To learn how our studio, Lin & Jirsa photography, went from being a small 3-man business to one of the largest wedding studios in the country, check out or Business Courses in the SLR Lounge store, or consider a Premium Membership.)
Having said that, clients are often more likely to spend even more if they use a credit card, so by offering a cash discount you might be leaving a LOT MORE money on the table than you think you are!
Wedding Photography Pricing Q&A | Conclusion
If you’re just starting to get into wedding or another market of professional photography, and you have any other pricing questions, we’d love to hear them!
The absolute best way to improve your business’ chance of success is to widen your knowledge base and keep an eye on things like your profit margins, overhead costs, etc. So, the next time a potential client asks “can I get a discount if…?” …consider your real-world, per-job CODB (Cost of Doing Business) before you worry about pleasing a bargain shopper.
Of course, this article is just a tiny collection of experiences that I’ve had as a full-time wedding photographer, and thought other aspiring wedding photographers might enjoy reading about. Setting your complete pricing, and interacting with each client during the booking/negotiation process, is an advanced skill that requires extensive training to master!
To become a master at running a photography business, check out the Business of Photography Workshop from SLR Lounge, or consider an SLR Lounge Premium membership!