Friday, August 06, 2010

Food For Thought Friday: Friday Photo School Today!; Are Wedding Albums Dead?

Good Morning Everybody,

Today is the day!  I’m on Friday Photo School at 1:00 EDT this afternoon.  We arrived at the studios yesterday at 10:00 a.m. and worked on the program till about 8:00 p.m. – a long time for a 90 minute program!  You would not believe what goes into the show – the FPS team had 3 cameras, 2 laptops, many, many computers and who knows what else connected to the broadcast mixing board and a gazillion monitors.  I’ll tell ya’, the place looks like CNN.

Friday Photo School3

This will be the first broadcast from the new Montgomery, Illinois studio – what an honor for me!  What a kick.  Everything is super organized and rehearsed to be sure the final presentation comes off smoothly.  We even tried something completely new yesterday for the show and it worked like a charm.  You’ll have to catch the show to see what I’m talking about ;~)

There is just so much effort and time that goes into a program that costs photographers only $10 to watch LIVE – that’s a steal of a deal.  Not only that, if you’re registered to watch it LIVE, you can then download the show for only $5! Again, a super deal.  Anyway, I hope you get a chance to check out Friday Photo School right here.

Hey, even if you can’t be there today at 1:00 EDT and miss the show, you can still pick up the 90 minute download for only $15!  Lots of other great downloads available right here.  Just hit the DOWNLOAD tab to see the list.

Above is a photo of me with the entire team. From left to right: Dave, camera 3 and production; Saj, director; Brandie, our model; Don, production manager; Yours truly; and Will, the mastermind and driving force behind Friday Photo School.

My thanks to the entire team who made my job look pretty easy on camera.  It was great to work with each and every one of you.  Thanks again!

Food For Thought Friday: Are Wedding Albums Dead?

Today’s topic was the result of a few conversations I’ve had with some top photographers over the last few weeks.  Let me begin by saying that I am not singing the death knell to wedding photography and wedding albums.  But, at the speed at which things are moving in our digital world and as fast as the current trends are changing we owe it to ourselves and our success to keep our heads out of the sand as it applies to today’s wedding market.

One thing is pretty clear to me. The wedding business is not what it used to be just 5 years ago. With the proliferation of inexpensive digital cameras, Facebook, Craig's List, and so many digital alternatives for image delivery, one has to wonder if the wedding album, as we have known it over the years, is heading towards extinction.

Dead Wedding Albums

I've even heard one well known wedding photographer remark recently, "Wedding photography is broke!". Well, I don't think it is broke. But I do think what the current client is seeking has certainly changed and we need to ask ourselves if the profession of wedding photography needs to change to accommodate these changing tastes.

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

It's A Brand New Wedding Game

I do believe the digital revolution has changed, not just the wedding photography playing field considerably, but the client expectations as well. And, it's all changed in the span of only a few years. I opened my studio doors over 25 years ago and the business of wedding photography remained pretty constant for most of those years.

I’ve said it many times at DPT, the "cost of membership" into the profession of wedding photographer back in the film days was about $10,000 worth of gear and a outlay of at least a few hundred dollars for film and processing. Those monetary commitments has nearly disappeared in our brave new digital world.

Albums At Costco

Costco Consider the fact that Costco offers album design software and album printing for next to nothing. Check out all their photo services right here. You will be amazed. In fact there are several such album printing solutions available for we as professions but also available for the consumers. Granted, these are press printed products printed on an HP Indigo press or a Kodak Nextpress, but the results still look pretty good.

Do these press printed books hold up as well as a beautiful set of photographic prints bound in a gorgeous Zookbinders leather album? The answer is clear - NO, they will not. I think a lot of clients don't even consider the quality of the final album these days. For many, it's beyond their budget, or maybe, not even that important to them.

How About No album At All!

DVD Also consider the fact that about 1/3 or more photographers deliver their images on a DVD. I’m not just referring to the lower priced photographers either. I'm talking all price ranges. Just check out the select group of photographers listed at I was amazed at the number of the "best of the best" wedding photographers delivering their images on a DVD.

Is It Market Dependent?

We must keep in mind something else. I think a wedding album is market dependent. Those couples planning a bigger budget event are more apt to opt for the beautiful wedding album. But still, even in this market segment, there has been a significant drop in wedding album sales.

