Read below (I originally posted in another thread). Charge what you need to in order to spend the time required to create a quality product to show the customer or you will forever be a craigslist photographer. Base your packages on what your competition offers in the market tier you want to be in.
@kate169: Your comments are very true. There is a decent lower end market, and with low cost, comes the expectation of the custmer that the photographer has little experience. The philosophy is that some pictures are better than no pictures, and typically the client is willing to take that risk for the money they are commiting.
When working in this market, your goal should be to get past it as quickly as possible. If you find yourself still advertising on craigslist after the first or second year, there is something you are not doing right, and it’s probably more business and marketing than skill and talent. Yes, you will probably find steady work, and you may have the mentality that some money is better than no money, and since you have a full time job already, this is ok. A lot of pro’s despise these newcomers because they claim they undercut them and “steal” business away, especially customers that don’t have an eye for quality and that are shopping on price. There are many debates that these photographers are killing the industry.
I am with the school of thought that these photographers are huring themself (not the industry). Typically, when starting out, your process is not streamlined and you don’t have pro equipment, and I am not just talking about the cameras (fast computers, backups, proper editing software with plugins, a dedicated space at home for client meetings instead of always going to them,etc,etc,etc) All of this = time, and I don’t care how you look at it, time = money.
The biggest mistake newbies have is pricing themself the lowest in the area. Besides devaluing your own work, you get a rep for being “cheap,” and unless you start fresh under a new name, it will be almost impossible to raise your prices significantly.
Although the mentality is that “some money is better than no money” what happens is that you fail to meet your overhead expenses. Remember, using your equipment depreciates it, cameras have a limited shutter life! Then there are also business costs, insurance (required for wedding photography), web site hosting, gas and wear and tear on car driving to gigs, etc.
Sadly, most of the “Joe Blows” that I have seen surface, are out of business (give up) after a year or so and it’s mostly (IMO) how they bring themselves to market. When you charge very little, the only way to increase revenue is by taking on large volumes of work. When you really see what your overhead expenses are and how many hours you work on a gig, you will get tired of slaving to the wee hours of the morning night after night for minimum wage (or less) on an hourly basis. At first it may be fun, but eventually you become the slave to it, and for what? 5 bucks an hour?
If you are really interested in breaking into the wedding industry, this is not for the forum for it. You will get more insight participating in a professional photography forum where the members are mostly professionals. You can feel free to PM me with questions, but, I don’t feel this is the place for these types of ongoing discussions.