Friday, August 13, 2010

Are Wedding Albums Dead? - Part 2

Good Morning Everybody,

Whew!  This has been one BIG blogging week with each post running about 1,500 words or more.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the reads, because here’s another one coming at you today.  Like I said, I don’t mind writing as long as you enjoy reading ;~)

Hey, just a quick reminder before we get started today – the special pricing on my Success Collection expires Sunday at midnight.  That gives you only 3 days to save yourself $20 off the original price of $89.  Once again, here is the link to order.

OK, on with today’s post, fasten your seatbelts, here we go…

Are Wedding Albums Dead? - Part 2

Dead Wedding Albums 2 As I said yesterday, last Friday's post, “Are Wedding Albums Dead?” [link] caused a little stir among DPT followers. My thanks to everyone that posted a comment and enriched the piece with your perspectives.

But if a lot more of the wedding market is not seeing the value in a wedding album, what can we do about it? Last week I suggested we re-structure our wedding pricing as a fee/image based service to our clients. Now let’s discuss that concept in depth.

Hit the “Read More…” link below for the rest of the story.

Back In The Day

Back in the day, as recently as 4 years ago, most photographers booked a wedding package for their clients which included time to cover the wedding, and album, and maybe an engagement session thrown in. Every wedding photographer has his/her strategy for pricing.

All of us knew if we did a good job photographically, that the client would always order additional photographs thus substantially increasing the package price. That's how it has always worked in my studio for years. The client would select, say our Level 2 coverage and we could expect the sale to double with family albums and additional gift prints.

Today’s Reality – Perceived Value

The reality these days is the fact that today's client sees the Wal-Marts, Costco's, and Sam's Clubs offering wedding sized prints (8x10's) for only a few dollars. The reaction is, "Why in the world would I spend $30 with Joe Photographer when his cost in producing the image is only a dollar or two?” The couple tells the photographer to just burn them on a DVD and they'll make up the prints and album themselves.

In reality most of those images never see the "light of day". The images just languish on the DVD. Unfortunately, this a large part of today’s “wedding market reality”.

Sure we wedding photographers bring energy, effort, talent, and creativity to our art and craft. Where the rug is being pulled out from under so many photographers operating under the old pricing system – selling prints instead of image itself, is the fact that the 8x10 pieces of paper they deliver to the customer have a perceived value of 2 dollars.

Are We, The Photographer, Worth Anything These Days?

Wedding PhotographerAnother part of the problems lies in the fact that many of today's customers don't see the added value a talented photographer brings to the the final photographic result - a keen eye, the ability to capture the moment, and their creativity. Is the professional photographer worth $20 -$30 more dollars additional cost to purchase the 8x10 print from that wedding photographer?

As recently as two days ago, I heard of a customer who hired a professional for their daughter’s wedding a few years ago and loved the images, but just recently, when their son got married, the event was photographed by a FRIEND of the bride – I was told that the photographic result was severely compromised this time around.  Was that bride hiring her friend or a pro photographer – I believe it was the former.  I feel bad for the couple because there are no “do-over's” when it comes to wedding photography.  I always wonder why a couple would make that choice.

This is a tough one to fix because of the HUGE numbers of aspiring photographers who want to shoot weddings.  The best we can do is to continue to build our BRAND through our blog, Facebook, website, and networking with our vendor buddies.

We Also Need A Paradigm Change


Most importantly though let's rethink our pricing structure and price OURSELVES and our IMAGES, not the pieces of paper called prints. I did a post a few weeks ago on how we've set up our pricing at David A. Ziser Photography. Here is the link right here if you missed it. Our "Levels of Coverage" has worked well for us these many years and to be honest still works for the clients we book today. I'm lucky and honored to have loyal clients continue to support me in the metro Cincinnati, Ohio area.

That is not the case for lots of photographers that are out there trying to grow their wedding business. That's why I'm taking the time to share my thoughts with you today. Too many photographers are just trying to be the cheapest game in town. The reality is that they will never be able to run a successful business with that approach and will soon lose interest and be out of business.

