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A (few) words on pricing

“You didn’t feel intrusive on our day at all. Out of all of the providers I researched, you were the only one that I knew straight away would be perfect for our wedding.” -Anna

I recently got an email from a prospective couple asking about my wedding pricing and the logic behind it all. I loved the opportunity to put my thoughts in writing so here for you is a narrative of how I arrived at my pricing model.

Teaching photography business

Teaching photography business

Something I always tell my clients when we meet the first time is that I’m not a photographer as such. I’m a storyteller and photography is my preferred medium. Like paint and canvas, I choose to use cameras and lenses to tell your story. As such, how do you price such a thing? I’m not a camera for hire. I don’t take ‘pix’ – there are thousands of photographers like that around. I’m Elizabeth Halford and as there’s only one me, how does one price this? These are questions which haunt photographers and I can tell you I know this 100% because for 5 years, I travelled the world teaching photographers business and sales and one thing is the same the world over: photographers don’t know what to charge. So when it comes to the question of why I charge more than some other photographers, the only thing I can say is this: I can’t comment on other photographers because I don’t know what has gone into settling on their pricing. I don’t know what they’re basing it on but I do know that from mentoring photographers for years, it’s not uncommon for them to just look around at their local markets and copy each other’s pricing. p

“If you find you asking yourself (and your friends) ‘am I really and writer? Am I really an artist?’ chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.” -Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

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When it comes to being an artist, nothing is truer. I believe this is one of the reasons many photographers are under-charging for their skills. It took me years to feel sure enough of my abilities to charge more than £500 for a wedding.
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That said, I’m happy to tell you how I’ve set my wedding pricing. When I shoot your wedding, it’s not just the 12 hours I spend on my feet that you’re paying for. I price my services based on:
  • Time spent in pre-production phase
  • Time spent shooting
  • A week or two of editing
  • Building your album
  • Hard costs for products (albums, flash drives)
  • Insurance
  • Wear and tear on my equipment
  • Mileage and wear on my company car
  • Taxes, accountants
  • Legal fees, contracts, usage releases
  • File storage. Backing up your wedding means having hard drives and online services like Dropbox and SmugMug. What if a kid soaks my laptop with water from, oh, playing with a water balloon in the house? That would be game over for your images. But not really because I spend time backing up and securing your files before I even go to sleep on the night of your wedding.
  • Archiving. Periodically my work is archived and stored somewhere away from my home and office. So not even a home invasion would mean game over for your wedding images. What if something happened to your album or your hard drive 20 years from now? I would still have your wedding stored securely.
  • Years of education to get were I am today. MANY sleepless nights, many tears and lots of money in pursuing my education.
  • Paying my second shooter. You get more than one photographer. My second shooters aren’t learning, they’re not students. They’re fully fledged photographers and trained by me in the Gracie May Photography style. You’re essentially getting two highly skilled photographers under one contract and price.
  • Equipment rental for my second shooter
  • My motion picture team are trained by me in my style and vision so that your stills and video have the same look and feel. The guys are the best and the ain’t cheap!
  • Booking you into my diary means your date is on absolute lockdown which, sadly, isn’t always the case with beginners. I know this because I’ve been called on more than once to cover for a photographer who decides to, say, go to Glastonbury rather than shoot a wedding they’d booked in. As a professional, my clients come first. No one is more important than you.
  • And last but not least you’re getting my vision as an artist
That's me falling back on my past as a makeup artist

That’s me falling back on my past as a makeup artist

I’m not just a professional photographer, but a wedding professional. I’ve been in more weddings than most people would ever attend in a lifetime. I’ve witnessed more brides slip into their gowns than anyone. I know when your dad is gonna cry. I know what’s coming next and am always positioned and prepared to capture those moments.

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As a wedding professional, I’ve even stepped in when it has nothing to do with photography. I’ve done hair and/or makeup for 4 different brides because their artist was running late, they hadn’t booked one (and panicked when it came time to do it themselves) or, in one case, needed to be escorted out of the home because she was so desperately horrible that the bride was crying and no one knew what to do. Who stepped in and fixed it all? Me! In fact, I ended up in their album in the getting ready shots doing makeup (thanks to an excellent second shooter).
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“As a wedding professional, I’ve even stepped in when it has nothing to do with photography.”

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Shooting stills and video in tandem. I have the best team!

Shooting stills and video in tandem. I have the best team!

My team are skilled at dealing with officiants who have a negative view of photographers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shown up to a wedding and had a vicar tell me that I cannot move from the designated spot at the back of the church and we manage to skilfully negotiate another plan. Had those couples had another photographer, they may have had none of the ceremony images of walking down the aisle, those little stolen glances at one another, the sparkle in their eyes on the announcement that they are now husband and wife. In fact, I recently had a verger who secretly asked me for my card and said “we’re not supposed to recommend vendors, but you’re the best photographers we’ve ever had.” And this was a verger who only 30 minutes prior had told us we weren’t allowed to move from our spots and that we’d better behave ourselves.

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My team are also skilled at being stealth. We are a fly on the wall of your day. For example, during the ceremony we only move in the moments when the congregation is invited to sing or stand or if the attention is on one side of the room, we may make a movement down the other side. We don’t want anyone to remember there was a photographer there, only to have the results of our endeavours.
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So…are you still reading? If so, I hope you’ll feel a bit more in the know about why and how I’ve set my prices. And on that note, I’d love to hear about your wedding!

The Author & Artist

I'm Elizabeth, the photographer behind Gracie May Photography. I've been shooting since my first wedding in 2008 on a borrowed camera.

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