What is the “WORTH” of a Portrait?

Perceived Value or what value does the buying public assigns to the product or service you create.  What is the “Worth” of your photography?  For years photographers have struggled with the concepts of educating clients that they are purchasing the image we create, not the piece of paper the image is printed on.  This struggle has resulted in many photographers being able to charge a price for their portraits that could sustain a very profitable business.  These established clients continue to look for the very best in professional photography and are willing to pay handsomely for it!

Whether it is a large church, a sporting franchise or profession, we must look not at the current `FANS` of our product\service\entertainment\place of worship\etc. but the upcoming fans.  Churches and Sports teams do this successfully by having youth groups and offering programs where children attend free or father\son days.  This is getting children into the habit of spending their disposable income on something their fathers shared with them, or getting used to the idea of tidying and attending church.  This insure these organizations that tomorrow collection plates\box offices will be as full tomorrow as they are today.

Professions have the same obligation to the future.  Restaurants cater to children to bring in the parents of today, but also to groom those children that eating out is the chosen way to eat in the family.  This insures a stream of people willing to eat food that isn`t always the cheapest or best for us, but it is what our parents did and will all like sharing with our children what our parents did with us.

Photographers of my generation and before me did an excellent job of preparing the future of this profession.  We elevated the perceived value or portraiture and made the experience of taking a professional the social equivalent of their 15 minutes of fame.  Most established photographers have enough past clients that think in this way to take us into retirement.  Younger photographers however are not so lucky.  The parks are full every Saturday of people being photographed by photographers.  The new influx of huge numbers of photographers have increased the exposure of photography to the general public and they are loving it.  Photography is no longer something reserved for a special occasion or time in your life, but whenever your are asked to pose or think you want to have pictures done.  This is good, because it has brought about more interest to our profession of photography, however since it is no longer seen as special by many younger people, these younger people are not willing to pay for photography or pay very much. I have seriously had girls in Junior High send me Facebook messages and ask if they take pictures at my studio just for fun or do they have to pay for it and then they close by telling me I take the best pictures they have ever seen.

Younger photographers are changing the perceived value in the minds of the children and young people who will make up your future clients.  The effects of this problem are being seen today, but will be felt in years to come as these young people who are being taught that professional photography has little value will be the major photography buyers of the future.  I write this not as a dire prediction, but as a fact that young photographers must face and take responsibility for correcting.  I don` t think that people or professions are given challenges that are greater than the ability to overcome them.

Young photographers are going to have to work with organizations like PPA, WPPI, and others to educate tomorrows buyers today.  We all need to include children into our studios to educate the next generation about what professional photography is and isn`t.  Established photographers need to help educate younger photographers about the process of selling photography for a price that will sustain a profitable business.  Young photographers must learn that what you give away, has little value,but what you charge little for has no value in the buying public`s mind.  There are younger people who look at the value of a portrait at about the same level as lunch at a fast food restaurant!  There are people who would think nothing of spending $200 for dinner and drinks for 4 people not willing to spend the same amount for a small package for their child`s  or senior portraits!  This is a trend which much be reversed if those photographers of tomorrow are going to enjoy the same success that we established photographers have.



~ by jeffsmithbooks on March 23, 2011.

2 Responses to “What is the “WORTH” of a Portrait?”

  1. It also makes it hard for photographers such as myself who regard out work in high standards, are not as established, but are having to compete with the $150 high res CD photog. Just last night my husband was trying to talk me into going that same route. He says I’m too egotistical.

  2. Great post with good observations! The photography industry and the public’s mindset has certainly taken a disturbing change within the last 15-20 years. It will be interesting to see where it stands in another 20 years.

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