How do I accept payments as a photographer?

Photography payments can be confusing, whether you are a freelance photographer or a consumer booking a photoshoot. 

Lucky for you today! This article will answer your burning questions concerning the common questions regarding photography payments. We will talk about industry norms so that you know how to manage expenses as a freelance photographer and what to expect as a consumer. 

Usually, photographers accept cash and bank transfers, taking a 50% retainer due before the shoot. The exact due date for a retainer and the balance is mostly up to the photographer. Up-front payments are taken to close a time slot from further advertisement and cover gear rental costs. If you need advice on your wedding photography, check out our photography packages and services at Wild Romantic Photography.

When is the best time to collect payment for a session? 

Today I’ll write about what I do, and maybe it helps those of you who aren’t currently happy with how you’re collecting payments from clients. If you’re presently dealing with last-minute cancellations, no-shows, or don’t enjoy talking business with clients the day of their session, then here are some great ideas on how to change how you’re currently collecting payments. 

COLLECTING PAYMENT AFTER SESSIONS

When I first started my photography business, I waited to receive payments until after the gallery was delivered to my clients. I think it was because the business side of it all felt new, and I wasn’t 100% secure in my pricing yet. It felt almost wrong to ask for any payment until after I delivered what I had promised. I had to learn the hard way that without cost, clients can easily back out of session obligations last minute, and after dealing with too many last-minute cancellations, I decided I had enough. The only way to work with more clients who valued my time was to require payment upfront.

COLLECTING PAYMENT DAY OF THE SESSION

I switched to receiving payment the day of the session but still had to deal with the last-minute cancellations. It always felt a little strange “talking business” and collecting clients’ money before shooting their session. When I work with my clients, I don’t want to talk about business or collect payment. I want to focus on creating art with them. I want them to remember how much fun we had working together. I don’t want them to remember having to write me a check.

HOW TO AVOID LAST MINUTE CANCELLATION OR POSTPONED PAYMENTS?

For years now, I have required to be paid in full two weeks before their session. Most clients pay in full when they decide to book me officially. For weddings, it must be paid one month before their wedding date. Choosing the right wedding photographer in Melbourne to capture every moment on your wedding day.

WHAT CHANGED?

I did. I started valuing my time and decided that the only way to run my business was to require some payments before the session. Since then, I have never had to deal with a cancellation or worry of putting many hours of work into something without getting paid. I also get to put the focus on making my clients feel special the day of their session. I want that day to be 100% about them and their session. I love it, and my clients love it.

READY TO REQUIRE PAYMENT UPFRONT

How do I accept payments as a photographer?

The easiest way for this to happen is to change your booking process. What I like to say is this.

“To book your session, I require a $___ deposit; this will officially hold your session date and time with your studio photography. The remaining balance is due two weeks before your session”.

It doesn’t need to be complicated; it just needs to be straightforward and easy to understand. The key is to be clear in what you expect so your clients are on the same page.

If you offer in-person sales of some sort, you can require payment for the session upfront or even have a minimum amount due to that will go towards choosing the perfect prints, albums or canvases. This process works for any photographer regardless of the sessions or packages you offer.

Remember that you’re a photographer and spend countless hours working, not just shooting but working on all aspects of your business. Value your time, yourself, and understand that it’s perfectly ok to require payments upfront.

The Best Payment Methods for Photographers

While discussing payments with clients may not be your favourite part of the job, it’s something that must be done. Fortunately, in today’s modern-day and age, you have lots of options when it comes to taking payments. Today we’re going to discuss various options along with their pros and cons. Create lasting memories through your Yarra Valley wedding photography that will be cherished forever.

Before discussing how you’re paid, let’s first discuss when you’re paid after a client’s committed to booking you.

1. Initial Retainer: An initial retainer should be collected from your client to reserve their session date. Many photographers specify that this deposit is non-refundable. Doing so reduces cancellations and prevents non-serious clients from taking a date out of your busy schedule.

2. Recurring Payments: If you’re a wedding photographer or booking a newborn milestone package or something similarly expensive, it’s a kind gesture to offer your clients a payment plan. Doing so alleviates the financial burden of paying hundreds or thousands of dollars all at once. Consider offering customised payment plans for your clients. For example, some may prefer to pay $X per week for 10 weeks, some may want to pay $X once a month, and others yet may want to break their payments up into four chunks and pay over a year. Whatever works for both you and the client is the best route to take. Just make sure you’re organised and keep detailed records. If offering too many recurring payment plans is difficult for you, that’s OK. Ultimately, you need to do what works best for you and your photography business.

3. Final Payment: Sometimes, a client prefers to pay their initial deposit and then the remaining lump sum at a later date. Or you may have a client who missed a recurring payment and still owes you money as their session date approaches—in either case, having a final “due date” set before your actual session will save you headaches. We recommend having a last due date, no less than two weeks before your client’s session.

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.

Online Payment Methods

You know you’re living in the future when you can zip money from your pocket to another person’s pocket in a matter of minutes. 

PayPal: Chances are, you’re very familiar with PayPal. It’s one of the most common forms of online payment and has made e-commerce incredibly efficient and convenient. Many of your clients may already have a PayPal account set up and linked to their bank account, so offering this as a payment option is a wise move.

It’s also easy to bill your clients through PayPal, making recurring payment plans a breeze. The biggest downside is that you will have to pay fees. For personal accounts, that fee is 4.9% plus .30 cents per transaction. That’s $25 out of your $500 payment, so it does add up. Suppose PayPal becomes a primary means of payment collection for you.

In that case, we highly recommend you open either a Premier or Business Account, as that fee drops to 2.9% plus .30 cents per transaction. This can be done quickly through your PayPal account or by calling PayPal.

