Offering wedding pictures on disc – Strategies explained

One of the golden rules of retail is ‘Give your customers what they want.’ Let’s face it, there are very few wedding clients that wouldn’t want to have their wedding pictures at high resolution on disc. In this article I explain how to make a lot of money with pictures on disc packages.

I love tunnel light pictures. Julie took this picture while I drove to the reception.

I love tunnel light pictures. Julie took this picture while I drove to the reception.

Long gone are the days when shoe boxes full of prints form the storage solution for family photographs. As we all know, images these days are more often than not shared electronically.

Undeniable truth – When a client buys a print they take ownership of it. They feel they have the right to copy it. Just like they do with music CDs. One of the first things that often happens to a newly purchased CD is for it to be ripped into a computer before being leant to a friend for them to do the same. The music will end up on iPods, mobile phones, in car MP3 players etc. I have known our wedding clients to go through their album and photograph each picture in turn with their compact camera and then take the flash card to the local minilab to produce several sets of prints. Surprisingly, I don’t have a problem with this for 2 reasons. 1, because that’s the way it is and nothing we say or do will change it, and 2, I’ve already charged the client for the shoot and each of the images.
When I do a commercial shoot I always deliver my pictures on disc and my clients are then free to do what they want with them. I charge a very good day rate and we have a win / win situation.

Group therapy. I like being creative with formal groups. I often base my set ups on a formal

Group therapy - I like being creative with my wedding groups. I often base my set ups on a formal line up and add a touch of fun.

In my article on ‘setting your price’ I discussed the figures for a wedding photographer offering a prints in album service. This week I want to do the figures for wedding photographers offering ‘pictures on disc’ packages.

Let’s start with the costs of trading. My figures are simplified for ease of understanding but realistic none the less…

Fixed costs are those that are incurred whether you have any work, or not – computer depreciation, camera depreciation, trade association subscriptions, insurance, utilities, rent rates etc. I’m going to set the operational annual fixed costs at a realistic rate of £8,000 per year.
Direct costs for each wedding are likely to be very small indeed. Mileage, suit dry cleaning, and the cost of a DVD are the obvious key factors. I’m going to set the direct costs at £100 per wedding. The other cost to be considered is an acquisition cost often called a marketing budget. Lets set it at £200 per wedding.

If the photographer in our model shoots 40 weddings a year then the total annual costs would be 8000+(40(100+200)) = £20,000 With costs set at a rate of £500 a wedding it is possible to make a living by charging under £1000 a wedding. Certainly not something that is easy to do when delivering an album based product. So if the photographer charged £1000 a wedding they would earn a salary of £20,000 for an effective 3 day week. This assumes 1 day shooting, 2 days editing for each wedding. The admin and marketing would happen in the 8 weeks a year that there were no weddings and that leaves 4 weeks holiday too.

Heres another men group.

Here's another men only group. The best man was a civilian and breaks the pattern nicely.

Here’s a different scenario: If a photographer were to charge £1800 per wedding then the profit would be £52,000. Now that’s not a bad salary at all. With so many photographers competing at a £2000+ a wedding price point it is a great target level to aim for. Remember this is for a 3-day week!
Now it’s time to throw in a wild card. If the photographer were to deliver 200 pictures on disc from each wedding as their package and uses the Lovegrove Consulting digital services team to edit the pictures to their premium standard they would incur extra direct costs of £260 per wedding. This would set their annual salary at £41,600 for just 1 and a half days work a week! This means they can keep the day job should they wish to.

Another men only group this time outside a building site in London. The artwork on the temporary barrier was too good an opportunity to miss.

Another men only group this time outside a building site in London. The artwork on the temporary barrier was too good an opportunity to miss.

So if you are looking for a way into wedding photography and don’t feel you can charge multiple thousands of pounds per wedding, the pictures on disc option might just be the strategy to head for.

