This year, courses really picked up. Studio lighting courses, courses on newborn and boudoir posing, etc. It’s cool, I love teaching, and it gets you talking with photographers for all walks of life. I just love hanging out with other photographers – like minded spirits. You have common interests, something to talk about, you are doing something fun together. If only dating was that easy.
A lot of those photographers have aspirations of becoming a so called “professional photographer”, someone that makes a living from photography. Since you are reading this, you probably already figured out that this is harder than it seems. There are a lot of hurdles to overcome, but one of the questions that I get probably asked the most is “How much money can/should I charge”? There is a lot of uncertainty out there: A lot of photographers just look at other photographers and copy their prices, not withstanding that those guys may have done the same, or live in another city/country with a completely different market, or even worse; Made up those numbers without having a proper plan behind it.
Maybe not the best way to go about it. Others just try and be cheaper than others. Problem with that “strategy” is: There is always someone cheaper. You can’t compete with free (unless you are handing people money), so it’s a race to the bottom.
Lets Take a Step Back
So lets take a step back, and answer the following question: “How much can I charge for my photography”. There are a number of things to consider, and more than one way to go about it. But first of, lets define “you”. Since you are asking the question in the first place, lets assume you are a photographer (yes, that does matter!), and you want to make money from your photography. Lets also assume you are serious about it. Making enough for “beer money” is really not that hard. Lets assume you want to make a living. And lets assume you have some notion of “quality”. if the above assumptions don’t resonate with you, this series is not for you.
Please note: The question we are asking is not “how much do I HAVE to make to survive. we will go into that as well. We are also not asking “how much should I charge”? First and foremost, we are simply asking “how much can I charge”. How much does my market support?
Traditionally, one goes about it the other way around, but I don’t agree. As photographers, we are as much artists as we are business people. And yes, you have to be both – no way around it. However, you don’t want to sacrifice the art, either. It doesn’t help if we calculate a “cost per shoot”, then double it, and no one is going to buy from you.
Lets Do This – Are You Ready?
Lets start by re-phrasing the question: Lets ask “How much are clients willing to pay for my services?”
Well, when you think of it, that of course depends on how much people value what you do for them. Value…. Some people will pay a substantial amount of money on, say, shoes. Others will look at the same pairs and say “I would never…” There are two lessons to be learned here:
1) People will pay for what they value
2) Some people will value what you do, and some won’t. As they say: You can’t be everybody’s darling.
You can of course turn this around: The more people value what you do, the more you can charge
If not everyone is your client, how, then, do we identify those who are? Your “ideal clients”. Well, first of, we need to understand what value we actually provide. And we will talk about the whole “value concept in the next installment”. Stay tuned