Price vs. Value: What Is My Photography Worth?

When you say “What is my photography worth?” are you asking:

What price should I be charging for my photography?

Or are you asking?

What is the value a customer would get by working with me and having one of my images hanging on their walls?

Aha. Two different things right?

If you look at price, you simple are looking for a number. And that’s when you get in trouble. That’s when you start looking at all the other photographers out there, and concentrate on the numbers they use in their own business.

But a number is a number.

Value is what changes it all.

Value isn’t a number. It’s an intrinsic assessment of what you have to offer. If you hang two portraits on your wall, one snapped by a seven year old child, the other by Annie Leibovitz, one would definitely argue the Annie Leibovitz has a lot more value to it.

Yet they are both portraits of you. What is the difference? [Read more…]

Do You Really Want The Help or Are You Just Making Excuses?

I had to laugh in an ironic sort of way.

Why is it that the people that need the most help often are the same ones with the most closed minds?

Let me paint you a story.

A photographer runs a business, yet can’t seem to understand why she’s struggling to survive. It’s not her fault after all. It’s the economy. It’s the industry. It’s everybody else. And occasionally she needs to confirm it in her mind that it isn’t her – it’s everything else. The odds are stacked against her and she’ll just have to wait it out until things return to “normal”.

So every once in awhile she does a little investigating to prove she isn’t at fault. She orders my Pricing Your Photography and skims it. Not reads and applies it. Skims it. Nothing new, AND SHE”S REALLY SHORT ON MONEY, so she returns it for her money back.

That’s perfectly fine with me. You see I’ve had hundreds of people buy my Pricing Your Photography, with only a handful returned (from people just like her). And the comments have always been overwhelmingly positive –

“I can’t believe how low I was pricing before. I’ve almost doubled my rates, and now I know why.”

“Now I know my business will be successful.”

“I’ve never looked at my prices like this before. You made something I used to guess at into a science.”

Yet I’m always intrigued when I hear the “nothing new after skimming it” that comes with a return. So I did a little investigating to determine how this photographer really is priced. And what I found didn’t surprise me – its definitely what I expected. [Read more…]

Is My 16×20 Print Worth $200 or $6,000?

“This has always been a MAJOR problem for me. And namely, it’s articles like this that say “sell it at it’s real value” or “charge what it’s worth” or other such statements and then don’t go on to say what something is worth. I have no idea if a 16x20print print is worth $200 or $6,000…Where do I get THAT information? NO ONE EVER GIVES THAT INFO. Should I charge by the hour? Or per project? Why would charge $300 for a regular portrait session but double that for a glamour session where they’re essentially the same thing? How do I decide to sell my basic wedding package at $4500 instead of $1900 even though nothing has changed?

The lack of this sort of information is what prevents a lot of photographers from charging accordingly. If you go to a bodyshop to get work done on your car you can expect to pay around $75 an hour for labor. If you go grocery shopping you can expect to pay around $4 for a gallon of milk (4 litres for those of us in Canada). But photography [prices range SO much, no one actually knows what to charge and that’s the biggest problem I ever have; knowing what to charge AND justifying to my clients why I charge that much.

If only the industry could work together to make things more even on the playing field it would probably help a lot.”
~ Dave Wilson

I received this comment a day ago, and as I sat there typing up a response, it got longer and longer. I knew this is probably something more than one of you have had questions about, so I decided to make it today’s post.

Hi Dave

Thanks for your comment. Now lets dive in and let me share with you why giving you an exact price is impossible. (Don’t get frustrated yet, I’ll share a lot to help you out!)

If you go grocery shopping and buy a gallon (or 4 litres) of milk, you will pay around $4, depending on your area. The reason you do that is milk is a commodity. It’s a product. Grocery store A pretty much sells the same milk as grocery store B, hence the reason its always around $4. You may pay $5 if you run to a convenience store, but you expect to pay more because its convenient. Likewise if you decide to go organic, you will also pay a bit more because there isn’t the same demand for it and it has a higher value. But milk is milk. Nothing makes one gallon of milk better than the next.

Likewise, if you go to a bodyshop, they pretty much all do the same level of work. Your car has a scratch or a dent, and they simply have to make it look like “new”. If one worker doesn’t do a good job, or doesn’t show up for work, they can hire another one to replace him or her immediately. Yes, there is some skill. But it is a learned skill; one you can teach anybody quickly. Which is why from bodyshop to bodyshop, they pretty much charge the same amount. They have parts and labor to account for when coming up with their pricing structure.

Now we move to photography. If we treated photography like milk or like a bodyshop, we would train photographers to place people on an X in front of a backdrop, take the shot, move them to a computer for showing and selling, and send them out the door with photos in hand. The only training for the “photographer” would be to roll down the right backdrop, insert the appropriate prop on spot X, place people on the appropriate spot X, push the trigger, and do a little computer work. And yes, if this sounds familiar, its because these types of studios exist all over the world. Big box stores saw the opportunity and jumped on it.

 

But look at those images. Those are the photos that are the “cheesy” images. They are the ones that get placed in those “awkward photos” books and sites you see online. There is nothing magical about them. They are simply snapshots tracking a moment in time. [Read more…]

Should I Take $1,000 For This Photography Session?

Laura is a wedding photographer. Her bottom package, and bestseller, is a $2,000 coverage. She set her prices at $2,000 because she feels this is her bottom line. Anything less, and she won’t be making a profit, won’t make enough to cover her expenses, and would be working “for nothing”. Yet she routinely has people walk away saying they love her work and style, but simply can’t afford her. She’s had more than one person this year ask her for the same package at $1,000. So many in fact that she’s beginning to wonder if she should move her bottom package to $1,000. At least it will bring in $1,000, which is better than nothing.

I found a video put out by Pictage that also showcases a variety of “Laura’s” that are feeling the same things. And I know they are not alone.

So the question becomes, “Should I take $1,000 for this photograph session?”

My answer is no. And here’s why.

Lets return to Laura for a moment.

Let’s say for $2,000, she spends 6 hours on average at the wedding, photographs unlimited coverage, provides an album layout, and a variety of prints included in the package. Add in meeting and production time as well.

Now she decides to keep the same package, except lower the price to $1,000.

If she normally photographs 25 weddings per year, her $50,000 business was just sliced in half to $25,000.

Ah, but you say she wouldn’t have booked the 25 weddings this year anyway at $2,000, isn’t $25,000 better than nothing? (Providing she could book 25 at $1,000.)

Nothing other than price has changed. Meaning nothing other than profit has changed as well.

Laura will now look at those clients differently, approach photography differently, and have a completely different mindset as she’s shooting. It’s a negative place to be, and it will reflect in her work. If she is constantly grumbling to herself that she should have been paid more, she’s not giving it all. And isn’t that why you went into photography in the first place?

What should happen instead? One of three things. [Read more…]