Sep 21, 2010

Friends don’t let Friends… {Guest Writer}

One of my friends in another state had a photo session and was sharing her pictures.  They were beautiful.  I love them…the way the photographer captured this family was amazing!  I rushed to the photographer’s website to see her information.  There I saw it.  Under “INVESTMENT” it was staring me in the face.  I almost got sick.  What was it that I saw?  The photographers pricing revealed that my friend had gotten her session and a hi-res disk with all of the images for around 150 dollars.  My face went pale, my hands went cold…”Why? Why? Why?”   (okay, so I am being a bit dramatic, but you get the idea).

Anyway, I see it all of the time.  In fact, truth be told (head hanging down) I was that photographer at one time.  I was the photographer who thought   “I am just getting started, so I will  “build my clientele” by giving away my photography and time.”  Yes friends, if you are charging 150 dollars for a session and disk…after paying for  the cost of goods and services, time, taxes, etc…you are actually PAYING PEOPLE to take their picture.  Yes, I said that…read it again. You are PAYING people to take their picture!!!!!

If you want to pay people to take their picture, then I am your biggest cheerleader. If that makes you happy, go for it! However, for me…I want to run a business…I want to be known for my work and grow as a professional.  I am in this to make a fair profit for my work and artistic vision…and I am not afraid to admit it!  I want to do what I love (photography), and make money doing it.  I want to look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day and know that my four children and husband have benefited from the time I am spending away from them capturing images of other families.  Every second I am photographing another person, family, etc, I am taking time from them.  So I am going to price that time accordingly.

So now what? How do you get out of this 150 digital disk rut? First, you have to believe in the quality of your work.  If you don’t, why?  What is holding you back? Fix it!  Are you shooting on automatic and need to learn your craft? Are you confused about post processing? What is keeping you from running an actual business?  Whatever it is, decide today that you are going to make changes for the better.

Second, you must get your hands on pricing resources.  There are many articles on the internet  (including Go 4 Pro Archives).  I read Easy As Pie by Alicia Caine and it CHANGED MY LIFE!  She snapped me into a pricing know how that allowed me the confidence to set my prices where they should have been all along.  It worked!  One week after reading her book, I went from being the “150 dollar for a disk” photographer, to a 700 dollar sale after a session.  Yep…that is a 550 dollar difference.  (I am not a spokesperson for Easy As Pie, I am just sharing my own experience). Now for some of you, 700 dollars is pocket change.  However, trust me…if you have ever spent hours on a session that you felt was quality work, only to earn 150 dollars, you can’t imagine the feeling of actually getting paid to do photography!

The moral of the story fellow shutterbugs, is I don’t want to see my friends giving away the precious gift of photography.  You are worth more than that.   Don’t get me wrong.  I am not an expert.  It is still a process for me.  I am still in my own personal process of figuring it all out.  I have not “arrived.” The business side of photography is always a learning curve for me.

However, I do know that I refuse to work for free (or pay people to let me take pictures of them).  I don’t want you to work for free either! How much is your time worth? How much is your talent worth?  Make a decision today to get the resources to change your pricing (if you need to).  Make the decision that you will never pay people to take their pictures again!  More than anything quit devaluing yourself and the entire industry by under pricing your artistic work.

Thank you so much Carrie Ann for your awesome post and for being willing to share yourself with the Go{4}Pro Peeps. If you would like to submit a Guest Post please email me your ideas via the contact page!

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  1. sP says:

    I have seen articles like this so many times…and I get it. I also see the other side of the story. The side that says A) most people don’t have $700 to spend multiple times throughout the year to have their family throughout the year B) $700 min for Christmas card photos is a very high price to pay C) what if you don’t have the time to go back to school and study photography? (that too takes time away from the family) D) being on the consumer side, I just always had a bad taste in my mouth when I spent THOUSANDS on photos of my children and couldn’t get all the photos. Those are just some of the reasons why I believe that there is a place for all types of photographers, just like there is a place for all types of just about any service or product.

