WHAT ARE YOU WORTH


MONEY - WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE WORTH?


Either you compete on price, or product, depends on how you sell your work:  If you do budget and sell numbers, a thousand to twelve hundred shots for just 300 dollars, thats a lot of waste, and if you had booked 52 bookings in year, thats a $15,000 a year job.   About half of the poverty level.

Upping the ante, offering more, say $2300 a Wedding, thats 120,000 dollars a year.  The converse is true, the $300 shooter says he only gave them four hours of his time, thats all he had, and back to his day job.  Only about 50% actually are happy with this as they have to do all the post processing and grunt work and hate their day job

I can tell you five things good pro’s think like a soldier.

  1. Get the volume when the situation presents itself and get in sniper mode when you get the candids people go crazy over.  A few good shots sell more than a bucket of dead fish.  Spend some time sorting sifting and rejecting images that mean little to anyone involved.  It's a people game, we don't need 45 shots of the sneakers the bride wore under the dress since she never ever wore heels.

  2. Scope the battlefield before the war. The Chinese General Tsun said knowing the mind of the enemy is the key to victory, knowing the terrain and the enemy's moves is the process by which you win.  Get to know the couple, their emotions, passions and idiosyncrasies, and the terrain you will be operating in.

  3. Find the leader.  On the introduction page I explained what I had learned from the Carnival people.  Get to know who the stick is.  The stick is the one who wields the checkbook (the stick) and makes the real decisions.  Know who are the key players so you do not have to be arbitrating with those who really can't make the call.  This is really critical if there is a meltdown at the wedding.

  4. Gear checks,  make sure you are at 100% and have backups. Don’t miss the money shot because one of those AA cells was dead when you swapped them.  Blanks are a poor choice in combat.   Be on time or earlier, deliver on time or earlier. You will be alone because 75% of brides and Weddings never start on time.

  5. Price yourself based on the actual components understanding your market, competition, financial condition of your clients, time and effort and accessories like special Photoshop work, table books and so forth. The best way to charge more is do great work and develop a reputation. Shop the local competition to look at their work. Pick them up at their studio for a lunch so you can get an idea of what he or she is doing. Have a circle of associates that will honestly critique your work. It hurts sometimes but in the end you will heal and do better work.


PRICING YOUR SELF IN THE MARKET
A couple wants to get married. They lay out their plans and the cost of the wedding peripherals comes up and that includes flowers, reception, the DJ, other entertainment, limos, the photography and / or videography. So they start interviewing photographers, shopping around and weeks later they are confused.

Some compared the experience to buying a car and they will tell you they would rather go to the dentist than buy a car.  So we decided to put it to the test.  Asking those folks buying a car, what criteria do you feel is most important in a choice of what you buy and where you buy?  The answers were surprising.   

ANS:  Where to buy was based on closeness or proximity to the dealership and product reputation.  I like the product and I want to be close to the dealership.  Pricing came in later.

In a given area wedding shooter prices are like buying a car, cars go from basic transportation to high end sophisticated luxury cars.  In a comparison, pricing a wedding photographer is similar, with both low-end, low-cost DVD presenters to full boat table top books with careful editing and story telling albums.  

Just like no two cars are alike, no two weddings can be the same. Similar but not the same. This goes for the photographer too.  No two photographers are the same, they are separated by style, attitude, impression, structure and sheer talent and interpretation.  He has to be flexible in what he offers and there is no such thing as one size fits all.   

People wanted the fairest price for the quality of the work done.  It was not the lowest price, nor the cheapest package of accessories, the answer was the fairest deal they could negotiate.  About forth or fifth on the list was the actual price.  Confidence, in the professional doing their wedding.

But some of the photographers we interviewed in high traffic and shopping areas seem to think it’s all about pricing and that determines what they do to make the deal.  What they should be doing is thinking what they can do to improve their deal.  It is just a wrong impression they have of their industry, very foolish thinking. 