Top End Packages – This is how we set our pictures on disc option along side our album package.
We have the ‘Feeling Creative’ package that costs £5000 for the first 200 pictures on disc with extra pictures priced at £100 per 5. This product is aimed at book designers, graphic artists, other photographers, illustrators and artists. We have found them all to be creative enough to really do justice to the pictures. Our album based package is called ‘Pure Indulgence’ it too costs £5000 and includes the first 100 pictures in the album with extra pictures priced at £30 each. This package is aimed at those clients who want our complete service and a gorgeous Jorgensen album. Extra sales of prints and parents albums take the overall spend to £8000+ and occasionally as high as £15,000.

This group of the best man and the bridesmaids is just us having a bit of fun.

This group of the best man and the bridesmaids is just us having a bit of fun. My direction to the girls was to strike come and get me poses.

I expect this article to raise lots of questions and discussion so please feel free to contribute.

If you found this helpful, you may also like to read When should you not sell photographs on disc?

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About Damien

Damien Lovegrove learned his trade as a cameraman and lighting director during 14 years at the BBC, working on programmes such as the Clothes Show, Top of the Pops and Casualty. Fifteen years on, Damien has become one of the foremost trainers of photography and entrepreneurial business strategies in our industry. A published writer and regular columnist, Damien has travelled the globe sharing his knowledge and expertise. “Photography fascinates me” declares Damien. "Much of my photography is inspired by a burning enthusiasm within me” explains Damien. “Picking up a camera gives me such a rush that I’m instantly driven to create pictures.”

32 thoughts on “Offering wedding pictures on disc – Strategies explained

  1. Yep agree with you 100%. I am not clever enough to remember this and that package, so charge for attendance fee. Albums, CD/DVD’s, prints, ipod slideshows, canvas wraps, studio images prints etc etc are all priced separately on top. This was why I was asked to shoot my first wedding, the client new what they did and didn’t wont & were happy to pay. With everybody’s so diverse lifestyles, their needs are not the same. I strive to provide a class solution. How many weddings have you (not you Damien) lost as you only do wedding packages with albums, I know how many I have gained.

  2. Useful article this one. As a photographer new to weddings I have been asked about supplying a CD of the images from probably 75% of my potential clients. I am currently of the opinion that I will charge the same for a CD only package as I would for a package that includes an album. That way the client understands the value of the CD and I actually make a larger margin as there is no album cost. I actually think that the CD is worth more than an album and I will be looking to increase the cost of a CD only package as I know that I wont get requests for any extra prints or albums. I think the client needs to be educated about this as many are likely to consider a CD of images a “cheap” option – i.e. it only costs the photographer the cost of the CD and case whereas we all know this is not the case. Damien – the main difference I have perhaps compared to you is that an album, at this stage of my career, is a showcase of my work which clients will show friends and family – a useful marketing tool. By only supplying a CD I am missing out on this option. This would be fine when I am more established but at this stage I believe I need to consider this. I would appreciate your comments on this. I agree with your costing plans – ultimately a photographer needs to decide if a CD only option for a wedding can be lucrative enough. If it is then the decision is easier. One last thing – with some of my clients I have said that I will sell them the CD provided they purchase a package that includes an album. That way I get the best of both worlds – a client with one of my albums (a useful marketing tool) and a CD sale. Tom

  3. Hi All
    I think its important that clients realise they are buying the image. I’m not sure how many times I’ve had to explain to people that £40 for a 10 x 8 is not £40 for the paper which we all know you can get for 40p at photobox you are paying for the image. The image that is so appealing they must have it. So sell the digital file, which they can then print as much as they like, or upload to a website or i pod.
    At the end of the day they pay for the photographers talent skill and creation.
    Tom, you could offer a preview book with your DVD package. Loxleys and sim2000 do ones at very reasonable prices. 12 images per page doublesided.
    Just a thought as a marketing tool
    Regards
    Chris

  4. Hi Wing Liu,

    I must apologise for your comment disappearing. I was trying to tidy up a duplicate and yours went instead, but not before I had a chance to reply. Thank you for your question and interest.