    To your point, undercutting is dangerous. The airline industry is a perfect example. You wanna move into American Airlines routes and undercut them….guess what- they’ll go right there too and blow your bargain biz to the curb of bankruptcy. However, if your business model is such that your material, time and opportunity costs still leave a profit…then I say why not? I remember when I got married 7 years ago and there was a small photographer who charged us $1300 and gave us the images. She is amazing now. Yes, she has raised her prices and really honed her skill, but back then she wasn’t exactly there. I knew what I was getting into and was okay with that. I was a DIY bride and willing to tweak the pics and use them for thank you cards and Christmas cards. My point is we would have had to do without a photographer otherwise and it obviously helped her to get the experience and build her portfolio.

    So my question to you is can you write a part 2 to your article? Something that follows up on your point and offers your experience with how you did make that change. I saw that you had researched, but how did you handle things with your clients? What was their reaction? Did they all leave you? and you started from scratch? Did you shutter your biz at the time and reopen with a new company/identity?

    You have some really good points, so I am really interested in hearing more about your transition.

    thanks for your article.

  2. Kristi says:

    Very well said! Easy as Pie was one of my first purchases when I decided to dive into the photography business! I was a little timid at first but I chose to follow her advice anyway. I have only been open since August 1st, and praise the Lord! I am out of the red and my average sales are already at $1000 with many more sessions already booked. I am over the top excited and so thankful that I followed Alicia’s advice. You can too!

    Don’t settle for giving your hard work away. You don’t want to be known as the “cheap photographer” do you? Find a happy medium, find your courage, pray about your pricing, research your area, take a deep breath and go for it! You can do it!

  3. THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! I needed this today more than you know. I read Easy as Pie last month and completely changed my prices. It makes total sense to me. Then a couple days ago I made the mistake of seeing what other photographers in my area were doing. And then I thought, am I completely out of my freaking mind for wanting to charge this much? I know I’m not but it always helps to know someone else has been there done that. Thank you.

  4. Morgan says:

    This is a subject that has been on my mind a lot lately. What I have found that holds me back is my lack of confidence. I think it is a hard situation for a lot of people to not only tell themselves that they are worth it, but to let everyone else know that they think that they are worth it too. I keep telling myself that I am worth it and then the fear of people not agreeing always holds me back. And believe me I know how much I should be charging. My husband graduated with a dual degree in finance and accounting. He has gone over everything and has told me what my numbers should look like. I just can’t get myself to do it. We need like a support group or something. :]

  5. traci says:

    thank you for posting this. alot of people don’t seem to get it.

  6. Kalli says:

    First off, my favorite part was the title! I’m currently trying to change my prices and get out of the $150 arena. I changed the prices on my web-site and was FULL of stress. So I’ve scaled back. I’m currently trying to work my way up. Sort of doing the Jasmine Star approach. Though I am definitely interested in the Easy as Pie book. I’ve heard a lot of good things about it! To change people’s lives, does it tell you how to bring clients in with a higher price point? I would be interested in learning more of what people are saying and doing with this book! Thank you Carrie Ann! I loved your guest post and your style of writing. I’d love to hear more in the future!

  7. Maggie says:

    Thank you for this article and for the comments thus far! I purchased EAP+PS and have been trying to implement Alicia’s ideas. I am confident when I write it all down on paper, but get nervous talking about my pricing. Oh, it makes my head spin some days. I would love a follow-up article that answers some of the questions sP posed. I am trying to figure out how to get from point A to point B too. Thanks!

  8. jamie says:

    Ok, it’s not just me!!! I believe my photos are great, better then the competition, better then some photographers on the web that sell like 3000 per client. but thing is, they live in CITIES, I live in SMALL town, believe it or not, 150.00 I still get some people that shoot me down. Also, I would love to sell prints and cards and canvases, but to be honest, I don’t have time to worry about ordering it, receiving it, packaging it. This is just a side job (that might possibly be my full time next year) so I stay clear from the extra work that involves that. Right now, I do 1:15 (inluding travel) for taking the photos, 20minutes to download my cards and sort throught the photos) and maybe another hour to edit and burn the cd. so I have maybe 2 1/2 hrs worth of time into one session. That gives me average about 60$ hour. For me, I’m ok with this, for now. Next Year, If I decide to go ahead and do this full time, then I will stop and really sit down and go through it all. When the average person in the area makes 12-13$ and hour, how can you charge them 700$ for family photos? maybe I’m just a big softy!!! lol… but for now, I’m ok with where I am, and I know a lot of Online Photography Friends would like to kick my ass for charging so little. *sorry*
    *Confession time- sometimes, I’m not happy with my photos, the clients are and everyone seems to love them, but secretly I don’t, then I feel awful for charging that much *lol* to the client. Guess I’m too hard on myself!!! am i the only one?

