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 photos. What follows is some advice and guidance for you brides-and-grooms-to-be out there gleaned from my previous experiences as the guy being booked. You could easily apply these tips when interacting with all your prospective service providers and I suggest you do so. The net result of this will be a better experience for you on your wedding day and beyond. So let’s jump in.
Firstly: What Not To Do
Don’t do it. Just, don’t! It isn’t worth the it in the long run. What follows is a rather long winded explanation as to why haggling is bad idea when it comes to investing in your wedding photos.
I recently had a wedding photography enquiry from a Devon based couple. During our initial phone consultation, the inevitable question came: “what is your fee Rex?” Upon my telling them, the bride-to-be went cold and wanted to end the phone call. This happens quite understandably when my asking price is well outside what a prospective couple have in mind. Notice I said ‘outside’ as opposed to ‘above.’ I’ll return to this point shortly but let’s carry on with the story for now.
The couple politely wound up the phone call, we said our goodbyes and they hung up. This was all perfectly normal behaviour and I didn’t expect to hear back from them given her reaction.
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 services (with a 2nd shooter) and video coverage for half what I had quoted. On paper it looked as though she could get 3 times the service level at half the cost and her expectation was that I match the other photographer’s quote. How would you have responded to that?
Beating someone down in the blind or leveraging other photographers quotes isn’t going to get you very far. It’ll just piss your service provider off and demotivate them to work with you. If you do snag them at a significantly lower rate, do you honestly think they’re going to give you their best?
There is a far more positive way of approaching negotiations with your photographer, or any prospective wedding service provider for that matter. Which is to weigh up the value you place on what you’re buying over the asking price. Consider that said value cannot be quantified in monetary terms. Your wedding pictures will hang on your sitting room wall potentially for generations. If they’re good, you’ll smile every time you look at them for the rest of your life. They’ll bring joy, not just to you, but to your kids, your grand kids, your parents, your grand parents and your friends for years to come.
Consider all the above and then write down the first number that comes into your head. That figure is what wedding photography is worth to you. It’s your sweet spot; the investment you are happy to make for your wedding photos. We’ll call this figure ‘Your Magic Number.’
Your Magic Number?
In my experience and that of other photographers I’ve talked to, every couple has a preconceived figure in their heads that they want to pay for photography. This magic number is, as it should be, irrespective of the attributes they’re looking for in a given service. Your set of desired attributes might well extend beyond the over all quality of a photographers photos – which I discuss in Part One.
As I alluded to earlier, this magic number will often cause a client to dismiss quotes from service providers that are far below as well as above it. 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 but it’s perfectly normal. You have a budget and you want to spend it – good for you! Think of it as shopping around for a birthday gift with nothing but a notion of how much you’d like to spend in your mind.
Psychologically speaking, you’re happiness is everything to your photographer but it isn’t his responsibility. If you’re not happy for whatever reason on the day, it’s going to show in the pictures. If you stick as close as possible to your intended spend, you’re effectively illuminating the chance of discontent over concerns you’ve bought the wrong service.
Art Vs Craft
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. Be very wary of photographers offering all the bells and whistles for the cost of a compact camera. There will be a reason why this is the case and you might not realise what that is until it’s too late.
What To Do Then
Yes – the value of art (as wedding photography arguably is) is entirely subjective. However,
Stick to your magic number 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.
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 unless all you care about is the bottom line.
Sign a contract with your chosen wedding photographer. It’s so important that you do this! Even with the best of intentions and planning, things can and do sometimes go wrong for whatever reason. Having a piece of paper setting out the terms of service, what you’ve paid for and how much you’ve paid will mean everyone knows where they stand.
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 it, is a number to be worked with, not against. Just go with your gut on this but save the hard-nosed wheeling and dealing for the boardroom. You’re a person, not a cooperation and the same goes for the photographer.