Design Aglow founder Lena Hyde kicks off our “What I Wish I Knew” series, chronicling the mistakes and revelations photographers made during their first years in business. We hope you find inspiration (and we're sure that you'll find some commiseration!) in these stories.
When I first started out as a photographer, I shot film....digital wouldn't be on the mass market for another 10 years or so. I knew that developing a 4x6” image cost just as much--in time, labor, and materials--as an 8x10” (actually more, since I had to cut the paper straight!) but I assumed the value of smaller prints equaled less, just like 99% of photographers out there did, and still do.
Fast forward a decade, to my transition to a digital studio, and the small print sales were still a sore spot for me. I was only charging a $20 price difference between a 4x6” and 5x7”, and my costs were virtually the same in time spent and actual printing. 8x10”s were another $20 more and again, not much difference in my COGS.
Every time a client ordered 4x6s of the portraits I worked so hard to create for them, my self esteem would die a little bit and my final sale would be just as sad. One day, in the early 2000's, I thought, “this does not have to be!” I did not work this hard to be a scrapbook photographer. I was going to try something new, something radical. I was going to make all portraits 8x10” and under the same price. I never saw this done before and was prepared for a client uprising.
Publishing that new price list that said “Prints 8x10” and under are all $45” (remember this was 9+ years ago) scared the bejesus out of me and I didn't sleep well that week. Each night instead of sleeping, I thought of the 659 questions that would no doubt come my way at my upcoming order sessions. I thought about the scrapbook moms that would be furious since they had already made 3 years of layouts with my images cut up to form themed pages full of sequins and foamy letters. I thought of the calls, where new clients would ask about my starting portrait prices...and they were now 3x more than last week.
But I had my strategy. I would tell clients that I did not want to be a scrapbook photographer. I would tell them that small prints take just as much time to create as large prints. I would tell them I wanted them to enjoy their images big and beautiful, not with faces smaller than a thumbprint.
To be honest, the questions never really came. Maybe once or twice a month, but with more practice in this conversation, the more confidence I gained and the more clients respected my choices.
Though my prices have increased over the years, my prints 8x10” and under remain all one price. And guess what? I can't even remember the last time I sold a 4x6! Over the years, I have traced the extra income derived from this one simple change and it has been huge. I encourage every single photographer I teach or consult with to do the same. And you know what? Not one has ever told me it didn't help them increase their bottom line by a significant amount....
What change would you like to make but are afraid to move forward with? Pinpoint what your objections are (or your clients' objections might be), and prepare a list of talking points to deal with them. Like me, your clients will most likely accept these new policies as part of your business and move forward without any concern. And, if questions arise, you are prepared to have a conversation. After all, this is your business and you are the one who decides what works best for you!
Wondering if your own pricing system will keep you afloat for the long run? Design Aglow recommends our Essential Pricing Guides for Portrait and Wedding Photographers for the formula to smart pricing, strong foundations, and higher profits.
For the last 15 years, Lena Hyde has been transforming the way her clients view photography through her stunning philosophy of life as art, and by fine art photography for her discerning Palm Beach, Portland and Lake Oswego clientele. Frequently published and internationally exhibited, Lena speaks as a respected expert in the field of contemporary childhood photography. Lena is the creator of Design Aglow, the leading design and business success resource for portrait and wedding photography studios since 2006. Lena has authored two photography books, released to an international audience of professional photographers by Random House in 2013. Lena's photography and businesses have been featured in Professional Photographer Magazine, Rangefinder Magazine, Click! Magazine, Maeve Magazine (Australia), Palm Beach Illustrated, the Palm Beach Post, the Sun Sentinel, the San Francisco Chronicle, USA Today, Country Life Magazine (UK), The San Francisco Chronicle, Palm Beach Young Society Magazine, City & Shore Magazine, and Whole Living Magazine. In her free time, See more of Lena's baby, child, and family photography at LenaHyde.com.
I fell in love with documenting the stories of couples, when I realized I never wanted anyone else to feel the way my husband and I do about our own wedding images. We describe them as "really nice pictures of other people.” There’s nothing about them that feels authentic.
That’s when my work became more than a pretty picture.