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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  1. Bec July 29, 2013 at 4:48 ambuy Lyrica mexico

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  3. buy Lyrica canada July 29, 2013 at 4:35 pmcheap sunglasses lyrics

    Today’s “get off my lawn!” speech.

    What if you suck photographically (compared to pros) but are good enough that people will pay something? Does one not charge anything until they are “good enough”, then charge full price? Wouldn’t that path be even more of a middle class charity, since cheapskate/poor mom could then get baby portraits for free, instead of $100?

    • buy Lyrica from mexico July 29, 2013 at 5:00 pmpurchase Lyrica

      “Does one not charge anything until they are “good enough”, then charge full price? ”

      That would be my advice, yes.

      – trr

      • buy Lyrica July 30, 2013 at 6:25 pmbuy Pregabalin Lyrica online

        Absolutely. I don’t recommend practicing on paying clients. Practice on family and friends, second shoot, get assistant jobs, etc. until you are ‘good enough’ to be hired at full price (sustainable).

  4. purchase Pregabalin July 29, 2013 at 6:28 pmbuy Lyrica uk

    So very true.

  5. I have to disagree with your first 2 paragraphs (but I think you’re spot on with the rest of the post). Generally speaking, if you have to say “I’m not here to judge someone’s situation” there’s a very good chance you are about to be judgmental…

    Let’s be honest – the vast majority of photographers you are referring to in paragraph 1 are probably women. I’m going to guess a lot of them are also moms that stay at home with their kids. Those dreaded “moms with a camera” everyone loves to bitch about. In full disclosure – I am one of those photographers that doesn’t need the money, the dreaded “mom with a camera.” I know I am very fortunate to be in a position where my family is not relying on my photography income to put food on the table, but make no mistake: for many years my husband and I were NOT in that kind of position, and we worked damn hard to get to this place. If we are ever in a place where we are again relying on my income to survive, you can bet I won’t be “dabbling” in photography. So my question to you is: how is there anything remotely “supportive” about your opinion in the first paragraph? Sounds more like whining to me.

    Why does it matter why I chose to pursue professional photography instead of continuing with my previous career or deciding to “just” stay at home with my kids? How does that have anything to do with the greater discussion about pricing your photography to create a sustainable business? Seems to me the only thing that matters to this post is not the reasons for getting into the photography business but rather how you conduct yourself and how you price yourself in order to make the photography industry sustainable as a whole. Regardless of your reasons for getting into the profession or whether you need the money or not, the fact remains that the industry as a whole is suffering from low pricing and low expectations.

    Regarding the luxury of “changing the world with your photographs” – why am I responsible to create images that will somehow save the world, but full time professional photographers who “need” to make money can continue to put out crappy, meaningless wedding and portrait images? Aren’t we all responsible for creating technically sound, meaningful photographs for our clients? Why should the subject matter of the photography differ depending on how badly the photographer needs to get paid? Seems to me those in a position where they don’t need the money from their photography could still “frog-pose with a newborn in a knit hat or backlight a bride and groom really small in the frame for a few bucks” and then donate those few bucks to a charitable organization. What’s wrong with making a buck to then donate it? I would hope we could think of more ways to make a significant difference in this world than taking a photograph.

    • Hey Melissa,

      “Generally speaking, if you have to say “I’m not here to judge someone’s situation” there’s a very good chance you are about to be judgmental…

      Let’s be honest – the vast majority of photographers you are referring to in paragraph 1 are probably women. I’m going to guess a lot of them are also moms that stay at home with their kids. Those dreaded “moms with a camera” everyone loves to bitch about.”

      I specifically said that I didn’t want to judge situation because I specifically wanted to avoid the “mom with a camera” issue. This isn’t about moms and cameras, this is about making excuses for not pursuing profitability and sustainability or using weak pricing as the singular marketing tactic.

      I’m totally fine with being called a whiner in this case. I can see how that’s the perception, and if you want to go with that it is totally cool. In a blog post I can’t change a business, all I can do is try to offer a different perspective on what a business might be and why it might work (or not). In this case motivation and goals are everything. I believe that too many people are giving up on the idea of profitability or making any significant (or even livable) income from photography. Regardless of whether or not it is perceived as whining, that phenomenon is impacting the professional market. Doesn’t mean that you can’t still make a living, but it increases the degree of difficulty without improving the industry in any measurable way. That’s worth speaking out against in my opinion.

      – trr

      • “This isn’t about moms and cameras, this is about making excuses for not pursuing profitability and sustainability or using weak pricing as the singular marketing tactic.”

        If this is true, does it really matter if you make your living full or part time with photography? I know plenty of full time photographers that rely 100% on their income to live who do not charge enough for what they do. Do they get a pass for not pursuing profitability and using weak pricing because they need to pay the bills? I know my colleagues are really motivated and goal driven, but they simply charge way too little because they are afraid and they have to pay the rent. According to your argument, they are just as liable for the demise of the professional market as anyone acting as a part time pro photographer that doesn’t need the money. Which leads me to my original point – I hear what you’re saying Todd, I’m just suggesting your first 2 paragraphs really detract from your greater point.

  6. The thing about people who don’t need the money is that they tend to give up when they’re bored or it gets too difficult. Only trouble is, the client will always find someone like that and want you to quote competitively with them…

  7. “I know plenty of full time photographers that rely 100% on their income to live who do not charge enough for what they do. Do they get a pass for not pursuing profitability and using weak pricing because they need to pay the bills?”

