Earlier this week I was sent an email complaining about my prices. I launched a discussion on my FB page and some awesome points were brought up! I've thought about it all week and wanted to voice my thoughts on matter...I hope this helps clear some stuff up, I'm very honest and transparent, I truly want to be "different" in this sometimes "dirty" profession!
"What should I charge?" Wow...the million dollar question and not one answered easily! If you charge too much you are looked down on...if you are "cheap" you are looked down on...so how do you find that balance? Well, I don't have that answer, really, I'm sorry but it's true! Pricing is something I struggle with on a daily basis!!! Everytime I send someone to my website or send out a wedding pricing guide, I cringe...seriously...I do! So, bare with me! I do tend to get long-winded but I would like to explain my "journey" and my thoughts on pricing. I hope I can encourage those of you who are also experiencing the "growing pains" and the "meanies" in the business...I also hope you realize that I'm not one of "them". :)
When I first started out in this business I had "vowed" not to be soooo expensive...Oh boy, I have to admit though...my thinking was so misguided! I had NO IDEA what goes into being a "professional photographer"!!! And to be honest, back then (although it was only a year and half ago) I think I was charging a fair price for the experience that I had! I WAS NOT a professional photographer! I was shooting on auto, with my starter camera (the canon rebel) with a kit lens and editing in Picasa! I had no training, no experience and was just shooting as a hobby! I charged $50 and gave a CD and you know what, I was happy with that! But then...I got the fever...
A few months into my "hobby" (March of last year) I decided that I was ready to move forward! I was super busy and although I felt totally inadequate, I was being booked! I had been researching and studying online and asking alot of questions (which sadly, most photographers would not give me the time of day) and I learned that I really needed better equipment! So, I took the plunge and I upgraded my camera to the Canon 50D and the 50 1.4 lens! I was super excited! I also felt I needed more, so I attended a workshop with Sassyfras Studios (love those girls and so thankful for them) and they taught me how to shoot in manual!! They were patient and honest and put up with me, crying ALOT but when I left, it was time for me to get serious! I went home and bought Photoshop elements and some actions...I was ready to go...so I thought, lol!
One of the most valuable things I learned from the girls was that I needed to put more value in my work and in myself! It took me awhile, but with much fear, I took the plunge, and I increased my prices...I thought I was going to have a heart attack! Seriously, I just knew that I would never be booked again...well, I was wrong...I was now busier than ever!
So fast forward to last summer...business had really started to pick up! I bought PS3 and was finally teaching myself how to use it...well, sort of...at least enough to get by...lol! After turning several people down at first, I decided to branch into wedding...oh wow...I had no idea what I was getting into! But, after shooting my first few, I was hooked!
By the time fall had arrived, I was full-time into photography! I felt like I had "practiced" enough to once again raise my prices, had another heart attack, but I survived! And guess what? I was still booking sessions!!!
By that time, newborn sessions were really starting to interest me! I starting doing research on workshops and found out about Rachel Vanovan and her Jacksonville workshop! I was so nervous to do this...I had no confidence in myself and to be honest...it was very expensive for me at the time! But, it was the best decision for my business and I'm so thankful for Rachel! After her class my newborn photography moved up to the next level and I will be forever grateful!!
In January of this year, I launched my website and my blog...I attended WPPI and I finally feel like I can call myself a "professional photographer". I am however the first to admit that I have NOT arrived! I am still researching, studying, learning...in fact, I will be attending 2 workshops this year and I can't wait!
So, I've built up this point to get to where I feel I can discuss pricing! I am not an expert but these are my thoughts on the matter...
When you are determining what to charge, take into consideration what you have put into your business. Photography takes practice...you get better the more you shoot! When I started I was super inexpensive but I gained experience! You cannot expect to launch into the business charging the highest price...I'm a firm believer that you must earn the right to charge a premium price! I spend alot of money on my business! I'm constantly upgrading, I have $6,000 in equipment alone ( and I have at least $5,000 more I need to spend). I've spent $1,000's on props, software, computers and classes...and I still spend more upgrading on a daily basis!!! We also had to move into another home for the business. I needed office space and a newborn studio...another expense. Now, did I have to take this route? Nope, but I wanted too...the desire and the demand was there, so I stepped out on faith and did it! To God be the Glory!
I firmly believe that we need photographers on every level! I'm so sick of hearing everyone "bash" the "cheap" photographers!!! Didn't they had to start somewhere? I totally feel like there is room for us all! I was there a year ago and I'm so glad that I kept going!!! But at the same time, I'm so tired of hearing people "bash" the "expensive" photographers!!! Why do we have to "bash" anyone? I don't agree with some prices and it does bother me that some take advantage but so what? Respect them, move on and just run your business and stop worrying and talking about everyone else!!!
I charge what I charge because I know the value and the hard work that I put into my business! I have spent ALOT of money to get to where I am! I spend many, many hours editing, emailing, networking and my time is valuable! I know that there are people out there that value my work and are happy to pay for what they get... and I'm happy to serve them.
I know I have my critics...I'm okay with that! I have recently started offering workshops and mentoring and wow...I have received some slack from that! But, you know what? I'm ok with that too!!! Not everyone can afford the $1700 workshops! I am by no means talking bad about the amazing photographers who teach those...I am not on their level but I do feel confident in my work and I'm happy to share! What is wrong with that? Is there not room for us all?
So my thoughts...charge what you want to charge! Charge for your experience, charge for your equipment, charge for your training...no matter the price level, there are those who value you and your work...don't let others discourage you!
I'm preaching to the choir folks! I'm sure I will have to read this blog again tomorrow when I receive a nasty email...oh well...my skin is getting thicker by the moment!
Until next time...