Stop Defending Wedding Photography Pricing

Before any wedding photographers reading this post jumps down my throat, I want to remind them that I am also a wedding photographer and to read all the way through until the end because I do offer a way better alternative.

The most common argument that I see for wedding photographers defending their pricing is the following:

I [the wedding photographer] am justified in charging what seems to be a high fee for my services because my professional equipment costs a lot of money, I have to pay for professional association fees, insurance, employees, continuing education and other business related expenses.

Some take it even further to include living expenses such as car payment, rent, child care etc. I'm not going to point fingers because wedding photographers have notoriously large egos and they may come after me if I start listing links. A simple Google search will bring up an abundance of examples.

But by the logic above, the cheeseburger I buy at McDonald's for a dollar and some change is grossly under priced and its real worth is untold thousands

Let's break down the argument using the same logic that wedding photographers use for a typical hamburger franchise:

Equipment fees: thousands of dollars
Employees: $9/hour
Training: hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars
Franchising fees: thousands of dollars
Other expenses such as napkins, fire extinguishers etc.
Total price of cheeseburger: Thousands and thousands of dollars.

You see my point.

I think it can be exceedingly damaging for wedding photographers to defend their pricing by basing it on the cost of doing business. I would never tell my clients how much it costs to run my business as justification for the prices I charge. They'd think I'm either nuts, an idiot, an amateur, or all three.

Instead, it's much more beneficial to both the industry and the wedding photographer to base pricing on value. For example:

Your faucet is leaking. You don't know how to fix it so you call the plumber. The plumber tightens a bolt and fixes it in five minutes flat. The plumber charges you $20. Do you get upset because all he did was tighten a bolt and it only took him five minutes? Of course not. Because you're paying for his expertise and the convenience of not learning everything there is to know about fixing faucets or getting your hands dirty.

Another example: you go to the emergency room because your ears hurt. The doctor looks into your ears and says you have too much ear wax and flushes them out for you. He charges you $400. Do you get upset because all he did was squirt warm water in your ears to get rid of ear wax? Of course not. Because it's the middle of the night and you were at home with your ears hurting and you had no idea why and thought you were going deaf or possibly a brain tumor so you got in your car and drove to the ER at 2 in the morning. 

That totally wasn't a personal experience, by the way.

(yes it was)

But my point is, pricing is not based on the cost of doing business, but rather the perceived market value of the products and services the business offers.

Think of everything the wedding photographer actually does:

  • Shoot a variety of subjects in a wide variety of conditions
  • Shoot all styles of photography including products, landscape, portraits, journalistic, etc all under time constraints and pressure from the venue, family, client etc while maintaining a professional and courteous demeanor
  • Culling, editing, and proofing
  • Album design
  • Dealing with emergencies
  • Planning and logistics
  • The invaluable convenience and trust of having a professional take your photos
  • The ability to capture split second photos made possible by years of experience
  • Instinct that developed over untold thousands of hours of shooting in all kinds of situations
  • A once in a lifetime event (hopefully)
  • Expertise in all areas of photography including lighting, cameras and lenses know how, mixed lighting, how to make water look silky or how to blur out the background etc.

Not to mention the impossible to quantify items such as talent, personality, years of unique experiences, ability to lead and make decisions, the wear and tear of shooting multiple weddings every weekend etc etc the list goes on and on.

That's what the the client is paying for.

And you'd rather base your pricing on how much it costs to be a wedding photographer? Doesn't that seem really cheap to you? I'll stick with the incredible value that a wedding photographer provides.