Curious, Your perception of professional photography

Started Apr 17, 2012 | Discussions
rer
rer
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Curious, Your perception of professional photography
Apr 17, 2012

NOTE I have no wish to start any kind of argument only to provoke a thought process. What follows are only my thoughts and I am not saying they are right or wrong.

Pt1.

I have seen many posts in various forums about the difficulties facing professional photography. That made me wonder what people's perception of pro photography really is.

What does a pro photog sell? Do they market what they sell or do they market to something else?

I have seen some professional photgraphers go out of business because they refuse to change their business model to keep up with changes in their field. Everything changes (constantly) and businesses have to change too. If a business remains stagnant then it will be left behind and fail.

Saying that photography is so accessable to so many people is the reason that professional photography is struggling doesn't make sense to me. Look at it this way.... Everyone has an appliance to cook burgers on at home right? So why is McDonalds so successful? It is because they don't sell burgers. They sell convienience. burgers are not their product. (It is not come here our burgers taste the best, It is "you deserve a break today" or "I'm lovin it")

I don't believe pictures are a professional photographer's product either. I believe a professional photographer sells an experience they sell emotion and they sell a service. Why do pictures of little kids sell better than the pictures of mom and dad? It is because as soon as mom sees the picture of her little one her first word is "Awwwwww". Her first reaction is emotion. They see the picture of themselves and they say "yeah thats nice" lol..

But what do most photographers market to? They market print prices. Hmmmm I see a disconnect there. Market the experience. Market the emotions. Market customer service. Market your telent as a photographer.

rer
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Re: Curious, Your perception of professional photography
In reply to rer, Apr 17, 2012

Pt2.

Why do photographers worry so much about pricing prints? (Again please read the NOTE: in the first post, I do not wish to start any argument only provoke a thought process.)

Most photographers where I live have very low sitting fees and make up for it in print/package pricing. I hear many of them say that clients complain about the print pricing and do not understand why the cost is so high. They then try to explain to the client that the print price really isn’t a paper price but also includes their creativity, time, expenses, etc…. to put the image on the paper. Most people kind of get it or get confused and just move on because it is what it is. The same photographers cling to their digital images and will not let them out of the studio unless you pay their house payment to get them.

What actually happens though when the client walks out the door? They go home and scan the print and it is on Facebook at the speed of light. They go to Costco and order greeting cards with their image and do whatever else they want to do with their image. Now, most photographers say that is not legal and the client can be sued for doing that. Really? Are you Really going to sue your clients? Would you have any clients left if you did?

I say in this age of technology it is normal for clients to want to use their images in social media and items that go to family and loved ones.

What would happen if you priced for your creativity, expenses and experience up front then charged reasonably for prints and image files (with a signed release form so they can legally do what they want with them) instead of burying hidden costs into the print price? This way if they get prints done somewhere else you really do not lose that much because you already made what you needed to up front.

Market yourself using emotions, customer service and your talent to sell the up-front price of the session. Let your prospective clients know what you can offer them.

My perspective may not be what everyone wants to hear (again see Note: in first post). I’m not saying my way is the right way. Just curious.
Ron

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Biggs23
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Re: Curious, Your perception of professional photography
In reply to rer, Apr 17, 2012

Sounds more like a lecture with hypothetical questions than it does like a thread seeking actual answers.

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kb2zuz
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Sounds good for portrait photographers
In reply to rer, Apr 17, 2012

but not all professional photographers are portrait photographers (or event, or sports).
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rer
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Re: Sounds good for portrait photographers
In reply to kb2zuz, Apr 17, 2012

True it is based more on portrait photographers. Not sure T&I would fit there. I guess I was thinking more Family, Children, HS Senior photography.

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slowhands
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Re: Sounds good for portrait photographers
In reply to rer, Apr 17, 2012

See... you really need to define and refine your focus to avoid the broad brush based on narrow realities.

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backayonder
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Making a living from photography
In reply to slowhands, Apr 17, 2012

That's what it is all about and Instagram know just how do do that!
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kb2zuz
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Re: Sounds good for portrait photographers
In reply to rer, Apr 17, 2012

What about product, editorial, celebrity, travel and stock, fashion, catalogue, reproduction, forensic, ballistic, biological... the list goes on. Even if you include T&I you're leaving out a huge segment of the market, you're not even touching publication work.
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PenguinPhotoCo
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Re: Curious, Your perception of professional photography
In reply to rer, Apr 17, 2012

Business 101:

It cost money to have a business - overhead (marketing, building, gear, sign, insurance, etc).
Owner and employees expect to be paid for their work.

