How do I charge for my first wedding?
Q. Hi Annabel, I asked someone what her budget was, when she asked me to photograph her wedding. This is her response and I am hoping you can give me some advice on how to reply? “First of all, I know this is the first wedding you have done, and it’s probably quite a learning curve, so I don’t expect everything to come out perfect. The budget that my dad and I agreed on is $700 to $1000. Which to him seems like a lot, and me because I don’t really understand yet the work that goes into it.” – Debra Read, Ontario Canada
A. Hi Debra, Your first wedding is always the hardest! And it can be tricky to work out what to charge when you haven’t done one before.
My first reaction is that you need to meet face to face to discuss this rather than by email. This will give you the opportunity to chat through everything with her so you have all the details you need for the wedding – just doing this shows that you care, which shows her why you are worth the money. It is very difficult for people to understand what you do, if they only see a few photos and a price.
Brides usually love planning everything, and if you are helping her to get the best photos of her day, by planning it all with her, she will feel really relaxed and happy that she has you there on the day.
Get as much information as possible – she will love talking about her wedding so that won’t be a problem! Ask her how many people will be there, where it is, her plan for the day, what kind of dress she is wearing, how many bridesmaids, etc, etc. She will soon start to see how much time and effort goes into what you do, and you will be much more prepared for your first wedding shoot too.
$700-1000 seems reasonable for your first wedding. And the fact she’s told you this figure already, means she is prepared to pay it, but she does have reservations. However, because it is your first wedding, and because her father is not entirely happy with that budget, I would suggest you photograph her wedding for $750. Tell her that because it’s your first wedding, you will do it at this price (so she feels she is getting a deal).
Dads will often have an issue with how much a wedding costs! The photography is just a small part of an overall budget,which usually gets out of hand – so they are looking to keep costs down to a minimum. That doesn’t mean you have to give everything for free, it means you just have to understand that they have a budget, and see what you can do for the money they are prepared to spend.
It’s great that she already understands that it’s your first wedding – that takes a bit of the pressure off for you! Although she will still expect you to do a good job! She sounds like a very understanding bride, and one who you will enjoy working with.
Once you meet her and chat through everything, she will really appreciate you taking the time, and she will love the opportunity to talk to someone all about her wedding – trust me! Don’t worry about her Dad; she will be the one who justifies it to him, when she has discussed it all with you!
I would suggest that in the price you include shooting the wedding, retouching the pictures and give them to her on a disc, so she can do whatever she likes with them. I would not include an album at that price because you will make little or no money if you do, and putting the album together is a very difficult part of the wedding – it can take months, even years for people to decide which shots they want.
At this stage, before the wedding, many people cannot think past the actual day, so an album is not always at the forefront of their mind. And if you tell her that you can sort out an album at a later date, this is then one less thing for a busy bride to think about right now. It’s all good customer service to offer to help them with the album later. However in my experience I find not many people have any money left after a wedding!
Once you start doing more weddings, you can work out a second price option which also includes an album for those brides who definitely want one.
Make sure your fee is covering your expenses and giving you some money for your time – because it will take A LOT of time. A wedding is not just a one-day job. Experienced wedding photographers put a huge amount of time and effort into their wedding photography. From several planning meetings before the wedding, often a pre-wedding shoot to relax them for the big day, and several meetings after the wedding to show photos, plan albums, etc. And that doesn’t include the many hours it will take you to edit and enhance all the photos!
But for your first wedding, make sure you cover your expenses, and once you’ve done your first wedding, you will have much more idea of how much time it takes, and can charge accordingly.
In future, remember that expenses include things like mileage, cost of purchasing smart clothes/shoes, dry cleaning, a percentage of cost of your cameras, computers, software, office equipment, etc. Also, don’t forget that because you are earning an income from this, if you already have another job, you will need to pay tax!
If you want to shoot occasional weddings because you love it, then great! But if you want to make a business out of it and shoot weddings regularly to make money, you have to cover the costs that many people don’t think about, and charge enough for your time.
I do hope all this helps.
Hi Annabel, I took your advice and I actually was turned down for the job! I was relieved, because I got the impression that the bride thought she was doing me a favor by just asking me, and was hoping I would take on the job for next to nothing. I did appreciate the opportunity, but I can’t take jobs that will cost me valuable time and money. So thank you again… great advice – Debra x
Sometimes it’s worth doing a wedding for next to nothing, if you want to practise and get some shots for your portfolio – and if nothing else, it will give you an understanding of how much work actually goes into shooting a wedding! But once you start a business, your weddings have to bring in the money – so it’s important to look at all your costs before deciding how much to charge. Never be disappointed if you don’t get booked for a certain wedding – I firmly believe that everyone needs to be on the same wavelength, and if something isn’t right, then the problems will just escalate – so you are better off moving onto the next one!