Monthly Archives: September 2011

[Quick Link] – Seth Godin – Patronage, Scarcity and Souvenirs

I know many of you are following Seth Godin, which is a good thing.  If you haven’t checked out his Domino Project site you ought to.  I’ve got a quick link to an article from yesterday that got my wife and I talking a lot about the photography industry, the over saturation or options and where our future lies.  Head on over and take a look and then let me know how you think this impacts you.

Want to buy a watch? Patronage, scarcity and souvenirs

While your at it, check out the new SG ebook – We are all Weird, which we’ve also been devouring over the last few days.  It highlights many of the things I’ve been talking about on the blog – being specific, appealing to a distinct group rather than the broad market, etc.  It is a good read, and if you buy it through the link below a few nickels of your purchase end up in the AMTF holiday fund.

– trr


Who’s the most expensive?

Still picking Brett’s response to Monday’s post on client education apart.  If you didn’t read yesterday’s post, now is a good time to do it.  Got that?  Awesome, now onto more picking.  Once again, here’s Brett’s comment-

I agree in general. The one thing I do like to educate on is explaining that my prices are based predominantly on supply and demand. In a way it’s still saying, “this is what I cost, take it or leave it,” but it also gives them a little something to chew on when thinking about the cheaper photographers. Hmm, if they’re so cheap, there must not be much demand… I wonder why that is?

- Brett Maxwell

OK, the next piece of the puzzle that I want to unpack is this idea that our clients will think that the cheaper photographer is in less demand that we are.  I used to think that I knew who all the photographers in the market were.  These days it seems like we are multiplying like desperate rabbits at the end of the world.  So no matter how much I think I know the market there is always someone else dominating some niche that I’ve never heard of.

If you are aiming to get beyond the startup levels of the market it is tempting to think it is you against the low-priced world.  It can seem like all you have to do is fight against that perception that the client wants the lowest-priced option.

But if the client wanted the lowest-priced option would they be talking to us?

They might be out there talking to the idiots, but no one on this blog.  Way too cool for that.  We’re trying to provide something higher-functioning.  Something fulfilling and desirable.  That’s probably why the client is interested in you.

So if the client wants something beyond, and we tell them that the more expensive guy has the more desirable whatever, we might be driving them out of our door and to the guy down the street, unless of course we are the most expensive guy in town.  It might be crazy to think but while it is clear that there is always someone cheaper, I’m continually amazed at how high the market has reached – there is also always someone more expensive than you.

If we make the argument that you get what you pay for we have to understand exactly where we stand in relation to everyone else, and we have to have a pretty solid sense of who else in the market the client is considering.  I used to be in a market where I was pretty sure that if I wasn’t the most expensive, I was vying for that title with maybe 1 other studio.  So that argument had a shot if I knew the client felt the same way.  Now I’m in a market where the sky is the limit.  In the last month I’ve been in a situation where I was the most expensive within a given client’s choice (and I got the job) and another situation where we purposefully came in a little lower than the highest quote and we lost it.

The bigger point here is that with an argument like this positioning is everything, which means paying enough attention to the rest of the market to be confident that you’re proceeding correctly.  Long-time readers of this blog know that I’m not a fan of paying too much attention to the rest of the market or making decisions based on what everyone else is doing.  However, once again Brett has brought up a good point, and if you have a solid idea about where you stand you can leverage that to your advantage.

Thanks again to Brett


If you’ve got a question or a comment drop them in the comment box below or send them to  The SEXY BUSINESS Workshop is less than a month away and we’ve still got a spot or two open if you act quickly.  We’re also planning the next set of workshops and we’ve have several requests for dates and locations – if you want to throw your two cents in on where you’d like to attend drop me a line at

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– trr

Education. Supply. Demand

Take a look at Monday’s post on why you shouldn’t educate your clients – Brett Maxwell left a great comment that you ought to check out –

I agree in general. The one thing I do like to educate on is explaining that my prices are based predominantly on supply and demand. In a way it’s still saying, “this is what I cost, take it or leave it,” but it also gives them a little something to chew on when thinking about the cheaper photographers. Hmm, if they’re so cheap, there must not be much demand… I wonder why that is?

- Brett Maxwell

Thanks Brett.  I agree with what you forwarded in general too. But it also brings up a few additional questions.  The second which I’ll discuss tomorrow is the implication of comparing yourself to cheaper AND to more expensive photographers in the market (stay tuned).  The first issue that I want to address today is about how our companies are influenced by the idea of supply and demand.

