This article came to my mind a couple weeks ago, as I was approached by several event organizers. They likely were expecting my services for free and were almost hit by lightning when I educated them on the value of what they were asking for. That led me to one important question: Why some people believe that (our fair and right) prices are too high? I finally came up with an answer and found different ways to assert my services.
Why do some people mistakenly believe that photographer’s rates are too high?
How many times have we seen on Facebook “We’re looking for photographers for our event, please contact us.” But… what they should be writing should be more like “We want people to come to spend their day at our event for free to take pictures for free and give us those pictures for free.” 90% of the time, quality isn’t part of the equation: quantity is. They don’t care what type of gear people own or what the end result will look like. They just want a ridiculous amount of pictures to share on their Facebook album without spending a dime.
Clients are not to blame: We are
Why don’t people try to bargain with their lawyer or their mechanic? Because they know their standards. They are expecting to pay an average hourly rate. No matter where they will call, prices will pretty much be in the same range for similar service. So they pay what the service is worth. Period. So why do people bargain with a photographer? Because there are huge gaps in service, quality, licensing (there isn’t any,) education (yes to some, YouTube videos count,) and, of course, professionalism. The market is heavily diluted by photographers who charge prices that are way too low. It makes people believe that this is the actual value of the service they are asking for. So they call 2, 3, 4 photographers and shop for the cheapest one. After all, who wouldn’t do that knowing that you could save 50% calling your neighbor with the brand shiny-new digital camera! Clients are not to blame: We are.
In a perfect world, all photographers would charge a “fair and right” price that reflects their quality as well as the costs they incur in their businesses. There are many legit reasons why a photographer charges big bucks for his/her work. Still, there are people that choose to ask us to work for a fraction of that price. Sadly, some of us accept the low-ball dollars just to have contracts. Since we can’t change the photography business — yet — let’s see what we can do for ourselves today to improve our conditions.
• Calculate your Cost of Doing Business (CODB)
My great fellow author Bryan Esler wrote an excellent article about the value of a professional photographer. He shares the recipe for success he’s followed for the past years and also a link to a free online CODB calculator. To know your CODB is the first step to know if what you charge is right. Maybe you feel like you’re doing great charging $45 an hour but in fact what you should really be charging is $85 to maintain a healthy business. CODB considers all your business-related expenses: office rent and utilities, photographic gear, car, gas, insurance, software, computers, the list goes on…
And maybe, like some of you, I quit my full-time job to go back to school to actually learn photography. I purposefully went into debt. I give all my time and energy to become the best photographer I can be. I have developed skills and experience. I continue to do so. I work hard to deliver high-quality content. Although this can’t always be quantified, it has value! It is also worth something!
• Raise your standards
I wanted to write this article to raise awareness — and standards. If you are reading this, you are part of the great photography community. We are all in the same one. It doesn’t matter whether you are a professional or an amateur. Our time and our work have value! Clients must become aware of this! When a photographer charges $100 for a work that is worth a $1000, it hurts all of us. People believe that this is the actual value of the service they are asking for — when it’s absolutely not. Respect the true value of your craft, raise your standards! Raise your prices too!
• Play your cards right – How to assert your standards
Even if all the people reading this article charged the “fair and right” price, let’s face it, there will still be people willing to do the job for a ridiculously low amount of money. What adds to our worth is that we stand behind our professional standards.
If you want to read more about it, all these topics are covered in detail in this article.
As photographers, we must stick together. We have to hold on to our standards and not sell ourselves short — even when times get rough. Don’t fall into the trap of charging a fraction of the price to get a contract. It’s a vicious circle that not only hurts other photographers, it hurts your business in the long run as well. Next time someone asks what you charge for your photographic services, don’t answer right away. Take the time to ask yourself if the price you’re about to charge is right and is fair. This will help contribute to a more prosperous community and reflect the true value of the creative and qualified hard-workers we are!
* All photos are ©2018 Michèle Grenier Photo