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**UPDATE** Well after hundreds of retweets and comments, it looks like the Knot heard all of us photographers (and quite a lot of other vendors), took down the old article, and updated it with a far more reasonable one here. Thanks to everyone who passed this around and encouraged the Knot to make some changes. Wouldn’t have happened without all of you ;)
Yesterday, I saw many tweets about an article on the Knot on how brides should insist on discounts with wedding vendors, practice different haggling approaches at a flea market (no joke), act like they don’t really want the vendor to begin with, and to walk away if they don’t discount.
DISCLAIMER: I do not have a financial dog in this fight. Lindsay is a housewife (best/hardest job alive) and I have been a full-time photographer for the last 6 years (no 2nd jobs). I shoot about 10 weddings and do an RPTE to Thailand and Cambodia every year. My brides regularly fly me to exotic locations around the world to shoot their weddings in Fiji, France, Thailand, Bali, NYC, Cayman Islands, etc… In my off time, I shoot pro-bono for excellent groups like Not For Sale and people who deserve a great photographer but simply do not have the money, rest a lot because of my (seemingly untreatable) UC, spend tons of time with my wife/son/dogs, and continue to travel the globe.
All that is to say that I personally (with my business) couldn’t care less about the Knot telling brides to ask for discounts. But the fact is, I care about brides and grooms even if I don’t shoot their wedding – which is why I regularly refer brides to fellow photographers that I know will fit them better.
So, again, this is NOT me defending my industry because I don’t want to be hurt financially. This is me defending brides — because they deserve better vendors than they’ll get by listening to the Knot on this one.
It might be important to note that I am coming from this PURELY from a photography standpoint. I don’t know if this will help/hurt brides with other vendors (although I would guess that it will not help).
Without further ado, here is the article…
Wedding Budget: How to Negotiate With Wedding Vendors
Even if you’re working with the hottest vendor in town, there’s always room to negotiate, especially if there’s a good reason to reduce costs — like having the wedding on a less-popular Friday night. Here are some more crucial pointers.
Know the market
Find out what other vendors offer for the same price point, and use this as leverage. Ask about every single thing that’s included in your package. Then find out in advance what extras are going to cost — and whether those costs can be waived.
Adopt a friendly but firm demeanor
There’s no harm in politely asking for a deal. If vendors are excited to work with you, they may be more willing to come up with creative solutions.
You need the vendor to believe that if he or she won’t meet your offer you will walk away. Consider collaborating with your fiance to employ the old good-cop-bad-cop routine.
Practice makes perfect
Try your hand negotiating at a flea market to see what talking style works for you.
— The Knot
1. Even if you’re working with the hottest vendor in town, there’s always room to negotiate…
This is completely true for struggling, inexperienced photographers who use discounts as their selling point.
But the hottest photographer in town will not be cool with discounts. If you’re a great photographer that regularly books your desired number of weddings every year, then you have no incentive to discount/negotiate/haggle. And if the free market is okay with your fee (since you’re booking) why would/should you?
So this piece of advice will help you get a less than stellar photographer.
2. Know the market
Okay. So if a bride emails me “Photographer X will give me unlimited photography, a disc of all the images, every image retouched, an e-shoot, and 3 albums for the price as your base 5 hour shoot…” I will respond with “Sounds like you’re getting a great deal!” Okay, I’d be more polite than that — but, in effect, that is my response. And I’ve sent that out countless times and will continue to do so.
But struggling, inexperienced photographers who have use discounts to sell themselves will totally price match you. Again, this seriously hurts the bride who genuinely hopes for the best wedding photos she can have.
3. Adopt a friendly but firm demeanor
A firm demeanor on discount would probably leave you without a response from many, many established photographers. If someone took a firm stance with me on the issue of discounting, I would never shoot their wedding. There’s isn’t much out there that is less attractive than people who feel they are owed something that they simply aren’t.
Once again, however, this will most certainly work on under experienced/established photographers.
4. Be indifferent
This is the straw that broke my back and caused me to write this post. Mainly because there could be a bride that DOES really want a certain photographer and will end up not getting them because of this advised indifference. I couldn’t possibly imagine worse advice.
I have referred out potential clients who were willing to spend $10,000 – $20,000 booking me for this very reason. I have a rule in business — if you communicate that you don’t care about me shooting your wedding, I will believe you. It’s that simple. Nearly every established, full-time wedding photographer I know feels the exact same way.
Fact is, great photography requires more than a great photographer. The greatest photographs tend to have the common element of a great photographer with a trusting subject. And it’s almost impossible for a subject to trust a photographer if they don’t have supreme confidence in their abilities (i.e. think they’re amazing). If you don’t think I’m awesome, I would much rather send your money to someone else who you do think is awesome.
5. Practice makes perfect
I can tell you in full confidence that practicing your haggling skills at a local flea market will only help your odds at me sending you a list of photographers I think will better suit you.
As a photographer who has shot free of charge for deserving couples in the past (who genuinely could not afford it and were, again, very deserving), I am not at all opposed to doing things outside of the rate I feel I am worth. I grew up in a very poor household (which I’m sincerely thankful for) thinking it was completely normal to check behind the supermarket for thrown out food, pick up roadkill for dinner (if it was still warm :), made jokes about “dumpster diving” for “dumpster delights”, and so on.
But just looking for a discount — and having this indifferent, ”I’ll just get someone else…” mentality? That’s not going to get anyone anywhere with me or any other established full-time photographer.
So here’s my advice. If you are dead set on a photographer, you absolutely adore their work, and you dream of them shooting your wedding — but there’s the problem of genuinely not being able to afford them — email them telling them exactly that. Tell them that they are your dream photographer, and that you’ve taken money out of other areas of your budget because you love their photography that much. Then think long and hard about an exact figure that you can afford. Make one offer and make it as best you can. Add that if you had 10 more bucks to rub together, it’d be in that offer. Finish with letting them know that they are worth their fee and that you completely expect them to turn it down — but since you’re so in love with their work, you had to take the chance. And only do so if all of that is honest and sincere.
In the end, you might not get a “yes” from your dream photographer, but my advice will get you much farther than any of the Knot’s tips.
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