The photography industry has changed a lot in recent years. Photographers used to be scared to charge a lot, but now I see the pendulum swinging the other way and very new and inexperienced photographers want to jump in charging a high price when they don’t have the experience or brand to back it up. BUT I totally get why they’re doing that, their time is valuable and so is their work. So when is your work “good enough” to charge full price? That’s what we’ll talk about today!
I’m nervous to talk to you about this!
This can be kind of a tough conversation because we’re basically talking about how to value your art and I *know* that can easily be taken personally. My intention with this episode is pure: I want you to get as many clients as possible! While I don’t want to upset you, I do think it’s more damaging to lie and gloss over the truth, which is why I’m going to lay out my thoughts very honestly here today.
I want to say too, there is nothing wrong with being new!
When I was a new photographer, I didn’t want people to know I was new. I was ashamed I guess? So, I used to try and look busy when I WASN’T – it would have been better for me to just say, “I was new and portfolio building,” instead of charging $75 and acting like I was a hot shot who was way undercharging. No. My photos were not good you guys. I wish I would have just been honest and told these clients who hired me, “I’m learning, I’m building my portfolio, that is why this is $75.”
The Industry Pricing Shift
The Way It Was Then
When I started out in this industry, it was mostly male-dominated. Then in 2009, when DSLRs came to the market, every mom in a suburban town became a photographer (including me haha). Back then (and still to this day to some extent) moms would get a fancy camera, halfway learn how to use it then charge $50-$200 for a session to make some extra money and have fun!
What ended up happening was they got better and better at photography but because there were so many other photographers, they kept their prices low. Meaning there was a lot of competition, with great photos, charging a very low price including all the digital files. These photographers had the experience, had a solid brand, and knew how to deliver a GREAT product to their clients, but they were too nervous to charge sustainable prices… and some still are!
Maybe that is you right now, and if it is, you’re doing yourself a disservice by undercharging.
Then, rightly so, this new wave of thinking came through our community, I’d say 5-7 years ago, preaching that you’re worth high prices and you can charge a premium. And a lot of photographers did – which y’all know I’m ALL about!!
The Way It Seems To Be Now
BUT what I’m seeing now is the pendulum swinging really far the OTHER direction. A lot of newer photographers are taking this, very truthful idea of “I’m worth it, I can charge high prices, I can charge a premium” on too soon in their new business.
This is where it can get uncomfy — They haven’t built a solid brand (which we will talk about here in a moment), their technical skills as a photographer aren’t refined and honestly their overall work is just so-so but they’re charging a higher-end price. Hear me on this — to be successful as a high-end photography you have to also have a high-end BRAND and high-end WORK. And usually this comes with experience.
I don’t want you to start spiraling thinking you’re not worth these prices, because you most definitely ARE (OR WILL BE). BUT in order for you to be booked and STAY booked, we need to look at your work, your experience, and your brand before you start charging these higher prices.
Hopefully you are picking up what I’m putting down. Hopefully you are with me and you maybe have seen the shift happen yourself, where newer photographers are coming in and trying to charge a premium price when they don’t quite have a premium product.
The pendulum swinging too far in either direction is damaging. There have been times when I undercharged – when I was a shoot and burn photographer. I was charging around $250 for a session, and then I quickly discovered IPS and raised my prices and increased my sales average by 10x. But if I hadn’t made those decisions, I was honestly on a fast track to burnout. And that’s what happens to a lot of photographers when they’re undercharging and they have a solid brand and product is they burn out because they are not charging enough, and they don’t think they can charge more, so they just quit altogether and I do not want to see that happen to you.
There have also been times where I have overcharged for something, where I was TOO CONFIDENT, where I didn’t provide the value that was associated with that price point. And what ends up happening is that you don’t sell any or you sell very few. So I don’t want the pendulum swinging too far in either direction because they could be damaging places in your business.
I want to look at two specific phases and my goal here is to help you identify, which of these two you fit in.
Portfolio Building Phase
You are in this phase if you are…
- Insecure about your work
- Still unsure about lighting, manual settings, posing, etc.
- Shooting less than 6 months
- Scared to charge a lot (and honestly rightly so)
If you are in this phase:
- DON’T raise your prices.
- DO the hard work of learning and growing and getting paid a bit to do it.
You are in this phase if…
- Your work is recognizable by people in your community (they could see your work and know it’s yours without the watermark)
- You’re confident. You know you can get great images your client will love
- You have raving fans/clients who refer their friends
Warning: if you have people telling you you’re too cheap in this phase — you’re too cheap!!
Also in this phase, it can be hard to get out of that “portfolio building mindset.” You’re charging full price now and you don’t want the discount client because…
- 9 out of 10 discount clients are needier than full-priced clients
- Discounting your price, you will need more clients to hit income goals
- When your work is good and you’re low priced, it’s harder to attract the clients who value you (because they would expect your prices to be higher). Your low prices are devaluing your work whether you realize it or not.
We want people who want the best. I know I do. Do you? I’m not okay with being mediocre and I have a feeling you aren’t either.
Hopefully now you’ve been able to get a better idea of which category you most likely fall into. And if you’re still wondering, let’s talk more about your skill, brand, and experience.
