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View Full Version : Pictures Forming a wedding photography business plan. Looking for different perspectives.


|Zach|
05-10-2009, 09:47 AM
Hey folks, as most of you know one of the hats I wear is that of a professional photographer. I do a lot of different stuff. I do a little bit of fine art but have made a lot of my money doing portraits and even more doing live event type work. My portrait work had produced some good results and a lot of people have been on me about shooting weddings. I never really wanted to take on weddings because it is a whole different business venture with so many unique things about it but after doing one and seeing the results as well as understanding how much money is out there I have decided to take it on. I am hiring on an assistant to help out with some of the organization type stuff leading up to the event and during it so I am able to focus on a little more on the shots. Aside from all of that...

I am trying to put together my business plan and am having a tough time deciding which avenue to go down. Do I offer a CD of the photos to the bride+groom and just price that into the package? Or do I try to go more towards print sales? Or do I offer the ability to do either?

Offering CD
Pros: Really really easy to do. My revenue stream would be more known or absolute. Brides love it.
Cons: Even providing the CD at a premium cost can often mean less money than print sales. You have no control over the quality of the prints being produced from the CD.

Print Sales
Pros: Ability for huge sales is a possibility. Quality prints are guaranteed because my service would be used.
Cons: More of a hassle. Could mean small revenue because money is pretty tight after a wedding is done. Some brides see not offering CD as a deal breaker in todays market.

I would love to have one way and stick with it but I keep going back and forth. I hear a lot of horror stories associated with print sales like...so and so didn't buy any prints because they don't have much money anymore. Or just general problems that come up. With the CDs I know what I am going to make...with print sales it seems that I would generally make a little bit more but not always the case at all and I am adding more steps in a process that is already a long one.

Thoughts? I appreciate any perspectives or advice. I know a lot of you are going through or have been through this process.

Bacon Cheeseburger
05-10-2009, 10:03 AM
Some brides see not offering CD as a deal breaker in todays market.
That surprises me, I would think most young people these days probably have the means to scan them and burn them to a CD themselves if they really want that.

|Zach|
05-10-2009, 10:05 AM
That surprises me, I would think most young people these days probably have the means to scan them and burn them to a CD themselves if they really want that.

That is true. However your quality takes a pretty big hit. Unless you have some nutsos scanner. But its more of how they are looking at it. They would rather have the whole buffet than do a la carte. They want it all.

The Bad Guy
05-10-2009, 10:06 AM
Have a set price where you offer all the prints to the bridge and groom - with all the image CDs offering various black and whites, sepia (I'm sure I spelled it wrong) and color.

There is no bigger pain in the ass for a family or wedding couple than having to go back to the photographer if you want any extra prints.

|Zach|
05-10-2009, 10:08 AM
Have a set price where you offer all the prints to the bridge and groom - with all the image CDs offering various black and whites, sepia (I'm sure I spelled it wrong) and color.

There is no bigger pain in the ass for a family or wedding couple than having to go back to the photographer if you want any extra prints.

Prints come in so many different shapes and sizes...I couldn't begin to assume what they would want print wise and trying to do so would be a bad use of resources. That CD allows them to repeatedly get prints of their choosing at a time of their choosing.

|Zach|
05-10-2009, 10:09 AM
See this is the great thing about this board. You guys are throwing out angles I never really thought of.

The Bad Guy
05-10-2009, 10:10 AM
Prints come in so many different shapes and sizes...I couldn't begin to assume what they would want print wise and trying to do so would be a bad use of resources. That CD allows them to repeatedly get prints of their choosing at a time of their choosing.

You could just do one uniform album of 8x10s. That's what our photographer did.

The Bad Guy
05-10-2009, 10:11 AM
I think the prints are necessary because you are going to have some old family members that just want to take the print to a CVS or a Walmart and have someone make a duplicate at the size they want.

|Zach|
05-10-2009, 10:11 AM
You could just do one uniform album of 8x10s. That's what our photographer did.

Gotcha, so 8x10s of all prints were provided and you had the ability to get more if you wanted them?

|Zach|
05-10-2009, 10:12 AM
I think the prints are necessary because you are going to have some old family members that just want to take the print to a CVS or a Walmart and have someone make a duplicate at the size they want.

