Recently, I half jokingly posted this Tweet on Twitter.

“I’m consulting with a wedding #photog studio selling against a studio doing $500 weddings. Our new ad – “We fix $500 wedding photography.”

I repeat, I was half-joking. I knew it might be a bit controversial given the fact that people who inhabit social media tend to be reactionary and don’t always stop and think before they react. (Me included) But I guess I wasn’t prepared for death threats – again. More on that later.

The point I was really trying to make was that people who call themselves professional photographers should think about industry standards when they sell on the cheap. Denis Reggie once said, “Don’t price yourself on what you can afford. It was years before I could afford myself!”

In the example of the $500 wedding, that’s WELL under the national average for a decent wedding package. But don’t even fixate on that number. It could be higher or lower. The point is, doing things on the cheap isn’t a good business model.

Everyone who owns a camera – and that seems to be everyone period – thinks they could be a professional photographer. How many times have you heard “You must have a nice camera” after showing off a portfolio-quality image? We’re already battling a severely under-educated clientele. The client thinks ANYONE can do our job. We’re fighting mass competition and a public that doesn’t know better. The LAST thing we need is someone within our own ranks making it even harder.

Some will say: “So what’s the big deal? So what if some new weekend warrior or part-time hobbyist who shoots weddings on the side wants to make a few bucks?” Here’s the so what.

When you undercut the market so severely you accomplish several things.

a.  You cheat the client. This is the worst point. That’s right, the client who’s once-in-a-lifetime special day has just been handed to the cheapo wedding photographer is not going to be well-served. A true professional photographer has skills that Uncle Harry doesn’t. The better the skills the more longevity in the business and the better the chance the client is going to get images they want to come back for.

It’s impossible to run a sustainable business over the long haul, deliver good quality and care for the client at lowball prices. I’ve been around a long time. I’ve seen dozens of businesses fail using this model and more importantly (and more to the point) have seen dozens of brides’ wedding memories ruined by photographers who had no business being there in the first place. There’s no do-over on a wedding. It takes a decent budget to get a decent result. Good reliable gear with backups cost money. Training cost money. Quality wedding prints, albums, books and gallery wraps cost money. If you sell a bride a cheapo wedding album that falls apart because you couldn’t make enough profit doing the cheapo wedding shoot, how does that serve the client? These are people’s lives you’re messing with. What could have more value than the wedding album – the first family heirloom of a brand new family? Think about it.

b. You are selling yourself short. If you do it on the cheap, you are probably losing money or coming close to it. Maybe you’re working for minimum wage once you pay your expenses and grunt out a few bucks for yourself. You’re worth more than that. Have some self-respect. Don’t whore yourself out. Ask yourself, “Am I really only worth $8 an hour?” Pricing is the hardest part of any photo-related business. But it’s called a job because it’s hard. Don’t be lazy. Get training in how to competitively, fairly and appropriately price your products. There are lots of resources out there. Learn. Apply. Do. Don’t decide you’re not worth it. I think we’re all worth it. We deserve to be fairly compensated for our time, our education, our practice, our overhead, our gear, our licenses, our insurance, our taxes, our cost of goods sold and everything else that goes into doing it right. When you devalue yourself you leave potential business  on the table – cheap weddings/portraits are just that, poorly executed products. They don’t take into consideration add-ons, e.g. frames, albums, big prints, canvas prints, etc. The single biggest mistake most new pros make is under-pricing, not under-exposing.

c. You’re dragging down an entire industry. If you come into the market as a weekend warrior and start selling cheapo weddings against established businesses who have already set the industry standard, every cheapo wedding you shoot diminishes the industry. You’re participating in self-destructive behavior which is against your own interests. How can that be smart? Quoting John Harrington, “When someone sells a commodity for $10 that everyone else is selling for $100, it devalues that commodity. If the commodity was easily selling for $100, why would someone – anyone – sell it for $10?” While I would prefer a different word than “commodity” I concur with his thesis.

If you want to learn how to effectively, fairly, accurately and reasonably price your photography, there are lots of places to go for help. The Professional Photographers of America (PPA) – http://www.ppa.com/joinppa/ and Wedding & Portrait Photographers International – http://www.wppionline.com/join.aspx have tons of information on how to run a wedding and portrait business without devaluing the client, the photographer or the industry.

