The Price is Right ….. or is it ?
Many new photographers make their prices dirt cheap, giveaway all their images on cd, or work for free because they feel it’s the only way they can get clients. An important lesson to learn early is that undercutting experienced professionals in your area isn’t going to make your business successful.
When deciding price, its important to understand what you’re offering, the quality of your work, and the market around you. Is your work on par with the professionals in your area? Are you offering stellar services? Is the quality of your finished product outstanding? Those questions are important to answer because a professional should be answering YES to all of them.
If you can’t, then you should raise the quality of your product, not drop your prices.
What do we mean by “outstanding” final product and “stellar” services ?
We’ll get to that but first ….
Contrary to popular misconception amongst newly establishing photographers, most clients seeking out a professional photographer are not looking for the ‘cheapest’ deal, or the ‘best’ price, or all their images on cd. Usually these people are looking for quality first, in the experience, and in the final images. Otherwise they would just go to Sears.
Just this week I had TWO separate clients come to me for sessions and both chose me because I was offering them a full boutique studio experience. Both of them had walked away from another studio because that studio wasn’t able or willing to offer them the experience they wanted.
Client A told me that another studio was going to provide her with a finished gallery on Flicker, and she felt that she could do snapshots and do a flicker gallery on her own. She wasn’t willing to pay money to someone to offer her what she called a ‘flicker experience’. She also said that she seriously doubted the quality of their products if they were offering prints from a site like flicker as the final product. Client A is now a client of our studio and is excited for the boutique experience for her family.
The lesson is that no matter how good your work is, how you present it to your clients can impact their impression of you and your work, BEFORE they have even seen it !
Client B went to her photographer friend for her newborn session because she was just starting out and she felt obligated to use her. She expressed to me that all the images were horrible and she ended up going to Sears for another session, too scared to try another studio. She expressed to me “just because someone has a professional camera doesn’t make them a professional and someone needs to tell my friend that”. Of course I had to laugh because how MANY times do we as seasoned professionals think this every day ??
Client B is now a HAPPY client of our studio and enjoyed her boutique “experience” with us.
So onto boutique experience and professional quality …..
I have been running a professional photography studio for 18 years now. My motto from day one has always been to offer the HIGHEST quality to my clients. The session experience and the presentation of the images to your client are important to your success as a professional photographer. My work has improved over the years *yes I will admit I cringe a little when I look at my first sessions * but one thing that has never changed is the final quality of the products and ‘total boutique’ experience I have always offered to my clients.
When starting your business, it’s important to remember that being a photographer requires more than having a good camera and delivering a cd of images to your clients. Newbies who start their businesses like that don’t stay around long enough to see where they could have gone had they started out with the right mind set.
Now onto the boutique experience – what does that mean ?
It means if you always meet your clients “on location”, then deliver their proofs via flicker or another amateur gallery site, and then you never have a face-to-face consult to finalize their print order, you are NOT providing a boutique experience.
If you are meeting your clients over coffee at Starbuck’s or a similar public place to view their proofs on your laptop screen, you are NOT providing your clients with a boutique experience.
But what if you can’t afford a studio to offer consults you say ?
I say that is absolutely no excuse for not offering a personal boutique experience. When I started out I had a small 2 bedroom apartment in Maine and had babies in diapers. I couldn’t afford a studio so I redesigned the layout of my dining room by removing all of my personal items, hung up gallery work, and created an inviting space to welcome clients into my home.
I took advantage of what I had and made it work for me in my circumstances at that time. I provided the complete experience by offering slideshows of their proofs set to music, fresh flowers, and candlelight for every meeting. I had studio products for them to review & sample.
I provided an experience where my clients felt …
able to feel moved and express emotion
What was my result ? From day 1 my sales have always been high-end, and I attribute this to the experience I have always maintained and offered to my clients.
Over the years, because of successful branding and YEARS of hard work, I now own a 1000 sq ft studio complete with separate shooting and consulting areas. My clients receive the fullest of boutique experiences when they come to me and they are willing to save up so they can afford their sessions & print orders. Why ? Because they value me, they value their experience, and they VALUE themselves enough to INVEST in something special.
So find yourself a Professional Lab one who offers quality products but also values good customer service. Working with a lab is a very intimate relationship and researching the best fit for your is important.
Find an area to provide your clients with a boutique experience during their Consult, rent out an office space, use your dining room, clear out a play room, do whatever works for you but do something to get the journey started.
Brand, Brand, Brand your business ! We recommend Sassy Shutters. They have done ALL of our branding and we adore them!
In conclusion, whether you are just starting out or you want to revamp your offerings & branding strategy,
Where there is a will there is a way ….
and when you’re starting out your business it is extremely important to BRAND yourself based on how you want your clients to see you. That reputation will serve you for as long as you are in business and it’s up to you to decide what you want your Mark to be.
Do you want to be that photographer who posts a gallery on flicker ?
Or do you want to be known as the photographer who has amazing work and makes you feel special when you visit their studio and hang your prints on their wall.
It’s up to you ….
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