Question #6: About Not Selling Yourself Short

Q: "A friend of mine and I enjoy photography as a hobby of sorts. We both enjoy it immensely and taking our cameras with us whenever we can. Recently, he was approached by a friend of his who asked if we would be interested in shooting a wedding. Long story short, we'd be paid only about $100. I told my friend that while the experience is valuable, we can't sell ourselves short and shoot a wedding for a total of $100. With the possibility of equipment to rent and travel costs, I felt like $100 was far too low of compensation. Instead, I told him to tell them we're interested and to ask for more -- around $500-600 -- which is still a deal, given they'd be getting two photographers. And while we obviously aren't as experienced as a professional wedding photographer, we're no beginners to photography. How do you advise going about this situation? Sorry for the long winded message, but your help is greatly appreciated!"  Sincerely, Eric

A: 1. My short answer: "DON'T DO IT!!!!"

2. My longer answer: "First, I thought the number was a typo and was missing a 0... Even then, I thought the amount was very low!

Since I don't know the situation, I'll assume the bride and groom have an average budget for their wedding. Now look at it this way: They will likely spend ten times more on flowers that will end up in the dumpster the next day. Why should they expect two photographers to capture memories that will last a lifetime for almost nothing?? In my opinion they might as well ask you to do it for free. 

First, let me say that teaming up with a fellow photographer friend is a terrific idea. That said, it sounds like they are his friends, not yours, so you can still run! There is nothing more stressful than shooting a wedding, especially your first one! Shooting for family and friends makes it even more stressful. Being expected to give 110% for nothing is demotivating.

 The only time photographers should offer their service for free is to help a charity or for a cause that is important to them and they use their skills and talent as a way of contributing to that cause. Also, every situation should be evaluated in a case by case basis. For example, if this family is in real need and wants a few images to remember their special day, then it's a different story and that's your call. 

Okay, let's say you want to do it for the experience and to build a portfolio, it sounds like you guys know a thing or two about photography. Let's assume that you agree to split $1,000 for your time. It's your first gig, they get a super great deal and you have images for your portfolio. Remember, only process and show them your best work, don't process 2,000+ pics! 100 or 200 final images will do. Set up an online gallery with an e-store so that family and friends can purchase prints. Try to sell the bride and groom and their parents each a nice book of their wedding day. You need to make money on print and book sales. Please don't hand them a CD with the High Res. If you do, they should expect a big price tag attached to it.

You are using your own expensive gear (think wear and tear) and they are benefiting from years of experience. There is value attached to that. It doesn't matter that it's your first wedding shoot, everyone has to start somewhere. Don't sell yourself short. It would not only be a disservice to you and your friend but also to the whole industry.  

Best of luck!

Please leave a comment below, I would love to hear about your own experience. 

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