Determing YOUR WORTH!

What is your worth, not as a person, but as a photographer?  Your worth in this profession is NOT based on what you create or on what you say your work is worth, but on what a client is happily willing to pay for what you create.   In this profession we have photographers that sell an 8×10 for $150 and clients that are happy to pay it and we also have photographers that are charging double the printing cost from Costco one hour labs and their clients are complaining about paying too much, how can this be?

It is the way it should be, because what we create has nothing to do with the piece of paper what we create is printed on and consumers are not stupid.  Potential clients can see the difference between quality and crap and even in this economy or should I say especially in this economy, clients want value.  Value isn’t selecting the cheapest product or service but selecting the best product or service for the least they can pay.

Photographers as a general rule have healthy egos, so much so that many label themselves “Visual Artists” when in reality they should be sitting in a classroom, not peddling their “art” to paying clients.  This is where worth is determined and reality is separated from fiction.  When I took my first photo in photo class when I was 14 years and in high school, my mommy told me it was excellent and  I should consider photography as a  career, my daddy told me I was a photography prodigy and my friends all confirmed my enormous talent. With my head swollen at least two or three times it normal size, I started photographing everything in sight and I had a realization, I SUCKED!

I realized at 14-year-old, what many adult men and women still don’t understand and that is the “Ugly Daughter Syndrome”   Any daughter, no matter how short, heavy, balding and generally hideous to look at can ask her mother if she could be a model and guess what her mother will say, “of course you could be a model honey, you are beautiful”.  The mother has so much faith in her daughter’s beauty she will even enroll her the local modeling school,  where she can, “be a model or just act like one”.  All of her close friends tell her she is going to be a huge success and that hump on her back will add to her unique look on the runway!  After graduating from modeling school (she is a professional now!)  she goes out to interview for modeling jobs.  She finds these people are mean when they tell her that she has no chance in a modeling career and the hump on her back actually is a quality most people looking for models would consider a bad thing.  These people just don’t understand the real world, her mother and her close friends all told her she was beautiful and the people at the modeling school confirmed she had a “certain look”.

The problem here is when we listen to our family and friends about our skills we think we are something we truly are not, because they love us and want to be supportive they inflate our egos to a point we think we can do almost anything.  The problem is we then try to move way to quickly into our chosen field, whether photography or modeling.  In photography when someone doesn’t have the necessary skill, they have to charge a less than anyone else to have any takers.   This has always been an issue in photography, but now so many people are trying to sell photography first and learn how to take a decent photo later that the prices are getting pretty low.  If prices get much lower, some young photographer are going to start paying clients to take their pictures!

When you have to charge $2.50 for an 8×10 to get a client to hire you, what does that say about your worth?  The worst part of all this is when you start too soon, with your prices too low, you almost guarantee that you will never make photography your career.  After learning photography, studying lighting, posing, composition, etc. for years, I started working for clients and charging a price that was about 60%-70% as much as the professional photographers that owned studios.  As my career advanced the hardest thing in the world was raising my prices to the same level as the other photographers to make a profit that would sustain a full-time business.  That 30% increase came slowly over time and with each increase I heard complaints and lost business that I had to make up.  Can you imagine having to go from $2.50 for an 8×10 to the $40 to $100 that the average studio must charge to stay in business?

The one business fact that many young photographers don’t understand is the concept of pricing.  You can not introduce a product or service and set a price and then when you start selling more of your product or service, you quickly go up on the price.  You will lose most of your buyers, because the original price established the value of the product or service in the mind’s of potential buyers.  It is much better to start with a higher price, then discount the price as needed to bring in business.  This establishes a higher value for your product and increases business because consumer like discounts/added value!

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~ by jeffsmithbooks on June 17, 2010.

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