Monthly Archives: July 2013

“But I don’t need the money…”

Many people enter into professional photography without actually needing the money.  I don’t really care what circumstances someone might operate under that affords them the luxury of “not needing the money” from photography.  I’m not here to judge someone’s situation.  I have to say this, and I mean it as supportively as possible… If you don’t need the money I don’t have the slightest idea why the hell you want to dabble in professional photography?

If you don’t need the money and you want to do something with a camera for heaven’s sake do something really valuable with it.  Take a photograph that is going to change the world, or bring awareness to something we ought to know more about.  Do something with your camera that could save a life (or thousands of them).  People who “don’t need the money” are those with the luxury to make a significant difference in the world. 

Unfortunately most people squander that luxury and instead retread the same portrait and wedding photography as everyone else.  If you don’t need the money and you aim low with your pricing or you half-ass your branding and marketing then you’re basically creating a charity for the middle-to-upper class.  Would you create a 501c3 organization to make sure all suburban middle-class kids get Netflix?  Hell no, because if you want to be able to stream LOST any town, any time then you ought to pay the $8 a month.  It would be an affront to real causes to champion that organization.  Based on my analytics I’m pretty comfortable saying that the vast majority of readers to this site are wealthy compared to the majority of people on Earth.  Really, you are.  You’ve got all kinds of cool stuff – you’re probably reading this on a nice laptop or an indulgent smartphone through a nice connection with ample bandwidth.   You aren’t entitled to streaming video if you can’t pay for it.

Lower-to-upper class people ought to be paying for professional photos.  They ought to be paying full, sustainable, profitable prices (read – higher prices than most ‘professionals’ are charging).  Don’t give it away for free or a pittance.  It isn’t a privilege to shoot their photos, it is a privilege to work the line at a soup kitchen.

I live in a condo.  Luckily, our property values are going up.  If I didn’t need the money I could sell my unit on a whim for $100,000 under market value.  But I sure would be fucking my neighbors.  They’d still be able to sell of course, but my comparable lowball sale would make things more difficult.  What do you think happens if 4-5 people follow my lead?  Some of my neighbors actually need the money.  I’d actually need the money too.

If you don’t need the money and you want to do something fulfilling with your camera all I’m asking is that you give 30 seconds of thought to the most meaningful thing you could do.  You could copy that frog-pose with a newborn in a knit hat or backlight a bride and groom really small in the frame for a few bucks if you like, but I think you’re capable of making a bigger impact than that.

– trr

 

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Question – how to network with wedding planners

I know you’ve had some huge success networking with wedding planners. We’re starting to invest more time networking with planners and we have some upcoming sitdowns/introductory meetings scheduled with planners that we have not necessarily worked with before. Do you have any tips other than developing a friendly relationship and understanding each side’s value propositions? One obstacle I’m hoping to overcome is that I’m assuming the planner already has a few photographers that she recommends (i.e. she shares an office space with a photographer). Establishing ourselves as a perfect fit for niche clients is the idea, but I’m just wondering if you’ve had any specific techniques that have worked well in the past.

- Jaime + Lincoln Bartlett

To be honest it is really difficult to recommend anything other than understanding each side’s value proposition.  Understanding what they do and what they want helps you connect them with people who want the same thing, and when they know what you want and what you are best at providing they can refer you appropriately.  I’ve found that it is always best to ask questions and really show an interest in them more than you pitch yourself.

If the planner takes a meeting then they don’t have all the resources that they need.  People come and go, relationships ebb and there is always room another specific, perfect solution to a given problem.  Also, sometimes it really helps to be a new option, if for nothing else than to spice things up and try something different – so use that to your advantage.  You really want to occupy a space in the planner’s head that triggers your name when that situation presents itself so be very specific about how you know when you are right for a given client.  Don’t claim to be perfect for everyone – that’s a recipe for no referrals.  When you’re thinking about how to communicate what and who you are perfect for do so in terms that the planner understands.  They don’t know much about photography, but they do deal with budgets and pickiness and indecisiveness and things like that.  So communicating your administrative style and getting into a little armchair-client-psychology will help you better speak the planner’s language.  Don’t talk all about photo technique or your work – it probably all looks the same to them.

Other than that being likable is a benefit.  You don’t have to be real-life friends (business-friends is good enough) but being the kind of person that other people want to see do well is a huge plus.  So be kind and be purposefully helpful.  Don’t fake it, just be a person – they’re just people after all.

It really isn’t super-complicated, most people are far more afraid of professional networking than is reasonable.  Networking with other vendors is the most direct action you can take to drive wedding business in particular – so head outside of your comfort zone and think about who you can connect with today.