I kind of hate the idea of allowing supply and demand into the client’s mind.  For one, if invites direct, commoditized comparison which generally speaking is less advantageous for us.  Supply and demand is an economic concept that works really well to explain more commoditized goods and services where the distinct aspects of that option are less relevant than the pure function.  With respect to professional photography we’ve reached a point where the function is less salable than the intangibles.  The function of getting an in-focus, well-exposed image is pretty easy these days, so it is the more emotional, brand-oriented stuff that clients are making decisions on.  So I don’t love the idea of inviting comparison in this way.

In addition, the idea of your price being influenced by supply and demand implies the fact that there is flexibility in the pricing.  This may be good, but I personally would be wary of it.  It somewhat implies that when things get slow the price ought to drop.  I may be stretching at the moment, but I don’t like inviting the idea that the client ought to be personally invested and rewarded with lower prices if I perform worse.

Look, Brett isn’t wrong in anything that he is asserting.  My concerns are really about what thoughts we want the client thinking about us.  I tend to try and avoid being comparable to anyone by controlling the factors that distinguish and define what I do.  I also try to fight against the idea that outside influences might drive down my prices.  Having said all that, Brett has identified some benefits that you ought to think about.

Check out his work, he’s one of the good guys.

Check back tomorrow for more commentary on the subject.  I’ll be pitching my two cents on the idea that Brett brought up about inviting comparison to the demand related to cheaper photographers – what if you aren’t the highest priced photographer in contention?  Are you in effect building up the other guy’s argument?

If you aren’t connected already make sure to like AMTF on FACEBOOK and follow on TWITTER.

– trr

If you are new here…

I ended up getting quite a bit of traffic from yesterday’s post and I’m grateful for the responses and I’m working through replies to those of you who contacted me today.  Thanks very much to those of you who spread the word and those of you who checked it out. In the meantime if you’re new here check out some of the most popular posts from the past.

If you’ve got a question or a comment for the blog leave them in the comments section below or use on of the following links.  I’m happy to answer questions and if you look around you’ll see that many reader issues and questions have been featured here, so if you’ve got something you’d like to discuss let me know. If you like what you’re seeing be sure to follow on Twitter and Facebook.

many, many thanks – trr


P.S. – Almost completely sold out for next month’s Sexy Business Workshop – get in while the getting is good.  Click HERE for info.

Educating your clients on price?

When things don’t go a photographer’s way the inevitable advice is that the client is in need of some education.  The assumption being that if they only knew what we know then they would do things our way.  The problem here is that just because they understand something doesn’t mean they care. 

If a client doesn’t like your prices then it really doesn’t matter how much you paid for equipment or lab bills, does it?  If they don’t value your work, the last thing you ought to be doing is to place the value everywhere but yourself.  Don’t get suckered into playing the game of justifying how little you make.  You get outplayed and downplayed when you make the argument about how little you are worth for the client.

I’m actually sick of all the industry talk about educating the client.  You know what, this is photography, not middle school.  If you create value and if people believe in what you are doing and why you are doing it you’ll never need to justify costs.  If you need to justify or educate it means you failed on creating or communicating value someone earlier in the process.  So forget education.  Define what you do, set the terms for working with you, and deliver something delightful.  Oh yeah, while you are doing all that put the price on it that reinforces exactly how much it is worth.  Don’t apologize for it.  Photographers act like they are embarrassed to take a nickel for their work.  Why?!?!  Be proud of what you do, and unapologetic about the worth of your work.  If you are, you might find more like-minded people who agree with you.

Stop educating.  Better yet, follow the process through to the logical conclusion.  A client balks at the price, you educate them about why is costs what it does, they get their photography-cost-of-goods diploma, then what?  All of the sudden they totally want it more because they are dazzled by the benefit of paying taxes?  Whatever.  If they complain we fucked up somewhere.  Don’t worry, we all have done it and continue to make these mistakes.  Either they are not aligned with our ideals, or we didn’t get the right message out there.  These are belief problems, not cost justification problems.  So don’t waste your time or write a big, fat wall-of-text email back to them.  Move on and fix the problem at the source (your branding).

Forget educating the client.  Big waste of time.  Get it done earlier in the process.


– trr

BTW – if you didn’t get a chance to watch the “about me” video from last week there is no time like the present. – …about me…with Rachel Buckley