That still doesn't change the fact that cheap photographers and cheap pricing severely affect the thinking of potential clients toward established professional photographers. I've heard it all too often in my travels around the country. It’s not just in your neighborhood and community, it’s everywhere!

Time To Think Differently About What We Sell

Thinking But let's get back to pricing ourselves and our images – our intellectual property if you will, not a $2 piece of paper on which the images appear. This is an important concept to understand. Why, because if we are selling our energy, efforts, and creativity and selling the images – again, our intellectual property, then the whole concept of a "hard" photographic product completely evaporates.

Now we can deliver our artistically produced images in what ever form the client desires - in an album, on a DVD, and heck, why not even an iPad. Change your thinking that a photograph needs to be delivered on a piece of paper. It doesn’t anymore! Today a photograph is a collection of 0's and 1's captured on a digital camera, stored on a computer, and can be delivered via the analogue method of prints, or digitally on a disk, iPad, or any other convenient method of digital conveyance.

What About The Reorders?

So how does this help or hurt our re-orders? That's a good question, because if we deliver the digital image, the re-print possibilities are severely limited. Yes, this fact will affect our overall average. My first thought is that I think the difference has to be made up by raising the original booking price.

Let's think this through. Let's say hypothetically I book a wedding for a $1,000. I could always expect the add-on sales to equal the booked amount. That would be a $2,000 grand total. If we sell the digital images to the client, there is the real possibility that the customer will re-print additional copies of that image thereby impacting those add-on sales we photographers could always count on in the past.

Does this mean I need to double my prices to cover the loss of the add-on sales? My quick response is that we certainly need to increase the booking prices to offset the missed add-on sales. How much depends on what you are comfortable with and what your market will bear. 

Also keep in mind that we can make up for these lost sales by continuing to create innovative products that compliment our photography. 

What We Used To Offer Then – What We Could Offer Now

As I stated earlier, I did a post on how we've structured our Levels of Coverage. Our descriptions always included a leather bound album. If I chose to restructure my price list to reflect the suggestions here, I may drop the album descriptions altogether and simply state the number of images included in each coverage.

I would then offer as an add-on several digital conveyance options.

For instance, I might say,

"Once we've decided which level of coverage best meets the photographic needs of your event, we have several options in which you can showcase your wedding images. Here are a few examples

1- A beautiful handmade leather album has been a favorite with our clients for years. Our album pricing begins at $200.

2- We can also deliver each professionally enhanced image to you on a brand new iPad. The charge is an additional $500 (the cost of the iPad). If you decide to opt for the album above we will be happy to include and iPhone/iPad digital version of your album for you at a very reasonable additional cost.

3- A few of our clients have been asking for their wedding images on a DVD. Yes, we can do that too at no extra charge. We use only the highest quality media which test out to a 100 year archive life stored properly.

This would not be our top recommendation because, industry wide, it has been found that clients who take delivery of a disk of images never do anything with them. I kind of feel sorry for them because I still hear from several of out past clients how much they still enjoy their album, especially on their anniversaries, family gatherings…... That just doesn’t happen when the images are delivered on a disk.”

Those are a few of my suggestions. Remember too that the client is certainly welcome to purchase additional images. The cost of those images can be set to what ever price you feel comfortable.

Once again they can take delivery of those images electronically or on paper – make the price the same for a digitally delivered image and a paper delivered image up to 8x10 size.

I may say to the client, "All of our images are enhanced by our digital artists to make each image and everyone in that image look their best. Our wedding images, delivered electronically or as prints and albums reflect the the artistry, craftsmanship, and pride we take with each event we photograph."

What Do You Think?

There you have it, a completely different way to think about how to sell yourself and your photography. What we create has value, lots of value. It has value because of the time and talent we invest in ourselves in being able to create these wonderful images for our clients.

Our digital images are the result of our passion, energy, skill, and creativity we bring to each photographic assignment. And, because of that, they have value too, value that goes beyond what a piece of paper costs.

