One of the most common posts I see in photography forums and groups are those upset about the prices other photographers are charging. While this may be a bit of a controversial post, I’d like to offer another way to view this oft argued subject.
It never fails, after a year or two of charging for your services, you start running into the novice shoot-and-burn photogs. They sprout up out of nowhere and seem to multiply like rabbits. You see post after post of sessions for $50-$100 with a CD full of images. Immediately, your hackles rise and you feel immense displeasure towards someone you’ve probably never met. The competitive side comes out swinging and the need to vent becomes inevitable. Queue the rants in Facebook groups or on your forum of choice. Does this sound remotely familiar?
When I was in my early 20’s, I was a young mother of two and finances were tight, as is often the case in young families. Back then, DSLR’s were not as easily accessible as they are now, so my only option was disposable cameras. It didn’t take long for this to become too expensive to continue. There were a few years that I didn’t even take photos, aside from family photos at Sears after months of pinching pennies. I would have given anything to have had access to a cheap photographer over having no photos at all.
For some families, those shoot-and-burn photographers may be all they are able to budget for. Are those families any less deserving of images than the person who is willing to spend $1500 or more? Not in my eyes. These individuals are more likely to see the value of portraits and are probably going to be repeat clients. I would be willing to bet that as time goes on, the budget for photos will become larger and someday will be that $1500 purchase.
Now, think back to when you started charging clients. Did you start pretty low, charging only what you felt your limited abilities were worth? Are you currently charging low prices out of fear of being told “No” or “You charge too much!” for the first time? I know I started out asking $150 for a disc of 20-30 images. I tried to be “competitive” with the photographers in my area, and didn’t thoroughly consider the cost of doing business. I was ok with that price, at least at first. Over time, I learned that there was far more work involved with running a photography business than clicking the shutter and a bit of editing. This journey of learning and figuring out what is sustainable for the long term is common. I don’t know a single photographer that earned thousands of dollars the moment they started charging, regardless of the genre they work in.
If you find yourself frustrated with those low prices or charge those prices, there are two things you could do. If you are an established and confident photographer, consider reaching out to help educate. Some individuals may not be willing to listen, but there are many that would be so grateful to have even the smallest bit of mentoring. Otherwise, worry about you, take care of your business and don’t pay attention to what other photographers are doing. Everyone has a different journey and there’s room for every photographer.