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Price tends to be one of the biggest points of contention with photographers. What is too low? What is too high? What’s just right? Running a profitable business is never easy. Whatever price you set, someone will likely have an opinion or two about it (solicited or not). Which leads to the biggest elephant in the room… do cheap photographers who price low take business away from those that price higher?
And here are 6 reasons why:
This is business 101 that we often forget (and I am guilty of forgetting sometimes too!). Artists tend to be very emotionally tied to the work and the service provided, and photographers are certainly not exempt from this fact. As such, losing or not obtaining a client can feel like a personal jab even when it has nothing to do with us at all. You have to remember, there is a client for everyone!
This rings especially true in the tumultuous price debate. A client who is focusing on the price will not be looking for an expensive photographer. Likewise, a client who is focusing on high quality will often assume that cheap photographers cannot provide the quality that they seek. A Lamborghini is not concerned over the lower price of a Honda Civic because the Honda Civic buyers are not looking for a Lamborghini.
Alongside this, often price equates to years of experience. Photographers who are brand new may be absolutely fantastic and have beautiful quality images but aren’t able to charge the same as those that are seasoned professionals. Likewise, some clients do value quality work but simply cannot afford a seasoned professional. These two tend to find each other and work together well.
As photographers, we naturally (and rightfully) value professional photographs highly. From capturing memories to creating beautiful new stories, photographs are essential. However, the priorities we hold as photographers may not always ring true for the subjects in front of our lenses.
Some clients would rather invest their money into something else – something that holds more importance to them. Whether you agree or not, that’s not your decision to make. Some clients look for less expensive photographers because their finances are tied into something that they find to hold more worth to them (and thus receive what they have paid for). And that’s okay – let them.
This is something that tends to happen to me often. A client will go to a very low-priced photographer, end up unsatisfied with the experience or the end result, and quickly learn the general value of the price. They then come to me and ask to shoot their concept once more. This does happen quite a bit. This is why staying firm on your policies and pricing is important (and tends to command respect).
This is assuming that the low-priced photographer has a quality that doesn’t match that of the higher-priced ones. What if a great quality photographer prices low? Doesn’t that cut into my jobs?
Some photographers have a different business model than the rest – known as the “low price and high turnover model.” This model works on the idea that you charge low, service many, and turn over a profit much like a photographer that charges high and services one.
However, what many don’t see behind the scenes, is the reason this model works is much of the process is automated or simplified. It allows the photographer to have a lower output of effort that matches their price. This service is not individualized, and generally not specifically tailored for the individual. It’s the difference that is similar to “ready-made” versus “custom-made” clothing. But this doesn’t work for all clients. The clients this does work for are likely not your clients if you have a traditional photographic business model.
Many major brands have a high-end and a low-end to their business. Take the car company Toyota, for example. Their high-end line is called Lexus – a luxury brand of car. Their consumer-grade line is just good ol’ Toyota. Both cars are great, hardy, and will get you where you need to go in comfort. A Toyota is not worse than a Lexus. The Lexus is just intended for a different kind of buyer.
Well, now that’s said…how do I justify my price?
First and foremost, confidence speaks volumes. If you set a price and are confident about it, stand by your worth and be firm.
That being said, every price needs something to justify it. Show the client what the value in investing in your work is versus someone else’s. Do you do something unique and different? Is your client experience above and beyond what the rest do? What do your years of experience or high-quality gear bring to the table? Do you have any awards or honorable mentions? These are all important topics to cover with your client when explaining what you offer and how much you charge for your offering.
Marketing is what makes or breaks a business. If people don’t know about you, how can they book you? Marketing is extremely important, especially in the social media age. Marketing is the act of spreading awareness about your business, whether it be through digital advertising, partnering with local businesses, or launching billboards!
If you’re finding that the clients you are marketing to keep choosing a photographer that prices lower than you, that is a big sign that this client base is not the right demographic for you. Demographics are particular sectors of a population that are divided by factors. For marketing purposes, factors tend to be interest, age, location, income, and more.
As a business owner, you need to find the demographic that relates to the service you are offering. Look at income levels that tend to align with your price point, and for clients with interests that may be more aligned with your offering (e.g., pet photographers will look for clients with interest in animals), and age group can also be a big factor. If you’re a family photographer, look for moms and dads, or youth sports – keywords like that!
Remember, you must segment your population based on more than one factor to find the right demographic. Filling out location and interests in the minimum is a good starting point.
Everyone has a different ideology when it concerns their business. They use the business model that suits them, dependent on variables you likely do not know about. As such, the running of their service (and what they charge for it) does not apply to you. It’s best to stop concerning yourself with what others are doing and focus on what you are doing for you!
The industry is changing, and society has changed its view on the value of art.
You’re not losing jobs because your competitors are cheap photographers, you’re losing jobs because you either haven’t found your right client base or you need to get better at expressing your value.
Focus on your business and what you can improve in your work, and the right clients will come! The world is not as small as it seems; there are thousands of potential clients out there for you.
Do you agree with this or do you think cheap photographers do take work away from us? Or perhaps you have some other valuable points to share? Share them with us in the comments section.