Stop giving away shoots and start charging for your services.
Every time you are advertising the fact that you do your work for free, you are telling clients, and potential clients (and the world in general), that what you do isn’t worth anything.
Take a look at businesses around you that aren’t photographers. Are they talking about the value they give their clients? Explaining what they do? Sharing great results? Or are they asking for “test clients” or someone to get a product or service for free?
If a plumber gives away a day of plumbing, someone will still have to book them when their pipes burst or they are installing a new faucet.
Stop giving away shoots
No one NEEDS photography. It’s something people WANT. And it’s YOUR job to make your followers realize that they want it.
And if you instead are talking about how they can get a session for free, what you are doing is devaluing what you do. You make your work seem less valuable. You’re sending a message of “this is not worth paying for” or “I’m not getting enough business so I’m doing it for free”. If you look at it from a client’s point of view, does it make it more likely that you’ll get booked?
Stop giving away shoots. Or more accurately, stop ADVERTISING that you’re giving away shoots. If you think you need more photos for your portfolio (which you probably don’t), or you need to practice something new, reach out to people personally and ask them if they want to model. Don’t advertise it.
If you want to make a living from photography you need to charge for the work you do.
I get the fear of not getting enough bookings, and I understand that you really want to photograph. But before you do giveaways or discounts, ask yourself “why am I doing this?”, “what am I hoping is going to come from this?”.
Clients you photograph for free or at a low rate are probably very different from those who are willing to pay the amount you actually need to charge. And clients you get in the door because you’re running an offer aren’t very likely to buy a lot from you either. So you’re most likely adding on a lot of work and not getting much in return.
Same thing if you’re thinking that you’re going to get a lot of new followers. Will the new followers you get because you’ve had a giveaway give you many new clients?
But I want you to think about it, get clear on what you want, and find the best way of getting just that.
Making the price profitable
I’d been told I was too expensive and believed it. It led to me giving discounts, thinking that I should work for free, not thinking it was possible to make a living from photography.
But if you have a photography business or you want to make a living from photography, it’s so important to figure out your prices. I know I talk about this all the time, but it’s just so important.
Photography is so much work, there are a ton of expenses, and you need to figure out what you need to charge to make a living.
I started out with super low prices, and then I based my prices on what I saw others charging. Long story short – it took years before my business was profitable. And I KNOW I’m not the only one who’s had this strategy.
Here are some tips:
- When you are determining your prices they first and foremost have to be profitable. You also have to adjust based on the capacity you have and how many bookings you usually manage to secure. More inquiries mean you can be more selective in what you decide to take on, and you can increase your prices. Fewer inquiries do NOT mean that you should lower your rates though.
- There is a lot of time and expenses that go into product sales, and you have to factor that in. That’s why products cost quite a bit more to sell than to buy. You can’t just double the price and think that’s enough. Again, sales tax, shipping costs, the time you spend ordering, the time it takes to get the order from the client, pick it up, send it out, or if you make it yourself it takes even more time. And you also have to think about the cost of misproducing and ordering the wrong product. I sent in the wrong image size to get framed, and then I had to pay for a new print and a new frame. At some point, you’re bound to make a mistake and your margins can’t be so slim that it might knock you out of business.
It’s also important to understand how pricing psychology plays a part.
One psychological principle is the anchoring effect. Think about your grandparents. And how they might say “I remember when ice cream was only a few cents or my dad says that his first apartment cost 20k.
And then it feels like things are getting more expensive as time goes on because prices and inflation go up. In reality, it might not actually be more expensive, probably a lot of things cost less because we have more money in general, but it feels more expensive. And that feeling is also true when it comes to photography prices. If you present your highest package first, it makes your smaller packages seem more affordable. And why it might be hard to sell a product or service if you only have one.
Another principle is the concept of perceived value. Consumers often associate higher prices with higher quality, which can be an advantage for photographers who want to position themselves as offering premium services.
However, if the price is too high, it can also deter potential clients who are looking for a more affordable option. So you have to know who you are wanting to work with to be able to create the best packages. But no matter who you want to work with – your prices have to be profitable.
Finding the right price for your photography
Remember that photography isn’t a necessity for anyone – you have to make sure you present it as worth paying for! And it’s important that you take your business seriously. You are good enough, you probably don’t need a bigger portfolio and photography should be quote unquote expensive. It should cost money. Don’t stand in your own way and dare to charge for your work.
If you’re not getting booked you need to work on your business skills, your branding, and the way you present your offers. The solution is not to discount your work or to tell your followers that you’re not worth paying for.
Ingvild Kolnes is the host of the Sustainable Photography Podcast, an educator for photographers, and is ready to help you with your photography business.
hi, i'm ingvild
This podcast is all about education and inspiration for photographers. A sustainable business is profitable and lasting. Instead of short-term wins you want to make sure you’re doing things that matter. Both to yourself, and to create the business you want. The goal of this podcast is that it will help you build and structure your business around your life, instead of the other way around.
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