I am often asked by wedding photographers about my pricing strategy. Recently a photographer wanted to know how he should explain to his clients that he wants to get paid fully in advance for his services. After all, not every client is happy with paying in full up front, and many try to come up with other payment terms that will give them what they feel is a secure business model. This is an issue of trust as the two parties wish to be assured the other will deliver. Basically a power struggle. So how should a photographer explain, and convince his client to pay in full before the work is done, and why is it so important?
“See in this world there are two kinds of people my friend; those with loaded guns, and those who dig. You dig!”
– Clint Eastwood in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly [After the stand-off, where in Angel Eyes is killed and Tuco finds out that there’re no bullets in his gun]
Two Kinds of Wedding Photographers
I used to think there were two kinds of wedding photographers; those who charge a low price up front but keep all the images and charge for prints, and those who charge the full amount up front and deliver all the images to the client. I now realise this is not the way it works anymore. The first business model type is almost extinct these days as people hardly print. A new one came up. Now there are wedding photographers who charge the full amount up front, and others who do not. Basically photographers with loaded guns, and photographers who dig, which applies to the clients as well. There are clients who want to hold the ‘loaded gun’, and make sure the photographer ‘digs’, and there are clients who do not need any security, and trust the photographer will deliver what he promised. Which kind of photographer are you?
I Charge 100% Up Front
If you ask me, I don’t perform well when someone is holding a gun to my head. I prefer to work with a financial model that will enable me to do the best job I possibly can, keep the couple happy and focus on what I do best, which is photography. I charge the full amount of the sale up front, which enables me to get paid for my style, experience and expertise, my talent, overhead, business expenses and everything else necessary for me to stay in business and make the desired profit.
I conclude all financial transactions prior to the wedding so that when I come to the wedding I can focus on my work as a creative artist without the burden of pending business. I expect my clients to trust me based on my reputation, and my proven delivery history. If they cannot trust me, it is not a good fit.
To some this might look like a small thing. After all, why would I care as long as I get paid? The truth is that this has a huge impact on the state of mind that I’m in at work, and is the distinction between a service provider and an artist. It makes a difference, and you see it in my portfolio that you liked so much.
What will the bride and groom want to see?
The most important thing you need to know about these business models is that each of them creates a completely diferent motivation for the photographer, and that motivation influences what sort of images they take.
For example, if a photographer knows that you have paid a low price up front and the balance will come only if they perform the way they are ‘expected’ to, then there is no motivation to take a shot unless they think it is what the client expects them to do. They are basically service providers. Hired labor.
On the other hand, if the photographer is paid up front and is trusted for his reputation, creativity and style, then he/she is not only motivated to deliver great images, but is also free to focus and work without thinking about money. There is a huge difference in the pictures that will result from each type of motivation and these differences are the essence of what separates traditional style wedding photographers from the artist you wish to be.
What do you think? Was this helpful? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Lets make this a standard in India, as it should be.