Monthly Archives: March 2011

Postcards from the road…

Hey everyone!

First, I just want to thank everyone for the feedback, retweeting, emails, and general support that I’ve been feeling over the last few weeks – pretty overwhelming! I wanted to let you all know that things might be a little sporadic on the blog till next week. Jamie and I have packed everything we own into a uHaul truck and as of Thursday morning we we have sold the first house we owned together and we’re moving South to Atlanta. So connections will be spotty and time to blog might be a little cruched till we get settled.

Having said that, I’ll still be checking emails and comments so keep them coming. I’m going to be driving that damn truck over 700 miles at a swift and breakneck pace of 45 miles an hour so I will have a ton of time to mentally formulate responses so keep the feedback coming.

Also, I have had a ton of requests for personal consultations over the last two weeks. Typically we schedule a preliminary phone call to talk about where you are and where you want to go and what we can do to get there. I’ll be able to get back on that horse and address those inquiries by the beginning of next week so if you are interested please let me know by email and i will get back to you next week-

Thanks again, and hang in there! I’m hoping to post updates and queued up posts as I can find Internet and we will be back to normal by next week.

– trr (gone fishin’)

Raised Prices = No clients?

Hey everyone.  Another audio post today – this time a response to a comment that came in for the Giving Discounts post from last week.  Susan asks:

Great post…. So what do you do if jacking up your prices and offering no discounts leaves you with zero customers?

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Hit play to check out my response and some steps going forward.  (Executive summary – good riddance!  Now get to work.)

You can send the responses to the homework assignment through email, Twitter or the comments section.  Thanks!!

– trr

[Question] – Client wants RAW files.

“Hi Todd, I’ve been sitting here reading your blog all morning. It’s just so real and refreshing to read, thank you for that!I wanted to ask you about clients that ask for RAW files from their wedding. I recently had a client WRITE IN and initial on my contract that they would receive RAW files. Can you explain why you feel clients ask for RAW files, and how that maybe ties into trusting the photographers brand, and any other points on this subject?”

Brian Virts, Brain Virts Photography

Hey – thanks Brian.   Quick question – what is a client going to do with RAW files?  Go ahead – ask them.  Chances are one of two things – they are trying to save money by doing the work themselves, or they don’t trust your processing/turnaround/trustworthiness, etc.

Now, the popular thing in photographer circles is to start talking about red flags and lying about already being booked.  This tends to avoid the problem.  Something that you have put out into the world has indicated that you are willing to compromise on the work or negotiate your rates downward.  That, or they have seen or heard something about your work that leads them to think that they could do better or that you might not deliver.  The likelihood is that they are trying to save money.  That’s totally understandable, but in reality the Do-it-Yourselfer is rarely the type of person that will invest in a luxury product.  They might, but you need for them to go for it all-the-way and if they are trying to do half the work for you, well, the branding hasn’t convinced them yet.

So, what we have to do is get them thinking about something other than how much they might save.  I hate to keep banging the branding drum, but we have to give them something to be wrapped up in that makes them think about emotions/meaning/purpose instead of price.  From there, we need to make sure that we exude confidence and set the tone for how we are going to professionally and efficiently manage the entire process and relationship.  You have to politely dominate the client and set the rules for moving forward.

Now, that’s just what I think, and I could be wrong about a given client.  But as far as I can tell there aren’t a ton of universal reasons why the RAW files would even come up.  The price thing is nearly the only one I can really imagine.  But, I’m prepared to be wrong, so if anyone it the veteran of a RAW file negotiation and would like to add their two cents please feel free in the comments section, through Twitter or email.  Thanks Brian!

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– trr

The middle ground between amateur and professional…

Hey everyone.  I’m going to try something a little different today.  I’m posting up a quick-and-dirty audio response to this comment from Crystal to yesterday’s Giving Discounts post.

After reading your post…I started a bit of discussion in a forum I’m in…wondering where those ‘just starting out’ fit in. Those good enough to be offering quality photos…but without a portfolio of great images….we often call them ‘portfolio builders’. My interpretation of your article…is practice until you are good enough to go into business charging full price. Is that how you intended it? Or is there a small space in the photography world reserved for photographers who are good, but not PRO, that deserve to be paid something for their time…even if it’s not full professional rates?

