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Insights & Thoughts

Pricing Your Photography | How to Better Value Your Work

By Michael Henson on January 22nd 2016

I can’t even begin to tell you how many people (myself included) I’ve heard talk about how much or little to charge clients. We’ve heard or observed countless social media rants, blog post diatribes, and workshop lectures railing against “shoot & burners,” extolling the (legitimate) virtues of Excel spreadsheets detailing expenses, cost of goods sold, and profit margin. Once we’ve done the math, the figure we should be charging our clients can be a bit staggering and makes for quite the pill to swallow.

When thinking about trying to make a career or a sideline gig of snapping photos, the above-mentioned items can bring that train to glory to a screeching halt faster than pretty much anything else. Typically, this is because photographers start their pricing lower than they should. Often, we do this out of guilt or worry that clients won’t book us or value our images enough to pay what we ask.

Enter the video below…

economy for photographers slr loungeIt discusses two worlds, two types of consumers that are complete opposites. These two worlds are NEO and Traditional, and, if you want to make money with photography, it’s vital that you understand the difference.

Traditional consumers are those that I personally relate to the most, although I have some Neo in me as well. These traditional consumers are focused on value, price, and are most motivated by how much something costs. If we, as artists, try to compete and sell our services on these terms, we are reduced to selling based on price. The cheapest photographer becomes the one that is consistently chosen.

branding and consumers slr lounge henson creative“Neo” consumers don’t really seem to care much about price. They are more motivated by products, services, and companies (people) they believe in. When they find something they want that aligns with their desires and values, they will pay whatever it takes to make that purchase.

What does that mean for photographers? Well, it is immediately clear that your role, should you choose to accept it, is to pursue Neo consumers and to leave Traditional consumers to the “shoot & burn” photographers and college students that are ecstatic to make their session fee and move on. (Now, let me qualify that statement, if you happen to find yourself on the “shoot & burn” side of the fence and find yourself liking it, good! Recognize that your clients are the traditional consumers that are driven by price and good deals, and pursue them.) For those frantically looking for a way to break out of the price wars and to move on to greener pastures, find your Neo niche and chase it like crazy!

To get a more in-depth look into this phenomenon, check out the video below. Once you’re done, I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with both types of consumers in the comments! Don’t be shy!

If you are looking for educational resources that will help take your photography to the next level to take advantage of the “Neos” of the world, stop by the SLR Lounge Store and get started!

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Michael Henson is a St. Louis based photographer obsessed with everything creative. His photography interests span genres from still life to sports. When he’s not running around with his face to the camera or behind a keyboard writing, you can typically find a guitar in his hands or catch him out enjoying life with his family and friends.

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Q&A Discussions

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  1. Brad Wedgewood

    Something to think about

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  2. Frank Calesso

    I believe I’ve read about a similar idea in one of Alain Briot’s books. The “shoot & burners” get into the game & are unknown & inexperienced so they charge less. Now their name is out there & have experience but are unable to increase their rates because new clients don’t understand why they want to charge so much more when their friend/neighbour/relative got a deal.

    On an earlier post, Chris Gampat at The Phoblographer suggested paying $30 for a print from an unknown photographer because they don’t have the cache of a Ansel Adams or Peter Lik. My thoughts are if you sell a print that uses high end fine art paper, quality matte & frame you’ll be able to sell the print for far more than Chris’ $30 (now I know to a NEO).

    That is the approach I would like to take, others can peddle to the Traditional consumers. I believe this would result in fewer sales, generating similar revenues, the fewer sales would allow you to shoot more quality images, which would result in your ability to charge more.

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    • Michael Henson

      Correct, the idea is that you might shoot fewer gigs, but the average profit from each increases resulting in an increase in overall profits. The difficulty is the transition.

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  3. Ralph Hightower

    The purpose of this article and the video appears to be differentiating ones self from the masses and that’s fine.
    The video appears to drive brands, such as Apple, which is common, and other brands which are not globally known.
    I would consider myself brand loyalty driven, both in cars and cameras. Regarding cars and trucks, other than two Fords which were both Mustangs (’66 and ’74), our cars/trucks have been built by General Motors: two Saturns, one Pontiac, one GMC, and the majority were Chevrolets with four El Caminos being the predominant model owned (five).
    Cameras? My first SLR camera was the Canon A-1; I have a few lenses ranging from 28mm to 400mm. In 2013, I bought a used F-1N with the AE Finder FN, AE Motor Drive FN and two focusing screens. The F-1 is a camera that I coveted and I am able to use my investment in the Canon FD lens mount.
    When I bought my first DSLR in 2013, I could have switched to Nikon since my Canon FD lenses are not compatible with the EOS mount. But I stayed with Canon. I built a feature list of my A-1 and F-1N : full frame, 5-6 FPS. The camera that met those specs was the 5D Mk III.

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