I was just talking with a well known photographer in the southeast who tells me his albums sales have dropped considerably in the last few years. He had to modify how he offers his wedding services to his clients to offset the loss of revenue. We discussed a few ideas along those lines which I'll discuss later.

Maybe Albums Are Old Fashioned

Old Fashioned camera -I believe part of the motivation some of the new brides are opting  out of a wedding album purchase is the perception that albums are "old fashioned". Their mom and grandmother had one. But this is the age of Facebook, iPods, and camera phones, I don't do anything with those pictures either. There in lies part of the issue - nobody ever does anything with their plethora of newly exposed digital images.

Back in the day, it might take a month or two to shoot an entire roll of film with you little point and shoot camera. Getting that film processed was an event, and almost a celebration when you showed then around.

That just doesn't happen anymore. Sure we have Flickr and pics on Facebook but this less than tangible image exchange just lacks the sense of intimacy and closeness sharing a stack of snapshots with friends and family used to bring to an occasion. I think this loss of tangible sharing of photographs in just the last few years has certainly contributed to the decline in wedding album sales.

Can You Match Wal-Mart's Price?

All photography wedding photography, photo collages, canvass stretched prints, and yes, wedding albums too, have become "commoditized". You can buy any of the above from any number of Costco's, Wal-Marts, and On-line stores worldwide. It's hard for a studio to sell a beautiful canvass stretched print for hundreds of dollars when regular retail photo centers are selling what appears to be the exact same thing for under $50 diluting the value of the pros product dramatically.

Times Are A Changing

Does This mean that the photography business is going to the dogs? Does it mean we've got to change jobs? No, I don't believe that for a moment. There are TONS of successful wedding photographers out there. Again, just check out

But I do believe we need to be aware of these fast moving trends and not be "in denial" of those trends as so many "out of business" studios have discovered in recent years. We need to be fast on our feet with our marketing, customer service, and product development.

So Are There Any Easy Solutions?

There are never any EASY solutions and instead of me pretending to give you a solution for the current state of wedding affairs, let me suggest to you a different pricing strategy. Ponder this question for a few moments - What is it your client can't get from Wal-Mart or Costco? What is it that YOU offer that no one can de-value? The answer is YOU and that's whom you need to be selling.

These days I think it is best to sell yourself - not photographs and albums. I suggesting that you sell your coverages as a fee based service. Your client selects a level of coverage and you deliver a number of images however they want them - in an album, on a disc, or heck, even on an iPad. Offer everything else, albums, prints, whatever as an ala carte price you are comfortable with.

OK, don't jump the gun here and say that's a crazy idea. What it is, is an idea that side-steps the entire package pricing idea. I mean, if the clients are telling photographers that they don't want albums and now just want images, then this IS the only logical way to set your     wedding prices.

Hey gang, that's where I'm going to leave it for this week. Next week, I'm going to a brand new way of thinking when it comes to putting wedding coverages together. Next week's suggestions do not "kill" the wedding album but, rather make it one of the many options for image delivery.

I think it would be kind of fun getting the conversation going on this topic. Please feel feel free to add your thoughts in the COMMENTS section below. To be continued... ;~)


Be sure to tune in to Friday Photo School today. It's going to be a kick, hope to see you at 1:00 p.m EDT. If I miss you today, let's plan on hooking up next week, same time, same station.

Have a great weekend everybody! -David


  1. Sure Costco is offering fifty dollar gallery wraps, but those gallery wraps aren't of your images. I've had people ask for jpeg copies of my photos instead of prints (not for weddings, but just in general). I frequently tell them that I can't help them; I wish I could, but I can't. I say that I've spent a long time trying different photo labs, coming up with a color calibrated work flow, and that I have too much pride over my images to not control the end to end process. I could give them a jpeg, but if that image comes out with a color cast from the inexperienced tech at the Wal-Mart photo lab, and they put it on their wall, who looks bad? I do. If the paper they print on isn't as nice as the Kodak eSurface paper I tend to use, and it starts to yellow in 6 months. Who looks bad? I do. It's not worth it to me. The potential negative word of mouth is toxic and can be more harmful to future sales than a lack of positive referrals.

