You are negotiating with vendors: kind of an intimidating concept. Discussing and compromising on costs and services isn’t everyone’s forte or a cup of tea, but it’s a super-helpful skill to have to go into wedding planning. The bottom line is you’ll never know what you can get unless you ask. Keep in mind that both parties, not just you, will benefit from your business. The worst thing that could happen is they say no, and even in an uncommon case like that, you still have the leverage (they want to make a sale).
Here are a few essential pointers to help you feel comfortable and confident while talking about wedding vendors’ money. If you need advice on your wedding photography, check out our photography packages and services at Wild Romantic Photography.
Tips for Negotiating With Wedding Vendors
Know the Market
Spend time educating yourself on what the market is for a particular service. This will give you good context and get you to start thinking about what works for your budget, what a fair quote looks like and what you might be able to negotiate.
When you’re making price comparisons, make sure you’re comparing similar things (a Michelin-starred restaurant and a local, family-owned catering company are just different). Knowing the market can give you good leverage when negotiating with a venue or other pro you love. It allows you to say (politely), “We’re in love with this space, but unfortunately, our budget won’t cover it.
We’re considering another venue that costs X amount of money, but this one is our number one. Would you be able to match it or at least compromise?” Your first choice will typically be willing to offer you some compromise discounts in other areas to secure your business (and they want you to be happy!).
Ask for an Itemised Quote
This is a fancy way of saying you should ask to see a list of every single thing included in your package. First and foremost, this will show you precisely what you would be paying for and what you’d need to pay extra for.
From there, you can see which items, services and extras you may not need, as well as others you may have never known you’d need (think: valet, delivery fees, cleanup crew and coat check staff). It’s always a good idea to find out in advance what extras are going to cost—you don’t want to be blindsided later on with hidden fees you’ve never seen before (like rental company transportation or extra electrical equipment for the band).
Stick to Your Limit
A vendor may be willing to negotiate as long as you agree to compromise something on your end. For example, a photographer candidate might consent to give you an extra hour of shooting, but only if you have them take your engagement photos. But remember, if you ask for less, expect to get a bit less. If it gets to the point where they’re asking you to sacrifice more than you’re willing to get a better deal, you might consider heading in another direction for a more suitable option. It might not be meant to be, and that’s okay. Your photographs will be your most treasured wedding keepsake. Not sure where to start when it comes to looking for your wedding photographer of choice?
Strike a Good Balance
There’s no harm in politely asking for a deal or extras. (Your car rental service might not mention it at first, but why not ask if they offer complimentary champagne for weddings?) If vendors are excited to work with you, they may be more willing to develop creative solutions.
The important etiquette advice to remember is to find the sweet spot between being a self-advocate and being a pushover. Don’t be shy about asking if there’s any wiggle room or sticking up for yourself if something feels unfair—trust us, pros aren’t unfamiliar with it or offended by it, but don’t be unreasonable, obnoxious or aggressive. You’re not haggling with a street vendor—you’re talking to a business owner about a significant event and a solid chunk of money.
Should we negotiate with our wedding photographer?
Weddings are expensive. And when planning a wedding, it’s only natural to do everything in your power to save money where you can. So you might be asking yourself, “should we negotiate with our wedding photographer?” Planning your dream wedding and don’t want to miss out on the special moments on your big day? Worry no more, Wild Romantic Photography has you covered.
The short answer? It depends on the photographer.
So, What’s the Long Answer?
Some photographers are more than happy to work with you on the price to help secure bookings. Others have meticulously calculated their fees based on their time and cost of doing business and prefer to stick with the script.
So how do you know which type of photographer you’re working with? I recommend answering the following questions before attempting to negotiate the price.
- What is the photographer’s skill level? How does the quality of work compare to that of other photographers in this price range?
- How many weddings have they shot? How many do they shoot per year?
- Do they use professional camera bodies, lenses and lighting equipment? How about backup equipment?
- Do they have liability and equipment insurance in case of accidents?
- What is their level of customer service? Are they responsive? Do they help you solve problems?
- Are they professional? Will they show up early, well-prepared and in good spirits, ready to work?
- What is their reputation? Are they highly sought after by other brides and grooms? What do their past couples have to say about them?
