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Shoot the Wedding, Not the Client: Negotiation Tips For Photographers

girl with camera from the back

Odds are, getting filthy rich was never the prime reason why you pursued your dream of becoming a photographer. Sure, you can make a good living, but when it comes down to it, you got in the biz because: you do what you love and you love what you do. And let’s face it, negotiating your price was definitely not a part of that dream. Clients come in all shapes and sizes, budgets and demands, therefore developing a good negotiation technique is no less important than being able to shoot in low light conditions – it’s all part of the skill set you have to master in order to be a professional photographer.

If you’re afraid of losing clients over “your price is too high!”, or taking on jobs that are just not worth it, then fear no more. All you need to know about securing the price you deserve for your photography work is listed right here below:

It’s not you, it’s them

Before we get to the “How”, it is extremely important to understand the “Why”.

People looking for an event photographer, especially for weddings, are already spending a fortune. It might as well be the most expensive night of their life – a night that not everyone can afford, but everyone wants (and often “has”) to have. Couples planning their wedding often have a certain budget to maintain, so more often than not, the photographer isn’t the only vendor they’ll be trying to get a discount from: it’s the florist, the band, the dressmaker and everyone else gathered around the wedding altar. That leads us to a very important point: it’s not personal. Most potential clients don’t undervalue your skills or want to rip you off, they just negotiate because it’s part of the game. There’s nothing wrong with a client making sure they’re not overcharged or choosing the option to spend their money elsewhere (as long as it doesn’t come in forms of greed or disrespect).

Internalizing the fact that it’s never personal will help you disconnect emotionally from the process and be on top of your negotiating game. If there’s one note to take from this article, this would be it.

Know your worth

If you have been following our blog, you probably know that creating a photography website (just like any other website) starts with a good chunk of research. The same thing applies to your pricing. As an artist you are an individual, but as a professional you are part of a “universe” of photographers that operate in your area, and that universe comes with its own rules.

The first step in setting your price should be researching your competitors. Call them as a potential client, browse their websites (and pick up some online do’s and dont’s on the way), talk to friends – anything goes. Once you have your price range, you can scribble it on a piece of paper, and position yourself alongside your competitors. Should it be in the lows, in the middle or at the top? That all depends on how you present yourself according to the amount of knowledge and experience you have.

Setting the right price for your services is a key step to starting negotiation on the right foot.

guy with laptop talking to a couple

Have a plan

To negotiate or not to negotiate? Some photographers decide not to bother with a “take it or leave it” approach. Others set their price a little higher to allow for some “wiggle room”. Whatever you choose (and it’s completely up to you), you need to have a plan.

Either decide you’re not negotiating, or if you are – set your limits beforehand. Feel free to tweak it from client to client, as you learn what works best for you. Apart from those small changes – stick to your budget. There’s nothing like a good plan to help you win the game.

You can even choose to publish your price list on your website. It’s a matter of what is customary in your area, it might help “filter out” clients who are looking for an impossible bargain and it will also help to set a firm starting point for the negotiation process.

Open your heart

This tip applies mostly to wedding photographers, but other negotiators can benefit from it as well. The reason that customers are willing to spend a fortune on their big day is because they want it to be perfect to a tee, needless to say – for many people this is a day they have dreamed of all their lives. In addition to being a rockstar photographer, the typical couple is looking for someone calm and reassuring that will be extra attentive to their needs during the whole event. This means that you are not only selling your “eye” but your heart, and the feeling that their wedding, and everyone involved in it, will be fantastic. This is why you absolutely have to pay real attention to their concerns (even to things that have nothing to do with photography). Right after the best man and the bridesmaids, you are essentially auditioning to be their best friend for the day.

Wedding photographer showing photos to the bride

It’s all about respect

Act like a professional, and you will be treated like one. Prior to meeting the client, prepare an answer to every question that might come up. Always be on time, look respectable, be pleasant and polite – basically strive to treat your clients like you’d expect other service providers to treat you.

In case the happy couple is accompanied by family or friends (or friends’ families, because… why not?), make sure to acknowledge them as well. When they leave the room, you can be sure they will have a huge impact on your client’s final decision.

Control the timing

If you happen to negotiate over emails and not in person, always wait a bit before you answer. It will help you structure a more professional answer and avoid emotional responses.

Another small trick to make the right impression (we’ll keep it between us): try to look busy. Even if your calendar is wide open (and we hope it isn’t, but hey, it happens to all of us), don’t say yes to the first appointment slot your client offers, go for the second option. The busier you look, the more attractive your professional persona is. Needless to say, don’t look too busy, being available at a convenient time for the client definitely comes first.

Offer a better deal (for you)

Let’s say you started negotiating, but the client just can’t afford you. Yet they’re extremely nice, and you know you will enjoy working together. Instead of providing a service you don’t believe in, try to get creative and offer a customized package that will help cut costs without compromising on quality. There are many options – for example, you can try offering less coverage hours of the event, a simpler photo album, or suggest providing a video without editing.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions to find the best solution – your clients will always appreciate the attention. Once you agree on it, make sure you carefully explain the changes and their meaning, so that the client can understand the full picture.

As a last resort, if you cannot find a creative solution for the same price, but still want to give it a shot – consider giving a small discount. Keep in mind, if you do a good job for a good client, there is a good chance they will bring on future clients that are good as well. Try to find the “sweet spot” where they feel like they got a discount, but you haven’t really lowered your price too much. And make it clear that you are giving them a discount for a very specific reason. Otherwise all potential clients will expect to get the same discount after the fact…

Remember, if you have a good connection, you will always find a way to compromise on price, without compromising on quality. However, if you feel like a client is just looking to save money and doesn’t necessarily respect you as a person or a professional – then it’s better to give up on the offer in favor of a future client who will.

Let your work do the work

Show your work! Create a website that will present you and your photos in the most stunning manner, outlining your experience, the packages you offer, and the recommendations you received from happy clients. A pro-looking website is an absolute must these days (and we’re not just saying that because we work at Wix, but because it’s a fact).

guy working on laptop

Don’t know where to start from? Then our step-by-step guide to creating a complete photo website is an absolute must-read!

On top of making a great impression, your Wix website will be very handy when it comes to corresponding with the client after the event. Developed especially for event photographers, Wix Photo Albums lets you create beautiful stand-alone sites for your clients’ photos for free. Each site is branded with your info and easy for your clients to share with their loved ones and mark the photos they’d like to proceed with. This neat feature might give you that small (but meaningful) advantage over your competitors.

Don’t cave in

Tempted to go below the price you set for yourself? Here are 4 things to consider before you take the plunge:

  • Accepting a really low offer means you were strongly overcharging in the first place. That’s not a great way to start a trusting relationship with your client.

  • Your price reflects a lot of elements brought together: how you position yourself in your market, your experience, the research you made, the quality of your gear, associated costs, and so on… If the client doesn’t appreciate that, once again your relationship might start with lack of trust.

  • Your price reflects a lot of elements brought together: how you position yourself in your market, your experience, the research you made, the quality of your gear, associated costs, and so on… If the client doesn’t appreciate that, once again your relationship might start with lack of trust.

  • Clients that are looking for the cheapest deal are often the hardest to please.

  • It’s not a one-time gig: working for low paying customers might label you as “cheap” and attract more low paying customers.

So yeah, being nice doesn’t pay the bills, but being consistent with your business decisions (within reasonable limits) actually will.

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