Can I just say, man, it’s freaking hard to be a photographer. Like seriously, it’s not easy at all. In a world where iPhones have 11 megapixel cameras with multiple focal length lenses, lighting companies are starting to make lighting for smartphone photography (don’t believe me?), and entry level DSLR’s cost even less than a phone - everyone and their brother claims the name photographer. But for all the people out there who are trying to turn their passion into a career, I have a question for you. Why are we devaluing what we do?
I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s been told by a prospective client that my prices are too high, or that you’re not worth what you’re charging. It can be pretty demeaning and it honestly makes us second guess ourselves, but in actuality they couldn’t be more wrong. A true photographer provides a service to their clients that they can’t get from a regular person with a camera. We’re capturing moments in the clients life that can’t be replicated, we’re staging unique settings to create moods and emotions, we’re using our expertise to give someone the best possible product and service that we can.
As I sit here writing this with a cool fall breeze coming through my window and my pumpkin cold brew in hand, it’s no doubt the time of year when I start to see the term “Mini Sessions” pop up. Now, I’ve got nothing negative to say about mini sessions, and if they work for your business, by all means do them, but these mini sessions sometimes make me curious. Why do we as photographers feel we have to lower our prices so drastically to compete? While it may seem like your doing your clients a favor and you’re booking a handful of sessions that make you a nice little chunk of money, the reality is that the price drop is hurting your future session prices and other photographers prices. We all compete with each other, but instead of driving each others prices upward, were one of the few industries that are constantly driving each others prices down. Think back to the last time you were comparing your prices to someone else, what was your first thought? Was it, “I should be raise my pricing”? Or was your first thought, “I can provide that same thing for cheaper”. Let’s just think about that for a second…
Now, to any future clients reading this, and even photographers who are thinking, “hey specials and discounts can be really helpful”, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying clients don’t deserve a break sometimes, and I’m not saying don’t offer specials to your clients. I just want to make the point that as an industry, we’re driving our businesses the wrong way.
Okay, back to my last point. What was your first thought? I’m willing to bet it was, I should lower my prices to compete. And maybe I’m alone in thinking this (although I’m sure I’m not), that thought doesn’t feel good. Especially after all the years of experience, money invested, and the daily frustrations, shouldn’t you make what you feel your worth?
I’ve been struggling with this for the past couple years. Do I keep my prices low to try and book as many sessions as possible? Or do I raise my prices to what I feel I’m worth, and feel more satisfied with myself each time I finish a session? I settled on raising my prices to something I feel that I’m worth, and let me tell you, it’s changed my outlook on photography as my career.
Initially after raising my prices, my number of bookings dropped, and I had second thoughts. But I focused on how I could provide even more value to my sessions. After a little bit of time, my number of bookings rose, I was feeling more satisfied with each shoot, and my clients were wanting to re-book with me. I watched a video from a photography conference that had a lot of impact on me. Chase Jarvis and Gary Vaynerchuk were having an Q&A with attendees, and they were trying to assess problems and provide solutions to photographers that were struggling with their business. They asked one attendee, “What is your biggest challenge with your business right now?”
His response was, “Trading time for money. I have no problem getting people into my studio to shoot, but I want to make more money and not lose more of my time.”
Chase Jarvis’ response? “10x your prices.” People laughed at first, but then the room fell silent.
Chase continues, “ I say this about 2 times a week on the internet, and I get messages from people that say, “holy shit I 10x my prices and I’m still busy!”. They literally 10x their rates.”
If you want to watch the whole interview, which I highly recommend you do because it’s tremendously helpful and motivating, you can watch it here.
So, I guess my point of this post is you’re worth more than you give yourself credit for. Ask yourself these questions and I’m curious as to what your response to them will be. If someone else can do it, why can’t I? Why do I constantly devalue what I do so that we can meet other people’s standards? Why shouldn’t I get paid what we feel I’m worth? Why shouldn’t we as an industry be driving each others prices upwards, instead of driving each others prices into the ground?
I hope that this may help some of you who are struggling with the idea of turning photography into a viable source of income for yourself. And I hope maybe this will motivate some of you to do what’s best for yourself. Don’t get down on yourself and don’t let other people dictate your worth. Be your best self, and get that money.