This is a guest post by wedding cinematographer Ray Roman, but it applies to all photographers. Ray’s currently on tour helping photographers expand their job opportunities by adding video.In our industry, every client is angling for a deal. How do you create lasting memories for your newlyweds without putting a hole in your own pocket? Your hard work filming, editing, and producing wedding films should be reflected in your pay. But so many photographers & videographers are selling themselves short by using the wrong pricing and sales tactics.
Several years ago, I toured the studio of one of Floridas top wedding photographers. Their facilities, cameras, and equipment were top-notch. At the end of the tour we sat down in a beautiful meeting room and the photographer offered: Let me show you my prices. After reviewing the rate card, I said, This is too low! You could be billing fifteen or twenty grand for the work you produce. How can you do this so cheaply?
And thats when he said something that changed my business forever: Oh, no no! Thats just my base fee.
A Base Fee
When potential clients call my office, I don’t call them back first. Instead, I email them a simple questionnaire that helps me determine my approach. Where and when is your wedding? What events will be filmed? How many guests will attend? With just five quick questions, I can determine my base price.
Your base price is your absolute minimum– the price you will not go below to capture, edit, and produce a beautiful wedding film. Using the questionnaire allows you to determine how complex the event will be and how much work the wedding is actually going to take. The first place we sell ourselves short is how we price our own time. Does it take you 50 hours to produce your wedding films? Does it take two assistants over a 9-hour day to film a wedding? Build these costs into your base price, and you won’t be charging $1500 anymore. Understanding your event will help you set a base price that accurately reflects your work, and this is a very key component of my overall pricing approach so I talk about it a lot throughout my CCW Workshops.
This is a great technique that we can (and should) borrow from our photography colleagues: using a base fee and a savvy pricing structure to increase profits and delight clients. This is the key to my project pricing, and I go into great detail about this in my Workshop Series Capture Cinematic Weddings.
Knowledge is Power
Now youve learned about the wedding without talking money– giving yourself a huge advantage when it comes to negotiations. Remember, the client is always looking for a deal. Now the power to shape that deal is in your hands. Its time to offer the client a contract. In that contract, include a rate sheet for your base price. This should reflect your time, the rental & use of your equipment, and any assistants you’ll use to capture what the client described in the questionnaire. Nothing else! This written agreement will shield you from surprises down the road.
The La Carte Menu
Attached to the end of the contract is your secret weapon: The la carte menu. Remember, your base price is just that. Anything else you can dream of, from delivering raw footage or a documentary cut to creating a three-minute highlight trailer, is now an la carte item.
This la carte menu is so much more than a moneymaker. Its also where you offer that negotiating room that makes your clients so happy. Lets say they really want that raw footage, but they balk at the $1200 fee. Since you already made a profit in your base price, you can waive the $1200 fee and look like a hero. It doesn’t cost you much to drag-and-drop raw files onto a $40 hard drive, but youve just delivered tons of perceived value to your happy client.
Once that signed contract is in place, these added deliverables can only make you money and improve your position. If the bride calls you two days after the wedding dying for a highlight video of the wedding, no problem! Shes already got your la carte menu in front of her, and its putting money in your pocket.
This is a low-pressure sales tactic that really works. At least 80% of the time in my business, contracts are coming back with add-ons using this system. Think about that: On top of always making my base price, Ive got a secret weapon that makes me money and keeps my clients happy.
Just remember to lead with the questionnaire, set your rigid base price, and offer a la carte options — and your clients will be happier spending even more with you. Stop selling yourself short, and make the kind of money your wedding films are truly worth!
To learn more about my pricing approach and structure, be sure to check out a Capture Cinematic Weddings Workshop in your city soon www.CaptureCinematicWeddings.com.