If someone approached you right now and said, “Hey, your photos are amazing. How would you like to close up shop and come work at my studio? I’ll pay you minimum wage!” Not a &*#%ing chance, right?
But many photographers do exactly that -- to themselves. By letting their guilt dictate their pricing, they’re charging far less than they’re worth and ultimately walking away with minimum wage or less.
We realize there are a million reasons photographers feel guilty. Do any of these sound familiar to you?
Wherever the guilt is coming from, it needs to stop. Here’s why.
You’re not running a charity.
We’ve heard too many photographers justify their rock-bottom prices with some variation of this statement: “I believe everyone should have access to amazing photos, and I’m willing to make a little less money so I can share my gift with those in need.” Yes, it’s a nice sentiment. On the other hand, everyone should have access to running water, but a plumber will still charge you to install a sink. It’s okay if you occasionally offer a free session to someone whose story tugs at your heartstrings, but don’t give every client access to bargain prices. (If you do, you’ll quickly start resenting those clients who roll up to their $75 session in a shiny new BMW.) If you’re not making enough to cover your overhead costs and compensate for your time, your business model isn’t sustainable, and pretty soon you won’t be serving anyone. If you truly want to use your talents for the greater good, volunteer for a charity like Fotolanthropy or Magic Hour Foundation. But selling your work on the cheap isn’t charity. It’s just bad business sense.
You won’t get the gratitude you expect.
You might feel like clients will be eternally grateful to you for making your services affordable. But if someone is truly on a shoestring budget, even a heavily discounted session will still be a splurge, and there’s a decent chance they’ll expect the world in return. Take an informal poll of photographers you know, and many will tell you their most demanding clients were the ones who got the best deals. The psychology is simple: When you stretch your budget for something, you expect to have your mind blown. Of course you know you’re offering an amazing discount, but from their perspective, it’s still more money than they’ve ever spent on photos. And it can be a cold shock when, instead of showering you with thanks, they ask for a reshoot or extra images or extensive editing. Remember that all clients want white-glove service, and you need to charge enough to feel good about the energy you put into your work.
You work hard. Really hard.
While your artistic vision may be a gift, your knowledge of photography is something you worked for. Think of the tens of thousands of hours you’ve invested into learning your craft and building your business. Think of the tens of thousands of dollars you’ve put into having the gear required to do your job properly. Think about the weekends you’ve spent at workshops, or the late nights you’ve spent editing photos or designing business cards or tinkering with your website or blogging sessions. It’s a rewarding job, but don’t be lulled into thinking it’s an easy one.
No matter how much you love your job, it’s still a job, and you still need to get paid. Do your 9-to-5 friends feel guilty about cashing their paychecks each week? No, and neither should you. Like any skilled craftsman, you deserve an income that reflects your expertise. So don’t preface your pricing with an apology. “I’m sorry” isn’t a sales pitch. State your pricing guilt-free. You’re a luxury brand -- own it.
Want to master the pricing formula? Our Pricing Guides for Wedding and Portrait Photographers will show you the way to pricing for sustainability and profit.
When I was in college, I had a friend who was a professional photographer. The first time I went to her home, I walked in to find stunning photographs of her children on the walls.
There was a huge canvas in their living room and a creative photo display in the main hallway. I remember being so moved by the beauty of those images, thinking to myself, “I want to create images like this!” I bought myself a DSLR as a graduation present, learned photography from online courses and started my photography business about a year later.