Forget the Sam's Club, Wal-Mart, Costco prices. Sell yourself, sell your images – your intellectual property, not pieces of paper, and deliver them anyway the client desires.


Hey gang, that's it for me today. I've got to wrap up my presentation for our "Captured By The Light 2010" tour because we go to press with out tour handbooks on Tuesday. Yes, everyone that attends the program will receive a Tour Handbook jammed packed with a road map of my program, several of my business building tips, and some unbelievable specials from our sponsors!

Remember, when you register, be sure to use the PROMO CODE CBLDPT10 to save yourself $20 when registering.

Everybody have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday, all the pixels willing.

Stay cool and have a good one everybody, David


  1. Fantastic post today, great way to end the work week and start the wedding weekend!!!

  2. " I feel bad for the couple because there are no “do-over's” when it comes to wedding photography. I always wonder why a couple would make that choice."

    They often make that choice because people often take the skill of photography for granted. How many times have we heard this:

    "That camera takes great pictures!"

    "I don't see what the big deal is. You're looking at something and pressing a button."

    This is why some people hire photographers charging $500 to do a wedding or get a "friend" to do it simply because they have a new Nikon D3000.

  3. David. Great post and all your arguments around price and identifying your value hold true in many industries. There will always be a market for people who want to buy solely on the basis of price - it's just that it's not your market! To compete on price alone you end up totally commoditising your offering and to compete you have to be the cheapest, because that's your final differentiation. If you compete at the premium end there may be fewer customers, but they're willing to spend more and understand value, not just price. Our task is to find out what value looks like from their point of view and show them that we can deliver it more effectively than our competitors. Thanks for a great blog!

  4. David. Great post. The comments you make apply every bit as much to other industries who are also suffering at the hands of creeping commoditisation. Almost always there is an opportunity to differentiate if only you look creatively enough at the situation. There will always be clients who are driven purely by the cheapest option. To compete there you have to be the cheapest. Once someone undercuts you, and they will, you're no longer the cheapest and you're in trouble! Equally, there will always be customers who are prepared to pay more because they understand value. Our job is to understand what their value perceptions are and demonstrate we can deliver them more effectively than our competitors. Understanding our customers is at the real heart of value pricing.

  5. David. Great post. This sort of problem is faced in many industries as they deal with creeping commoditisation. There will always be customers who are driven by the need for the cheapest price. Competing in this area is difficult (and margins can be wafer thin). Once a competitor comes up with a lower price than yours, and they almost certainly will, your only differentiation - price - has gone. And so has your business.

    Happily, there will always be customers at the premium end of the market. These customers understand what value means to them and it's not just price, especially not on such a special day as a wedding! Our job is to make sure that we understand what value looks like from each customers point of view and demonstarte we can deliver it more effectively than our competitors. Understanding our customers - really understanding them - is at the very heart of value based pricing.

  6. Great post and thought provoking. The only thing I disagree with is the concept that the album/prints are the best way to share photos and that sharing is not done with images on a disk. My personal and professional experience has been totally the opposite. With today's technology wedding guests from all over the country and world can view the wedding photos online and see beautiful slideshows set to music. Often the bride will have her favorites up on her Facebook page generating lot's of oohs and aaahs and comments about the photos and the photographer.

    I just came back from an awesome vacation in Maine and I've yet to print any of the photos, but I've watched a computer slideshow of my favorites dozens of times and posted them on my blog and website. I still love beautiful fine art prints and albums, but photos on a really nice calibrated monitor look awesome too!

  7. Great post David (Keep writing and we'll keep reading & learning!!)

    A lot of food for thought here that will keep me busy all weekend!

    Thank you.

  8. Great post! One grammar error though. :) "This would not be are top..." "are" should be "our".

  9. You can't convince someone who only wants a cheap Kia to buy a Rolls Royce. Maybe they can't affoard it, maybe they don't see the added value. It's not just an educational issue. Everyone knows a Rolls Royce is a superlative car, yet the market share is infintesimal.