    • Morgan says:

      Jamie-
      No way! I feel guilty all the time. Even if I really love the pictures! I am sure your pictures are amazing! I even talked to one of my friends about prices. I told her what I wanted to charge and she seriously told me, “well, I don’t know if you are worth that.” I have even had people complain to me about how much other people in the area charge. I just smile and nod and think to myself, well that is how much I should be charging.

  9. jamie says:

    I just had to let you know that after thinking about this, I have raise my price for a session from 150 to 200 and cut 20+ images to 15+ images! and raised my weddings prices by 250.00$. Guess this was worth something after all!!! lol

  10. sP says:

    Again, I would love to hear from either the original contributor or anyone else on their process and the experience. It seems like that would be very helpful to all. Sometimes it’s not a lack of confidence, but just a different business model. I mean, if the world only had Monolo’s, most of us would be barefoot.

  11. VSP says:

    This is something I’m sure everyone struggles with. I could rant for days on this subject…but I won’t. I’m just starting out, I haven’t read Easy as Pie but I have heard of it and I really think it would be worth the investment. Well actually, I’m still in the portfolio building stage. One article I read this morning said to not charge a thing while doing this because, basically, you are a newbie and you don’t deserve to be paid for the time and effort when you arn’t really sure of what you’re doing. While most of the articles I have read in the past while advise against this stating your time and effort are definately worth money. I think the first article was written by someone who was finding the photography field to be flooded with ametures and was quite annoyed with it…but that’s besides the point. I’m just lost, I know I’m worth the money and when I do go through the cost of running a business and the amount I will need to charge to make a profit…It’s going to blow the minds of the people in my area. I love this, I want to do this, I am going to do this…I guess it’s just those newbie jitters talking.

  12. I’m just starting to work my way out of the $150 range, but I’m also starting to work my way of of the “Disc of images” arena. Any thoughts on the quality that clients get when they take your images to Walmart or Target? I’m actually starting to feel like the images are degraded when printed at such low quality with no notice to cropping and color correction.

  13. Ashley says:

    While I see your point on one hand (that being that photographers should know their worth), on the other hand I think that many photographers do know their worth and think $150 is perfect for their abilities. I don’t think this article made a blanket statement that EVERY photographer should raise their prices. This just struck me because photographers have complained about my low prices before and I just want to set (my personal) record straight.
    I’ve not been into photography for a long, long time, but I love it. It started as a hobby, then I began taking pics of friends’ babies and friends would insist upon paying me. Then I started getting referrals and a part-time business organically formed. While I am BEYOND grateful for the clients who hire me, I always give them a heads-up that they’re not hiring a photography guru. I’m honest with myself; I’m honest with my clients. Post-production is not really my strong point. I would love for it to be, but it’s not and they’re cool with it. I sell a session and a CD for $150 (sometimes more for newborns, travel and big groups) and I feel completely satisfied with this.
    An argument I’ve heard from other photographers is that they feel like photographers like me are under-cutting them. I can’t help but disagree with that. Here’s the thing…people will hire who they want to hire. I know that they will choose by both price and, most importantly, skill. If Sally is a little bit better of a photographer than I am, but costs $500 more than me (as is often the case), a family on a budget will probably call me instead to do their Christmas pictures. I don’t feel guilty about this because it will take me about 3 shoots to make as much as Sally will make in 1…and that’s totally fair. It’s business, plain and simple. People have chosen other, more expensive photographers over me many times and I totally get why. I don’t feel like my skills earn the right to charge $700 and I think other photographers should appreciate that- I value their worth. I compare my abilities to fellow photographers’ and I know my place. I don’t have the right to charge as much as someone who has studied photography forever and has much more invested in it than I do. I base my decisions on being honest with everyone and making sure I feel good about myself when I sell my photography. By offering families reasonably priced pictures that make people happy, I am completely satisfied.
    I realize that my little soapbox took things a little off-course, but I just wanted to contribute a little insight from a “$150 photographer” who feels comfortable where she is. Again, I know your article didn’t imply that EVERYONE should raise their prices, but I just want to explain why some folks choose not to. : )

