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How I Structure My Pricing.

Erich McVey

There’s a lot to think about when building your wedding packages. This undertaking leaves many of us feeling overwhelmed, but that doesn’t need to be the case. If you take a little time to think critically and thoughtfully through your prices, you’ll come to logical conclusions and land in the right place for your business.

1. Choose Your Pricing System

There are two schools of thought for pricing wedding photography packages:

  1. Include everything your client wants and needs up front—at a premium price.
  2. Offer a basic package at a low price and charge a separate premium for each additional item.

The advantage of the second option is that clients don’t have the same sticker shock they have with the first, and it gives you the potential to upsell products such as prints and/or digital files at great margins. The disadvantage is that you have to be a salesman. If you choose this route, be explicit about the fact that certain items are not included in a client’s investment, and that they are to be purchased separately at a particular price.

Personally, I strive to keep my sales process and business structure as streamlined as possible. For that reason, the first option is best for me, so with each of my packages, I include everything my client wants right from the get-go at a premium price point.

Clients and planners love knowing exactly how much they’re paying for wedding photography—without the risk of added costs later on in the process. I love that my clients know exactly how much my services cost, and I love that we don’t generally need to go back and forth with additional purchases (like an album, prints, or digital files) after their wedding takes place.

2. Consider the Client’s Values

Every item included in each of your packages should be there for a reason—and that reason is to make the sale.

The first thing I do when creating my wedding packages is review what I include and ask myself why it’s there. I think about what is most important to my clients—what items they place the most value on. Adding things just to bulk up the list of goods and services included in a wedding package doesn’t help anyone. On the contrary, clients will think they’re paying extra for things they don’t need.

For example, in 2012, all of my clients wanted engagement sessions and hardly any wanted albums, so I included an engagement session in most of my packages as a way to entice the client. In 2016, only 1/3 of my clients want engagement sessions and at least half of them want albums and rehearsal dinner coverage. If I continued with the same approach in 2016, including an engagement session in my standard 8 hour coverage wedding package, my clients would likely request to remove the engagement session in order to lower the cost of their photography package. I’d much rather build packages that fit the needs of the majority instead of customizing a package for every client, which tends to overcomplicate the process and often leads to a lower booking price.

Think critically about every item included in each of your packages. Is it something a majority of your clients want so desperately that including it will cause them to book?  Or, would you most likely book the client even without those extras included? Think about what really matters to your potential clients. What do they place the greatest importance on when they’re shopping around?

This knowledge helps me thoughtfully build my packages in a way that promotes the larger packages and gives my clients options that don’t include undesired extras if they don’t have the need or budget for them (albums, engagements, etc). When building your pricing and package options, always keep in mind that if it isn’t helping you close the sale, it isn’t something that should be included.

3. Know the Hard Costs

To ultimately decide what to include in each package and how to determine a fair price point, consider the hard costs and amount of time you’ll invest in each item.

For example, if I offer a package with 8 hours of coverage, full-resolution images on a USB, 4.5” x 6” prints of all images, an online gallery, an assistant, and travel expenses, what costs am I taking on? How much is my time worth? What does it cost me to print the images? How much am I spending on an assistant? On travel? These numbers should be clear and exact. From there, you can subtract your hard costs from the price of your package to determine if your profit margins are where they should be.

As a photographer and business owner, you have to value yourself, your time, and your products before you can expect your clients to do the same.

If you give things like albums and engagement sessions away as complimentary, or don’t price them where they need to be in order for you to make a profit, you’ve devalued yourself and your services. These items are not necessities. These are luxury items, and luxury items come at a price. Remember, it is not your responsibility to solve every budget problem or pricing pain point for your potential clients.

Clients have to make choices—you don’t have tomake sacrifices.

4. Know Your Profit Margins

Set a good chunk of time aside (maybe even a day or two) to review your pricing and know exactly what your profit is for every job you book. Review the packages you offer, and as you jump from one to the next, consider:

  1. After subtracting my hard costs, what is the remaining net profit of each package? (Make sure to include your time as a hard cost.)
  2. What is my per-hour profit on that time? Is it worth it?
  3. What can I include or exclude from my packages to make it worth it? Or, how can I adjust my rates to make it worth it?

Create packages that make sense not just for your clients—but for you as well. Make decisions with a purpose, and most importantly—make decisions with your income and quality of life in mind. Don’t arbitrarily slap a price on a package “just because".

5. Be Willing to Adjust

Don’t be afraid to adjust your pricing as often as necessary to book jobs and grow your business.

I generally raise my prices every few months. I may only raise them by a few hundred dollars, or I may raise them by $1,000—it depends on what the market is telling me—but I’m always moving onward and upward. This doesn’t mean that I arbitrarily raise my prices when a certain date on the calendar comes around. I base these decisions almost entirely off of my bookings. I’ve never had to lower my prices because I’m careful not to get too ahead of myself. However, if bookings slowed to the point that action was required, I would have no hesitation in dropping prices. It wouldn’t hurt my ego or make me a failure. It would only mean that I’ve hit a slow patch, and I need to momentarily change things up and get back on track.

Set your prices based on what the market is telling you. For example:

  • If you’re steadily booking weddings, your prices are good and should likely stay where they are for the moment.
  • If you’re booking very few weddings, your prices may be too high.
  • If you’re booking too many weddings too quickly, your prices are too low.

You are worth a combination of two things: what you need to make to turn a sustainable profit and what a client is willing to pay. I know that can sound a bit unfair, but is there really any other way to look at it? No matter what your price point, if no one is booking you at that rate, you need to change things up.

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