- trr

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Hourly Coverage vs. “Unlimited” II

Lots of activity on this week’s “Hourly Coverage vs. Unlimited” post earlier in the week.  Check out this comment from Jolie:

Todd,

I appreciate the notion of pricing being formed around the what “makes me and what I do for you unique” factors and that those factors play a significant role in a couple’s choice of photographer. I get what you’re trying to say about not breaking out the calculator and using dollars per hour as the basis of one’s price structure. But after thinking about the article, I wonder how you arrived at a place where the amount of time devoted to a client before, during and after their photographed event isn’t factored into some part of your price? Or is it to some degree, and I’ve misunderstood you?

You stated you charge the same for a slightly smaller wedding. What about weddings that are significantly larger or smaller in scale and hours than your “average”–still the same final price too? Perhaps you’ve positioned your business to serve a specific market and served it long enough to know the coverage range, allowing you to set a price package(s) that makes the hours spent irrelevant?

It seems to me this country is preoccupied with time. The multi-tasking. The over-scheduling. How often do you hear, “How long will it take?” We pay extra for things be rushed and we pay extra for things to go slower. Even during the wedding planning, a couple can be faced with time issues for the venue, the officiant, music and church. So while the hours required to execute a service isn’t an exciting concept, time does play a role, yes even if it isn’t explicitly stated to the client? That’s the part of the article that felt vague to me.

OK, so “yes” the amount of time devoted to the client is taken into consideration when we price.  I think that per-hour pricing is really only relevant in a volume-studio situation where you can actually fill every hour with paying work.  Since I don’t run a model like that each hour really isn’t as valuable as the next.  I also don’t want to run a business where I have to sell time to make a profit – I don’t have as much time as I’d need to make what I want in that case.  I’m really more concerned with the overall amount of money that I want to make and how much work I want to do to bring in that sum.  So I’m more focused on the overall number of jobs booked hitting a desired amount.  In the grand scheme of a year and hour or two plus or minus on a wedding really doesn’t impact the plan.  I consider it more of a “day rate” business for my own business (again YMMV).

I do tend to have a pretty good handle on my market acts and my preparation system tends to make every job work the same way.  To be honest, I can’t say that my work changes much if the wedding is very small and intimate or enormous – the approach is largely the same so I really don’t see the need to charge differently.  Then again, I’m primarily selling the approach and belief system  behind it, so the minor differences in wedding size really don’t impact the back-end of my business.

I do agree that many services that may be comparable to ours are built on time.  I’ve simply built a business where the relative amount of time in preparation, execution and post-processing is basically the same regardless of the wedding details.  Some people do pay more to make things go faster.  Some people pay more to indulge their time.  Some people pay more to not concern themselves with time.  I’ve just picked my market.

Thanks for the comment!

– trr

 

 

 

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Hourly coverage vs. “Unlimited”

Wedding photographers tend to be pretty concerned with pricing and how you offer your service.  I’ve heard the argument about respecting your time – that if you don’t charge for every minute the client won’t respect your time and will run over you in negotiation.  But it almost seems too easy to offer “unlimited” coverage and basically make time a non-issue while potentially allowing yourself to be taken advantage of.

I know what I do, and I’ve never been big on making an issue of what I do – you’ve got to do what is right for you. But I do think that “time” is a somewhat strange metric to base all pricing on.  I don’t think anyone thinks about their wedding in terms of how long it is going to take.  It is very difficult to equate deliverables to how much time is spent (sure, it makes sense to us photographers, but I think we understand it largely through the experiences that we’ve had that the client simply doesn’t have).  I do tend to think that many people fantasize about what their wedding will be like – I doubt that any of those fantasies involved a clock.

I realize that time is relevant to us as professionals.  But I think that anything that we care about has to become a value to the client if we are going to make it a decision point for them.  I don’t love making time an issue for clients because it isn’t a positive metric in their minds or anything that they are excited to worry about.  Anything that you make a pricing-based decision point ought to be something exciting to think about in my opinion.  Time doesn’t seem like an exciting thing from the client’s perspective.  I want the decision points to be things they could want, and things they are interested in – I don’t want to focus on what they aren’t getting.

That doesn’t mean that I think you should do “unlimited” coverage.  Besides, everyone who says “unlimited” puts a fucking limit on it anyway which makes the whole concept ridiculous.  Regardless of the way that you build it you need to manage expectations on what you’re going to do, what you aren’t going to do, what options the client has, and what the ramifications of those options are.  Expectation management always rules in this case.  You can’t charge the client more in the moment if they don’t understand what you’re charging or why.  And as a side note, a contract is NOT a communication device (it is a protective device) so you can’t expect them to read the contract and understand how your system works.

But I like to think about it like this – I want to be paid for what I’m doing, not how long I’m doing it.  I don’t think it should cost less for me to shoot because this job is a little shorter than the next.  The value of what I do (IMO) is the preparation, the reputation, trustworthiness, the approach, etc.  None of those things have anything to do with how long I’m doing the job.  If I want to sell those things then making time a decision point seems silly and takes the focus off of the things I want them thinking about.  When you charge for something you tell the client that it is important to think about – I personally don’t want them to be thinking about time.  Your approach may be very different, and you should act accordingly.

What do you think?

 

– trr

 

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