Hello all! Wow, it's been quite a while since I've written a blog, and a lot has changed since then! I'm currently having myself a new website completely redesigned, I've opened my new Client Closet, I've got so many new photos (which I've been too lazy to upload), and so much more.
But today I wanted to touch on a topic that's come to light for me, or rather, a topic myself and other photographers have always been privy to, which is further spotlighted anytime we make adjustments to our prices – Is it okay to ask a photographer for a discount? Well buckle up and grab a snack, this is a long one!
The answers to this are broad, and of course, sensitive. From the standpoint of a customer, we all understand what it's like to be on a budget and to want to be sure we're getting the best price for a product or service. From the standpoint of a photographer, I think myself and others could agree that there's so much we wish our customers knew in regards to why our pricing is what it is, and why it's important and necessary for it to be what it is.
Before I joined this industry, I can easily admit that I viewed photography prices as seemingly insane too. How on earth do they get away with charging that much for taking some photos? They're getting paid three hundred dollars an hour, they must be millionaires with those wages!
But, let's look at this logically – if photography was really that simple, and we were actually earning hundreds of dollars per one hour of work, wouldn't all photographers be living in mansions? Wouldn't I own my dream Tesla right now? I think we can agree that everyone would quickly want to become a photographer if that were the case – Why get your PhD if you can just buy a camera!
Of course the truth is, the wages behind photography are not what they seem. So before we get into whether or not it's okay to ask for a discount, let's consider why photography prices are what they are to begin with.
First and foremost, it's easy to hire a photographer for two hours and think they are getting paid $500 for just those two hours, but there's a lot more that goes on behind the scenes that's easy to overlook. For one, there's the time that was spent communicating back and forth with you to plan and book your session. The time spent traveling to and from your venue, and there's the many hours that go into sorting and editing your photos.
And time is actually a secondary component compared to the expenses that go into our trade. A professional camera body alone will usually cost at least two thousand dollars, often more. And that's without the lenses, which will each cost anywhere from hundreds to thousands per lens. As you can imagine, these are also very expensive to repair, and replace! There's also the expense of our gas money, car repairs, our computers, editing software, subscription payments for our website and galleries, pretty props, and all the other bits and bobs that make our photography stand out among the rest!
So in short, while it may seem like they're up-selling and can afford to drop their prices for you, more often than not your photographer is actually only charging what they must in order to support the costs of their business, and to earn a livable wage. Unlike a car dealership for an international brand, photographers aren't up-charging for products. As a single-entity small business, the "extra" we charge is actually just the profit needed to pay our electric bills, buy groceries, and to, well, continue to be a photographer. Otherwise, we'd have to quit and get a safe desk job with benefits, and then there wouldn't be any photographers!
So finally, let's get down to the answer we've all been curious about: Is it rude to ask a photographer for a discount? The hard truth is, usually, yes.
But I don't want to leave off on that note, without offering a little more explanation as to why. We've obviously talked about the fact that photographers are typically never charging much more than what they actually need to survive, but let's also consider the implication of the question itself. When you ask a photographer for a discount, what you're essentially saying is, "I love your work so much, it stood out to me among the rest! But I don't think it, or you, or your time is worth the prices you're asking." It's a little bit of a slap in the face, right? What makes it sting even more is when there's not much of a reason behind needing the discount; you are asking simply because you are you.
With that being said, photographers may be able to negotiate with you with certain things, for example, wedding packages. We understand that sometimes your needs may not match up with the options we have listed. In this scenario, a polite thing to do might be to let your photographer know that "Hey, we really love your work and here's our budget. We want to make sure you still get paid your normal rates, so we wanted to see if there's any way that we could make a custom package with you. We don't need the included engagement session, and we're willing to eliminate things like the Getting Ready photos, or maybe only having you for three hours instead of your full six hour package. Do you have any flexibility with creating something custom with us?"
This approach tells us that you value our work and want to find a way to work with us that still pays us our wages. The logistics may or may not work out from situation to situation, but we truly appreciate the effort! But negotiating a wedding package and asking for a direct discount on a session are two different things. As mentioned, more often than not there isn't usually much for us to discount; we're often only charging what we need to and nothing more. Unfortunately what questions like this often lead to is awkwardness and a sour taste with your photographer.
Quite simply, we are so enthusiastic to work with customers who readily book us from the start, and we often go above and beyond! But that excitement is quashed if our first impression is that you don't value our work, and in that scenario you might find your photographer trying to simply get the job over and out as quickly as possible.
Again, we do understand that this seems like an innocent and harmless question and I know myself and most photographers try our best to look past it. But I do hope this blog has cleared up the true secrets of what really goes on behind the scenes for us in regards to costs and expenses. Like other growing photographers, my prices have and will likely continue to rise slightly in conjunction with demand and the quality of work I produce, and will eventually plateau at the average going rates. With that being said, I'm still a long, long way away from that Tesla!
Morgan Ofsharick at MEO Photography specializes in business headshots, proposal, engagement, wedding, maternity, newborn, and family portrait photography, servicing New Haven, Fairfield, Hartford, Middlesex, Litchfield, and plenty of other regions around Connecticut!