Am I worth it?

posted in: Business | 11

Many times, I get new photographers struggling with the same problem. Pricing. So, I thought I’d share with you something I wrote in response to a frustrated photog who was being hounded by the budget bride:

“Hey Dustin,

I’ve heard a lot of great things about your ability to run a profitable photography business (several, it seems). I think you would be the perfect person to demystify this issue.

How does one deal with potential customers who have very tight budget restrictions? I have several weddings under my belt, and I’m just starting a business here in Dallas. A bride back in Austin was referred to me by a friend and wants me to come back in January to shoot her wedding. However, she expressed a desire to pay no more than $500. She has admitted she doesn’t really understand how expensive wedding photography should be, but insists she has a tight budget.

I was thinking I could offer her à la carte services, but I wonder…how do you make it clear that this is a valuable investment, and going cheap isn’t necessarily wise? I hate to turn down a potential customer, but is $500 even worth traveling down to Austin? I spent a great deal of time and thought on my prices and I’d planned my wedding packages to start around $2400. Did you ever (or do you still) have to deal with frugal brides when you were starting out? Am I just being a diva?

Thanks a bunch, Dustin.”

Here’s what I wrote in reponse:

“No, you’re not a diva :) Accurate pricing helps to guratantee that you will still be in business for years to come. Trust me, you don’t want clients that don’t see the value of your services.

Choosy brides are typically not worth the hassle. They nitpick everything and end up taking up way more of your time than it’s worth. My basic rule of thumb for weddings is this:

For every hour I spend shooting a wedding, I expect at least 2 hours to spend on producing that wedding (photoshop, editing, album design, uploading, online hosting, etc.). For example, you shoot a 7 hour wedding, expect to spend 21 hours total on the wedding and post-production. Should you only get paid $500 for that much time? Plus, you have debts to pay off (rent, student loans, equipment, etc). Think of everything involved to shoot that wedding.

Trust me, it’s much better to let her go find her super-cheap photographer than to hire you. You have experience, a degree in photography, expenses, marketing, production costs, equipment charges, all of those things you have to pay for.

I would just politely tell her that your starting prices are competitive for Dallas and Austin rates. However, if that doesn’t work, you would be happy to refer her to someone else.

The best practice ever is to stand in front of the mirror and “I’m worth ($3,000)” or whatever price you see fit. Repeat it over and over until it becomes second nature. Because the more you believe you are worth $3,000, the more confidence it shows to potential clients. The clients that don’t question your reasons for your prices are the ones you want to work with because they find value in you.

It sucks starting a business, trust me I know! But hang in there, set your standards and stick to them. In the meantime, if you’re serious about shooting weddings, think about where your referrals are coming from. Go meet with some local wedding planners whose prices fall in line with yours and try to get their business, build their trust. Cut them a killer deal that they can offer to a bride to get a chance to work with them. A $500 bride can only refer you other $500 brides.

I hope this makes sense. Thanks and take care!

Dustin Meyer”

and here is her response:

“Thanks for the advice! You make a really good point in saying that $500 brides will only refer you to other $500 brides. I hadn’t thought about that. You’re right. It really does also take a lot of confidence to go out there and comfortably say “I’m worth so and so, and I’m sticking to that.” Guess I’ll have to practice :)

Thanks, Dustin!”

Disregard any particular price since your own city will have different pricing that can be supported by your current market. However, the principle is still the same: “Be confident in your work, and back it up with confident pricing”  Everything else will follow suit.

PLACE YOUR COMMENTS AND RESPONSES BELOW

11 Responses

  1. Dina Avila
    | Reply

    Well said Dustin.
    I recently was approached by a local restaurant for a two day shoot with no less than nine delivered images. While we were discussing the specifics and ideas for the shoot she slipped in the possibility of trade. At which point she got a blank stare from me.
    She also mumbled something about how she “knows” photoshop and can take care of the color balancing. Again, a blank stare.
    It amazes me that since the advent of the prosumer camera photographers are so often disrespected and devalued. We are not hobbyists and if you don’t pay us we don’t eat. Nor can we pay our bills.
    You can be sure I gave her an accurate estimate, including very specific language in the terms that any altering of my work, aside from minor cropping, is prohibited.