    People are fanatical about Macs, because things just work. Apple controls the hardware & software design, but also everything up to and including purchase & retail experience. That results in a product that is a pleasure for most people to use. Is Apple a premium brand? Yes. And you should view yourself like that too. You're not just selling a DVD of images. You're selling your time, experience, attention to detail, personalization, and quality. If you're willing to fork over a DVD full of images, your customers aren't going to perceive you as a premium brand, and you're not going to command premium prices.

    Understand that you are a premium brand, you are (or should be) offering your clients an Apple like experience where everything is just going to work, and that is for their own benefit and yours. If you sell yourself as a premium brand, customers will get it.

  2. I tend to continue to promote prints and books because they are tactile and tangible. You can handle them without the need for electricity. They are portable and "boot-up" immediately when opened. They connect the client with me, my skills, and our experience.

  3. In reading this post, I found myself thinking, "Daniel Pinks A WHOLE NEW MIND hits photography."

    Sell yourself - not photographs and albums ... Good word David.

  4. My personal view is that a lot of this social networking is about the here and now. Writing a one liner twitter; stating how you feel on Facebook.

    Which maybe has lead to a here and now mentality in photography?

    People want to share their photos immediately with their friends and family, all at the same time so they can chat about them, read and count how many posts or comments they get on their album. A narrow and conceited statement, sure, but think about it, everyone looks at how many "friends" and "likes" they have, right? All social networking, to me, is an adult version of the playground popularity contest.

    Anyway, I digress. When software and technology evolves (Moore's Law), PC's die, DVD's pass their warranty, Flickr, Facebook and the like are replaced by something bigger and better, take a look at the couples in 20 - 30 years time who don't have any wedding albums or prints to show their grand children. To pass on and live in their memories. They'll forgot about the here and now and will think back to their memories. About the album they should have made.

    The here and now, I'm all for living in the moment. But remember, we all grow old, as do our PC's and technology!

    So, as a photographer, help your clients with gaining foresight and make the memories now that they can bring out and show to their future kin.

  5. I actually just did my first wedding, which was done more as a favor. I only have an XSI and a couple of 580EXIIs. The bride didn't have a lot to spend and wanted images to create her own album. After having done the first one, I agree that the price should be set for your time and talent...I was sweating up a storm and trying to create images, not just point & shoot snapshots.

    Under different circumstances I may consider doing it again, but not for a song.

    I love the blog and look forward to learning more and more.

  6. Going to have to disagree completely. We sell albums on average of $1500 - $2000 to 95% of our clients.

    Costco can't compete with quality, neither can walmart and if you make your clients aware and manage their expectations it's not an issue, ever.

  7. While I am sure we could debate what David is saying in regards to sales of albums I have to agree with him. We should be marketing ourselves and our photography, not our prints and our packages.

    I'm sorry but a simple look into the marketing world will tell you that if it can be a commodity it will become one. The only thing that a photographer brings to the table is themselves. All the rest can and will eventually become a commodity.

    Granted I have a very small photo business but I tailor what I offer to my clients. I work with them with some base packages and from there we decided on a prince. The biggest part of the price is my time. Whether it is time to photograph or time to create an album it is still all I really truly have to sell.

    Weddings are tough work and they need and must be more than a snapshot, however if your client can't afford or doesn't want album then don't sell them one, instead sell them something they do want. If that is iPod/iPad proofing or their images on a USB drive then make it happen. Just make sure you have all the bases covered and make sure they client is happy.

    Part of covering your bases is staying up with the technologies and knowing what the time investment is. The last thing I want to say to a potential client is, let me get back to you on that. I wold much rather tell them a price. Again you are selling you, not your products.

  8. I have already come to a lot of these conclusions on my own based on my conversation with potential clients and of course in my research of what other photographers offer. Figuring out what people want is key to appealing to their needs. My goal is to show them examples of items they can't get from the places most people think of getting images printed. Even though they may not have ordered any prints I intentionally will give them some professionally printed images as an example of what I can do differently than the average consumer photo lab.

  9. Could you please give some further information about the specific differences with regards to "Costco and Walmart" and the like vs. "Zookbinders" and the like.

    Also why my client or myself would want either of them? (lower price vs. higher price, how quality would fit in etc.)

    Thank you!

  10. Why do you see it as an either or? Marketing Albums or Self...

    Surely the true pro, does both. Certainly the sum is greater than the parts.

    And BTW so is the profit!