by : Amy Leavitt
The past several years have brought a large number of amateur photographers to the photography market. SLRs are more reasonably priced, and the popularity of photography has grown. Many amateur photographers don't fully understand what they're getting into when they start their own business.
Which is why many of them are undercutting the market. Let me tell you upfront, I'm one that believes undercutting hurts the photographer more than it hurts the industry.
So ask yourself -
Have you researched your market? Do you know what other photographers in your area are charging? Are you low balling them to get more clients?
If so, you may lose your business. Or you may want to quit because you can never keep up with the workload, never get a day off, never stop thinking about work. You can only stay cheap for so long before a change must be made. If you're shooting and burning portraits for $100 and in a year you're drowning, so you raise your prices, do you think those clients are going to pay $500 for the same thing? Of course not. They will find another $100 cheap photographer. It's do-able, but very difficult since you'll be starting over with a new client base.
Let's get real: Undercutting cheats both the photographer and the client, and doesn't help the industry either.
So what do I say to those who are just starting out who feel they have developed their skills, but don't have enough experience to charge clients? Simple. Do a cost of goods sold. Research your market to see what others are charging. Put away all your negative thoughts and really set a VALUE on your work. Do you value your work? Because if you don't why would a client? Once you set a price, offer an opening promotion. Call it a "portfolio building" special. It can be 20% off the session fee, 50%, whatever. But your price will be set from the start. Everyone you come in contact with will know and you won't have to make changes later. Once you feel you're experienced enough, end the promotion and go on your way.
I know because I did it. Last year I was "that" photographer. I was super busy and I could never catch up and I thought it was because I was just such a good photographer and everyone loved my work. In time, I knew I could never keep up that workload. Shooting sessions just wasn't fun anymore. My passion was dwindling and I knew I had to make a change. I did my research and raised my prices and held my breath.
And no one called.
I had no bookings for two months. But I waited. Then the inquiries started to come in and I started to have the clients I've always wanted to have. Clients who believed in the power of photography. Clients who loved my style and were willing to pay for it. Clients who valued my work because they loved it and because I valued it. These are the clients who keep coming back. I have fewer, but better clients and my income has increased this year. And I have a workload that I can keep up with.
There's always room for the cheap photographers, as soon as one quits from overload, another is there to fill the spot. So maybe the issue isn't about if you're cheating the photography market, it's about if you're cheating yourself.