Heh, which is illegal. I know it happens...like downloading .mp3's but still.

Fried Meat Ball!
05-10-2009, 10:12 AM
Charge them more, give them everything and be done with it. I did a bit of wedding photography and hated every second of it.

DaFace
05-10-2009, 10:13 AM
I have some friends who are in their second year of getting into wedding photography. They were facing the same question recently and opted to give out a CD with each "package" that includes pictures sufficient for printing 4x6 prints, but nothing higher (unless you are OK with blurry pictures). However, when people want high-quality larger pics, they have to order through their web site. That way, people can have a copy of all the pics for computer distribution and for scrapbooks and the like, but they can make a little extra out of the big prints.

Their higher-end packages also include a "print credit" for people to use for choosing their prints. That way, it's all just included in the package.

|Zach|
05-10-2009, 10:13 AM
Charge them more, give them everything and be done with it. I did a bit of wedding photography and hated every second of it.

This is where I am leaning...the longer the process is...the more steps there are (ie ordering prints) the more chances there are for complications and stupid shit happening that people get mad over.

|Zach|
05-10-2009, 10:14 AM
I have some friends who are in their second year of getting into wedding photography. They were facing the same question recently and opted to give out a CD with each "package" that includes pictures sufficient for printing 4x6 prints, but nothing higher (unless you are OK with blurry pictures). However, when people want high-quality larger pics, they have to order through their web site. That way, people can have a copy of all the pics for computer distribution and for scrapbooks and the like, but they can make a little extra out of the big prints.

Wow, I really love this idea. Thats interesting.

Boon
05-10-2009, 10:14 AM
Nudes?

|Zach|
05-10-2009, 10:15 AM
Nudes?

Did it once. Not as fun as I thought it might be. Years ago.

Mr. Flopnuts
05-10-2009, 10:15 AM
I have some friends who are in their second year of getting into wedding photography. They were facing the same question recently and opted to give out a CD with each "package" that includes pictures sufficient for printing 4x6 prints, but nothing higher (unless you are OK with blurry pictures). However, when people want high-quality larger pics, they have to order through their web site. That way, people can have a copy of all the pics for computer distribution and for scrapbooks and the like, but they can make a little extra out of the big prints.

I think that's a good idea. These days, everyone thinks they're a professional photographer. I'm watching picture framers go out of business every day. I'm completely uneducated into the photography aspect of it, but this does seem like a really good idea to me.

Fried Meat Ball!
05-10-2009, 10:16 AM
Tell them the quality will suffer if they don't us a reputable company for prints. Give them your guys, and tell them to get 4x6 and 5x7 all they want from Walmart, but to use your guy when they print 8x10s and larger.

Boon
05-10-2009, 10:16 AM
Did it once. Not as fun as I thought it might be. Years ago.

This thread is worthless without.......................

|Zach|
05-10-2009, 10:18 AM
I think that's a good idea. These days, everyone thinks they're a professional photographer. I'm watching picture framers go out of business every day. I'm completely uneducated into the photography aspect of it, but this does seem like a really good idea to me.

It is an interesting market for a lot of reasons. On one hand it is pretty saturated. But the proof is in the pudding. There are also a lot of different creative ways to make money doing it.

I love doing it but I am glad it is not my only career.

DaFace
05-10-2009, 10:20 AM
It is an interesting market for a lot of reasons. On one hand it is pretty saturated. But the proof is in the pudding. There are also a lot of different creative ways to make money doing it.

I love doing it but I am glad it is not my only career.

I think we're also seeing a paradigm shift from the portrait style of wedding photography to the more photojournalistic style. Those who get really good at the latter stand out pretty well. (And from what I've seen of your pics, you're well ahead of the curve.)

|Zach|
05-10-2009, 10:20 AM
These are just a few shots I put together, there are thousands more to mess with but this all came about from a pretty good experience I had doing my first wedding. Made me get more serious about actually getting into all of this.