WePay: WePay is an alternative to PayPal that provides four simple tools to collect money. “You can sell tickets to events, collect donations for fundraisers, sell items online, and send invoices.” As a photographer, you’d likely only use the latter option. Like PayPal, WePay charges a fee. They’ll take a 2.9% cut plus .30 cents per transaction for payments made with a credit card. For payments made with a connected bank account, they charge only 1% plus .30 cents per transaction.

Swipe or PayPal Here: Both Swipe and PayPal Here allow you to process credit card payments with your smartphone or tablet. If you have a PayPal account, all you need to do is request their “Here” triangle and then download the app onto your device. The same applies to Swipe’s “Square Up.” The client can use any debit or credit card to pay.

This payment method is ideal for those who meet with clients regularly, attend bridal shows or similar and book sessions on the spot or collect payment at the time of your session. One downside to these mobile payment options is that it isn’t convenient for collecting recurring payments, as that would require you to meet with your client every time a payment is due. The other downside is that you will incur a fee. Swipe charges 2.75% per transaction, and PayPal charges 2.7% per transaction. Over time, those fees add up. It’s a good move to work that additional fee into your session/product prices.

Offline Payment Methods

Paying “offline” may be old school, but it’s still a viable means of exchanging money. In some cases, you may find clients prefer to pay offline.

Checks: Aside from receiving payment online, checks are likely the most common way clients will want to pay you. Unlike various online payment methods, you will not have to pay a fee with a check, so that’s a positive. Paying with a check is simple, straightforward and leaves a paper trail for both you and the client.

Plus, if you have a smartphone and your bank has an app, you may even be able to deposit the check by phone. Of course, the downside to checks is that they can bounce if your client has insufficient funds. For that reason, it’s imperative that you have a clause in your contract that specifies a protocol for bad checks.

You’ll want to charge an additional fee for a bounced check to cover any incurred expenses from your bank and to cover your time. You may also want to specify that if a client writes a bad check, then they must switch to a different payment method from there on out.

Money Orders: Money orders are less convenient for your clients than checks, but they will not bounce. The only downside is that if you misplace a money order, you are out of luck, as it’s the same thing as losing cash.

Cash: While we don’t specifically advise against receiving cash, we believe that other payment methods are better. First of all, cash exchanges do not leave an explicit money trail. While it’s unlikely, there’s always the potential for a client to claim they already paid you when they did not. Secondly, carrying large wads of cash around isn’t exactly wise, so if you’re a wedding photographer or you offer more extensive packages, consider just how much money your client — and you — will carry at any given time. People don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash these days. 

A Guide to Photography Payments

How do I accept payments as a photographer?

Establishing payment processes and systems that allow you to serve your customers while managing your financial success professionally. Here’s a guide to formalising your photography payments and an explanation of why it’s so important.

Give Customers a Seamless and Secure Purchase Option

When you give customers the option to pay for your product or service by their preferred means, you can expand your potential customer base — physically and virtually. About 90 per cent of all transactions carried out online are paid for using credit cards.

Though most website providers and even blogs make it simple to include a shopping cart icon on your website, that doesn’t mean you’re equipped to accept and process customer payments in a secure or PCI compliant way.

As you research payment processing options, make sure you understand whether the processor functions as a payment gateway, which securely authorises and processes payments for e-commerce websites in tandem with the online shopping cart, or requires that you complete the integration between the two systems, which typically requires copying and pasting a bit of provided HTML code into your website. Many payment processors offer technical support to help customers complete this process.

Though the payment processor you choose will have specific instructions and criteria to establish a merchant account, most require you to provide basic information, including your business name, contact information associated with the business, your address and phone number, your EIN and your business’ bank account.

In some cases, you may need to wait a few business days for the payment processor to investigate your business and ensure that it is a legitimate operation.

Once you are “approved” as a merchant by the payment processor, you’ll likely need to verify that the bank account information you’ve provided is accurate by completing a couple of test transfers before you can receive payment for the credit card sales you make.

What are Chargebacks?

In addition to fees, both you and the payment processor carry the risk of chargeback, which occurs when a customer disputes a transaction on their credit card statement. The creditor determines they are owed a refund. When this happens, the funds in question are debited from your account and may include an additional fee.

Formalising your processes is one of the most effective ways to minimise chargebacks. Provide customers with easy-to-understand written information about your service, exchange and return policies at the point of sale, and ensure the customer’s online checkout experience includes details about shopping cart contents and price, taxes, fees and shipping costs.

When you establish your merchant account with the payment processor, ensure that your business name is reflected on customer receipts and credit card statements in a manner the customer will recognise as a valid transaction.

In addition to fees, consider the service levels a payment processor offers, including the ability to reach the company’s customer service department during the hours you serve customers and the level of technical support that is available.

Starting to think about hiring a wedding photographer? Check out our range of Mornington Peninsula wedding photography here. 

Get Paid Faster

Formalising your payment system and policies can ensure your work is not performed in vain. In addition to making your policies clear (regarding when payment is due) at your initial meeting with a client, author Erika Napoletano suggests that accepting mobile credit card payments can equip you to require that clients pay a deposit on the spot (often, for at least half of the total price) before work commences.

Additionally, eCommerce shopping carts and formalising payment processes can help you “enforce” deadlines to keep a project moving, such as when a customer must provide final image selection.

Takeaways

Get paid upfront. Your time has value, and if you are going to commit that time to someone, there is nothing wrong with asking to be compensated not just for the time itself but also for setting that time aside for someone. 

Know the laws in your state or country regarding deposits and fees.

Structure your business model and fees in a way that takes the pressure and stress off of you AND your clients to focus on a good client experience and develop a relationship with them that doesn’t always come back to getting paid. If you’d like to work with professional photographers for your wedding, book with us at Wild Romantic Photography.