Once you’re clear on this info, you should have a good idea of how much leverage you’ll have in negotiations. Or whether it would be reasonable to try and negotiate in the first place.
How to negotiate with a wedding photographer?
Learn the ins and out of negotiating with your wedding photographer – from a wedding photographer who’s seen it all! Ask any wedding photographer what the biggest bane of their job is, and chances are, ‘clients asking for discounts’ is in the top three. The subject of negotiation is a little tricky to bring up.
As creatives, many wedding photographers are uncomfortable talking about money in general. As small business owners, however, we need to be more vocal about how we approach the topic of discounts and negotiation. Now we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of whether you should negotiate with your wedding photographer – and if so, the most effective ways to do that.
Understand the Difference Between ‘negotiating’ Vs. ‘asking for a Discount.’
If you want to negotiate, you must be ready to bring something to the table or accept less.
Negotiation is a strategic discussion that resolves an issue in a way that both parties find acceptable. In a negotiation, each party tries to persuade the other to agree with their point of view. By negotiating, all involved parties try to avoid arguing but decide to reach some form of compromise.
Let’s get one thing out of the way once and for all. Simply asking for a discount because you’re ‘on a budget’ is 100% NOT what negotiation is. Mainly when you’re dealing with a small, service-based business. Technically, everyone is on a budget (whether that budget is $1k or $100k), though how you choose to allocate that budget is your choice.
We’re not selling widgets or used cars, we’re selling our time, and it has a specific value set by the market. The idea of haggling with a wedding photographer is honestly quite distasteful, insulting even. Fortunately, it has never happened to me, as my clients are fantastic, but I’ve heard the stories.
To Negotiate or Not to Negotiate?
As a blanket rule of thumb, my honest answer to the question of whether or not to negotiate wedding photographer pricing is a resounding ‘no’.
Let’s be clear: not all wedding couples will have much to bring to the negotiations, except that they can be prepared to expect less. This is a good starting place to get your head into when you begin negotiating your pricing.
A wedding photographer makes their living through the money you, their clients, pay them. They have worked out that price precisely as another other service business has set their pricing.
When you ask a wedding photographer to work the same job for less money, you’re asking them to accept a pay cut. Understandably, this can rub photographers up the wrong way. If you were paid by the hour and your boss said, ‘hey, I’m going to cut your pay this week, but I still want you to work the same hours, that would not be fair either. We have the best wedding photographer in Yarra Valley to capture your beautiful moments on your wedding day.
Why Do People Pick Photographers as the Wedding Vendor to Haggle With?
This is a WHOLE topic! I cannot figure out why photographers are deemed the most appropriate to be haggled with all wedding vendors for the life of me. I’m assuming it’s because we have little that you can see in the way of hard costs. There is no rent for our building, no wholesale flowers or cake ingredients to purchase.
I’ve heard some funny examples from around the web, and pricing sure is a funny thing. It gets industry people super fired up.
- Your boss demanding a portion of your paycheck
- You order a steak and only eat half, so you only pay for half.
- You love a designer handbag, so you want some money off. After all, the bag will get ‘plenty of exposure’.
Some people view wedding photography is like it has no value in and of itself, and that’s why it should be easy to discount. After all, it’s just snapping a few pics.
Instead, what you are mostly paying for is when the photographer has spent becoming what they are today. No, there is no steak or handbag we are selling to you. There is the equipment we own and upgrade constantly. And not to mention the enormous amount of time we pour into each client.
Why Wedding Photographers Do Not *LOVE* Being Asked for a Discount
First off, please know that we photographers are quite a strange breed. No wedding photographer ever went into business to become wealthy. They did it to share their passion and create lasting imagery that their clients will treasure.
We want that work to be highly valued by our target clients. All those hours and months and years we spent honing our craft, then working for free, refining a style, training ourselves and hustling so hard to become expert business owners – we want that to land with the right person.
We want clients who see the art – and appreciate the blood, sweat and tears that we have put ourselves through to achieve it.
To be asked to work for less insulting to many. It leaves a bad taste in our mouths, hearing that our work is up to par but not worth what we’re charging. If you believe that photographers provide something valuable, you must be prepared to put your money where your mouth is!