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/zachishere/3479109109/" title="Carly + Brian Wedding - Kansas City, MO by zacharycobb, on Flickr"><img src="http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3375/3479109109_9a98a3f2f9_o.jpg" width="545" height="500" alt="Carly + Brian Wedding - Kansas City, MO" /></a>

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/zachishere/3479916998/" title="Carly + Brian Wedding - Kansas City, MO by zacharycobb, on Flickr"><img src="http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3350/3479916998_7fc7c60721_o.jpg" width="545" height="500" alt="Carly + Brian Wedding - Kansas City, MO" /></a>

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/zachishere/3479108923/" title="Carly + Brian Wedding - Kansas City, MO by zacharycobb, on Flickr"><img src="http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3327/3479108923_730309e351_o.jpg" width="545" height="500" alt="Carly + Brian Wedding - Kansas City, MO" /></a>

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/zachishere/3479916868/" title="Carly + Brian Wedding - Kansas City, MO by zacharycobb, on Flickr"><img src="http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3616/3479916868_eb5eebda8b_o.jpg" width="545" height="500" alt="Carly + Brian Wedding - Kansas City, MO" /></a>

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/zachishere/3479108787/" title="Carly + Brian Wedding - Kansas City, MO by zacharycobb, on Flickr"><img src="http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3601/3479108787_dbc19d0c8f_o.jpg" width="545" height="500" alt="Carly + Brian Wedding - Kansas City, MO" /></a>

Mr. Flopnuts
05-10-2009, 10:21 AM
It is an interesting market for a lot of reasons. On one hand it is pretty saturated. But the proof is in the pudding. There are also a lot of different creative ways to make money doing it.

I love doing it but I am glad it is not my only career.

It is definitely over saturated from what I can tell. I actually work in the industry in a round about way. The thing I tell people is, if you're good at what you do, don't worry. You don't need to hear that, you're a confident guy, and unlike most photographers and picture framers I've encountered, seem to have a very strong business acumen. That all by itself will set you apart.

I can't stress enough how much I like the idea provided by DaFace.

|Zach|
05-10-2009, 10:23 AM
I think we're also seeing a paradigm shift from the portrait style of wedding photography to the more photojournalistic style. Those who get really good at the latter stand out pretty well. (And from what I've seen of your pics, you're well ahead of the curve.)

That is completely my angle. It is so funny because I have a lot to learn and improve in the area of group portraits. Not that they are not good but they are not yet up to the level of quality of expect of my output. But you put me in a room where everyone is doing something different and you don't know what is coming next? I capture really strong shots of small moments as they happen. Kind of strange. More unpredictable is a lot more comfortable for me.

|Zach|
05-10-2009, 10:25 AM
It is definitely over saturated from what I can tell. I actually work in the industry in a round about way. The thing I tell people is, if you're good at what you do, don't worry. You don't need to hear that, you're a confident guy, and unlike most photographers and picture framers I've encountered, seem to have a very strong business acumen. That all by itself will set you apart.

I can't stress enough how much I like the idea provided by DaFace.

I balance the business and the creative parts pretty well. I am not the best photographer in the world or anything ,I have a lot to work on BUT sometimes I browse other photographers work in my market and it is just shit sandwich after shit sandwich. It is just crazy. But it is great your skill level is so easily identified. You can't say that as much in other industries.

The Bad Guy
05-10-2009, 10:25 AM
Gotcha, so 8x10s of all prints were provided and you had the ability to get more if you wanted them?

No. The album of all our pictures was provided with a mixture of color, sepia and black and white. Then in the back she put all the image CDs with every file on them, and every file with all 3 color options for the picture.

It came out really well.

I would also recommend that you set packages for the entire day. Nothing turned me off more than when I was talking with a potential photographer and they were like I offer 4 hours and then every additional hour is x amount of dollars. That pissed me off because there is some downtime and that was going to count against my hours.

The Bad Guy
05-10-2009, 10:27 AM
Heh, which is illegal. I know it happens...like downloading .mp3's but still.

No, it's not if the photographer provides a release for the photos.

|Zach|
05-10-2009, 10:28 AM
I would also recommend that you set packages for the entire day. Nothing turned me off more than when I was talking with a potential photographer and they were like I offer 4 hours and then every additional hour is x amount of dollars. That pissed me off because there is some downtime and that was going to count against my hours.
I completely agree with you. I was shocked by how much I am seeing of this in my initial market research. On the photographer end I get it...time = money and these are time sucking events but you are getting a lot of money. I have a lot of respect for weddings...for the process...and for how special this is the people and their families. I am going to be there as long as I am needed.

|Zach|
05-10-2009, 10:29 AM
No, it's not if the photographer provides a release for the photos.