    • dustinmeyer
      | Reply

      Exactly, Dina! I think there’s such a blurry difference between hobbyist and professional that the public tends to get confused. Just because I own a wrench doesn’t make me a certified plumber. The fact that I can grill a mean steak doesn’t mean I have culinary accreditations. Pushing a button on a camera or knowing a few tweaks in Photoshop makes one no less a professional photographer than turning the keys in a car makes you certified to drive that vehicle. If you’re a professional, charge professional rates… because it’s your profession. :) Thanks for sharing, Dina!!

  2. [...] Am I worth it? » MpactPhoto : Professional Photography Studio Marketing Resource and Forum by Dustin Meyer Am I worth it? » MpactPhoto : Professional Photography Studio Marketing Resource and Forum by Dusti…. [...]

  3. heather curiel
    | Reply

    Nice one! Sometimes I think we forget to value ourselves.

    • dustinmeyer
      | Reply

      Right, Heather! Just because you’re a natural at taking photos doesn’t mean you should do it for cheap ;)

  4. Lenn Long
    | Reply

    Great way to handle it Dustin. I hope she hears you and can stick to it. I am always trying to beat that tidbit into fellow photographers. I can’t begin to tell you the number of photographers that say to me, “Yeah but my business isnt like yours, I don’t live in a big city, so my clients won’t pay the same amount as your clients.” And to that I always respond, a camera costs what a camera costs.

    If most photographers would realize that most all of the hard costs of business are the same regardless if you live in a rural market or a metropolitan area. Cameras, lenses, prints, albums, computers, software, and most all the tools of the trade cost the same regardless of your address. The only reduced costs of a rural studio are lower overhead in the form of rent or mortgage and lower insurance costs.

    And in the commercial world, usage is usage. In fact, many large national companies can be found in rural markets because of the need for cheap labor and cheap land. However these clients are advertising nationally, so rural photographers need to consider that usage. If they have a multi-thousand square ft facility on 10 acres of land, and dozens of employees, think about the revenue that company is generating to turn a profit.

    So remember, a camera costs what a camera costs.

  5. Lenn Long
    | Reply

    Great way to handle it Dustin. I hope she hears you and can stick to it. I am always trying to beat that tidbit into fellow photographers. I can’t begin to tell you the number of photographers that say to me, “Yeah but my business isnt like yours, I don’t live in a big city, so my clients won’t pay the same amount as your clients.” And to that I always respond, a camera costs what a camera costs.

    If most photographers would realize that most all of the hard costs of business are the same regardless if you live in a rural market or a metropolitan area. Cameras, lenses, prints, albums, computers, software, and most all the tools of the trade cost the same regardless of your address. The only reduced costs of a rural studio are lower overhead in the form of rent or mortgage and lower insurance costs.

    And in the commercial world, usage is usage. In fact, many large national companies can be found in rural markets because of the need for cheap labor and cheap land. However these clients are advertising nationally, so rural photographers need to consider that usage. If they have a multi-thousand square ft facility on 10 acres of land, and dozens of employees, think about the revenue that company is generating to turn a profit.

    So remember, a camera costs what a camera costs.

    • dustinmeyer
      | Reply

      I love that! “A Camera Costs what a Camera Costs!” Thanks for the insight, Lenn!!

  6. Omayra
    | Reply

    I’m still new to photography. I want to do wedding photography in the near future but how can I possibly start doing weddings at $2000 and up if I don’t have a wedding portfolio let alone experience in that category? No one wants to pay that much for someone who doesn’t have experience?

    I’m not trying to be mean, this is an honest question because I want to eventually make a living out of photography.

    • dustinmeyer
      | Reply

      It may not sound like fun at first, but the key thing to remember is that currently, you have more time than money. Therefore, you need to use your skills and equipment to market your business. So, I would contact a few wedding planners in your area and offer them a killer deal. Maybe do a few weddings at a super discount just to cover your costs. This will give them the chance to help out their client’s budget, and give you the experience and material for your portfolio that you need to get started.

      The only hurdle to overcome is that a wedding planner’s reputation depends directly on the quality of professionals that they refer their clients to. So, you need you make sure that you are confident in your skills when you approach them. Make them feel like they can trust you with their clients. Come across as if you are trying to help them out, rather than helping yourself.

      Hope this helps!
      Dustin Meyer

  7. [...] lot of this is backed with confidence. It takes time to build, can be smashed to bits in an instant, but it’s completely essential [...]

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