Rock bottom Photography prices…I see it all the time. Hey, I even did it for a very short period of time when I started. That is, until I realized the true cost of running a business. Until I realized that in order to keep this job and to continue loving it as much as I do, that I would have to charge for my time. Not only that, but my low prices made me look incompetent. They made me appear like I had no confidence in my work and that in order to bring in business I had to charge rock bottom prices. I soon learned that not only is this wrong from a business perspective, but it is a totally invalid assumption in regards to my clients. If you are building value into your photography business, people are going to want to pay your prices.
Since raising my prices, I get people who are still stunned that my pricing is so low. Of course, I get the random people who think my pricing is too high, but I know that it isn’t. I am charging enough to pay my bills, pay my taxes, invest money back into equipment and training, books, etc, and still make a living doing what I love.
What many people fail to realize is that many of these Photography businesses that open up shop and charge low prices, are not paying taxes. First of all, it’s against the law. Second, how does that make you feel that you are paying taxes every single day that you work, but your photographer might not be paying taxes. When a photography business is playing the rules by the books, they can expect to lose approximately 30% of their profit to the government. What this means, is that for a shoot that I spend 20-30 hours on and that I charge $400 for, I will walk away with about $280. Let’s say I put the minimum of 20 hours in, that means I am making $14 per hour. But really, I am not even making that because I still have to pay for gas, wear & tear on my vehicle, typically all of my packages include free prints so that cost comes out of my pocket as well. After I have paid for all of these items, I still have to pay website fees, landline telephone fees, marketing fees, and invest some of that money right back into my business. Yep, this is how it works. It doesn’t sound so glamorous now, does it? It sounds like work, it sounds like owning your own business is not all it’s cracked up to be.
At the end of the day though, I love owning my own business. I don’t care how much work I have to do to make it. I don’t care how much money I lose, because I really see myself going somewhere with this someday. I see my photos being published in books or magazines. I enjoy the photography industry so much, and I now have a heavily vested interest in seeing just how far I can take this.
I would however, be lying if I said that seeing new photographers charge prices that I could never compete with doesn’t bother me. Nine cents for a 4×6 print? $5 for an 8×10? $60 for an hour session with all of your photos on a CD ready for you to print? I cannot compete with that, nor do I want to. I offer a CD option with my sessions, but I HATE doing it. I hate it so very much that I don’t even want to offer it. In this day & age though, nearly every photographer is offering a CD option for purchase so in order to compete I need to make that an option. Why do I want to avoid the CD option? Because it takes away from the personal level of communication and customer service that I want to provide. When you order prints through a pro, they are taking care of everything. You don’t have to sit at a photo kiosk and figure out how to print the photos, I’ve had clients not use the CD correctly and call me frustrated because they can’t get their pictures up. Even worse, is when I put a half hour to an hour in editing images and the printing service my client uses prints the image too light or too dark. When you print through a Pro Lab, you’re not going to have any of these problems. In fact, if you do you’re never going to know about it because I am not going to stress you out about it. I contact the lab, tell them the problem and they send me the correct prints. This very rarely happens, though but just goes to show you that dealing with the printing process should not be stressful. This is yet another reason why, when my clients pay for a particular image on CD, I offer them pricing that is highly competitive and in many cases much lower than competing labs. I don’t want you have to deal with it, I would much rather provide you with this service as a professional. Additionally, I do not print through Snapfish, Kodak, Shutterfly, etc. I print through a professional printing lab that has been calibrated with my computer to get the correct results every.single.time. Guaranteed.
Ultimately, I want my clients to choose me not because my prices are the lowest but because I present myself and my business professionally. Because I strike a chord with them, and create emotion with my images. Because my photography is the best that their money can buy. And you can be guaranteed that I am constantly finding new ways to improve, and new ways of learning so that I can be the best. In 5 years, it is my goal to be the Chippewa Valley’s #1 choice for their photography needs. And you know what? I will reach that goal, and it will be by charging what I am worth not what I think will bring me the most business.