Let me start by saying that I'm not writing this post because I'm angry or upset, and I'm not writing this post in response to any particular email I've received. I simply think this information might be helpful to someone who has never had to email a photographer and is looking for some insight!
I get many emails that sound something like this: "Hi, I would like to know how much you charge for X. We are comparing prices for photographers. Please let me know."
On the other hand, I get a lot of emails that sound like this: "Hi Tierney! I'm So-and-So and I've been following your work since you photographed my cousin So-and-So's wedding. I love your style! I recently got engaged and am wondering if I can get more information on your availability and pricing for wedding coverage. We're planning on getting married on XXXX. Hope to hear back from you soon!"
The main point of these two messages is pretty similar: both people are both interested on some level in working with me and would like to get some more information. However the way in which they get that point across differs greatly. Let's break it down!
The Wrong Way
"Hi, I would like to know how much you charge for X. We are comparing prices for photographers. Please let me know."
- This person fails to acknowledge that I have a name. As a result, this message is very distant. It almost seems like it's just a copy of a message that someone is sending to every photographer in her area. I have to wonder when I get emails like this: Does this person really know my work? Or or they simply trying to find the cheapest services they can?
- This person does not even attempt to introduce herself. You don't have a write a novel, but even sharing your first name is helpful! Some people choose to sign their emails with their name, but making sure it's there somewhere is very important.
- This person jumps right in by asking how much I charge. To me, doing this comes across as "If you give me the best price I'll consider working with you." And then I'm suddenly turned into a commodity, and who wants to feel like that? I'm not saying you shouldn't ask for prices. Most of us have budgets, and even more of us have tight budgets. I'm not here to judge your budget. However, there IS a right way to ask for pricing and there IS a wrong way. This message is a perfect example of the wrong way. Introduce yourself, explain a little about why you like my work, and THEN ask for pricing. Photographers tend to think of themselves as artists, and when you neglect that little detail and treat them like they're an unoriginal, dime a dozen commodity, it doesn't usually start your relationship off on the right note!
- This person tells me they're planning on comparing my prices with the prices of other photographers to decide who they'll hire. I compare prices. In fact, most of us compare prices. But please don't try to use that as a selling point when you're hiring a photographer! In fact, this is a red flag and often a sign that the inquirer won't be a good fit as a client for me. One of the reasons telling someone you're comparing their prices to someone else is so frustrating is because most photographers have set their prices very specifically. Liability insurance, equipment, taxes, talent, and that little thing called TIME are not cheap, and more established photographers often raise their prices as their experience and business grows. Am I saying that photographers who charge more are better photographers? ABSOLUTELY NOT! (Let me repeat that: absolutely not.) However, I would like to challenge you to evaluate who you'll hire as a photographer based upon how you feel about their work before even looking at their prices. Pricing is tricky because you've got to talk about it and there are so many ways to go about doing it the wrong way.
- This person fails to include a date or general time during which she would need me to do photos. There is no mention of "this summer" or "next fall" which makes me think that this person is assuming that I'm going to be available, even if they need me the next day. It reinforces my initial impression that price is the only thing this person cares about.
The Right Way
"Hi Tierney! I'm So-and-So and I've been following your work since you photographed my cousin So-and-So's wedding. I love your style! I recently got engaged and am wondering if I can get more information on your availability and pricing for wedding coverage. We're planning on getting married on XXXX. Hope to hear back from you soon!"
- This person calls me by my name! It's always nice to know you're being differentiated from the billions of other people in the world. This person knows who they're speaking to and isn't likely copying and pasting the same words into 20 different emails to other photographers.
- This person introduces herself. This person shares with me how she heard about me and lets me know she's been following my work for a little while. HUGE brownie points! I immediately feel 100 times more comfortable with the prospect if taking her on as a client because I know she likes my style and is therefore more willing to TRUST me.
- This person acknowledges that she likes my work. This is crucial! Wanting to hire me exclusively because of my prices and wanting to hire me because of my work are two different things. I'm sure this person has a budget, but she at least acknowledges that she was initially drawn to me because likes my work.
- This person knows that she needs to confirm my availability. She gives me her projected wedding date. It's a small bit of information that is super important! She recognizes that I might have other obligations or already be booked.
- This person asks for a price the RIGHT way. It's not wrong to ask for a price. In fact, I've yet to meet anyone that hasn't! But there is definitely a right way to do it, and this person states that she was initially drawn to my WORK and isn't just looking for the photographer who is charging the least. Even if you're contacting a photographer because you already know that he or she is within your budget, you should definitely make sure you genuinely like that photographer's work.
Let's Be Friends
It might be tempting to approach hiring a photographer like you would any other business prospect, but I honestly believe that you'll be happier and much more comfortable if you approach it as if you are looking to make a friend along the way. The photographer/client relationship is unlike any other; it's unique and deserves to be treated as so right from the start. Happy contacting, friends!