Who is Going to Value Your Work if You Don't?
How much value do you place on your work? On yourself? How exactly do you place value on it?
Everyone reading this is most likely a photographer or an artist, and you have a special skill set or talent coupled with a passion for art. In ways you are set apart from everyone else, and you have distinguishing characteristics within your work. That is priceless! No matter where you are on the scale below, you have contributions to be made in this world, and no one can put a price on that. You need to value yourself, respect yourself, value your work, respect your work, and above all else respect the failures that come with being successful. Acknowledging your failures and respecting them will make you stronger, give you new perspectives and skill sets, so when I say to the beginner photographer, "You shouldn't be charging anything,"-that doesn't mean there is no value in what you do. There is value in the failures and it's best to get the failing out of the way before dealing with actual customers!
If you are a beginner, then you shouldn't be charging anything. Tha's not to say that you should be doing all shoots for free, nor does it mean that you or your work don't have value! What I mean is, practice your craft, but do it in a way that people will respect it. If you start off giving it all away for free, then that's what they'll expect in the future. I don't think anyone that doesn't know how to do basic camera functions should be charging for photoshoots. If you keep that thing in program/auto/aperture priority, because you can't do it in manual, then it doesn't matter how popular you are or how many people like your stuff, you shouldn't be charging. Period. Here are some things you can do for practice:
1.) Inside inanimate objects, like glasses or plants, or something that catches your eye. Play with your different camera functions, different lighting, etc. Watch youtube tutorials, and figure out how to do things.
2.) Take your best friend or your best friend's kids outside and practice with them. Practice a lot on of different things on different occasions. Get faster with your camera functions. I say your best friend, and what I really mean is someone you can trust not to take advantage of you later. Be wary of family members-no joke.
3.) Events/charity functions-This is a wonderful way to gain experience without charging. It's also an appropriate way to not charge either, because you are raising money for someone/something else. Post those photos on your facebook and let people tag themselves/ their friends in them etc. Don't forget your watermark, because some may want prints and if that's the case, then you have a legitimate, appropriate paying customer. If this is a private event be sure to have the right language in your contract that allows you to use those photos complete with model release section.
4.) School sporting events-see #3, but you gotta' be careful with this one and make sure there are no state/local laws that interfere etc.
First let me define this term. A shoot to burn photog takes the photographs and then burns all the images to disc either with or without editing. Many of them make the burn that very day, and they don't do any post processing. Some shoot to burns are pros and some are not.
If you don't do the post processing, you are really setting yourself up for a brand tarnishing. You need to define your style, or your niche, and post processing has it's place in that. If you abhor pp like I do, then find ways to source that out to someone else, but make sure they edit to your style and liking, and your brand.
If you are a pro "shoot to burn" photographer, and you're charging less than $250-500 for a shoot, what does that say about how you value your work? What does that say about how you value your time? You are putting yourself into the "shot to burn" category and really doing yourself and your clients a disservice. You should maintain a level of quality and stick to that. Don't just give them everything!
If you are not a pro yet, you need to stay around the average shoot to burn-$25-50 a shoot. However, going in this direction can set you up for failure. People will be upset when you take it to the next level, and it will be a long hard road to dig yourself up out of this.
A beginning professional is someone who has practiced photography for years, knows all camera functions, lighting, what to do in most situations, etc. This person is basically a professional photographer who hasn't taken the name yet, hasn't done commercial work, hasn't opened a business yet, etc. If you feel like it's time to open a business, then charge what you are worth! If you don't have your portfolio built up, then you will need to focus on doing that and doing it the right way! Here are some tips for portfolio building:
1.) In your years and experience, you'll likely have a lot of photographs you could use. Take advantage of those. If you didn't have model releases at the time just contact those folks and ask them to sign a model release. Heck you probably did their photos for free, so they'll most likely be excited about being featured on a web page!
2.) Events/charity functions-This is a wonderful way to gain experience without charging. It's also an appropriate way to not charge either, because you are raising money for someone/something else. Post those photos on your facebook and let people tag themselves/ their friends in them etc. Don't forget your watermark, because some may want prints and if that's the case, then you have a legitimate, appropriate paying customer. If this is a private event be sure to have the right language in your contract that allows you to use those photos complete with model release section.
3.) Discounted sessions-Now this is where you need to be careful. If you charge too low, people won't take you seriously either now, or in the future. There also has to be a reason you are allowing a discount. Don't just blanket it with "I need to add to my portfolio". Be specific! I don't have your particular look or style in my portfolio yet, or I don't have children this age in my portfolio yet. Being specific allows you to have more control over the situation. They will feel excited you noticed something different about them, and they will understand that you're not a beginner and that you are a professional needing a specific look or thing in their portfolio.
4.) Contests for free sessions with a call to action
5.) Referral Program
6.) Small discount for returning clients
7.) Senior Reps
You know where you are at, and you know you're a professional. If you're feeling the heat from the influx of the categories above, and you are not showing as much success as before, DO NOT LOWER YOUR PRICES! You need to stand firm as a professional. You may need to change your marketing practices or revamp your website-maybe rebrand yourself, but you should not lower your prices to compete.
Your success is determined by YOU, not the photogs or said "photogs" just entering the market!
1.) Do you have something that distinguishes you from other photogs? Charge extra for that! It's special, and it's not something everyone else is doing.
2.) Charge for the years of experience you have, your style...YOU. You are an experience not a commodity. You are an artist, and your skill is not something to just be bought or sold-it's priceless. If you've been in the industry 10+ years you should be in a wonderful position to not just be "getting by".
3.) Find a way to get more dollars into marketing, and market to those high end clients. Try a direct mail campaign to the leading households in your area. Vista Print can even help with that.
I sincerely hope this post has helped you or inspired you in some way. As always, please contact me if you have any questions!
Photographer Rock Hill SC
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