Wow, someone actually signed off reproduction rights to their work? Not in a million years would I do that. Don't get me wrong I would do everything to provide anyone photos or prints at a reasonable price but you are asking for trouble basically signing off your ownership.

Jenson71
05-10-2009, 10:32 AM
My advice is to use photoshop to shave off at least five pounds of any bride, no matter what they look like already. I think this will show a great increase in profit.

The Bad Guy
05-10-2009, 10:35 AM
Wow, someone actually signed off reproduction rights to their work? Not in a million years would I do that. Don't get me wrong I would do everything to provide anyone photos or prints at a reasonable price but you are asking for trouble basically signing off your ownership.

I disagree.

This lady has a very successful business back where my parents live. She can still use the photos for marketing, advertising and displays, but I can reproduce my copies when I want. She was literally booked for 46 out of 52 weekends last year. At 2,800 a pop, that's a nice business (not taking into account for graduation, engagement or school pictures she does).

Realistically, what are you going to do with wedding prints that don't involve advertising for future clients? (I'm asking this because I really don't know).

|Zach|
05-10-2009, 10:39 AM
I disagree.

This lady has a very successful business back where my parents live. She can still use the photos for marketing, advertising and displays, but I can reproduce my copies when I want. She was literally booked for 46 out of 52 weekends last year. At 2,800 a pop, that's a nice business (not taking into account for graduation, engagement or school pictures she does).

Realistically, what are you going to do with wedding prints that don't involve advertising for future clients? (I'm asking this because I really don't know).

More so than the idea of my use being restricted by them, which I wouldn't allow and I am sure she does not...

It is opening up a can of worms as to the ownership rights of the property. There is nothing stopping someone from claiming that photo as their own and say....sending it to a magazine to get published.

Sounds far fetched and a little ridiculous I know but its one of those important thing to a photographer. When I sell a photo for someone to enjoy and hang on their wall I am granting a license for them to display it for personal use. I still own that photo. That line blurs a little bit when you start giving away reproduction rights. That wasn't a slam on this photographer. I have no doubt she is great.

The Bad Guy
05-10-2009, 10:44 AM
More so than the idea of my use being restricted by them, which I wouldn't allow and I am sure she does not...

It is opening up a can of worms as to the ownership rights of the property. There is nothing stopping someone from claiming that photo as their own and say....sending it to a magazine to get published.

Sounds far fetched and a little ridiculous I know but its one of those important thing to a photographer. When I sell a photo for someone to enjoy and hang on their wall I am granting a license for them to display it for personal use. I still own that photo. That line blurs a little bit when you start giving away reproduction rights. That wasn't a slam on this photographer. I have no doubt she is great.

I also think it would have to do with the area you are in as well. Scranton, despite the Office fame, isn't going to produce photos that publications are knocking on the door to get.

Bwana
05-10-2009, 10:59 AM
Did it once. Not as fun as I thought it might be. Years ago.

Run down Miss CA. After all the BS she has been through, she may just say screw it and do a layout. :evil:

kcfanXIII
05-10-2009, 11:02 AM
how bout offering the cd, with the option to get prints from you as well? as long as your prices are competitive i would assume people would still want some high quality prints from you as well.

Skip Towne
05-10-2009, 11:30 AM
I'd rather see pics of a really juicy divorce.

|Zach|
05-10-2009, 11:31 AM
I'd rather see pics of a really juicy divorce.

Heh, if there were a market I wouldn't mind cashing that check.

Cormac
05-10-2009, 11:37 AM
DaFace's idea is great, IMO.

And your photos are awesome. Congrats.

My only additional idea would be to form an agreement with a local framing shop and offer 10 framed 8x10 (or larger?) prints (in addition to the restricted resolution disk DaFace mentioned) as part of a premium package. You could get bulk discount on framing with your partnership, pass some savings along, and people would pay for what they want up front. You could also control the larger format product. I am one of those that didn't have extra money to buy prints after the wedding. And I have no regrets. We have all we want on disc. And most of the best pics were taken by friends/family anyway.

|Zach|
05-10-2009, 11:46 AM
DaFace's idea is great, IMO.

