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Insights & Thoughts

Wedding Photographers: It’s Time To Start Charging What You’re Worth

By Chris Nachtwey on January 21st 2015

I’ve said this before, but pricing for wedding photographers is often shrouded in secrecy. For many of us, it can be hard to put a price on our own work. I wrote an article last year about not overcharging if you’re just getting started with wedding photography. If this is your first year or two of being a wedding photographer, I suggest you give it a read. I make some good arguments to why it might be smart to charge less when you’re new and how it might help you vs. hurt you. For the more seasoned wedding photographers, this article is for you; if you aren’t doing so already, it’s time you start charging what you’re really worth.

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Realizing My Value

At the end of every year, I take a cold hard look at my businesses financial numbers from that entire year. For me, last year was not only my first year as a full-time photographer, but also my most successful year financially after almost four years in business. It’s at this time of year that I look at what I’m charging and tend to make changes based on where I need/want to be for the following year. Each year, I made minor increases to my rates, a few hundred dollars or less, but nothing drastic. Going into this year, it was time for a major change.

I decided to make a major increase in my rates because I finally saw my own value. I stopped worrying about what the competition was charging and started charging what I feel I’m worth. I realized that my work is good and getting better every day. Last year was the first year I started to feel really good about the work I was producing. I realized that I’m more of a wedding expert than I was before. I find myself helping my couples plan more of their day than just the photography, and a lot of the wedding photographers I know do the same.

Finally, I realized I’m very vested in my clients and try to go the extra mile to provide not only wedding images they love, but more importantly, creating a wonderful client experience from start to finish in terms of phone calls, planning meetings, and countless emails to help wherever I can.

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After realizing all of the value I bring to the table for a client, and looking at where I needed to be financially at the end of this year, I increased my prices significantly. I’m not going to lie, I was nervous about going up in price, but for the first time in four years, I feel really good about my prices and where my business is headed. Truth be told, I’m receiving more inquires and bookings this year than ever before.

[REWIND: WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS: ARE YOU READY FOR BOOKING SEASON?]

Realizing Your Value

Photographers are often dissatisfied with their work, if not all the time. People compliment our work and clients are hiring us, yet we still see where we could have improved on an image or an entire job for that matter. I can never figure out why we are so darn hard on ourselves; maybe it’s just in our DNA as a creative. All too often, I feel that we let our self-doubt about our images cloud our judgment in terms of pricing ourselves accordingly based on our overall value. The reality is that in wedding photography, the combination of the overall experience we provide a client along with the quality of our work, should help to dictate the rates we charge.

Let’s be real, most wedding clients know very little about weddings, and even less about wedding photography. If you have been in the game for a while, you have the opportunity to help your clients not only understand the process of planning a wedding, but also helping them with other facets of their wedding. This is one area that I pride myself in when it comes to the value I bring to the table for my clients. I make myself available to my clients to talk about anything wedding related and they love it. I’m there for them, no matter what, plain and simple. You are probably the same if you’re a successful wedding photographer.

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I’m constantly helping my clients nail down the final details of their wedding day during our final in person dinner a few weeks before their wedding. Many of my clients know they can trust my judgment when it comes to making the day move smoothly and as an added bonus, I’m better prepared once their wedding day comes.

Not only do we help our couples nail down wedding plans, we also know how to pose, direct, communicate, and make our clients feel great on their wedding day. Sometimes we have to help bustle the bride’s dress, help the groom tie his tie, and a slew of other things that pop up throughout the day. I could go on and on about all the little things that don’t have anything to do with photography which help me create a great experience for my clients. The proof is in the pudding. Many times when someone refers us to a new couple, they say they love our work, but more so they loved the way we treated them and their families during the planning process and wedding day. This is all value, and so many times I see us not adjusting our prices to reflect this! Why should you not be charging more? You probably can’t give me a good answer, because once I took a step back and looked at the whole picture, I couldn’t answer the question for myself.

[RELATED: 3 PRICING STRATEGIES THAT SELL]

Conclusion

It’s impossible for me to give you hard prices to charge for your photography. My hopes are that you know what to charge to live life, run your business, and be profitable, and those numbers differ immensely from photographer to photographer, market to market. Once you do know those numbers, increasing your prices based on your value is up to you.

You might choose not to increase your prices, or you might add a hundred dollars or a few thousand dollars to your rates. It all depends on what you’re comfortable with. I’m not talking about inflating your prices for no reason at all. You need to be able to sell your value to potential clients. I challenge you to sit back, reflect, and consider raising your rates, because even though you might not believe it, you’re probably worth it.

Chris Nachtwey is a full-time wedding and portrait photographer based in Connecticut. He is the founder and creator of 35to220 a website dedicated to showcasing the best film photography in the world. Chris loves to hear from readers, feel free to drop him a line via the contact page on his website! You can see his work here: Chris Nachtwey Photography

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Graham Curran

    Ouch, the groom’s nose in that second photo looks like he’s just had a contretemps with Mike Tyson.

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  2. Mason Envisons

    Great article. I too believe self-doubt and us being hard on ourselves as creative play a role in our pricing. We all need to break free of those doubts and charge what we know we’re worth.

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  3. John Decker

    If you are any good at what you do you should think about this:

    If you can afford your own photography then you are not charging enough.

    Think about that for a while next time someone asks you what you charge for shooting something.

    If you want to be taken seriously it helps to price your work accordingly.

