It seems like everything there is a photography industry mini-event someone asks my opinion. I wasn’t going to respond to this one until I saw some of the other responses from my colleagues. You know the drill – if you haven’t read the “craigslist-y’all-photographers-are-wack” post have at it and join me back for some commentary (totally archived by petapixel.com -many thanks):
OK, this client is mad about wedding photography prices. And a slew of my colleagues have taken to the interwebs to state their case, defend their prices, explain their expenses and generally hunker down to commiserate about how this client just doesn’t get it. Guess what?
I THINK SHE IS COMPLETELY FUCKING RIGHT.
Did you feel that when I got all controversial in your face!?!?!?* Yeah, I think she sort of has a point. I grew up lower-middle to middle class. $3000 is a lot of money for most of us. So I totally get where she is coming from. And I know what you dear listeners are saying, “this isn’t my client!!!” Yeah, you’re probably right. For instance, she is looking for a:
“decently priced, exceptional, amazingly talented, fun photographer”
Sure, she wants everything to be amazing except the price. Probably going to be disappointed, right?
So on this point I’m totally with you naysayers. But my problem isn’t with her attitude, my problem is with photographers manically posting their budgets and cost breakouts to prove a point.
Your expenses do not justify your price. Say it with once more with feeling brothers and sisters – YOUR EXPENSES DO NOT JUSTIFY YOUR PRICE. It doesn’t matter to the client how much it costs to run your business or your life. That in and of itself does not tell the client why your product is worth what you are asking for it. Covering the expenses is your problem, not theirs.
Our problem in this case is not one of “education” as so many photographers put it. Think of it this way, how often do you want someone who is in direct opposition to you to “educate” you? Aren’t you apt to feel as if they are talking down to you, or perhaps mounting that high horse to speak as some sort of self-appointed authority? She doesn’t need to understand the back-end of how a photography business pays the bills.
The client needs to see the value. That’s OUR problem not HERS. If she doesn’t see the value she probably isn’t going to hire an established pro, but for some reason she thinks she deserves to. This is our fault as an industry. Our fault for devaluing so many aspects of what we offer that it looks like we’re trying to ripoff the client when we charge barely appropriately.
For something to be worth $3000 or more it needs to be valuable to the client. That isn’t chump change to the majority of the people we are going to be working with. I’m going to be honest, I want (significantly) more than $3K to photograph a wedding. For that to happen I have to provide that kind of value to the client’s life. I don’t hand them my general expenses itemized out when I slide the price list across the table. I actually have to, you know, BE valuable.
Look, on the one hand I’m sort of thrilled that some photographers have a handle on their expenses and general finances. That’s a good sign. But we have to go beyond what we need to make and provide compelling value to someone’s life in order to actually earn what we need. But what we need does not justify what we charge. What we mean just might. What does it mean to work with us? What does it say about a client to hang our work on their walls? What can we help make true about a client’s wedding or family or children or whatever by virtue of our work making it evident and true?
Photographers need to stop preaching to the choir and complaining in closed circles about how clients just don’t understand. They need to get out there and make them believe. If the client doesn’t get it that’s our fault first and foremost. The client isn’t responsible to cover our expenses, it is our responsibility to be valuable enough to cover them.
Then again, I could be wrong – what do you think?
P.S. – absolutely no disrespect intended to those who I linked to. They’re stating their opinion just like me. My opinion is no better or worse. Just trying to add my own perspective to the discussion.
* as a side note, the controversy statement was for my friend Laura Romero, uber-portrait-lifestyle-photographer/style maven who keeps encouraging me to take off the brakes and be even more honest and blunt. As such, it was basically a public joke for one person, which is really the best kind of joke ever.