    I mean that in most cases, it is better now to ensure that you are paid for your photography at the time of capture or initial image sale than to rely on a percentage of repeat sales. I have seen our online reprint sales drop from £12000 in 2004 to just £2500 in 2006. There are of course many contributing factors but there are some that are not in my control. Julie and I changed our pricing strategy to heavily load up the value of our photography skills at the shoot and that allowed us to price down the cost of prints and files to our clients. For us this gave us a guaranteed income and our clients didn’t feel ripped of for prints.

    For my commercial work I have recently (last 4 years) charged £1000 a day and handed over the files. I used to hand over trannies for scanning in the old days. In fact, some of my clients used to have the films processed by their own lab. I was happy with that as it saved me doing unpaid work.

    I do however have a couple of stocks of images in the Science Photo Library in London that are syndicated all over the world. I speculated to accumulate. I get a high 50% of the royalties and to date these have totaled over £420,000 (since 1986). My income is falling now as my rate of shooting has dropped considerably. The SPL seem to be in continual growth and the organisation is far bigger now than it was 20 years ago.

    My point is, ensure you get profit and paid for your work. Give your clients what they want. Embrace the many changes that are happening in our industry and continue to progress. There has to be a balance and it can easily be a measurable one. I believe that offering clients the opportunity to buy their pictures on disc at high resolution is a key element in ensuring the continued success of many photographers. Hence writing this piece. There will always be those that choose not to and they will have good reasons I’m sure. Thanks once again for your comment. I’ll try and recover it.

    Kindest regards, Damien.

  5. Hi Kevin,

    Diversity is a great thing. It is important to work out a strategy like yours that allows our customers to have exactly what they want and at a reasonable price. By the way our 2 packages were the same price to avoid me forgetting or getting confused too ;-)

    Damien.

    (I’ve tidied your post to avoid the repeat. Thanks for contributing)

  6. Hi Tom,

    I understand your arguments. I’ve been there myself and deduced that an album takes extra time to produce and costs money so if you can get the same revenue from a CD sale as you can an album sale then you are quids in. Yes there is a marketing issue with an album being seen by friends and relatives but I believe there are more opportunities by delivering your digital files at high res to your clients on an iPod touch. Put a funky slideshow on there too made in Proshow Gold or FotoMagico for the bride and groom to show their work colleagues :)

    The golden rule is as always, never give your client pictures they have not paid for. So sell each image whether it is in an album, on a disc or presented on an iPod.

    Regards Damien.

  7. Hi Chris,

    I agree about the challenge of educating clients. The phrase ‘sell the sizzle not the sausage’ springs to mind. Do beware of proof books however. They are fine as an index tool for the images the client has already bought as you suggested to Tom but when they contain unsold images they kill further sales stone dead. The client becomes familiar with the pictures over an extended period and the desire to buy a bigger print is lost. Thanks for the tip and I can vouch for the quality of both the latest Loxley digital offset products and the Sim 2000 proof books.

    Best wishes,

    Damien.

  8. I’d like to simply tell you that I’ve found your blog and consider it one of the very best I’ve come across. Your art/pictures are stunning as well as your manner of writing about them and helping others.
    Just amazing .
    Tom

  9. Damien,

    I echo what Tom said. I have been reading this blog since it started. It’s one of the most informative and worthwhile blogs I have ever read and continues to be a source of inspiration.

    I hope to make it to one of the workshops (urban street photography) because if this blog is a sample of the type of tuition I can hope to receive, then it will be money well spent. – or as you would say Damien – invested ;-)

    Thanks
    Dave

  10. Hi Damien,

    Really interesting post – do you think this is something that portrait photographers could/should offer as an added extra, instead of just framed prints, canvases etc to their clients? Or maybe it’s not as feasible?

    Thanks, Anna

  11. Hi Anna,

    For what is worth, it works for me (added extra hope you mean additional profit opportunity). and is why I was asked to shoot my first wedding.
    My main background is from another industry, I vowed if I ever had my own business I try and not repeat these mistakes. Allowing other business to set up and nibble at its business, not keeping up with market changes. Ultimately they have lost their market as they decided what the customer could have. I think this Damien’s point but he puts it much more eloquently

  12. Hi Damien,

    Great article following on from the previous one on setting your price for social photographers:

    http://www.prophotonut.com/2008/11/03/setting-your-price-a-guide-for-social-photographers/

    What I don’t understand is why the calculations have gone from an assumption of 20 weddings up to 40?