  14. Carrie Reger says:

    Wow! All great points. (This is Carrie Ann, by the way, the author of the post). To those of you who feel you lack the confidence or our unsure of the process of how to change your pricing, I totally understand. Like I said, Easy as Pie and Go 4 Pro have been a HUGE help to me with regards to confidence setting my pricing. To outline how making those changes changed my business, clients, etc is too long to share via a comment, but I will tell you that for me, it is the best decision I ever made for my business. Creating a business plan and defining a consistent pricing structure was a hard, but necessary choice. I wanted to upgrade my equipment, get quality photography education, attend excellent workshops, pay taxes, and make a fair profit. My “cheaper” pricing would have never allowed me to afford improvements in my craft and business, and I had made a decision to only use my earned photography income to pay for any business expenses. Therefore, I could only truly advance my business and my photography by increasing my pricing. Thanks for the discussion and comments. It is what makes Leah’s blog so great!

  15. Rebecca Pierce says:

    I have to say that I am just barely raising my prices and am totally over being the budget photographer and have referred a TON of my former, super cheap clients elsewhere, and taken Leah and Taylor’s advice about reigning in the freebies. I even charged for a family member who wanted me to do pics of her family (so a sister-in-law’s family)! I was so proud of myself. Anyway, my guilt comes from the fact that I am well-to-do financially and yet would never pay hundreds of dollars for an enlargement of my kids. Even if it was the bomb. I would just NEVER do that. I think that is part of my trouble with selling my skill…I just feel like “why would anyone pay that much money?” I ran into spending $250 on a few small prints with a great photographer eight years ago and decided to buy my first DSLR and take my own pics. I knew that I would want 4 photoshoots per year of my babies, one per year of my family and kiddos and that I’d never be able to justify that kind of money. I’m a believer in you get what you pay for, and I buy all my bras and hosiery at Nordstrom, but I wheel and deal on Craigslist for good used things every time I decide to make a purchase. I would gamble every time on the $150 girl. So I’m not the client that I want…which makes me feel weird about charging a lot. I just really needed Leah’s workshop…but I WAS OUT OF TOWN. Anyway, I’m working on this.

    • jamie says:

      Lol, I feel the same way, I would never pay that much money for pictures of my family, as i love to change them as oftern as possible, my kids I take like 5-6 different session per year, and 1 family session per year, and never would I pay more then that, so maybe that’s why I had a hard time going up from the 150.00 point because I felt guilty charging people this when i would probably not pay it! lol.. but maybe because we are photographers that we want to have plenty of sessions of our kids, but most families, one per year is all they need and are willing to pay more for it. mmm..not sure I’m making sense. But I’m totally on your side, I’ve raised my prices a bit now, but I still feel kinda bad. One thing I learned is that even when my photos aren’t 100% to my liking, and I feel guilty for giving this to my clients, for them, these pictures are like a gazillion times better then any of the ones they have taken, so they need less to be impressed. we are probably to hard on ourselves! I guess we think too much!

  16. Diana Carver says:

    These are some great points! I just recently took the leap to increase my prices. In the end you get what you pay for.

  17. I read this article three days ago and just can’t seem to get it out of my head. The thought that keeps going through my head is is the word “How?” How do I go about this? How do I get my clients on board with this? How do I go from offering a disc to just offering prints? How do I offer a disc at a higher charge? How much do I value the work I do? How much do I value my time (and my sanity)? Maybe most importantly, How much do I value myself and my family?

    I am also from a small town and some people have almost fainted at my comparatively very low prices. Then at the same time I have clients who have said they would pay much more for what I do. Where is the line? I don’t want to be a photographer that charges an arm and a leg, but I want to charge enough that this can be my business, and be a successfully financial business.

    Thanks for the great blog! Love that it is getting my business-brain wheels turning.

    • Leah Remillet says:

      Amanda… I get this how question all the time in phone consults and we cover it in the workshop as well. I will write a post (when time allows) and cover how. But essentially, you are just honest with your existing clients and confident with the new inquires. They can smell insecurity through the internet. 😉

      • Carrie Reger says:

        Perfect Leah! To everyone who wants to know “how” schedule a consult with Leah!!!!
        That might help you to overcome the insecurities and gain confidence. What a source of custom information!

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