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  4. David Hall

    Enjoyed the article.

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  5. Joshua Grasso

    I’ve raised my prices ahead of when my demand was ready for it. It’s definitely harder to get leads to follow up, But it’s forced me to improve my business and marketing to get more leads and I’m starting to book again. I’m actually ahead of where I was a year ago. Raising my prices early it’s actually making me better at business because I have to be better. I’m sure it will pay off down the road.

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  6. Richard Bremer

    Great article, Chris! I recognise the part about self-critisism. These days I just ask my wife what she thinks. We agreed she’d always give honest feedback, instead of ooo’s and aaa’s. She now really helps me see when enough is enough. This really works for me. This doesn’t mean I do not look into ways of improving my craft, but it helps me see when I have done a good job for my client.

    Also, good advise to look at your own market. For us, we are charging about average in our market. We are still building our business and customer base. And this is hard enough for us. Our business goal last year was based on making x euro’s. This year, our goal is photographing 10 weddings. Next year, we are aiming for at least 20. Do you have any insights in this type of goal setting?

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  7. Raoni Franco

    Men, I would just looove to be a writer in a website where I could promote my images and my work in e-v-e-r-y s-i-n-g-l-e article that I wrote, taking advantage of the world-wide reach of the said website, and be called “Awesome!!” for that. That would be nice.

    ps: I know I wrote in a childish tone, but could you guys take it a bit serioulsy?

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    • Jim Johnson

      That is the whole reason for doing it!

      I’m sure SLR lounge pays their authors something, but I probably not that much. The forum to promote yourself, share your knowledge, and get feedback (even whiny feedback) is what blog posts are all about.

      Besides, you don’t have to get permission to post photos in your article if they are your photos.

      Just something to think about.

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    • Hanssie

      Jim is actually very accurate.

      1. We don’t get paid very much – starving artists extends to writers as well, and until one of us writes the next Harry Potter series…

      2. None of us writers have really gotten any work from writing here (or anywhere), besides more writing opportunities. Photography clients don’t give a crap that I write for an online magazine. In fact, most of us write because we need the outlet for all these thoughts in our heads and we have a heart for helping people. It’s certainly not for fame and fortune haha

      3. We do need to get permission for many of the photos we post, with exceptions for a long, specific list that our lawyers gave us. Many times, f we are under deadline, then posting our own photos is easiest. But when we write articles from our own experiences it just makes sense to use our own work.

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    • Raoni Franco

      Those are interesting aswers people. Don´t you think? At least much more interesting than “Nice one!” or “Good job!”, as we see so much around comment sections. I still think that you guys could make a little extra effort to ilustrate your articles with someone elses work. After all, don´t you have a heart for helping people?

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    • J. Cassario

      Roani, the funniest thing about your comment, is the lack of knowing what we put into these articles and what we put into keeping this writing job with a website with “world-wide reach”. And I laugh at the ignorance because I have had several readers reach out to me and ask if I could help them get a job here writing, and I have helped 4 photographers get in the door. Where are they now?? They didnt realize the amount of work it takes, the time it takes, and the lack or return we get. So what happens? They bail. So trust me, when I put time into writing my articles, time taken away from my business and my kid, pressure to meet deadlines…you better believe Im going to use my own images.

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    • Raoni Franco

      Always good make people laugh J. Yeah…..the amount of time that goes into it, the deadlines…….I bet it´s hard for you…..two articles a month, that´s a LOT. come on….

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    • Jim Johnson

      You can either produce work— blog posts, photos, art, etc.— or you can complain about other people doing it. I have never seen anyone actually do both.

      Given the choice, my respect goes to the ones who actually do something. Making things is hard. Complaining is easy.

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  8. Ben Perrin

    You are awesome Chris! I always love your articles.

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  9. MARTIN MIANO

    awesome article

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  10. betty fleming

    When you mention “shrouded in secrecy” I can’t help but find it a tad hypocritcal. You see, at no point did you back the article up by sharing your actual pricing, which makes it kind of hard to follow. Shame.

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    • Chris Nachtwey

      Hi Betty,

      Since you would like to know, here you go :) I went from charging around $1,000-$1,500 when I started out a few years ago and I’m now around $3,000 to $5,000. My current rates are based on what I need to live and run my business and what my market can support. I don’t like to throw numbers around in articles, because I don’t ever want someone to just look at what I charge and think they can apply it to themselves when it might be a huge mistake because they have not calculated what they need to make to live and run their business.

      -Chris

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    • Daniel Thullen

      Chris is right when he says rates are market/geography driven Knowing Chris’ rates adds little to his fine article.

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  11. Basit Zargar

    Nice Advice

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  12. Jason Boa

    This articles seems overly long winded to me .It could be should be have pride in yourself and your work , show respect to your industry and charge a fair amount based on your individual overheads and or experience .

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    • Hanssie

      Ah, but for some people that is easier said than done. I still have self doubt on my abilities and work. I think as a creative, this is more common than not.

      Plus if you are newer in the industry, you may not know or may need the validation that it’s okay to do so.

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    • Murray Severn

      But the one thing he’s included here that you didn’t list is value. It’s probably the hardest aspect to price due to its subjective nature. He could have written this article in one paragraph, but he’s shown how he adds value, so that others can see how they add value or how they can in future,

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  13. Brandon Dewey

    Great article, thanks for the advice.

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