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I won’t hire you … you’re too cheap !

The Price is Right ….. or is it ?

The Pricing Tango is a dance that every single photographer I know moves to and has an opinion about. Price is always a hot topic for every photographer, whether you’ve been in business for 5 minutes or 50 years. The question of  ”am i priced right for the market” comes up at least on a yearly basis for all of us, and for some of us, every day.

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 !

 

Having a Pro Camera Doesn’t make you a Pro

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 …

welcomed

at peace

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,

REMEMBER

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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Article BY Nikki-Lynn

Believes that “there is Nothing to fear but fear itself”

Mother to 5 Amazing Daughters

Check out the web site for Classes, Actions, Presets & Templates!

Founder: Photographer’s BLING Magazine

Founder: BLING Actions!

Owner: Bellies & Blessings Photography


Tierra KendrickJanuary 19, 2012 - 2:49 pm

I’m so glad I read this article. I’ve read it over and over again for the past couple days. For so long I kept thinking I just can’t do in person consultations and photo viewing because right now I stay in a 2 bedroom apartment and I have a little boy as well. I just thought that clients wouldn’t take me seriously and would think it was unprofessional to come into an APARTMENT. I always thought I needed a HOUSE to do everything I wanted. This article really inspired me to take the leap and try to transform my living room into a client viewing area(I’ll be keeping the baby out). Thank you so much for writing this. If you could offer any help or tips on how to go about it (Or even write a blog post :-D ) I would so appreciate it. Please keep these articles coming.

LisaJanuary 18, 2012 - 2:22 pm

I totally agree with what you are saying but…I consider myself a good photographer, I meet my clients or they call me, I take my time with them to make sure they have a fun and great time. I have the top of the line editting programs and I am always learn new things and wanting to try new stuff. My prices are low because money is tight for lots of us and I believe these people deserve top quality too. One day I hope that my morals will get me far in the photography world. And one day I can look back and be proud of what I did.

Amy B.October 25, 2011 - 9:06 am

Great article! I just went full time w/my photography a little over a year ago (after about 6 yrs part time) and your tips are very similar to the ‘to accomplish’ list I made for myself. Good to know I was on the right track when I made that list! I’m in the process of setting up a consult/gallery area (also in my dining room!). I’m hoping to start the boutique movement in this area but I’m not sure how well that will take hold. I thought people in this area settled for ‘ok’ or ‘good enough’ just because that’s all there was. It’s looking like they weren’t settling for it but really ok with it. :/ I’m going to do my best to show them what they’re missing and how much they really want it!! Thanks for the words of wisdom – keep them coming!!! :)

adminOctober 25, 2011 - 7:26 am

Amy a little math equation has always helped me figure out my pricing – How much do I want to make in a year ? Take this number and divide it by How many clients can I fit into my schedule per year ? Be realistic with this number – there are 12 months in a year and only 4 weeks each month so how many jobs can you realistically pull in and manage while maintaining quality, remember to factor in editing time, shooting time and consult time into this –

then take that number as your $$ amount per job number and create your unit pricing & packages based on what you come up for those numbers – everyone’s equation will be different BUT its a great starting place. Most photographer’s will fill in the numbers of that equation based on their current economic area – be realistic with the numbers but also reach for where you really want to be -

AmyOctober 25, 2011 - 7:19 am

The hardest part is trying to find the price that IS right for my market. Thank you so much for the advice, and quick response!

adminOctober 25, 2011 - 7:08 am

HI Amy – The best advise I can give is to stay true to your value – cheap bottom price photographer’s come and go but the ones that stick around believe in themselves and stick to their high quality standards. My clients come to me and know the difference in the quality of my work and the experience they will receive and I look at it like this, I would rather work with 2 clients per month who value what I have to offer than 10 clients a month who are just bargain shopping – in the end when you remain true to yourself you might have ‘less’ clients in terms of quantity but you’ll make more money than the cheapo photographer because of your ‘quality’ offerings – The clients you do have WILL spend more money and WILL say awesome things about you – then the snowball of word of mouth starts and in a years time you’ll back on the question and say “I am SO happy I stuck to my guns!”

AmyOctober 25, 2011 - 7:03 am

My issue is that my sister-in-law has taken up photography as well, so her business is great, but I cannot compete with her prices. She offers no setting fee for any session. Her family sessions only last 30-40 mins tops, and they will receive approx. 70 edited images, and prints as low as $9 a sheet. So as I am getting lots of requests for sessions, I do not have my pricing ready because I may “shoot myself in the foot” because of the pricing she offers. Anyone have any suggestions on how to be competitive without losing clients?

Amber LakotaOctober 8, 2011 - 5:48 am

Thank you for this article. It gave me the courage to continue what my original vision was!

Simply Color LabOctober 7, 2011 - 2:55 pm

Abbey,
Hi, I’m from Simply Color Lab. We have a weekly FREE live webinar that shows you how to use our ROES ordering system. Email Josh@SimplyColorLab.com and ask him to send you an invite so you don’t miss the next one.

AbbeyOctober 7, 2011 - 12:41 pm

Thank you so very much! You replied to me soooo quickly! You are one awesome chick<3 I am going to boutique it up baby!, Get myself an awesome blogsite, and make sure my clients have a professional gallery to order from<3 now I just need to spend some more time figuring out ROES <3

adminOctober 7, 2011 - 12:27 pm

See the link in the article for SImply Color Lab – I LOVE their boutique Packaging and use it on every single order for my clients – my clients always comment on how excited they were to get their prints & always comment on the special extra touch of the packaging, its affordable and a must DO for a boutique studio. WIth simply Color you can simply choose the boutique option at checkout and add it to your order, they will even drop ship IN the boutique packaging to your clients door ! PLUS they offer an array of colors in Boxes, BOwes and tissue paper so you can customize it per order ! have fun and deff deff boutique it up, its NOT cheesy its CLASSY !

AbbeyOctober 7, 2011 - 12:19 pm

I am going to print this and put it on my wall, seriously. I loved it! I would love to know what you think about boutique packaging? And where to get it? And business cards….I’ve heard a lot of photogs knock them….saying it’s cheesy.

adminOctober 7, 2011 - 11:23 am

LOL @ Lisa thanks for clarifying that – I haven’t used them before-

I’m glad you all found the article helpful :) thanks for stopping by

LisaOctober 7, 2011 - 11:20 am

Great article — it is Flickr though..not Flicker. :-) Of course, why should you know, if you don’t need it! LOL! (I don’t use it for that purpose at all…seems cheesy!)

Anyhow, and seriously, the article made me think and I do appreciate it a lot!!!

Wendy HaysOctober 7, 2011 - 6:47 am

I am very glad to have read this. I was looking for the least expensive way out for websites etc but still try to keep my standards a little higher by using a lab, and visiting clients with my laptop. I have long thought it wasn’t quite high enough for what I wanted and now have a vision of how to get it to the next level. Thank you for sharing this important information!

Stephanie RibeiroOctober 7, 2011 - 6:39 am

I always have a hard time with this. I feel my price might be to high because I dont get enough clients, but I do know that I have alot of photographers around me. I strugle with this all the time, its a make it or break it for me this year. I feel I need at least 10 clients a month to maek this worth my time and money even though I love doing this job. Any advice from you guys is always great advice. I love reading your stuff. Thanks

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