Now there is a group of cheapo wedding photographers attacking me for taking this position. They are threatening me with everything from un-following me on Twitter – (how will I go on?) to assault. That’s right, some of these fine citizens have threatened my life. Another sent me an email saying he was coming after me and would go for my eyes first. These people are sick and they use the Internet like a weapon. Because they are either too lazy, or untalented to learn how to do this job right, they feel like my call for reasonable pricing at the low-end of the market is a personal attack on them. They feel badly (at least privately) about their situation. They know they aren’t serving the client, themselves or the industry, but rather than do something about it, they try to make me into the devil. Well it won’t work. This isn’t the first time I’ve received death threats. It’s a creepy world but I’ve survived worse. I’ve been in this business for more than three decades and I’ll be around long after all of them have moved on to their next job asking that ever important question, “Would you like fries with that?” I won’t stop trying to defend the industry I love, even if it offends a few jealous Internet trolls along the way. I have very close and special friends who feed their families in the wedding and portrait market. I don’t intend to stand by and watch their livelihoods destroyed by these people. If these folks simmer down and take time to ask for my help, I’ll offer it gladly. I don’t want to see them devalue their clients, themselves or our industry. I’ll help them even though they are acting like idiots. I love the photography industry and spend most of my days trying to do everything I can to help photographers. And I will continue to do that no matter how many people attack me, listen to my podcast, read this site, attend my workshops, buy my books, collect my prints or follow me on Twitter.

In closing, remember this – photography is an incredible career field if done right – if you get the reputation for being cheap you won’t last long – because you’ve got nothing to fall back on.  Develop your skill set first, then your marketing, then launch with a product that has the value it should and more importantly value that will last – cheap candles burn fast and they’re gone.

My friend and long-time photo industry expert Skip Cohen contributed some ideas for this post.  We’ve spent a lot of time together talking about the challenges in our industry.  He’s a huge fan, as am I, of the well-intentioned weekend warrior who takes time to do it right, who learns to price according to industry standards and the needs of the target-audience. We both have  friends who are part-time photographers. There is always going to be a place for the new pro, the part-timer, and the person who serves special niche markets that can’t afford top of the line products.  However, while we know there has to be a low-end price point, it doesn’t have to mean low-end quality and it doesn’t have to be SO low that it brings down an entire industry.

Join the conversation! 41 Comments

  1. [...] and “really good”.  This morning, I read a really interesting article by Scott Bourne: And You Call Yourself a Professional? In this article, Scott bemoans the fact that there are budget photography “pro’s” [...]

  2. [...] And You Call Yourself a Professional? Recently, I half jokingly posted this Tweet on Twitter. “I’m consulting with a wedding #photog studio [...] [...]

  3. [...] Scott Bourne wrote a great post today about protecting the integrity of wedding photography.  He rails against those photographers who would massively under price their work.  It is a terrific post and I could not have broken it down better:  massively undercutting on price cheats the client, the industry and, most of all, the photographer.  However, like it or not, what Scott describes as the state of the market is not going away: Everyone who owns a camera – and that seems to be everyone period – thinks they could be a professional photographer. How many times have you heard “You must have a nice camera” after showing off a portfolio-quality image? We’re already battling a severely under-educated clientele. The client thinks ANYONE can do our job. We’re fighting mass competition and a public that doesn’t know better. [...]

  4. [...] a good buddy, Scott Bourne, posted an article on his blog called, “And You Call Yourself a Professional?”  The blog made the WordPress Top 100 – meaning it was in the top 100 most widely read of all [...]

  5. [...] And You Call Yourself a Professional? Photofocus (tags: photography business wedding) [...]

  6. [...] “And You Consider Yourself a Photographer.” And if you have thoughts or comments, please come back here and share them, as his blog [...]

  7. [...] sent me a posting this week from still photographer Scott Bourne.  It was his take on wedding photographers who are selling $500 wedding packages, which he says is [...]

  8. [...] let Scott Bourne, Publisher of Photofocus.com summarize. He touches on some good points in a recent article geared for wedding photographer’s but it can also be applied to wedding videographers as [...]

  9. [...] Anyway, click here to read the full article. This entry was written by admin, posted on January 27, 2010 at 10:22 pm, filed under Misc and tagged boise idaho photographers, boise idaho portrait studios, what makes a photographer a true professional. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL. « Headshots for Haiti – Feb. 6th, 10:00am to 2:00pm [...]

  10. [...] Anyway, click here to read the full article. This entry was written by Bonnie, posted on January 27, 2010 at 10:26 pm, filed under Misc and tagged boise idaho portrait studios, boise photographers, what makes a photographer a true professional. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL. « Let’s Help Haiti! – Boise Idaho Portrait Headshots [...]

  11. [...] Bourne over at photofocus made a blog post on the subject titled, And You Call Yourself a Professional and really goes to town on the $500 budget wedding photographers and both raises some interesting [...]

  12. [...] not going to get into dirt cheap amateurs who are butchering the market. There is a good article here that covers [...]

  13. [...] And You Call Yourself a Professional? and Pricing Professional Wedding/Portrait Photography: Resources and Ideas [...]

