Today’s show on One Hour Photo will be on value and pricing for the mid to upper level professional photographer. This will be a round table discussion where we will have quite a few strong opinions on this subject from some top industry professionals. As I was researching for the show, it inspired me to go ahead and blog to you so we can begin thinking about this subject. Please feel free to call, email, comment on this blog or message me on Facebook/Twitter your opinion on this subject as well. It is so important we begin this discussion in today’s photography world and never stop. If we cease to value the photograph, the photographer will eventually cease to exist. Together, as a focused group, we must inspire all of us to value the photograph and bring our standards back to where they belong. We need to stop, in so many regards, being a nation of “just good enough”.
What does that last statement mean to you? Being a nation of just good enough? To me it measures our standards for many things, but to keep it in line with this subject, think about the value of the photo and video and the professionals that provide these services. Often times, you may not be the first to think that spending $3000 on your wedding photos is in the budget, so it may become less of a concern…especially when you see the special in the local coupon email offering a $500 “deal”. However, just like my Iphone photos begin to take business away every day from the portrait photographer as I continue to shoot pictures of my girl’s with this camera rather then taking them into the local professional studio on a seasonal basis…well this is exactly what these “deals” are doing to our industry as well. Tell me this, what will you do one day when all we have left are friend’s with cell phones available to shoot your special day? Is that “deal” now worth it to you, and to all of us? Have we already become a nation of “Just good enough”?
I have professional photos of my family and me from way back when I was a child. Why? As a family that understood the value of that memory being incased in visual display that would stand up through the years and show the memory exactly as it was taken, we paid for these services and eventually some of us searched out learning more about the photo and video business and now are professionals as well in the industry. However, everyday we cringe at the news of that guy or girl who just did a wedding or event for “free” needing the “exposure”. Do you think we cringe because of jealousy? Do you feel the despair we have over this issue is because that business could have been a paying consumer had that freebie not been given, maybe even ours? Well yes, sort of…but not completely. The real reason we argue this point of free professional services is because it is killing the careers of many in the photography community and that is just plain infuriating. Just because your hobby is now affordable to the point you can purchase a great Canon 5D MkII and a nice L series 24-70 mm lens does not mean you have the right to take away someone’s job. Think about it…what if I gave away my accounting knowledge for free? What would that eventually do to the CPA’s out there, if this became a steady practice for those that work with numbers? You have to consider this to be the exact same possibility and threat to the professional’s in the photography community. Stop and consider who you are hurting when you decide to take away their work by under-valuing yourself with a free service of photography. Is it worth it to you? I also ask the consumer as well, are those memories worth a free service? If you think about it for a moment, you may realize that you always end up getting what you pay for, and often times free will give you nothing that you considered or desired in the first place.
So we cannot blame just the hobbyist out there looking for free exposure or comp’ed VIP with free services they barter. We have to also look at those professional photographers that are out in the community under-valuing their work and their services. Giving their talent a low budget freebie type mentality to the consumer, and hurting their fellow colleagues businesses. There are many of these professionals, new and established, that are giving away their work. In essence, they are destroying the career of photography and they do not even realize it. Why, you might ask? Simple. Photographer’s are artist individuals that forget to study business and do not realize that by offering a “deal” they do not inspire more business and also more income, but actually more work and less income. Remember that “deal” because in today’s day of the Internet and “forever” marketing such as email, Twitter, Facebook and search engines. Your “deal” may be exactly what creates the glass ceiling you will never overcome in the future.
That is why it is so important to realize the value of yourself, your knowledge, your business and your talent.
Okay, so now I have convinced you to increase your pricing and stop killing the career of photography by placing a competitive value on your work. So what is that value, and how do you determine it?
There are several ways to determine value, none are easy I will be the first to admit, but they get easier with practice. Debra Weiss wrote a recent article, The Value of Photography, and gives us a list of important points. I have broken them down below to help you even further.
1.) LEARN HOW TO SAY “NO”. You do not have to accept every job and realize that in doing so; you give a perception on not only want but also need to the consumer. It’s simple, in essence it is human nature, after all people want what they cannot have.
2.) BELIEVE IN THE VALUE OF YOUR WORK. Simple enough right? Yes, it is a very simple answer. If you cannot believe in the value of your work, who else will?
3.) YOUR VALUE WILL DETERMINE YOUR FUTURE JOBS. In other words, if you value yourself low now, plan on staying low in the future. Big jobs are not given to the small time photographer. After all, if anyone can afford you, no one will want the same thing as everyone else. Remember, you can change the mentality of your value at any time, so today is time. I will say it again; people want what they cannot have. Make yourself valuable to the consumer.
4.) MARKET YOURSELF and practice the same value on your marketing person as you develop for your business. This person will help you visualize your value to the consumer. Remember, you get what you pay for in this regard as well.
5.) GET UNSTUCK. Many times people get stuck into a way of thinking or believing in their lives, including business. If you believe you are not worth the money, you are managing your business by fear. This will keep you stuck as long as you let it. Time to get unstuck, otherwise you will be grounded by your fear as long as you let it keep you down.
6.) HIRE A CONSULTANT. With this advice I also remind you to please do your research. This tool can be invaluable, or it could be a waste of money. As Debra Weiss wrote, “There are pretenders among us”.
7.) TREAT IT AS A BUSINESS. If you are a parent, do you try to make sure your child, especially your teenager, always likes you? The same applies here, this is your business, please do not try to make friends with your business, make good images. The friends will come, however if you have a business with good images, you will make money, which is, what a business is for. Leave your personal life for your friendships; your business is for your financial life; this will allow you to have the other things you want, including a personal life.
I want to leave you with a great article I also found that will help you tremendously. This offers you tools to help value your business. We have a great friend of the show, BlinkBid, which is one of these tools. BlinkBid is an estimating software that has the pricing and professional abilities used in bidding for photographers, puts them together and takes away all the hard work for you so you can easily put out a bid and get back to work.
See this invaluable tool as well as photographer’s price lists and more here…
The Photographer’s Valuing Tools- http://www.nppa.org/professional_development/business_practices/pricing.html
Remember, you are only the standard you raise for yourself. Stop being part of the concept of “just good enough” and learn how to correctly run your business and value your work.