I’m going to chat about some uncomfortable things today and believe me when I say that this is coming from a good place. This blog isn’t meant to make anyone feel ashamed or to call anyone out, it’s written from the perspective of having been someone who actually did not realize any of this until recently. It’s written because I want to see the wedding photography community grow together and stay the beautiful service industry that it is. Here’s the tough but true fact: giving major discounts based on location or shooting for free based solely on the fact that the wedding is in a place you want to travel is harming the integrity of our community and is setting unrealistic expectations for potential clients.
Your Worth at Stake
I know the temptation and I have most definitely felt it. It’s so easy to get caught up in the dreamer side of our hearts. We may want the adventure that comes with destination weddings in far away places. But here’s the thing: often, reality doesn’t match up well with our dream of how something will go when we fail to value ourselves. It’s a slippery slope to go down where you begin to offer your services for a tiny percentage of what they are worth or worse, for nothing at all (excluding occasional giveaways as I do believe giving back is important and has a place). Think of how much you give of yourself in the course of a job. If you’re anything like me, this means giving pieces of your heart to your couples and giving 120% (more even) to make the day amazing and to document it beautifully. Is this something so easily given away for the sake of adventure and seeing a new place? Is that honestly worth it?
What it comes down to is this. When you significantly undervalue yourself, you are essentially saying: “I’m not worth more.” Whether you say that intentionally, whether or not you consciously believe that about yourself, it’s the message you are sending. There are a few dangerous consequences to that.
Setting a Negative Tone for our Industry
- When you don’t assign an appropriate value to yourself and your services, you risk providing less than your best.
- It can lead to feelings of negativity while providing services due to feeling undervalued overall.
- It sends a message that local weddings or weddings in locations not on a bucket list are somehow less valuable than those in ideal locations. This makes me saddest of all for couples.
- It creates a trend that drives the value of wedding photography down as a whole, which can also impact the quality of services.
- Winning over “competition” by undercutting only cheapens your work. I know, that’s a tough one to swallow and it was for me too. So let me touch on that more
Education as a Solution
It’s far better for you and for your client if you have explained your pricing by assigning value to what you do rather than to just quote lower in order to get the job. This comes down to client education and helping people understand why pricing is what it is. Most of our clients have not been through this process before and aren’t even sure what kind of value to place on wedding photography. I’ve seen quite a few inquiries come through that said something like, “We don’t even know where to start with a budget, we’re not sure what this type of thing costs.” So being able to explain why you’ve set your pricing where it’s at by highlighting the value you bring to the table is essential. When you’re willing to undervalue and price ultra-low, it doesn’t educate the couple or help them to understand value. Instead, they walk away perhaps thinking they’ve gotten a steal. A thought even more dangerous may cross their minds like, since they didn’t have to make an investment as they might’ve expected, they’re thinking there’s no big deal to photography anymore. Anyone with a camera can do the job, right? We all know that’s not the case, but I’ve heard the opposite on occasion because often, people not in the industry don’t really know that’s not the case.
There are plenty of ways to approach this instead of undervaluing yourself. Invest in educating clients on your pricing and how you work, why you’re worth what you are asking. If you’re looking to build a destination portfolio, try styling a shoot in a location you’d like to book in or just snag a cute couple for an impromptu photo shoot. I’m still working on the courage to do this one, it can be scary but worth it! If all else fails, just travel and document it. Blog for SEO on places you’d like to go. There are plenty of ways to connect with potential clients without undervaluing the work you do.
Most importantly, my wish is that each person who reads this will realize that they are so worth it. It’s a really tough thing having so much of our hearts on display as artists and the fear of failure or rejection are too real. You are definitely worth more than shooting for free or next to it. XO
This was something that has been on my heart a lot lately as well. I’m glad you took the time to cover it! Very well said! And super inspirational to me.
Thank you! That’s amazing to hear. It was on my heart for a while as well, so I felt really good about getting this out there 🙂
This was really cool to read and hear coming from someone who is trying to start a photo business, and all the nuances that come with photography.
I’m so glad to hear that!
You’ve made really great points here. I feel this first hand. It’s really sad that so many people offer free weddings to travel to my area since it is a “bucket list” location. This drives our local photographers to compete with freebies which is killing our businesses. The struggle is real. Shooting for free is unprofessional for yourself and your industry. When you do that in a location that’s not your own think of the implications it has on the local professionals.