The F Stops Here: Should I Lower My Prices To Compete?

True story: a couple of years ago, in a certain dusty downtown of an old coal mining town in the American Midwest, there existed no less than 5 photography studios, branded in bright colors like turquoise and pink, along with the photographer’s name. Nestled between a general store, accountant, dress shop, and German bakery, each studio storefront displayed cheerful young families, forever frozen in an almost identical pose.

At last count, the town had a population of just 12,874. There’s a lot of competition for not a lot of clients.

A survey of those small town photographers’ websites illustrated that those 5 studios are locked in a price war, lowering session fees and undercutting each other with specials, mini session events, discounts, and freebies just to bring clients through the door. Because the photographers are so similar--the “me too” branding and posing--differentiating by price is the only way to stand out from the competition.

In a saturated market like this, lowering your prices to compete might seem like the only way to survive.

But there’s a different way, one we would urge you to consider.

In the small town described above, the value proposition of these photography studios is that they are offering images and session fees for very little money. Put more bluntly, their value proposition--that is, the value delivered to those who purchase their goods and services--is that they are cheap. (The quality of their services, while variable, doesn’t factor into the equation.)

If you are having difficulty breaking through in your market, think about what value you provide to your clientele. Are you:

*the cheapest?

*the most cutting edge, carrying products that can’t be found anywhere else?

*an aspirational luxury brand?

*specializing in gallery and design services?


*the most experienced?

*incorporating a different style or technique that can’t be found anywhere else?

*frequently published in magazines or online?

*fun, funny, outrageous, or sensitive (add your adjective here)?

*able to appeal to a subculture or demographic?

In other words, why would someone want to hire you?

In order to market your photography to clients who will value your services, you need to figure out exactly what that value is first.

So create a list of what makes you and your business special. Immediately cross off the items “I take beautiful pictures” (so do a lot of people) and “I preserve memories” (so does anyone with a camera).

Clients want to know what you can do for them, which is hopefully far more than just the lowest prices in your neighborhood.

Because despite what your cheapest clients might lead you to think, a market for sustainably priced, profitable photography does exist. Let’s take the example of shoes: if price were the only consideration when people went shoe shopping, then everyone would wear castoffs sourced from garage sales and Goodwill. But, miraculously, that’s just not the case: shoppers buy $50 shoes, $100 shoes, and even $1000 shoes. Comfort, style, and branding are often far more compelling considerations than price.

But, you say, I would never buy a $1000 handbag, or drop $3k on boutique photography services.

That’s perfectly OK, because some clients will. For those clients, the value of your photography outweighs the cost.

So if you’re lamenting the fact that clients don’t seem interested in paying your rates, reframe your thinking to focus on the right clients--those who appreciate the value you are offering--rather than the right prices. Figure out your value proposition, and run your business accordingly. You’ll be amazed at the success that can result.

~ The F Stops Here is an exclusive collection of articles by Design Aglow, designed to be used and shared by photographers. Look for this column twice monthly here on the Design Aglow Blog and feel free to grab & share on your site, blog and/or social media pages with a byline and link to

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