  14. [...] the line product.  I don’t think I’m there yet.  And then I find blog posts like this one and my determination to get better before charging is reaffirmed.  I don’t want to do [...]

  15. [...] tools are important, I’m constantly educating myself. After reading things like this and this and researching professional blogs of photographers I respect, I’m realizing that I need to [...]

  16. [...] blog post made quite the noise this past Monday on Twitter.  It’s an article written by Scott Bourne [...]

  17. [...] our blog.  Scott Bourne writes for a badass blog called, Photofocus.  He wrote an article called, “And You Call Yourself a Professional?” I felt the need to share with everyone because, quite frankly, there are some wonderful topics [...]

  18. [...] THIS was circulating last week– AMEN!  Applicable all across the photography board. [...]

  19. [...] a person become a photographer and not just be one who shoots with a camera? I stumbled upon this article that says a lot about being professional and being a [...]

  20. [...] After checking out some “professional” photos of weddings this last year on people’s social networking sites and their prints, I’m taken aback by what people consider good photography. Maybe I’m too critical because I know what “good” photos are supposed to look like, or maybe people are just trying to be polite, but if you’re shopping around for a wedding photographer I’m offering you some MORE tips to make your decision easier. You may also check out my previous posts about Choosing a Wedding Photographer Wisely and What I Think Makes a Good Photographer and Scott Bourne’s post entitled And You Call Yourself a Professional? [...]

  21. [...] Read this. Hopefully you'll get a better idea of what to charge, or if you should be charging at all. __________________ Jeramie My Website My flickr My blog Twitter: @JShoda [...]

  22. [...] Recently I was reading an article from Scott Bourne that really got me thinking about pricing and educating our clients on photography. You can check out the article here: And you call yourself a photographer [...]

  23. [...] I have found the best article about this topic and quiet frankly she says it better than I would…check it out here. If you are really really wanting to get into the business I suggest you read this and this [...]

  24. [...] months ago, my husband Dustin read an article on photofocus.com. The author made a good point about not cheapening the market by lowering your prices. I see the [...]

  25. [...] is a really great article i found a while back regarding under-pricing in our [...]

  26. [...] read this article several times over the last few months. Twice the day it was [...]

  27. [...] Scott Bourne wrote an article on so-called ‘professional’ photographers offering dirt cheap prices. Also John Harrington wrote about shooting photos for cheap/free and why it’s bogus. To summarize, the cheapies do not help the industry because a) they mis-educate the client about the real cost of photography and b) they’re just not good enough. [...]

  28. [...] and recording memories is important to you, we ask you to take a moment to read this article http://photofocus.com/2010/01/25/and-you-call-yourself-a-professional/ which might give you a bit of an insight into the wedding industry, pricing and what you could (or [...]

  29. [...] Recentemente, nas minhas andanças diárias pela internet acabei me deparando um com artigo muito interessante de Scott Bourne que realmente me fez pensar sobre preços e em como educar os nossos clientes sobre a fotografia. Você pode conferir o artigo aqui: “E você se considera um fotógrafo” [...]

  30. [...] a few relevant bits of his: Are you fungible? Could your photography business be disintermediated? And you call yourself a professional? Price your photography like you mean it How to avoid undercutting the market Dealing with clients [...]

  31. [...] not going to get into dirt cheap amateurs who are butchering the market. There is a good article here that covers [...]

  32. [...] and more true every day. Scott Bourne's written some good stuff on pricing. I like this one a lot: And You Call Yourself a Professional? Photofocus __________________ David Lambert lambertpix.com More photos in my gallery and [...]

  33. [...] ‘And You Call Yourself a Professional’ by Scott Bourne “When you undercut the market so severely you accomplish several things.a. You cheat the client. This is the worst point. That’s right, the client who’s once-in-a-lifetime special day has just been handed to the cheapo wedding photographer is not going to be well-served. A true professional photographer has skills that Uncle Harry doesn’t. The better the skills the more longevity in the business and the better the chance the client is going to get images they want to come back for. [...]

  34. [...] So it seems I inadvertently walked into a fight at the OK Corral. At the start of the week I retweeted a post by photography blogger Scott Bourne entitled ‘And you call yourself a professional?’ [...]

  35. [...] And You Call Yourself A Professional by Scott Bourne [...]

  36. [...] of this downward trend. And it's not just on this forum, but across the internet and industry. And You Call Yourself a Professional? Photofocus Are you really a pro photographer? | Digital Photo Buzz We aren't talking one or two "paranoid" [...]

  37. [...] reads concerning charging for photography And You Call Yourself a Professional? Photofocus Pricing your photography | Digital Photo Buzz __________________ [...]

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