Weddings are expensive. And when planning a wedding, it’s only natural to do everything in your power to save money where you can. But should you negotiate with your wedding photographer?
The short answer? It depends on the photographer.
Some photographers are more than happy to work with you on price to help secure bookings. Others have meticulously calculated their fees based on their time and cost of doing business, and prefer to stick with the script.
So how do you know which type of photographer you’re working with? I recommend answering the following questions before attempting to negotiate price.
- What is the photographer’s skill level? How does the quality of work compare to that of other photographers in this price range?
- How many weddings have they shot? How many do they shoot per year?
- Do they use professional camera bodies, lenses and lighting equipment? How about backup equipment?
- Do they have liability and equipment insurance in case of accidents?
- What is the their level of customer service? Are they responsive? Do they help you solve problems?
- Are they professional? Will they show up early, well-prepared and in good spirits, ready to work?
- What is their reputation? Are they highly sought after by other brides and grooms? What do their past couples have to say about them?
Once you’re clear on this info, you should have a good idea of how much leverage you’ll have in negotiations. Or whether it would be reasonable to try and negotiate in the first place.
Okay. So let’s say you decide to go down this path. It can be a tricky subject to broach and you don’t want to ruffle any feathers. To help guide you through the process as tactfully as possible, here are some “do’s and don’ts.”
Be excited about photography. Photographers want to shoot with couples who are pumped about capturing unique wedding photos, not those who are simply hiring a photographer because it’s what you’re “supposed” to do.
Start with price. If you begin your email/phone call/meeting with the line “what are your prices?” it’s going to make the photographer wonder if you like their work or if you’re simply shopping around for the cheapest possible price.
Book an awesome venue/location in which your photographer would love the opportunity to photograph.
Use another (cheaper) photographer’s price point as a bargaining chip. For example, let’s say you’re looking at two photographers. Photographer A charges $3,000 and Photographer B charges $6,000. It might be tempting to try and gain leverage by mentioning to Photographer B that you can book Photographer A for half the price. This would make sense if you’re calling Subaru dealerships to get a quote for the new Impreza. The product is identical from dealership to dealership. The only thing they have to compete on is price. But unlike Subaru Imprezas, not all wedding photography is created equal.
Get married on a Thursday in November. Or a Friday in February. Saturdays between April and October fill up fast, and your photographer will be more likely to work with you on price if you pick a less popular date.
Be a “Bridezilla” (or a “Groomzilla”).
Be a good source for referrals. Do you have friends who are engaged? If so, let your photographer know that you’d love to send over more business in the future.
Be that guy (or gal) who expects a photographer to work for “exposure.” We can’t pay our mortgages and grocery bills with exposure, so for the love of God, let’s stick to legal tender. The same goes for trades. Offering a partial trade for goods just feels tacky.
Have a compelling story. We photographed a wedding a couple summers ago for a bride whose grandmother was in hospice care. The bride wanted nothing more than for her grandma to be present for her wedding, so she and her fiancé decided to hold their ceremony in her grandmother’s back yard, allowing her to watch from her hospital bed. It was an incredibly moving ceremony and we photographed it for about one fifth of our normal rate. Remember, wedding photographers are people, too, with heart strings than can be tugged.
Assume that your photographer is trying to build their portfolio. It’s probably not their first rodeo, so the prospect of giving up a free weekend for portfolio building isn’t an appealing proposition.
The moral of the story is this: if you’re tying the knot on a budget and you have your heart set on a photographer who is out of your price range, feel free to ask if he or she would be willing to meet you halfway. But do so tactfully. Wedding photographers want to shoot with couples who are fun to be around. The manner in which you conduct yourself on a phone call or in a meeting is a reflection of how enjoyable your wedding day will be.
Thanks very much for reading and happy negotiations!
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