So you can do some math and arrive at a figure - say $100k (since its a nice round number, but a bit small for a viable business, revenue wise - typical mcdonalds does a lot more than that per month).

Photography is seasonal - jan-april is slow, fall is busy - so there is a limit to how much you can do, client/business wise. But say you aim for as $300 avg sale (low or high? depends...) so with that you need 330 clients to bring in 100k.

You could charge 300 for the session and $30 for the files or prints.

Or you could charger $30 for the session and hope they like the pics enough to spend $300 on prints/files.

A low session fee (or none at sears/etc) means low risk to the client. "If you love your pictures you just buy what you want."

It's been the way it's been done for 150 years - because the way it works is you're selling on emotion . Mom goes "awwww" over little johnny's pic and buys.

The risk is on the business, not the client. Client's not super happy with the pics they don't have to buy and their 'loss' is small. If the'd spent $300 on the session they'd be stuck. There's less incentive for the photog to work hard to please the client (trust me on that one)

rer wrote:

Pt2.

Why do photographers worry so much about pricing prints? (Again please read the NOTE: in the first post, I do not wish to start any argument only provoke a thought process.)

Most photographers where I live have very low sitting fees and make up for it in print/package pricing. I hear many of them say that clients complain about the print pricing and do not understand why the cost is so high.

If people don't complain about the price then the price is too low. Really. If the price is too high folks won't buy.

Basic reality - you only buy when what you're getting is worth more to you than the cash you're parting with. You can be a millionaire or broke - won't matter. I won't buy a new car or a 'status' car - not worth the extra cost to me over a used minivan or the like. I'll spend more on a 5 year old truck than what most new cars cost. I'm not buying "new" (aka warranty, peace of mind, reliability, etc) as they have no value to me.

The problem I see is 15 years ago there were few alternatives to sears or main st photog. You got avg quality cheap or paid high prices. Today there are many part timers offering decent pics (and more alternative than sears, et al) for 1/2 or less what main st photo wants. Consumers have more options - and more photogs to choose from, than ever before.

What actually happens though when the client walks out the door? They go home and scan the print and it is on Facebook at the speed of light.

That's so 5 years ago. Photogs today offer files/disks/FB files.

I say in this age of technology it is normal for clients to want to use their images in social media and items that go to family and loved ones.

Yep. But they're not willing to pay (much) for them. See you still need that $330 avg. So if you get someone wanting $150 session w/ files included (which is doable - but that's also what walmart charges...) you need more than twice as many clients to make the same income. That's the problem with the 'new model'. 3 to 4 times as many photogs with 1/2 the size on sales...1/4 the income means you can't make a living at it. Hence the complaining.

As someone said (paraphrased) - "you've got 4 times as many dogs fighting over the same bone - some are gonna starve and the rest will still be hungry"

Market yourself using emotions, customer service and your talent to sell the up-front price of the session. Let your prospective clients know what you can offer them.

This works to some extent. Problem is it won't work for 'new' clients - the only way the know your customer service, talent/personality and such is AFTER they've agreed to be a customer.

So if Sam Customer needs a photog he may ask around/mention it and get referred. If not he's gonna what, google and see 20 websites, 15 look the same (or good/acceptable) to him. So he then figures cheapest will work. No prices on your site? Too confusing? "$300 session w/ files" vs my "$30 session. Files included with every order. Full service studio"

Weddings used to be cheap - and you got nothing but the services of the photog. You bought albums/prints/etc later. Today you pay upfront and get the files. I'm not sure it's any cheaper than it used to be (if you compare apples to apples). The cost of cameras/business/labor hasn't gone down, so unless the photog is willing to forgo his paycheck it can't be any cheaper unless the client is getting less of something.

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Re: Curious, Your perception of professional photography
In reply to PenguinPhotoCo, Apr 18, 2012

Thanks for the detailed reply. This is the kind of conversation I was looking for.

Some very good information in your post.

Thanks,
Ron

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PenguinPhotoCo
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Re: Curious, Your perception of professional photography
In reply to rer, Apr 18, 2012

I get what you're after..too bad others don't.

I get similar reactions on forums of all kinds. I do some shooting and got into reloading and was asking about a specific brand/model and half the responses were 'you shoulda got an XXXXX instead' - useless butt-insky answers. Not sure any were really trying to be helpful just trying to brag/show off. Gun forums are also more um, exciting, as political and religious discussions are permitted.

I know a few photogs that have had a $250 (or so) 'session fee' that is then credited to their order. For them it works more a min order amount - 250 on weekdays, 400 evenings and 600 weekends is how the one did it.

