Let’s cut right to the chase, champs, and dig into the super controversial question: should photographers list their prices? And before you write me off as a ding-dong who doesn’t know what she’s talking about, hear me out, okay?
As I’ve worked with countless photographers on rewriting their web content, I’ve never had push back when it comes to the importance of an about me page, a portfolio page or even a “The Experience” page. It seems fairly easy to grasp why first-time visitors to a website would want to have these bits of information just a click away.
And more often than not, photographers are willing to be extremely transparent about the journey that brought them to photography, the kinds of clients they hope to serve and how they do what they do.
In fact, “authentic” is one of the most-used words by photographers describing their businesses to me. There is this desire in the industry to be open, honest and truthful in both photos and relationships with clients.
But when conversation touches on a single, terrifying page, many photographers clam right up: the investment page. When we hit this page, photographers always ask me “should photographers list their prices,” and while I can’t tell you how to run your business, I have a pretty definite opinion on the matter.
There’s been a recent trend in wedding photography circles to list packages without prices. And I have to be honest…I think that’s an absolutely horrible idea.
“You don’t understand,” you say. “This way, we can get on the phone with a potential client, and make them understand why we are worth the money BEFORE dropping the price on them.”
And, no, I promise that I get it. I’m just here to break the bad news that, unfortunately, this tactic doesn’t really work the way you think it does. (There are also better ways to demonstrate value…but we’ll get to that later.)
Over the weekend, I ran a super informal survey on my personal Facebook and Instagram asking whether any of my married or engaged friends had passed over a photographer simply because their prices were unlisted on their website. 74% of women (who weren’t in the industry, that is…yeah, I saw y’all sneakin’) responded “yes!”
It’s not an exact science by any stretch, but it shows a trend in brides that is worth considering when it comes to the question of should photographers list their prices. Here are some of the reasons they gave for their decision:
1. For some brides, budget is everything
Sure, we all wish money wasn’t an object when it came to planning the biggest celebration of our life, but that’s just not the reality for most brides.
I did another survey on what was the most important thing to brides when selecting a photographer: the photographer’s personality, the photos, the turnaround time, the experience or the cost.
All of the responses (of those outside the industry…again, I see y’all lol) put cost as their first or second consideration. (As an interesting tidbit, most listed turnaround time last, so don’t stress so hard over those edits! Your clients love you!)
No matter how much a bride loves your work, budgets often have hard caps and can’t be exceeded, even for a dream photographer.
And it’s worth noting that just because a bride has a budget doesn’t make it a small one. She may have a photography budget she can’t exceed…of $6,000. So considering brides with budgets doesn’t mean welcoming in brides only looking to whine about cost.
Disregard if: you ONLY work with brides who have unlimited budgets or whose budgets are so high that the cost of a photographer would never be an issue.
2. Take a look at a fancy restaurant’s menu
Imagine exploring a new city for the very first time. You come across the most adorable restaurant, covered in ivy and cafe lights, and the smells wafting through the front door make your mouth water. But just as you are about to walk in, the menu hanging by the door catches your eye.
Oops…there are no prices listed.
Now, you may decide to give it a try anyway. It’s SO cute, after all! But you might also decide to walk away. Why? Because “no prices” is code for “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.”
While this may not be why your prices are unlisted, this is how we’ve been trained to think. So, brides may pass you by simply because they assume you must be out of their price range without ever finding out one way or the other.
Disregard if: you ONLY work with brides who are so familiar with the industry that they would never make an assumption based on whether or not a price is listed (a.k.a. you only work with other photographers) or you only work with brides who have no budget.
3. Brides are busy beings
You and I both know how wretchedly long a bride’s to do list is.
Just the bit that concerns vendors is enough to give you nightmares. From venues to florists, gowns to napkins, a bride has to hunt down and make decisions about so many different things that patience rapidly wears thin.
And when a bride is enchanted by your work but has to submit a form, wait 4 days, schedule a phone call, wait 2 more days and sit through a phone call only to find out the photographer is $500 over budget…
Consider a “convenience fee.” Parking by the venue is $20…but the $5 lot is half a mile away and it’s 45 degrees out. Convenience fee. Having pizza delivered is an extra $8…but that means I don’t have to go out and get it. Convenience fee. This photographer is $500 over budget, but she isn’t making me bend over backward to find out what her prices are. Convenience fee.
By reducing the number of hoops a bride has to jump through before booking, you will charm clients into saying “yes” when they may otherwise have said “no.”
Disregard if: you ONLY work with brides who have 12+ month long engagements, have plenty of free time in their day to spend on the phone with potential vendors or use wedding planners.
4. You’re wasting valuable time!
By shying away from sharing your prices, you’re taking time out of your extremely busy schedule for phone calls with brides who simply aren’t your ideal client. Whether they can’t afford the work you do or they just don’t value wedding photography as highly as they probably should, spending hour after hour trying to convince non-ideal clients that you are right for them reduces the time you can spend on the clients who are perfect for you.
Disregard if: you are willing to decrease your prices for clients or are willing to work with any bride who will book you.
While I would recommend sharing pricing on your website, advertising starting prices — as long as that price is actually a price you offer and not just a sneaky low amount that no wedding coverage actually costs — is the best way to go.
Just. List. Your. Starting. Price. I can’t say it enough.
There are plenty of reasons the cost of a wedding photography package may need to increase, whether that be because the wedding is massive, forces you to travel or the bride is just difficult. You should feel free to adjust your prices IF YOU NEED TO. So, avoid locking yourself in with firm pricing on your website.
THE OTHER CAVEAT
Sharing your prices on a website that is nothing more than a gallery and a contact page is a REALLY, really bad idea. It’s absolutely vital to demonstrate value on your website just like you would on an inquiry phone call. So, make sure that your investment page is robust, and includes an immersive description of your unique experience….or even a link to an experience page!
Sharing prices can be scary, and you shouldn’t do it without also demonstrating the incredible value you deliver!
And, of course, there are exceptions to every rule (and this isn’t even a rule so…relax), but it is vital to any service-based business to keep the client’s perspective in mind while making decisions.
At the end of the day, falling in love with something you can’t have is one of the worst feelings in the world, and many brides will go out of their way to avoid disappointment.
Why bother reaching out to a photographer you can’t have only to fall even MORE in love with their personality and work over the phone just to find out their price is astronomically above what you can afford? To avoid that feeling of disappointment while planning the best day of their lives, brides often choose to forego the conversation altogether and choose a photographer they love less but that they can easily determine won’t leave them wishing for something they simply can’t have.
Sure, photographers can rail in frustration at brides not understanding how important photography is to their wedding day and how they should be willing to spend any amount for what you deliver…but getting frustrated doesn’t solve a problem.
Transparency might, though.
So, should photographers list their prices? I say hell to the yes! But what do you think? Should photographers list their prices? I’m sure you have ALL the thoughts on this subject, so drop ’em in the comments!