And your photos are awesome. Congrats.

My only additional idea would be to form an agreement with a local framing shop and offer 10 framed 8x10 (or larger?) prints (in addition to the restricted resolution disk DaFace mentioned) as part of a premium package. You could get bulk discount on framing with your partnership, pass some savings along, and people would pay for what they want up front. You could also control the larger format product. I am one of those that didn't have extra money to buy prints after the wedding. And I have no regrets. We have all we want on disc. And most of the best pics were taken by friends/family anyway.

That is an interesting angle. I have actually been thinking about sitting down and learning how to do frames myself. I have some friends that are really strong at it. The margins on frames from my end of that partnership would be pretty rough and tumble.

However, I do think there is a ton of referral money to made in this business. Setting up relationships with venues and vendors? It could go really far getting some kick back for directing a couple a certain way, even other photogrpahers if my style of shooting is not what they are looking for.

I am also looking to iron out a model that takes my portrait business into account. Trying to get that engaged couple to sign on to me for a wedding...and the wedding couple to have me do shots of their children.

I am actually considering developing a "proposal photographer" package to find creative ways to shoot that moment in time based on a cool experience I had with a best friend of mine.

My best friend has been dating this really great gal who already has a little one. We acted like we were doing photos of her daughter but Chris surprised her with a proposal. So I was there to capture the whole thing. It was real neat.

http://zcphotography.com/?page_id=83

Groves
05-10-2009, 12:24 PM
What hasn't been noted in this thread is which clientele you're after. I would guess (and hope) that you'll not be the wal-mart of wedding photographers, but something higher than that.

Even for people with money, there's a scale.

I would guess that the people with way more money than time don't want to mess with printing their own, and price shopping for the best deal. They want to pay for convenience, and you should happily both oblige and charge them for the privilege.

As you're already aware, this "high end" type of client expects a little pampering and leg work, but are eager to pay for it.

You may find your excellent photography skills to be your selling card, but in that business it's always at best a tie for first because nothing will unseat the "being catered to" aspect from the throne. This is why you can see so many high end (and high cost) photographers stay in business even with such shoddy work.

Pick your client, and then adjust your pricing to match. The lower end of the "have money" scale may totally enjoy just getting a CD and being done with it. Price accordingly.

Boon
05-10-2009, 12:41 PM
I'd rather see pics of a really juicy divorce.

LMAO

|Zach|
05-10-2009, 01:03 PM
What hasn't been noted in this thread is which clientele you're after. I would guess (and hope) that you'll not be the wal-mart of wedding photographers, but something higher than that.

Even for people with money, there's a scale.

I would guess that the people with way more money than time don't want to mess with printing their own, and price shopping for the best deal. They want to pay for convenience, and you should happily both oblige and charge them for the privilege.

As you're already aware, this "high end" type of client expects a little pampering and leg work, but are eager to pay for it.

You may find your excellent photography skills to be your selling card, but in that business it's always at best a tie for first because nothing will unseat the "being catered to" aspect from the throne. This is why you can see so many high end (and high cost) photographers stay in business even with such shoddy work.

Pick your client, and then adjust your pricing to match. The lower end of the "have money" scale may totally enjoy just getting a CD and being done with it. Price accordingly.
Def. very mindful of the kind of client I am after but didn't really think of that in terms of how you wrote it above.

Because I am just starting out in weddings I am going to go with what seems to be a fairly average price tag in about $3,500. Going to feel it out based on my first clients and go from there. I couldn't imagine going any lower than that. Bargain shoppers often make for terrible clients. Don't get me wrong...everyone wants to save money and I couldn't afford a $3,500 photographer right now but people that are just going for low prices often couple that small amount of money with unrealistic expectations or seem to go out of their way to be unhappy about things. For whatever reason.

Your point about those different kinds of clients being attracted to the different options and the reasons is worth thinking about for sure.

StcChief
05-10-2009, 01:25 PM
I'd rather see pics of a really juicy divorce.LOL. The next reality show.

