Why do I have to keep telling people that the photography business is not about photography, it is about business. Photography is just the product that the business is built around.
I am tired, very tired, of new “professional” photographers that can’t understand the idea that photography is a business. At least, it is as soon as you say you are a professional. I constantly hear from these people: “I can’t charge the same rates as my competition. I’m new and I just don’t feel right doing that.” or “I’m not good enough to charge the full rate for this job. I don’t have the experience.” The hell you aren’t!
If a new McDonald’s opens across town do they charge any less than the first McDonald’s in town? It’s a new franchise owner and they have never owned a restaurant before so I guess we should go to the new one because they will be cheaper. No they won’t! They charge the same price as the other one for the same service and the same food. So if you are the new photographer in town and you have the skills and the talent to do the job, why are you afraid to charge for the same service?!
I understand that new photographers may not have the experience that some clients want, and that is fine. However if they have the talent to get the shot, they have the ability to do it in a professional manner and they deliver the results the client wants why are they charging less than they are worth?
Sure there is a variable in rates from the inexperienced to the seasoned pro to a reasonable extent. The new photog in town is not going to command the rate that a Joe McNally, a David Hobby or a Helmut Newton (if he were still alive)would but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth the same amount that the other photogs in town are worth. If the end result is the same and the service provided is the same (excluding individual artistic style), why not get the same fee?
Then there is the client that loves to exploit that. That client is always going to go for the cheapest rate he can find because his images only have to be good enough to get by. Guess what? There are always going to be the bottom dwellers that can feed here, but when I see a talented photographer damn near giving their services away it gets me angry.
I have been shooting professionally for years and I have raised my rates over time but they have always been near what my competition is charging too. This does a number of things for me and for the business itself. For one it keeps all of the pro shooters in check. Our clients know that when they come to us they are going to get XYZ service for ABC cost. They also know that the quality is going to be of a certain professional level. This means that if Joe Blow over on the other side of town is charging twice what I charge, he better have an added value of some kind that I can’t provide. If he doesn’t then the client will go to someone else in town.
Another thing consistent rates do is show a commitment to servicing our clients. We can’t survive in the business world without being our clients’ advocate, at least to some extent. To do that is to provide that added value.
When these new photographers come along they often haven’t been taught much about business. This means they may not be aware of the cost of doing business. Do they understand that there is a cost every time you press the shutter? “But it’s digital so it’s free!” No it isn’t! There are only so many times that shutter can be pressed before that camera has to be replaced or repaired. Then there is the cost of the computer they will upload the images to, the time processing them in the expensive software they purchased and the desk all that stuff sits on. Plus there is the cost of insurances that protects us and our clients.
I can go on and on and on but I think you get my point. If you are a pro, act like one. If you need to hire a pro, hire one, and pay them a fair rate. After all the old saying is true; if it seems too good to be true…