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Photography/Paying for Photography Leads


I have been considering paying for leads for my photography business. There are several online websites which charge everywhere between $1.00 to $20.00 for leads. I've also spoken with local wedding planners and other wedding vendors about purchasing leads from them. Does paying for leads actually work?  Is it cost-effective?  Is there anything unethical about paying for leads or referral fees?

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Paying for leads, advertising, referral fees, pay per clicks and even paying for bookings are all legitimate options for acquiring business.

I will start with your last question first. Is there anything unethical about paying for leads or referral fees?  For some people, yes.  Certified wedding planners are not suppose to have any bias for recommending certain wedding vendors.  It is stated among some wedding planning organizations that for their wedding planners to accept a "referral fee" is not only unethical, but virtually synonymous with taking a bribe!  The certified and professional wedding planner is to be totally focused on the needs and desires of the planner's client.  The client would obviously want unbiased vendor recommendations and this can't be expected if the wedding planner is being paid by the vendors the planner recommends.

In Chattanooga there is the Wedding & Event Network which operates in different ways for the benefit of venues, vendors and for people seeking information concerning venues and vendors.  The owner operates as a marketing and advertising agency for venues and vendors.  In this capacity, the owner represents her advertisers.  The number one goal of the owner is to effectively market the services of her directory advertisers.  She does this through a wedding & event network of directories as well as making the marketing brochures and other materials of her advertisers available in her office to the general public. This works very well.

However, when a bride-to-be retains the services of the owner as a wedding planner, the owner has a different responsibility, function and therefore puts on a different hat.  The owner's priority shifts to what she believes is in the best interest of the bride. After consulting with the bride, the wedding planner recommends those venues and vendors she believes will help fulfill the wedding day vision and dreams of the bride as well as helping stay within the bride's budget and other considerations.  This includes recommending venues and vendors which are not advertisers in the Wedding & Event Network.  While functioning as a wedding planner for a specific bride, the wedding planner does NOT accept "referral fees", "marketing fees", "kick backs" or "finder's fees" from any venues and vendors.  This is because all of the wedding planner's fees are being paid for by her client - the bride.  The wedding planner is fully vested in the best interest of the bride.

This same wedding planner, the owner of the Wedding & Event Network, DOES accept marketing fees for her time and labor of promoting the services of her advertisers. At the Wedding & Event Network office, when the owner has not been retained as a wedding planner, the owner represents her advertisers. Her office is available Monday through Friday from 10am to 5pm so people who have upcoming events and weddings may stop by the office to pick up brochures, price lists and receive detailed information about the venues and vendors in the network. At the office she spends 40 hours a week passing out money-saving discount coupons and passing out other information to help people in their preliminary wedding and event planning stage.


There are "good" leads and there are "bad" leads. Sometimes a really good and legitimate lead may book a competitor before you can get your info to them for the $15 or so you paid to be able to contact them. As long as you are willing to accept this, all you can do is try a lead program and see how well it works for you.  If you feel compelled to contact the lead again wanting to drill them as why they didn't hire you, I would suggest that paying for leads is not for you.  Do you contact people who have visited you in the studio day after day or week after week until you find out if they have hired someone else?  Do you bug them until they hire you?  Why didn't they hire you?  Maybe because they already sensed you might be the kind of person who would be rude in this way!  Maybe you seemed a little "pushy" when they met you and they just don't want a pushy photographer.  Look, it can be anything including a simple roll of the dice why any photographer gets picked over another.  It CAN be intangible, it CAN be very complex why, at a given moment, a couple chooses one photographer over the others. Don't take it personal.  Just let your passion for being a great photographer and business person keep you going.

Yes, as I mentioned at the beginning, you can also just pay for getting booked! This is most often done through Wedding Chapels across the country.  It is also done through high-end wedding venues.  Some venues have an entire group of "in-house" vendors.  Some venues will even penalize you IF they even allow you to bring in some other vendor you would rather have.  How does all this strike you when considering what's "ethical"?  Bear in mind, the in-house wedding planner will recommend all the in-house vendors.  I've known of some venues that will still charge you $1,000 if you use their in-house photographer or not for your wedding!  So just know there are a LOT of different situations or "arrangements" which exist.  Some of them not see easy to see or find out about.

In the Wedding & Event Network office, the owner there has venues and vendors who pay her a marketing fee for each time she gets them booked thanks to the time and labor she spends with prospective clients in the office. Of course, as explained previously, when the owner of the Wedding & Event Network has been retained as a wedding planner, her priority shifts from advertising & marketing to functioning as a wedding planner for that specific client.

Thanks for your questions about paying for leads and the opportunity to also talk about marketing fees, pay per clicks, referral fees, advertising, marketing and booking fees for wedding and event venues and vendors.

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I have over 30 years of experience. 12 years portrait studio experience. I can comprehensively answer questions relating directly to the art, science and business of photography and the portrait studio business. Photoshop and other photo editing software.


Over 30 years photography and about 4 years working as a portrait photographer for a studio in Chattanooga and eight years as a portrait studio owner.

I have attended numerous workshop, seminars and photography conventions over the years. I continually self-study from my library of over 100 photography, video, digital photography, photoshop and other books.

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