How to negotiate with a candid wedding photographer?
You found your dream wedding photographer only to realise that their quote is out of your budget. What do you do now?
Do top photographers even negotiate? Should you ask for a discount? How?
My wife Neetika and I have been full-time wedding photographers for over 7 years. Of all the people who ever asked for a discount, 90% wrote - “Give us your best quote!”. Another 5% tried the “hanging carrot” tactic - “We have friends/cousins to be married soon and we’ll put in a good word for you”.
Well, This post is about the remaining 5% who actually managed to get up to 70% off on our standard pricing. I will tell you exactly what they did.
Why am I spilling these secrets when they could potentially hurt our revenues?
Because, believe-it-or-not, we were happy to make those offers and would do it all over again.
Shopping for a personalised service like wedding photography is very different from buying products off the shelf. Hiring a photographer is NOT trading money for pictures. It is a value transaction where both parties need to find enough reasons to work together.
You evaluate a photographer on things like their pictures, sensibilities, professionalism, personality and popularity/brand value. You also try to find honest reviews about them to see if they are worth your trust and money.
Similarly, the photographer also makes an evaluation of what you have to offer. If you are to negotiate, it is important to understand what motivates the photographer besides money.
For e.g. when we evaluate an assignment, these are the questions we ask ourselves (in the same order) -
Is this an interesting wedding for our creative satisfaction and/or our portfolio?
How well did we connect with the couple? Will it be fun working with them?
And finally, how much money will we make in this assignment?
For most photographers, their fee is a function of these three variables. So, here are the exact steps to get your dream photographer’s bill to fit your pocket -
Meet the photographer
Negotiations are always personal. Even before you ask for a quote, try to meet the photographer (in person if possible, or over video chat). Discuss your wedding plans and tell them your priorities. This has two benefits - first, you get their expert advice on how your wedding should be covered and second, you have a personal connect with them. It’s easier to negotiate when they are already invested in you.
Here’s what happens when someone asks us for a quote over email/WhatsApp without wanting to meet us - we have little information about the wedding and zero connection with the couple. The only incentive remaining is money. Hence, such inquiries always get our standard pricing.
We have an entire video blog on how to contact a wedding photographer. Feel free to go through it here.
Sell your wedding
Creative people always look for new experiences. Pitch your wedding in a way that it interests the photographer. Talk about anything that’s unique or interesting about your big day or any special plans you might have made. Be honest and give them a realistic picture.
Different photographers will value different things. One photographer may be very interested in shooting a grand, palace wedding in Jodhpur. Another may prefer a 100 guest, beach wedding in Goa. The third might be excited about a cross-cultural, village wedding in Bihar. I even know of photographers who specifically try to take up weddings of good looking brides. Point is - there’s a photographer for every wedding.
Wedding photographers don’t work “for “ you; they work “with” you. We treat our clients as our partners. So we prefer working with people who understand and appreciate our talent and hard-work.
Be warm, polite and honest with the photographer you are meeting. Tell them what you like about their work and also be open about any doubts/concerns you might have. If they feel the right connect with you, they will go out of the way to accommodate you.
Also, be respectful of their time (and yours) by not being late to the meeting. No one likes to be taken for granted.
Be open about your budget
By now you’ve already done the groundwork for any negotiation. If you receive a quote that’s above your budget, call the photographer without hesitation. Tell them exactly what your budget is, and seek their advice. They will help you allocate funds for best results and try to work out any discounts they can offer. You may also need to prioritise your requirements and let go of some non-essential items. A negotiation is a two way street. If you keep and open mind, you will be able to reach an agreement.
Even if it doesn’t work out, their advice would be worth the effort and they may refer you to similar photographers in your budget.
Do not bargain
If the quote is within your budget, don’t bargain for the heck of it. Creatives hate talking about money.
To summarise these 5 steps - talk to wedding photographers as potential partners in a venture. Try to know them better, see if they share your sensibilities and be open to them about your budget constraints (if any). I’m sure they’ll help you as much as they can.
Also, keep in mind that they are the experts in this matter. So, listen to their advice.
Wedding photography is personal service. You want a photographer who is essentially a “friend with a camera”. We are often as emotionally invested in a wedding as our clients are. What starts as a business inquiry, turns into a deep human connection. We’ve laughed at weddings. We’ve cried at weddings. We’ve even danced at wedding. Being a part of someone’s celebration and making them a part of our journey is always the most satisfying aspect of this profession.
All the best!
PS: If you’ve ever worked with any wedding/event or portrait photographers, then do share your experience of the hiring process. I’m all ears for any interesting stories you might have or any specific challenges you might have faced. This article is open for comments & discussions.