    I have people that call that absolutely do NOT want prints or albums. All they want is a CD or DVD. Maybe mom is a scrapbooker, or whatever. Maybe it's just that all the wedding magazines admonish brides to get their digital files (because 1/2 of us will be out of business by next year, and 90% will be out of business in the next 5 years), so the only insurance they have is a CD/DVD (Hell, we have photographers who go out of business before the DVD is delivered, with the couple ending up with NOTHING - no wonder they're scared!).

    "Change your thinking that a photograph needs to be delivered on a piece of paper. It doesn’t anymore! Today a photograph is a collection of 0's and 1's captured on a digital camera, stored on a computer, and can be delivered via the analogue method of prints, or digitally on a disk, iPad, or any other convenient method of digital conveyance."

    Exactly. This is one thing Gary Fong has suggested, as well. Sell the image at $X per image, and the client has the option of receiving the image either in an album (artistically presented as collaged pages), or in digital form. I get more effective money in my pocket selling them the images on DVD than in the album because I don't have the time in building the collages, nor the expense of producing the album.

    It's a win-win situation.

    I just have to convince them that my 200 images at $20/image ($4,000 investment) are worth more than the 3000 images the Craigslister is going to give them for $200. Christ, why don't they just advertise it - 10 cents a click.

    I keep reminding myself of Chuck Lewis' words: "Not every warm body is a potential client." I wonder how Rolls Royce salesmen keep their sanity.

    Please also see:

  10. Really interesting, insightful post. After last week's discussion on your pricing system and a few others I've read, I've been thinking hard about my pricing for next year. With today's largely Gen-Y (digital kids) clientele, it makes a lot of sense to consider their proclivity toward pixels rather than print.

    Introduces new challenges, but a wealth of opportunity for standing out! And as for never getting printed...we can alway work some printing costs into our pricing and surprise them with a "bonus" wall cluster or basic album along with the digital delivery.

    Food for thought!!

  11. Great post David. Thanks, I certainly like reading!

  12. Amy,
    Wonderful idea in your concluding thought, that's right in line with some things I've been doing recently.

    This quality of thinking and insight, of being in tune with the market, is the real reason you stay on top (aside from your superlative skill, of course!)

  13. Hey Everybody,
    Thanks for the great imput. Amy, I'm using your quote in my CBTL tour - you nailed it!

  14. Hi David,

    Good, common-sense post. Thank you.

    My only concern is that moving away from physical prints also means moving away from longevity.

    At the moment, there is no long-term digital storage option that we know will ensure image files are available for a couple's great-great grandchildren.

    Discs corrode, hard-drives fail and there is not guarantee that great-great grandchildren can access their great great grandparents' cloud-based storage account.

    Many professional photographers don't have proper back-up solutions in place. Even more of our clients don't. So my feeling is that there is a big risk in just giving a digital option.

    High-quality albums are a very convenient and reliable storage and viewing medium. The are low-tech, don't need upgrades every two years, and high-quality prints are known to last for 100 years or more.

    If we are selling our work as something of great value for the years ahead, I think we should also be explaining the benefits of top-end wedding albums and printing as a long-term storage/viewing option.

    Our approach here is to offer a disc of images as an extra that the couple can buy. But only once they have bought an album, rather than as an alternative to an album.

    Not everyone will agree with this, but it suits our philosophy of providing our wedding clients with memories the the decades ahead.

  15. David
    really enjoyed the 2 part post--thought provoking--well done--thanks for sharing.

    have to agree with a previous comment--digital media has changed and continues to change so quickly and longevity is not really known on top of that, so prints are perhaps still the way to go for clients

  16. If clients simply want a disc to be able to view digital slideshows or post on Facebook, why not provide them a disc of low-res images...look great on computers, but can not be reproduced in print?

    Then, if they want printed images, they can come back and order them through the photographer.

    Am I missing something?