Demonpenz
05-10-2009, 01:26 PM
womans input in this thread is a must

|Zach|
05-10-2009, 01:34 PM
womans input in this thread is a must

Heh, this is true.

StcChief
05-10-2009, 01:36 PM
In this economy, the future MIL, Mom of Groom should weigh in....since the $$$ are theirs.

stevieray
05-10-2009, 02:01 PM
my wife takes old vhs tapes and pics and converts them to disc in a slide show format set to music.

people eat it up...

Buehler445
05-10-2009, 02:14 PM
It would take me some time to think about it before I could give you much valuable advice.

But I'll tell you what our photographer did. He was the best one around (I'll leave price out of it because the price points in BFE are way different). The pictures were very good and I was very satisfied.

Here was our package:
1. Engagement pictures - It was nice they were comped. We bought some so he made some money off of them. He also sent them on to the newspapers for no cost)

2. Coverage from getting ready to cake cutting. - there was the option to get it through the dance but you had to buy a better package. This eliminates the problem that the bad guy came up with. Wedding timing typically isn't dramatically different between weddings, so you shouldn't take a bath on the value of your time.

3. Free photobook - This was really a nice touch. It was really well done and we didn't have to pay extra for it.

4. X number of 8X10 5X7 and 4X6 prints. I can't remember the breakdown. The intention was to fill up the wedding album with them. But if we wanted to take a few of them out of the album and have them framed, we just had to pay for the frame and matting.

5.Wedding pictures were posted on a website that could be logged into to facilitate ordering of pictures for relatives.

The dude did all of the framing and had them printed by another company (I believe) and really utilized it to add flexibility to what we could do. Honestly, the competive scene here isn't even close to what it is in KC, but at least you know what I thought about it.

Ultimately it comes down to money. Whatever you choose has to pay.

If I were you, I would contact the folks you've done already and see what they thought.

Groves
05-10-2009, 03:05 PM
What I'd hate to see is all of your talent behind the lens get buried by all of the business stuff behind the desk. Identify 3 areas of wedding photography that you hate and farm those out if you can. Seems like you're already doing that with the assistant.

Also, eat more bleu cheese. Nobody ever looked back after a long life and wished they had eaten less bleu cheese. Nobody.

Fritz88
05-10-2009, 03:29 PM
Not sure what cameras you use, but if you are looking for a camera or you want to add more lenses then Canon is doing some nifty instant rebates

http://www.usa.canon.com/consumer/controller?act=PromotionsAct

Norman Einstein
05-10-2009, 04:08 PM
You might try some tastless up skirt or down blouse shots. They would be hot merchandise right after the divorce.

Ari Chi3fs
05-10-2009, 05:43 PM
Those are GREAT and candid wedding shots. Good shit, man.

Pioli Zombie
05-10-2009, 05:44 PM
Insert quick random shots of your penis during the ceremony. See if they notice.
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58-4ever
05-10-2009, 05:57 PM
Our wedding photographer was smart. She offered both. Us, not wanting to wade through the pictures, bought the entire CD for 500 bucks. She offers it for about 850, which is a huge markup, considering she would have to foot the bill for any image processing.

Pioli Zombie
05-10-2009, 06:10 PM
Don't tape the Super Bowl over any weddings. I knew a guy who did that and his bitch wife Debra made his life hell.
Posted via Mobile Device

Halfcan
05-10-2009, 06:26 PM
Best of luck-I am sure you will do great.

|Zach|
05-10-2009, 06:53 PM
What I'd hate to see is all of your talent behind the lens get buried by all of the business stuff behind the desk. Identify 3 areas of wedding photography that you hate and farm those out if you can. Seems like you're already doing that with the assistant.

Also, eat more bleu cheese. Nobody ever looked back after a long life and wished they had eaten less bleu cheese. Nobody.

That is a big deal. I am solid at the business stuff but I can't do it and give the photos their due diligence. So I am taking on someone who is a fantastic gal and great organizer and planner. She has a lot of experience in business as well...its more of a partnership than an assistant to be honest. Ari actually knows her...Lisa.

I have done well for myself in business by being brutally honest about what I am good at but more importantly what I am not good at. You have to take care of that stuff accordingly.

I like to put blue cheese crumbles on steaks. Yum.