    But that is not who Todd is writing about. His post doesn’t need to be all-encompassing. He chose to focus on part-timers not charging sustainable prices because they don’t have to. Full-timers not charging sustainable prices will flame out. Full-timers that aren’t charging sustainable rates will eventually have that catch up with them in the form of bills and finances. Part-timers who aren’t charging sustainable rates don’t have that absolute facing them.

  8. PS Todd, this was the best blog post I’ve read on this topic ever.

  9. I’ve got to agree wholeheartedly with this post Todd. I can see where Melissa is coming from, but I don’t understand why anyone would want to make a business that was unsustainable as you’re essentially allowing your part time job/husband pick up the tab for the value of your services left on the table. I’m still part-time, and have slowly raised my prices until I’m comfortable that if I get the estimated number of bookings I’m aiming for, I could live off purely my photography money. At that point, I’ll probably raise prices until I’m comfortable with the number of weddings I’m shooting.

    More than anything, I’ve got to this point quickly to show that I value photography and get clients that place the same value on it by having to pay a premium (or sustainable prices) for it. I think it’s very easy when building up a business to purely see the photography money and bonus money on top of a wage from a normal job. Added together it makes a nice income and you struggle to raise prices because why would you want to lose what you’ve got?

    It’s difficult because I know you’ve spoken to Josh Gull on the podcast in the past, who straddles a part time job for the benefits, and a photography business for the love of it. Whilst he looks like he’s charging well for his market, would he have to charge more/shoot more to offset his UPS/Fedex job? And is he in turn undercharging for his services because of it?

    The price is sustainable to the photographer if they can shoot enough and live (even if that means having multiple incomes streams/jobs), but the value to the client is the same regardless of how many part time jobs/extra income the photographer has.

    It’s why I’ve never properly understood these spreadsheets that make you work out your living expense etc up front, then business expenses, then profit. I think it’s a useful exercise to go through to know how much you need to make to continue living your life the way you do, but the market will only bear certain prices. Why should someone that lives in a mansion charge more than someone that lives in a crappy bedsit. Technically the bedsit guy should be able to charge less to live (in the same way someone with a husband/part time job funding their “hobby” can), but that doesn’t change the value to the client does it? Your prices should be more based on the value to the client, than your own circumstances, which if I’ve understood correctly is the point Todd is trying to make.

  10. Are you frustrated by people with other means who nonetheless charge full price or is it just the ones dragging the market expectations down?

    “If you don’t need the money I don’t have the slightest idea why the hell you want to dabble in professional photography?”. Some people enjoy shooting weddings and families. Also, you’re an advocate of setting prices at a higher bar so that you force yourself to rise to that occasion. To be consistent with your teachings I think you have to allow for non full timers, and people of other means, to work in this space for money as there really is no other way to get that kind of experience. And that kind of experience is necessarily to grow in some ways.

    • I don’t have a problem with anyone charging a sustainable rate Chip, regardless of their means. I have a problem with any excuse to not run a fully professional (read – profitable and sustainable) business.

      – trr

  11. buy Lyrica india July 30, 2013 at 6:05 pmbuy Pregabalin india

    Right on Todd.. Love the post, and your outspoken ways!

  12. Great article! Thanks.

  13. MLadd August 5, 2013 at 12:25 ambuy Lyrica in dubai

    Personally articles like this always make me cringe. I understand the sustainability aspect and everything else you said, but there is a part of me that thinks all the full time, professional photographers are just pissed because you think that they part timers are just taking money out of your pocket and yes, I guess they are. There are times that I even think professional photography is WAY over-priced. If you are a full timer, then I know all of the things you have to pay, but there are people out there that are either just starting out or only work part time. How do you expect them to go out and charge $1000 to clients when they don’t even have a following. My feelings on this subject are always looking out for the little guy because they don’t have all the fancy equipment that the full time photographer has, and it just seems that it all boils down to that the professional, full time photographers would rather not have any more competition so they can get as much money as they can and to hell with the little guy. I have actually heard and seen it happen to someone, so I know it does take place! JMO!

  14. I believe that re-hashing this old debate about photogs who devalue the industry shifts responsibility away from where it needs to be: with the PROFESSIONAL photographers who should be focused on creating a product and/or an experience that a hack like me can’t reproduce.

    You can’t fight basic economics: the laws of supply and demand. The fact is that there are very low barriers to market entry for photography now, so there is a glut in supply of average photography and the average photography experience. You all need to be thinking of ways to change what you produce to target a new market because you’ll never change your competitors. The fact is that prosumer cameras and software technology make it easy for hacks like me to produce pretty damn good images. Throw in society’s decreasing appreciation for quality photography and you have an issue far bigger than a half-ass business owner. Hell, I bet most people now rarely think about documenting their lives outside of their cell phones and instagram any more.

    You’re supposed to generate enough implied value with the product you produce that customers are willing to pay for YOU, regardless of what everyone else is doing.

    And before anyone decides to jump all over me, know that I am not in business and I don’t take customers. I’m very fond of my photographer friends and I appreciate the situation you all are in. But you guys need to tackle the problem the right way and not continue to fall back on blaming the competition.

  15. I love this.

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