    Also, there are many that will argue that selling CD/DVDs is killing our industry and that the images could reflect poorly on us as photographers as we have not control over the client’s viewing medium.

    What is your view on this?

    TIA

  13. Hi Damien,

    Great article as always. Thanks for sharing such great advice.

    Just a question – if my album package includes the first 50 images in an album and the client also wants images on disc, how should I price this? I charge additional images in the album @ £15 per image – should it be £15 per image on disc too?

    Thanks so much,
    Jodie

  14. Sorry about the delay in replying. I’ve been shooting :)

    Hi Anna, Great advice from Kevin! I think you should ask your customers what they want. Then consider your options. Customers are not always right though as Henry Ford knew – “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said faster horses”

    Yes, pictures on disc can work for portraiture, but is it right for you? It is for us.

    Damien.

  15. Hi Pat,

    If you are providing your wedding clients with an album product it can take about 2 weeks to do each wedding from start to finish with all the gluing and sticking, album design and printing etc. If you are doing pictures on disk it will take less than half the time hence having twice the number of weddings ;-)

    Pictures on disc is liberating our industry. Photographers can become photographers again rather than cottage industry gluers and stickers. Some photographers do less than 1 day in 10 of taking pictures.

    It’s far better that our clients get well edited files than photograph the prints in their album with their own cameras.

    These are just other opinions – here for devils advocate reasons. The debate will continue like the film v digital one until all pro pictures are eventually delivered electronically.

    Damien ;-)

  16. Hi Jodie,

    Set a price on your images and stick to it. Include enough in your package to make your money up front and then charge for the extras. Each photographers case is different. If you regularly sell big canvases or frames as add ons then it might be detrimental to offer pictures on disc. If you don’t sell big products then pictures on disc may well be a valuable extra income for no more work.

    I hope this helps and I apologise for being seemingly vague. Just remember never give your clients a picture that they have not bought.

    Damien.

  17. Hi Damian

    I wondered how you feel about clients creating their own products from digital images and then showing them off with your photography?

    I do give the images away on DVD but I’ve seen some of the resulting things that have been done with them and often they look pretty bad, which obviously reflects poorly on me. Any advice on this – should I be including a list of suppliers for where they can create their own thank you cards etc? I’m just concerned that if I do that, then they will have even less reason to order cards etc through me.

    Thanks!

    Rosie

  18. Hi Rosie,

    I replied to your post earlier but I managed to delete it when clearing out spam:(
    The points you raise are very poignant indeed. In fact they inspire me to add a new post to qualify when selling pictures on disc is not advised.
    I choose to educate my clients on how to respect their investment in photography. I give them links to reputable suppliers of prints, albums and greeting card products like Sim 2000 and Photobox, and I give them the opportunity to buy product prepared by us at a discounted rate.

    Kindest regards,

    Damien.

  19. Thanks Damien, I read the article with interest.
    These ideas are of particular interest to me as I think I really need to sort out my costs and workflow as I struggle to find the time, with a day job and would love to know if my current packages are realiastic. I seem to spend about 2 weeks (of spare time) editing about 300-400 finised images for the online portfolio’s which may or may not sell. I do sell some fairly low budget photobooks, and a few CD pacakages, but its difficult to set prces at a level that matches my abilities and experience and that will daraw in enough work.

    Regards
    Jules

    PS: Many thanks for producing those Wedding DVD’s, I’m sure I shall gain lots of insight from them.

  20. Thank you for your reply Damien, I think that you’re right in that ultimately we will need to provide a digital option.

    I’m not sure if this is covered elsewhere but the other thing that comes to mind is, should the CD only contain say images at HDTV or also a set of full resolution images (negatives) fully prepared for printing?

    The implication of providing digital images is that they will be for viewed on a PC or TV. Therefore why would we effectively give away our negatives when the couple paying more for an album would not expect them?

