This is part 5 in my series of blogs about wedding photography as a business – dream vs reality. So it all makes sense I recommend you start at part 1.
I will share what I have learned about the reality of being self employed for the first time in my life and the practicalities of earning a living from wedding photography.
So, having moved up a “price bracket” with my clients, what else did I need to learn ? They started asking me for large wall prints and for wedding albums so I needed to learn about printing and selling albums.
A little bit of advice here. Unless you have an interest in “printing” for it’s own sake, don’t bother doing it yourself. I tried and found I was useless at it. It also worked out very expensive for me to “do it yourself”. Ink and paper cost a fortune when purchased in relatively small quantities.
Pay for a professional printing company to do it. It really is an art form if you want it done properly. I wanted it done properly, so I had to decide which printing company to use for client’s prints, wedding albums and my advertising literature.
The same goes for designing wedding albums. You might be able to make a decent job of designing wedding albums, but this is another area where a true professional designer will generally do a much better job. Besides, I’m getting the bookings for weddings and as I do my own editing, I don’t want to design the albums as well.
I have been told by some colleagues they can do an album design in a hour. They select the photos and have software that “sorts the images into place on the album page”. If that gives your albums the type of look you want, great. Go for it. To me it just made all the albums look the same when I want each album to reflect my client’s personalities and tastes.
Besides, you can get the design work on your albums done by professional designers for free these days, so why not leave it to them? ( Don’t worry, I haven’t gone mad. I know you don’t get anything “for free”. The cost of designing the album is included in the stated price. It’s more accurate to say you don’t have to pay extra for the design service because it’s already included in the price ).
The thing to be wary of when thinking about providing wedding albums is that most printers will tell you there is very little work involved for the photographer when the printers do the design work for you. In my experience, it’s a lie. The photographer still has a fair amount of work to do.
I was advised by one album supplier, when I asked for a guide as to the resale price for wedding albums, to just add £50 to the cost price as I only have to fill in the order form and upload the image files. This is nonsense.
I suggest you time yourself. Include all the time you spend going back over the images your client has selected ( You will find yourself doing this because they have to be exactly right for the album ). You will spend time completing the order form and uploading the image files. You will also spend time exchanging emails with your clients and with the designer as they request design changes, additional images, removal of images and so on.
Then you will have the inconvenience of making sure you are in to sign for the wedding album when it is delivered. Then you will have to take it to your clients. ( You can have it delivered directly to the client, but I advise you check the album yourself before you deliver it to them. I’ll explain why later ).
Then there’s the investment you have to make in your supplier’s products. You need sample albums to show your clients, no ? You may get samples at a reduced price, but you still have to invest your money to get them.
When you take all this into account, adding £50 to the cost price is a joke.
Now I’m not saying don’t offer to supply wedding albums. They are coming back into fashion and they are another revenue stream to help you earn a living.
But don’t underestimate the time necessary to do this properly and how much it will cost you if you make a mistake! Tick just one wrong box on the order form, make one small spelling mistake and you have made a mistake that can easily cost you hundreds of pounds. Yes, I’ve done it ! On the upside, you will have another “sample” album to show clients.
You will find yourself worrying about whether you have applied the right amount of “sharpening” to your files (some printers add sharpening during the printing process, some don’t) and worrying about getting the colour balance/temperature exactly right and completely uniform so that when you have two outdoor group shots on the page next to each other, the grass looks exactly the same colour on both images. Not sure what I mean ? Try it and you soon will be.
If you do decide to supply wedding albums ( I think you need to if you want to be taken seriously, but it all depends on your target market ) then make sure you choose the right album supplier for you.
One that provides the type of product that suits your style and your target market, has an ordering process that is easy to use and has good quality control. The importance of good quality control cannot be overstated.
It really is embarrassing to have your clients receive a wedding album which has quality issues. And it can be a lot of grief getting it put right, damaging your reputation in the process!
Believe me, I changed album provider after I has been supplied with three albums that I had to return due to poor workmanship.
True story. Due to me being abroad for a month, a wedding album went directly to my clients. They simply didn’t want to wait and requested it be sent directly to them. When they received it, there was a problem with warped pages. It all got sorted in the end but it was a lot of grief. The lesson is, no matter how much of a rush your clients are in, examine the album yourself before handing it to them.
Poor workmanship in wedding albums reflects badly on YOUR business because as far as your clients are concerned, it’s YOU that’s providing their wedding album.
So you can see providing wedding albums is not “easy money” as the printers might have you believe. However, it is worth doing and once you have ordered a dozen or so, you will get the hang of it and be much more relaxed about it.
So that’s it on the pricing and wedding album front. In my next blog I’m going to talk about drawing up contracts and the all important “terms and conditions”.
Hope to see you soon.