First and foremost: I'm not an economist, not even an accountant, I am speaking only according with the experience that I gained during the years and I want to share this piece of knowledge to maybe help some of you.
One of the hardest things for a wedding photographer to do is figure out, at the beginning of their career, is what their time and talent is worth, so setting prices can be very difficult.
Most photographers don't even know what to charge per hour or will work for free just to gain experience.
Here, we'll address these issues and explain why giving away your services for free hurts you and the entire freelance photography business.
1. It is important not to sell yourself short.
If you want to be a professional in the photography business, then you have to charge for your services. Even your friends should pay. Feel free to give friends a discount here and there, but this is how you make money, so they will respect that. You have to set the path for them to understand and respect it.
When I started I made this mistake as well, all of my friends where asking for free portraits, family photos, etc. but then (and it will become easier and easier the more you practice it), you have to explain that yours is not an expensive hobby, it's your job.
When you give your services away for free, you bring down the market for other freelancers around you. Customers start to think, "Well, this photographer doesn't charge anything. Why should I pay your rates?" Remember, you want to have competitive rates but you also want to be able to live off your work. Even if freelance photography isn't a full-time business for you, it is for others, so keep that in mind when setting your rates.
2. As far as creating wedding photography packages, the easiest way to find a starting place is to start research what other photographers in the area are charging.
I step back a little and I want to say that although this little title says what it says, I don't believe that copying others is a good thing. Your services will be always different then other's and only you can decide how much they're worth it, moreover you only have the knowledge of what your expenses are, etc.
..Look at what they charge and how they put packages together. I would even contact them, tell them you are new and looking for advice, and see if they are willing to help. Every region, city and town is different, so by looking at what others are charging for weddings, you can see where to start.
3. Include editing time when calculating your hourly rates.
Most wedding photographers have wedding packages based on how many hours they are going to work on the wedding day. This doesn't include editing time, which is why photographer's hourly rates are doubled. Give yourself at least an hour of editing for each hour of work. So if you're thinking of charging $50 an hour for a shoot, then actually charge $100 an hour. Then you can have a base when a bride asks for six to eight hours of work because you know in the end, it's really going to be about 16 hours of work.
Most customers don't understand photo editing and how much time it takes after the fact. Be honest with your customers if they ask, and feel free to break down your work estimate before anyone signs a contract. Honesty and transparency are key when dealing with your rates and customers.
Let me wine a little about this. I have had many photographers saying that they are more competitve because their prices are a lot more affordable than mine, but look: professionals (head to toe) don't just show up, take photos and leave; they do all of the above and then add on professional editing, retouch, and beauty enhance (to say the least).
SO: if you call yourself a pro then please don't offer discounts cutting short on the post-production part, it's an easy way to "look" competitve but in the long run your business gets hurt because the dissatisfaction of your clients is going to hit you.
4. Price out additional services.
I don't like to call them "additional services", I like better the idea of additional benefits, plus, and features that make your business different.
Many photographers have packages that include unlimited hours, and price them significantly higher. You can also offer add-ons for the couple to choose from. These can be anything from bridal or engagement portraits to trash the dress sessions. It's much easier to sell these items in the beginning, so have a price sheet ready to discuss.
Couples who choose to work with me, have a ton of extra benefits, gift from my business, etc and when they come on my website, blog, instagram, facebook, or meet me in person they are well aware of that. The couples who choose me, are aware that prices are set for a certain specific reason and as bad as it sounds (unfortunately is very true): you get what you pay for.
Is not like all of the sudden you can jack up your prices just by adding a lot of different features, because your clientele is not prepared for it, but you can work around your experience, around your "tribe" and insert step by step all of the above and manage to set your business on a side from competition and become a pillar in your field.
5. Dealing with budgets.
You are going to run into a budget bride here and there. Don't let this discourage you or make you think you are charging too much.
I once had a bride ask if I would charge less if I let her husband edit the photos. The answer to that question is heck no! You want to build your business on a path of credibility before profitability. Your name is your brand, your product must "screem" I did this and it's so obvious that other couples are willing to pay the same in order to have the same service.
All of your final products have to have a certain quality standard, and you need to set up rules on how you run your business.
There aren't secrets keys, you need to make mistakes and learn from them, you need to look at other professional that you admire and learn from them, you need to learn your craft first and then you'll be able to confidently put it out there.
Is it scary??? Of course. Was I Scared??? I still Am!!!
I do it? Yes, every day.
Once you become skilled at editing, you develop your own style and it will become part of your brand, and an important part to the whole job. If you feel you are inexperienced and shouldn't charge as much as a veteran photographer, then charge a little less.
Usually brides pick their photographers because they like their photos, so if a bride is seeking you out to be her wedding photographer, take it as a compliment and go for it. We all have to start somewhere. Once you see what others are charging, put together your own packages and be your own judge on where you are experience-wise, but don't sell yourself short!
I know I'm not the only one who says that but, try to charge exactly how much you should to be fine and make a living with your photography business, and with no fear of being refused. Do it, and you'll be surprised:
your work quality will increase, your clients satisfaction will increase and eventually your business is going to start running exactly as it should.
Good Luck Friends ;)