We Can Find Clients Who Will Pay Full Price
When you’re working for yourself, you have to take care of your bottom line. This is the reality of being a financially savvy small business owner. Especially one that wants to be in it for the long haul. There is so much that goes into it, but ultimately we must protect our interests. Otherwise, there will be no business left to save!
Unfortunately, it’s not feasible to give our time away for nothing or constantly make exceptions to our set pricing. Our impetus is to sell to whoever will provide us with the highest bid for a minimal resource – our time. I’m exaggerating a little to make a point here.
When I was a beginner photographer, I would discount or even work for free. After all, no one wants to entrust a newbie with capturing the best day of their life. There is no way of faking experience, so you have to be honest until you find enough clients to trust you and pay you. This takes a few years.
Being an experienced and well-established wedding photographer as I am now, I can easily find enough clients to fill my schedule to the degree I am comfortable with. And if I don’t, I don’t sweat it. A well-earned day off is more valuable to me than working for lower rates.
Asking for Discounts Puts Out a Serious Red Flag to Your Photographer
There is a definite correlation between the customers who ask for discounts and those challenging to work with. Those who ask for deals then tend to ask for more and have the highest expectations. Every time a bride asks for money off, I end up working harder for her as she’s always high-maintenance.
The people that want to pay less are generally very fixated on price. Although I don’t want to speak out of turn here, it may be true that in many cases, they see the photographer as a commodity that is entirely interchangeable, just another ‘thing’ on the wedding to-do list. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that – but these are certainly not the clients I’d choose to work with personally. And being a small business owner has that perk – photographers can pick and choose who they work with.
There is just too significant a risk of problems down the pike when the prospective client asks for money off my services at the outset. For me, this is generally not even worth it – I’ve been on the receiving end too many times and seen much worse things happen to other photographers. Working with bad clients contributes to burnout and disillusionment with the profession.
Here are what I told my friend how to negotiate with a wedding photographer:
- Book multiple sessions/prints: if you want to have a better price, first of all, you should book more than one session/prints with the same photographer. It’s like buying things. You cannot ask for a better price if you buy only one item.
- Book early in advance (1 year to 6 months in advance). Many photographers, including us, usually have special offers for early booking. Book as soon as you can after you do proper research. This also helps you lock the photographer’s current pricing.
These are things that I could have told her, but I didn’t since she already set the date. But if you haven’t, these things are worth considering:
- Have your wedding in the slow season. It depends on where you live. In Northern California, it is from November to April. Having your wedding in those months gives you a reason to negotiate with the photographers.
- Have your wedding on a weekday. If you don’t want an off-season wedding because of the weather, the available flower, etc., having your wedding on a weekday can save you a lot too.
Those two things above can save you not only on photography but also on the venue, catering, makeup, etc. At Wild Romantic, we have the best wedding photographer in Mornington Peninsula to capture every single moment on your wedding day. So, do research and see how much it can keep in your particular area.
What you shouldn’t do:
Don’t tell a photographer, “The other photographer gives such and such for the same price.” or “They give me the same coverage for such an amount.” You can easily ask for a price match with the same item in retail because it is comparable. But in fields like this, there is no straight comparison, and it can be a huge turn off to negotiate with a wedding photographer.
- Even if budget is not an issue for you, you should ask too. Saving here and there can be spending for something else, maybe an extra album for your parents, a live band for the reception, or more considerable gifts for your wedding party.
- Even if the budget is an essential factor, your decision shouldn’t be merely based on a discount. You decide to contact a photographer because of his/her style, not because of his/her willingness to discount. Try to allocate a budget for other things and see if you can work it out. In the end, this is your one-time investment, and the photos are the only visual things that can tell you exactly how your wedding was 30 years ago.
The moral of the story is this: if you’re tying the knot on a budget and you have your heart set on a photographer who is out of your price range, feel free to ask if he or she would be willing to meet you halfway. If you’d like to work with professional photographers for your wedding, book with us at Wild Romantic Photography.
But do so, tactfully. Wedding photographers want to shoot with couples who are fun to be around. How you conduct yourself on a phone call or in a meeting is a reflection of how enjoyable your wedding day will be.