If you call the photographer and ask for the price of the session and you hear "what's your budget?" the advice is simple: run.
If the photographer himself is not able to evaluate his work, either he is an amateur who takes pictures in his free time or he does not believe in himself. In such a situation, the result of the photo session is simply unpredictable. In the current market of available photographers, it is rather a risk.
Session pricing includes a lot of elements and there are photographers who do not publish their prices on the website. Whether it's good or bad, opinions are divided. However, when you call the photographer and say what service you want, he or she should know the price. Only the photographer knows how much the equipment he works on cost him, how much time is needed for preparation, session and editing. Of course, there can be many reasons why a session may be cheaper than you think. Maybe a photographer is looking for a specific type of client to expand the offer or try his hand at a new genre of photography. Maybe he is missing photos of someone like you in his portfolio. But he should know the price.
The situation changes when you get the answer and find that the price is too high. Then it is always worth mentioning that yes, you liked the photos on the website but it is too expensive. If then you hear the question "what is your budget" then it is worth talking. Personally, I am a supporter of keeping prices steady because it is my job and any other client might feel offended that I took pictures of someone else cheaper than him. But on the other hand, it may always happen that a session may seem interesting to me and I will be persuaded to accept a lower price. The worst that can happen is that the photographer refuses to lower the price. Not a big deal.
It is worth considering that if you spent a lot of time looking for a photographer on the web and finally decided to call him, then you probably like something about his work. It is worth answering the question whether another, cheaper photographer will take the photos you expect. Usually, when buying a car, it is not worth to be guided by the colour. But the appearance of a photo is its basic feature, so usually "different but cheaper" means not the ones you like. Is it worth spending any money on something you don't like?
Now, you might get the impression that I am urging you not to use the services of a photographer. You could also ask why would I do this. The answer is quite simple. As a photographer, I am interested in customers who want me to provide a service, i.e. take photos for a certain price. And for many other types of services, this motivation is sufficient. In the case of photography, not really. Photography is an extremely subjective product in reception and therefore there will always be someone who does not like my photography. And if that person contacts me because my prices are lower than my competitors, it could be more harm than good. Yes, I will earn some money, but I will also give the client photos that they didn't like from the very beginning. We already know what his opinion on these photos will be. I don't know how many potential clients I will lose because of this opinion. People rely on the opinion of relatives, friends or even some opinion on social media expressed by people they have never met. Unfortunately, anti-advertising is many times stronger than advertising. One bad opinion about my photos can do me more harm than a good one, good. And while someone can buy a Ford instead of a Mercedes due to the budget, the matter is much more complicated in the case of photography marketing. A client who chose me as a cheaper but in his opinion a worse photographer comes to the session with a negative attitude. And the right attitude translates exactly into the success or failure of the session. If someone thinks that he would like to cooperate with another photographer, coming to me is harmful to himself and also to me.
- Think about the price you are willing to pay before contacting the photographer. Think about the maximum price you can accept; it will be useful in negotiations.
- Think what exactly you would like to get for this price. How many photos? Do you want to get photo prints or an album? Does the session have to take place on a specific date or are you flexible about that? Some photographers include such items by default, and if you don't need them, it can lower the price of the service.
- If the price quoted by the photographer is too high, try to negotiate. It costs nothing.
- If you have no experience but would like a photo shoot, contact the photographer, tell him what you want and how much you are willing to pay. It is rare for a photographer to say "no way." He also wants to earn so he will be willing to negotiate. Maybe he just has free time and lives very close. It's always worth a try.
And if you call, say what you expect and hear "what's your budget?"
As I wrote before - run away.