It’s January 2019 at the time of writing. This time of year is typically where engaged couples start seriously planning their wedding and photographers are getting enquiries think and fast. Late last year, I published a blog entitled Choosing a Wedding Photographer & Not Regretting Your Choice which can be found here. Pt I dealt with what to look for in a photographer’s work. What is discussed here is some do’s and don’ts in negotiating with a photographer once you’ve found one you like the look of.
Firstly, What Not To Do
I recently had a wedding photography enquiry from a couple from Devon. During our initial phone consultation, the inevitable question finally came: “what is your fee Rex?” Upon telling them, the bride-to-be lost interest and wanted to end the phone call. This happens quite understandably when my asking price is well above what a client is willing to pay. Not wanting to waste any more of her time, or mine, she politely said she’d think about it and get back to me. We said our goodbyes and hung up. This was all perfectly normal and understandable behaviour and I didn’t expect to hear back from them.
What happened next is rare but never ceases to amaze me when it does. The following day I received an email from the same client stating she’d found X photographer who could provide photography (with a 2nd shooter) and video coverage for half what I had quoted, the expectation being that I match the other photographer’s quote. Suffice to say I politely said no and explained why, to which I received a somewhat indignant response. I’m pretty sure I lost that deal but you know what, that’s probably for the best. Negotiating is one thing, taking the piss is quite another and just leaves a nasty taste in everyone’s mouths. Here’s why.
Consider the following analogy
A person walks into an Audi dealership, points out the window to the Fiat dealership over the road and says “I can a brand new Fiat Panda for £9000 over there. Can you match that price for a new (24,000+) Audi A4?” How do you think the Audi man is going to respond to that?
Yes – a Fiat Panda and Audi A4 are both cars; they both have 4 wheels, 5 doors, a roof, a stereo and air conditioning etc. Just as X photographer would (hopefully) come equipped with cameras and lenses like Y photographer. Patently obviously though, the Audi and the Fiat; X and Y photographer’s photos are two completely different products of differing quality and attributes with price points to match.
Brand added value and status aside, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with a Fiat Panda. They’re great cars and might well be just the right thing for your needs. If that’s so, buy the Panda as the more expensive A4 would be a pointless investment. However, if you need/want the extra space, build quality, comfort, life expectancy and performance…. guess what? Anyone who’s ever owned both Fiats and Audis will understand.
So how does this relate to my aforementioned wedding enquiry and this blog even? The point I want to make is that offering 50% of what a contractor has quoted and then being indignant about it when they decline is never going to get you very far.
What’s Your Number?
In my experience and that of other photographers I’ve talked to, every bride has a preconceived magic number in her head that she wants to pay for a service, be it the venue, catering, photography, etc. This magic number is, as it should be, irrespective of the attributes she is looking for in said service. This should not be confused with the over all quality which I discussed in Part One.
This magic number will often cause a client to dismiss quotes from service providers if they are far above OR below. For example, a £1200 photographer might not get a job because the client was willing/expecting/wanting to pay up to £2500. In other words, he wasn’t expensive enough! This might seem counter intuitive to some but is perfectly normal for others! They have a budget and they want to spend it – good for them! Kind of like shopping around for a birthday gift with nothing but a notion of how much you’d like to spend on your mind.
Take two individual photographers, their photos and respective asking prices. One has a much higher fee than the other. If, when comparing the portfolios of these two photographers, you’re genuinely unable to see value of the more expensive one over the other, one of three things is happening.
- You’ve stumbled upon a cheap and budding genius young photographer who hasn’t yet figured out their worth. Hire them now!
- Or, your more expensive guy is just crap and/or is over charging. Run away!
- Or, the differing quality is simply not important to you or you’re blind to it in the first place
That last point I don’t mean that in a judgemental or negative way. There is no point in buying real coffee over instant if you are perfectly happy with the latter or genuinely can’t tell the difference between the two. You might even prefer instant coffee over the real deal.
A Photo is Worth What You’re Prepared to Pay for It
There is no objective value of art – which wedding photography arguably is. Your magic number represents what wedding photography is worth to you. However, the tired old platitude – you get what you pay for – does have some mileage so be reasonable in your expectations at that price point – where ever that may be. Also, be weary of people offering all the bells and whistles for the cost of a compact camera. There will be a reason why this is and you might not realises what that is until it’s too late.
What To Do Then
Stick to the magic number in your head or there abouts and be honest about it. If a photographer’s X quote was waaay higher than the Y amount in your mind, just say, I was thinking Y. The photographer might well say sorry I can’t accommodate you but I know a great photographer in that price range who can. However they might also say, okay, lets do a deal, and away you go.
Yes – the value of art (as wedding photography can arguably be considered to be) is entirely subjective. However, beating someone down in the blind or referencing leveraging other photographers quotes isn’t just going to leave you feeling empty, it’s going to piss the service provider off too. Grumpy brides and grumbling photographers do not a good mix make.
So what does all this mean? What I’m trying to say is, by all means negotiate but don’t think for a moment that you’re entitled to anything. The argument that there’s someone else who can do what is on paper the same job for far less than you’re quoted is a pointless one.
Never forget that, just as you have a need for photography, a photographer has a need to earn a living. Their asking price, regardless of whether they’re actually worth that, is a number to be worked with, not against. Save the hard-nosed wheeling and dealing for the board room. You’re a person, not a cooperation and the same goes for the photographer.