    TIA

  21. Ho Hum.. disc versus print is such a conundrum for photographers today, and with the everchanging options in the field today such questions are always arising. ( Jpeg vs Raw, Print your own or send it out) I think it is imperative to move with the times but to keep the integrity in your style and creativity. I am working on the weddding packages now and have up until now not offered Hi-res images for print, but low res slide shows as an additional extra. However the question has arisen a lot as to will I offer this and it is being asked more often, so I need to consider this seriously. I am prosposing that after a cerain amount of time 6-8 months the wedding images on their personal gallery are removed now and as a final possibility to sell I will offer them the hi-res images before they disspapear for ever or as a separate product priced accordingly. However on some of my recent portrait work I have made them more distinctive as ‘my work’ and created them as individual unique pictures, never to be recreated, this adds value to the one off piece of art and the file will be stored under password by me or possibly destroyed. The more commercial/school work is sold as a day rate and supplied on disc now.I agree with Damien that when your packages are covering your costs and you are earning a living from your weddings then the prints on disc could be offered at similar prices to prints, and I personally see that as more viable for weddings as for me they dont produce many big print, canvas products, ( sometimes in the Pre wedding sales) so the images on CD’s is good product for weddings ( I also want my image on the mantle piece rather than Uncle Teds Compact option!!!)but doesn’t suit for my portrait work and this is a area where I want to keep my ‘preciousness’ and keep the value of a single still prceless unique image., and that grows with me and tge development of my style… that reminds me my website has lacked any input this year and needs to be re junvenated with the new work!!!!! No rest for the wicked.. x

  22. Hi Damien. Firstly let me say, I am totally inspired by the images you and Julie produce. I have recently purchased the DVD “The Big Day” and “Lighting Winter Weddings” which are stunning and truely amazing.
    I am presently trying to offer DVD slideshows, but just can’t get the quality into the slideshow. If I use jpegs the quality isn’t there, if I use tiffs the programs will not load. I have tried several DVD Slideshow software but to no avail. Could you suggest a burn software I could use?

    Thank you
    Ann

  23. Totally agree. You need to be paid for the shoot properly, and without fail, clinets now allways want a DVD of the images. We can argue about copyright untill the cows come home, if you put yourself in the position of having to sell re-prints then you are on the wrong business path. Since moving to charging the correct amount for shooting, and then treating products as a separate entity, bookings and profits have risen. More importantly, we are earning the right ammount for the efforts we make (regardless of wether we are designing an album, or shooting a wedding)

    The trend to roll in the album and shoot together, really just blurs what is worth what. Down the line, this reduces the efacacy of the upsale

  24. Great post (as usual) and great blog (I’ve only recently discovered it). I’m just starting out on my ‘wedding’ journey and have been looking for as much help as possible – your blog has been inspirational. I’ve got my first booking for a ‘disk only’ package and have been mulling over a number of things.

    One thing I am struggling with is image proportions. I’ve shot a couple of events and some studio shots which I have then sold online. To increase revenue I have deliberately shot so that cropping to 10×8 is easy. However, is this a ‘requirement’ for a wedding if the photographs are going to be presented on disk ?

  25. its far better to offer pictures on cd, reduces stress, cost and time.for god sake we are not glue industry. so let our clients do whatever they like with pictures on cd. advertising photographers charge lots of money and yet do not print but offer cd pictures. i quite agree that some or many clients will want to see the album and value it much, in that case photographer should include the charge of giving the cd if need be. becos it already devoid u of another printing request. i must say i enjoy ally our comments. cheers
    Edward.

  26. Hello my name is Jeanette Farias, my fiancée and I marry one another September 22, 2012 in San Jose, CA. I’m looking for CD disk vs prints package. Needed for 8 hours with full printing rights. Is this something that can be done and for how much? Please contact me ASAP I need to book photographer right away.

    Regards,
    Jeanette & Rudy
    408-821-4420

  27. Hi Jeanette,

    I do hope you find your photographer. If I was in San Jose I might just quote for you. My starting fee for wedding photography with pictures on disc is £5000. I can be there for you but I might be over your budget.

    Kindest regards,

    Damien.

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