A photographer on Facebook posted an elopement, courthouse wedding for $200. She's hurting herself and the industry.

She asked for constructive criticism on her pricing. Here is my response.

Hey girl! I know this is hard. I have been doing this *with an LLC* in North Florida for a little over 2 years. I have not booked a ton of weddings that I felt truly have the vision I want to show off, because they were super low budget. The solid ones, that even then I negotiated with, I can show off on my page and have gotten me plenty of new inquiries and a handful of bookings coming up. No, this isn’t too much to brag about, it’s not 3 weddings a month or 6 figures - but I’m on year 2 of legal business. I know my marketing and, more importantly, my photography, is where it needs to be. 

The industry depends on the oldest and newest to shape it: charge more. You spend how much a month on software, hardware, and I’m sure you want to buy new hardware, better lenses, new camera body, right? These prices are under “at cost.” Calculate your fees, subscriptions, hours spent on site, and hours off site. 

If you keep your prices this way, you will not afford new equipment and it hurts the industry. You can not pay your business what it costs to operate and you also can not afford to pay you. With this ad alone, I’d pay way more for your services. (Her ad was beautiful!)

To put it in perspective, I started charging $1,000. Then went up to $1,800. Then clients started booking higher end photographers because I wasn’t impressive enough based on my price. Be a LOUIS VUITTON. Be a PRADA. 

Now, I pitch differently. I hire two second shooters, offer a bundled engagement shoot or boudoir shoot, provide tons of posing guides and a full brochure, and full cinematography. I booked my first big package at over $3k. My presentation was fuller. I hired an assistant to help manage the frontend for me, so I could work on focusing on the backend, my photography. I had another job and believe me, I was pinching pennies still. This was one wedding.

My assistant did a cost analysis, looked at the industry standard in surrounding cities - like Atlanta, Jacksonville, even South Florida. This is great because I will travel for clients as well. I have to reach into a wider industry. Now, I’m starting to charge $5k-$8k because that is what high-end, Florida shooters do here. Because, it was how I was not only paying my business and myself, working above "at cost," it is also how I would get ahead with better equipment. Equipment is always depreciating in value. (And honestly, I have seen such more expensive weddings - like $30k.)

Yes, I’m nervous. But it’s getting me somewhere. I have more inquiries and more money to funnel into marketing to charge more in the next few years. Make a future plan. 

I'm still human. I'm still reasonable. If someone wanted to book me for a wedding a year out, I require a 50% retainer, but will work with them on payment plans and they are usually so happy I do that. 

Be bigger! You rock! Take the leap! This job is art. Money is weird. Do research! Your right client is out there.

These prices will get you the wrong client, and you walk away from their low budget wedding thinking, "Wow, I can’t use these photos to book a $4k wedding. I'm screwed." Stop. The. Cycle.

Be the solution to our industry. Charge your worth.