I'm gonna try something like that for seniors this year -more of an incentive to come in weekdays than a penalty for evening/weekend is what I'm thinking.

I've also considered a "no session fee" where i'd charge by the outfit (call it a creative fee) where it would be credited to their purchase. Say, weekday $40/outfit, evening $60 and weekend $100, add a location for $10/outfit or maybe a flat fee. Idea has this behind it - advertise no session fee! Money spent is money forgotten (so a high session/creative fee is a good idea for this reason). THey are in control of how many outfits (I have no limit now, it's based on time. Guys avg 5 and girls 8 outfits for seniors).

Babies are what I need to do the outfit fee for - had a couple of them in here monday...their kid had 5 outfits and the nephew 3...they'll never buy that much. I've had some luck selling disks to make up the avg. I have 2 hours in the session (way too long I admit) plus an hour in the edits I"m sure, and 1.5 hours in the sales session then another hour edit/ordering. 5 or 6 hours all told. At even $70/hour I'll need a $350-400 sale to make that worth it. (walmart averages over $100/hour - sucks I can't do better). If I charged $20/outfit I'd have $160 for teh session instead of $80. And IMO $20 is cheap.

I think there's potential for baby business but it has to be done right - not the pics so much as the business model/products. Shoot and burn (aka creative fee only) may be the way to go.
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BAK
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My perception is editorial and commercial
In reply to rer, Apr 18, 2012

Mostly, my pictures help readers / viewers understand things, often but not always to the benefit of a business that pays me to create these photographs.

BAK

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Taddy
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Re: Curious, Your perception of professional photography
In reply to rer, Apr 18, 2012

You have a pricing model for this approach you would to share?

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cdembrey
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Got that right, many pros don't do retail photography.
In reply to kb2zuz, Apr 19, 2012

I'm always amazed that so many people think that Pro = Wedding/Portrait/Event photography. Meh.

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Vegasluvr
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Re: Curious, Your perception of professional photography
In reply to rer, Apr 19, 2012

I started out as a wedding photographer then soon realized that this job was seasonal and cyclical. I needed more assignments to make a go out of photography. I started shooting professional sports then covered almost every professional sport there is.

I still do commercial and wedding photography but it is not my bread and butter. I can afford to be choosy on clients I want to work for.

My core business though is to meet the needs of other professional photographers who need print services. My lab is booked solid all year around and I have no time slots of new professional photographers who wish to use my services.

I have been asked to expand so that I can accept new photographers but the problem is most professional photographers are not loyal to one lab service so I do not want to invest the large outlay in costs to purchase more digital printers and wide format printers.

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RHammar
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Re: Curious, Your perception of professional photography
In reply to rer, Apr 19, 2012

I would guess, based on 60 years experience, that the average person does not value the artistic portion of the photograsph - seeing little difference between your fine work and Unlce John's "freebie". They recognize their face in both so the free one wins out....maybe?
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rer
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BAK
In reply to BAK, Apr 19, 2012

Thanks for the reply. So in your type of photography what are the challenges that you have to overcome? How do you make it work for you?

Do you feel that digital and the masses of people having cameras and cell phones that take pictures has an effect on your business?

Do you work mostly by contract with your clients? How do you market yourself to set yourself out from the crowd?

Ron

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Taddy
In reply to rer, Apr 19, 2012

At this point I have a lot more questions than answers.

I have been in photography for more than 30 years. I don't struggle with the photography side but I am struggling on how I want the business side to be set up.

Hopefully some will share what works for them and we will both find some helpful information.

I do have some ideas but I am sure others have been there and done that and can probably give good information on why certain things work and others don't.

Ron

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cdembrey
In reply to rer, Apr 19, 2012

Are you saying that wedding/portrait/event photographers are not pros?

Of course not. You are simply stating that I did not cover all types of professional photography.

Honestly, I had no intention of stepping on anyones toes so to say. I am positive that there are professional photographers doing some types of photography that I am totaly unaware of. Had I made an attempt at listing all types of professional photographers I am certain that I would have missed someone and they would be upset.

However. I never said that wedding/portrait/event photographers are the only pros out there.

Sorry if there was a misunderstanding.

Ron

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vegasluvr
In reply to rer, Apr 19, 2012

Thank you for your reply.

This is exactly the type of reply I am looking for. You stated that you needed to overcome the seasonal aspect of your type of photography and that you did that by diversifying within photography itself to perform a service for other photographers.

It sounds like you are having success with that since you are looking at expanding.

I am sure that I will have some gaps to fill as I put together a business model for myself. You have me thinking a little more outside the box.

Thanks,
Ron

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