Crystal Samson, Life Captured Photography by Crystal

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Click PLAY to launch the blather…

Let me know what you think.  Do you feel there should be a middle ground?  Do you think the middle ground is a benefit to your clients?  Is it better for the industry?  What do you think about the audio response – better or worse that slogging through the written word?  Thanks for checking this post out, please feel free to pass it on and please check out the links below.

– trr

[LINK] Giving Discounts…

I’ve got an axe to grind today.  Over on the Fred Miranda Wedding forum there were some discussions going on about starting rates for photographers and whether or not giving discounts is a good business idea.  Tony Hoffer posted a good breakdown of some general costs (and link-dropped this blog post – thanks Tony).  There were some responses to Tony’s breakdown including this one –

“You are going to have them (- general expenses in this case – TRR)  regardless of whether or not you shoot 10 weddings or 30 weddings. So to offer a discount on one or two weddings is not really going to negatively affect your bottom line in a meaningful way. I would still rather have a discounted wedding in hand than no wedding at all.”

I’m going to share my response here because I’d love to see what you guys think. –

You are referring to general expenses vs. COGS. It is technically true that the general expenses are fixed. This line of thinking is totally flawed in the long run, however. Discounting absolutely damages the bottom line, as well as the efficiency of the business and the sustainability. It does damage the business in massively harmful ways that are very evident over time. I speak from personal and research-based experience.  My advice is to NEVER discount to get the wedding today. Take that Saturday you didn’t book a wedding and improve your branding/marketing/value proposition in order to get the right wedding – that
is the sustainable path forward.

What I am about to say is mean, and I understand that so bear with me.  If you don’t care about profit as much or more than your “passion” you are a rank amateur.

I’ll let the hate sink in for a moment…

The root of the word amateur (ama – amore, etc.) means to “act for the love of” meaning that you do the thing for the enjoyment of doing it. Amateurs ruin it for everyone else.  Amateurs are way more concerned with keeping the photographic supply industry in business than they are about keeping professional photography alive and respected. They say passion is a substitute for professionalism.  Bullshit. And yes, I am saying that if you don’t charge a sustainable and profitable amount you are unprofessional. Professionalism encompasses a number of qualities, and I’m here to draw a line in the sand and say profitability is one of them.

If you are an amateur, then embrace it, be one, and take photographs FOR FREE. If you aspire to being a professional, stop baby-stepping, waffling, and pussyfooting around the issue and charge accordingly.

Now, let’s put aside the meanness for a moment and look on the bright side – you can charge profitably tomorrow if you want to. The resources are out there to understand how to hit the right numbers and calculate everything correctly (if you can’t find them let me know and I will point you there). Its simply a choice to do it. But stop hiding behind passion. Passion is free.  Passion has absolutely no value in this world without follow through and execution. Following through and executing are EASY. They are also scary, but nothing worth doing is without risk.

Sorry if I offended. But tough love is tough.

Now, I realize that some of what I said is going to perhaps anger some people or hurt some feelings, but I think that given the issues that the industry is facing it doesn’t make sense to keep ignoring the profitability issue.  Frankly, I love how passionate photographers can be about their work.  I commend them, and I’m typically very jealous at how deeply most seem to feel about their work.  I guess I’m just trying to find some way to help people apply that passion in the real world.  I’d like to see it get EASIER to be a professional instead of harder.  I’d like to see fellow photographers as colleagues who are helping to grow and develop the industry (and support it by charging accordingly) rather than viewing photographers as competition to be beaten and undercut.

I was a part-time guy too.  I get it.  I understand that getting the ball rolling on a business is difficult.  I understand that the financial ramifications are terrifying.  I guess I’m just trying to say that I was there too, and getting through wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it was going to be.  That, and I’ve come across thousands of photographers who have done it too.  So the path is out there.  There is some support waiting for you.

Sorry for the ranty nature of this post, let me know what you guys think

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– trr