Kelly Weech is a wedding and portrait photographer based in Cheltenham. She has photographed weddings part time since she was 18, and full time in 2011.
Q: Tell us which factors you took into account when you set your prices?
A: When people first go freelance it’s easy to fall into the slip of not thinking about packages – you just want to be competitive. When I first went freelance I wanted to make sure I got bookings, so I looked around and saw that on average, in the Cheltenham and Somerset area, people were spending around £1,000. So I went in with packages at £875 and £975, and in the beginning I didn’t really think about the cost factor.
In my second year, I started adding albums into the packages, so I added in the price of the album but wasn’t sure what markup to put on them.
A bit later I sat down and asked myself, I work a lot of hours, how much am I actually getting paid? I worked out that my hourly wage was below minimum wage, with the amount of hours I was putting in.
So I put my prices up to £1200 for my lowest package and took into account the fact that when I go to meet a bride and groom, usually I spend at least two hours with them, talking, composing an email, maybe going back to pick up the contract. Then I took into account that on a wedding day I’m usually there for 9-10 hours on the actual day.
I’ve always got a second shooter with me and I pay them a fixed day rate. And then I took into account the fact that I have to pay insurance, and that my camera equipment is not going to last me forever, so I have to start putting money aside for that.
Then there’s 10% tax, and there are the hours spent after a wedding, importing the cards, backing them up to a hard drive – when you have about 50GB of data it takes a lot of time to import it into Lightroom to make sure it’s catalogued properly. That’s probably another three hours, then the processing part usually takes me about four days – narrowing down the selection, editing the pictures, colour correcting them, etc.
Delivering and designing the wedding album also takes time, so I worked out that in total, it takes me around 45 hours to do everything, from the initial point of contact to the blog and social media posts I create at the end.
I think it’s easy for clients to assume that you just turn up on the day, but the reality is very different. So I try to educate my clients and tell them that it’s not just me turning up on their wedding day, there is also a lot of work going in afterwords.
Q: Is it important to have different options?
A: Yes, but you also need to think about what type of client you want. My lowest package is £1,200 and clients who are willing to pay that amount usually care about the pictures they get. When I was offering lower prices, I found that the clients didn’t really care so much about my photography – they hired a photographer because that’s what you’re supposed to do for your wedding. They weren’t interested in my style, they just wanted pictures documenting the day.
I would say that in Cheltenham, my prices are average. There are people who charge more and people who charge less than me, and I think it’s about finding your market and sticking with that clientele.
Q: Which of your pricing options tends to be the most popular with clients?
A: It depends on the client; I had one bride who was getting married in Portugal and was pressing for a discount. I told her that if she decided to go with a cheaper photographer, she would have to make sure he or she was actually qualified and spoke English.
She ended up going for my top package because her wedding was important for her and she wanted the best. But there are also brides who prefer to save a bit of money, get the package without an album and then pay for the album a bit later with the wedding money. I would say that my £1,500 package is the one most people go for.
I’ve heard that when you get to the point where everyone is booking your most expensive package, it’s time to put your price up, and I’m starting to think about that. But it’s a balancing act because there are so many new photographers coming into the market.
Q: If you could go back in time, would you have charged more when you just started out?
A: No, I would do it the way I did it. I don’t think £875 was too low – I’ve never started with such a low price that people have asked, ‘she’s cheap, is she any good?’.
The starting point has to be low enough that you’ll get some bookings, because the next bookings will usually be word of mouth – that’s certainly how I get most of my business.
For examples of Kelly Weech’s work, visit: http://www.kellyweechphotography.com
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