The basic indicator that you are in the growth phase is if you’re too busy.
Here is a BIG point I want to make sure you all understand that I’ve learned the hard way: You can always increase your price. It’s much harder to decrease your price!
- Let’s say you’re charging $400 and you’re booked months out and can’t keep up with demand – it’s time to raise your prices.
- If you’re charging $400 and you can’t get people to hire you, and you feel like you’re doing “all the things right,” that’s when I want you to look at your skill, your brand, and your experience. When you’re marketing yourself like crazy and people still aren’t hiring you, it’s time to really dig into why.
And let me just say, sometimes the reason is you’re just starting out – you’ve just started with marketing systems, just started putting some things together, and those things do take time. But if you’ve been at this and you’ve been consistent for a while and it’s still feeling hard to book clients, I want to talk to you about your skill, your brand, and your experience to decide if you’re in the portfolio phase or the growth phase.
Analyze Your Skill & Brand
In Marketing School for Photographers, we talk about the 3 pillars to be the booked out photographer method and the very first one if your foundation, your vision. Because if you don’t have a solid foundation in your business, everything you build on top of it will crumble. Your brand and your skill, your images as a photographer are a part of your foundation!
The best marketing strategies in the world will not succeed if your skill and brand aren’t on point.
I want you to pause for a moment and do a little exercise with me. If you’re in a place where you can close your eyes, even better. If you’re listening to me on 2x speed – put me on normal speed for this part.
- I want you to think about the photographer who is consistently making $10/month in her business. It can be the future version of you, it can be someone you admire or look up to, it can be a competitor that you admire.
- Think about her images, her birth images, her newborn images, her maternity images. Her lighting, the emotion, the perspectives, the background…how do those images make you feel?
- Now think about her website, the homepage, the fonts, the colors, the images, the words… how does the website make you feel?
- Now go over to her Instagram. The photos, the bio, the captions, her vibe, her stories, her connection with you, her connection with her audience…(Quick reminder here, you are you! So I hope you’re visualizing an enhanced version of yourself not trying to make yourself into something you’re not, ok?)
- When you were thinking about her images – do your images also look and feel that way? If not, what are the areas you need to improve on to get there? (If this is something that you need help with, just a little plug for our Birth Photography certification, I do monthly critiques and the other students and certified photographers also participate. A really great way to grow is to submit your work and get it critiqued.)
When you start to look at the future version of you this way making $10k months with photography and see her images, her website, her Instagram, how she makes people feel, her connection with them… you can start to identify if YOUR brand is pretty close or way off. And either way is okay, there isn’t a right or wrong here. Just like I told you in the beginning, when I was new I wish I’d just been open and honest and told people I was learning and portfolio building instead of trying to appear to be a certain way when I wasn’t really that way.
So when you’re in the portfolio stage, chances are you’re going to be working inexpensively and no where near what you’ll charge when you’re in the growth phase. You’re building your brand, mastering your skill, and growing your experience. But the point of the portfolio stage is to get OUT of this phase as soon as possible to move into growth. When you’re in the growth phase, embrace being uncomfortable charging those higher prices because you’re absolutely worth it!
I want to make sure you know about a few episodes I did on the show with Lindsay Jani all about branding called Book More Clients with Your Branding and How to Naturally Attract High End Clients Every Day.
I hope this gave you some clarity on how to pinpoint things that could use improvement in your brand and in your experience. And it is my hope that you leave this episode feeling encouraged and motivated, ready to take action in hitting your goals and achieving whatever you are working towards right now!
If you’re enjoying this podcast, please hit SUBSCRIBE wherever you’re listening and thank you so much for leaving the show a review on iTunes! My friend, if you have a passion – it’s not an accident. Not everyone loves photography, or event planning, or real estate…whatever your passion is, it’s there for a REASON. What are you going to do with that passion? Get out there and make it happen! Have a great week y’all!
THE BEAUTY IN BIRTH CERTIFICATION COURSE FOR BIRTH PHOTOGRAPHERS
If you know that you are supposed to be a birth photographer, but you get tripped up with all the ‘what ifs’ that come along with photographing such a big day, The Beauty in Birth Certification Course for Birth Photographers is currently open for enrollment!
Inside the certification, you are going to learn:
- How to set up your business to become the go-to professional birth photographer
- To master your birth photography camera skills
- How to fearlessly conquer any lighting situation
- Confidently know when to arrive at the birth each and every time
- Learn how to craft stunning birth images
- Learn how to post-process images to give your clients the best results
PLUS, $2000-worth of bonuses including The Beauty in Birth’s Birth Photography Model Call Process so that you can book up to 5 photography clients in 30 days.
To know more about the course, go to certifiedbirthphotographer.com
QUESTIONS, COMMENTS, AND REVIEWS
Do you have a question? Submit it here: www.taviaredburn.com/ask and I might answer it on the podcast!
Leave a review on iTunes! Check out www.thebeautyinbirth.net/podcast for instructions.
[…] in Episode 81 (Model Call Dos and Don’ts) as well as an episode we did in November called Photography Pricing: A Shift in the Industry No One is Talking About – I am thrilled that photographers new to business are confident enough to charge high prices. […]