Sunday, March 15, 2009

Photography Shopping - Price is important, but......

At least 8 out of 10 wedding photography consultations I get start off with this question: “How much do you charge for a wedding?” Occasionally I get additional information. “We need about 5 hours”. If we weren’t focused on providing full-service to our clients, I could just throw out a number. Some shoppers would say okay, others would ask additional questions. Either way, the prospective customer is not in control of the conversation.

Photography is not something one shops for on a regular basis. However, the approach should be as any other major purchase. A typical approach is to set the dollar amount you’re willing to spend. As a starting point, no one would find fault with that logic. If your only criteria is price, you’re going to be at a disadvantage when it comes to negotiations. Price is a very important concern, but you need to understand what’s included for that price. Let’s look at a different example.

You’re buying a car. Your budget is $1500. You walk into a used car dealer and tell the salesperson “I want to buy a car”. You’re likely to get one of two responses. The first is ”How much do you want to spend?” This is a test. It’s not a test to see how much money you have. The answer will tell the salesperson you either know what you want, or haven’t a clue. If you answer with the dollar amount without any additional information , the salesperson is likely to point out the car in that price range that provides them the most profit.

If, on the other hand, you walk into that same dealer and say, “I’m looking for a 2-door compact sedan, something that gets at least 20mpg, with less than 30,000 miles, similar to a [fill in name brand here], that is less than four years old”, you’re going to have a very different conversation. You don’t even have to mention your budget. You can go from dealer to dealer, asking the same question, and effectively price shop with confidence. The difference? In the first example, you give the salesperson the opportunity to sell you something that’s to their advantage. In the second example, you dictate the terms, based on what you want. You are now in a position to basing your price comparisons on similar products.

If you shop on price alone, you have no way to do effective comparisons. A $1500 wedding package will be very different from photographer to photographer. Services will be different. Print and album options will be different. Comparing two packages of equal prices is like comparing apples to coffee pots. What will be common are packages that are the most profitable to the photographer. At best, they are the studios guess at what you might want.

Starting your price negotiations by explaining to the photographer, or any other wedding vendor, exactly what you’re looking for makes it a lot easier for the vendor. We instantly know we need to focus on providing you what you want, as opposed to convincing you to buy something. Take control of your photography consultations by being specific.

Your wedding day is supposed to be all about you. The couple getting married is supposed to get what they want, the way they want it, based on their budget. We as photographers are supposed to serve you, and give you what you want. To do that, we have to know what that is. You tell the caterer, florist, wedding coordinator, bridal gown maker, decorator, etc., how you want things, down to the placement of the napkins on the dinner tables. Why not do that with the photography?

Decide in advance how much of your day you want captured in pictures. That will determine how much coverage you need. Decide how many locations you want to have pictures taken: bride dressing, groom dressing, portraits, ceremony, reception, etc. Do you want an album? If so, what size and how many pages? How many prints do you really need? What size? This minimizes the chances of paying for extra prints you have no use for. Put the answers to those questions into a list and give that to every photographer you contact. When you do, and you get prices based on your list, you will be making comparisons on equal packages, and easily see what is or is not a good deal.

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