Looking at your prospective clients, they are looking to be treated equally.  The winners in the long run in the Wedding Photography business are those who treat it professionally and run their business for the long run. The bad shooters, low-ball ad sellers, bump and runners sure made it tougher for the real people interested in a long time career and a business they enjoy doing.

Listen, this is a business with no policing, guidelines, few requirements, rules of engagement (pun) and various levels of workmanship and interpretation. And it really doesn’t matter what part of the world you are from. Whether you live in Australia, the US, Europe, or Sweden the problem is basically the same all over. It’s so diverse.

It is a business of full timers, part-timers, professionals and amateurs. It has members who play by the book and those who never have nor will read the book. It has those, who are good savvy wise business people who have legitimate registered businesses with taxes, licenses, and regulations adhered to. And some folks who run it from the trunk of their car and pay no sales tax though they collected it from the bridal couple. 

It has those with major investments in time, finances, facilities and training and those certainly participating with nothing more than a camera and a small knowledge of photography. 


THE RESULTS THAT BRIDES WANTED
So at the Bridal fest in Tampa we asked similar questions to potential Brides. They wanted good quality work expressing the love, warmth, solemnity, beauty, of the most important day in their life. They wanted you to tell their story.  The second concern was the three R’s reputation, respect and reliability.   The answer we received from photographers we asked as to what was important was price. 

So while everyone is worried about what the other guy is charging, few mention what they will do to improve their first impression on the first contact with the customer, future client, potential consumer.  Good business practice tells you your ads are for getting the interest or herding the business your way where an accurate assessment of what needs to be done ...can be done in the proper atmosphere. May I suggest a studio, office, showroom, place of business. 


KNOW THY COMPETITION

I think it’s somewhat important to know what your competitors charge, but it’s not the basis of your business. Some times there is no other way to find out than to ask them. If you tell them over the phone or in an email, you’re a photographer looking at pricing most likely he won’t tell you, so I don’t see any other option than to ask like this.  Invite them to lunch to discuss their craft.  Learn what they do better is more important than what they charge. When you do it better, the world finds you. 


WEBSITES 
Are better used or spent using the space to show quality and create an interest rather than going for the close before the door is opened. Fewer and fewer photographers are posting prices because of the confusion over the different pricing methods. Currently...

  • Pricing may be expressed in packages.
  • Some quote by, by hourly, or day booking.
  • Some promise fees based on shot count.
  • Some explain and expose their ancillary help charges, some just build it in.
  • Some have a base charge and then add for overtime and extras.
  •  It’s apples to peaches just like car parts. It’s a Ford and a Chevy alternator, but don’t fit each other, and a zillion other things thrown in. So stop worrying what the other guy is charging.  What is he doing that he is charging for and what you are doing to make it a better product.  Each week I get a million coupons from all the supermarkets in the area.  By the time I make the comparison,  and do the math, I wasted more time than I saved. I save by buying needed common items in bulk and perishable items in smaller units.
  • Do you give an explanation of plans custom suited for the clients needs. If not look in the mirror and you will see a fool.
  • Answer questions with a question.” What were you specifically interested in having done, ask questions about location and size. The responses and being a good listener will tell you where she or he has been shopping. Ask what special services did they have in mind? 
  • It’s all about value received: Mainly does the value received equal (=) the dollars (yen, gold coins, marks, francs, chickens and goats) charged for the services.

This is secondary in the couples mind believe it or not. The primary goal for them is good quality work.  By surveys we have conducted at Bridal shows. We asked them and they were there from all walks of life and financial health and good quality work was the winner. 


HOW MUCH IS MUCH?
What is your goal when it comes to pricing your work?  As much as you can, or undercut the competition, steal the show, get greedy?  Or will you base your work so that you make as much as you can within reason and delivering a product and service that exceeds your customers expectations.  

I’ll defer and refer to the car business.  There are just as many good salesmen as there are the other kind. Salesmen with reputations of taking advantage of weak negotiators or naive shoppers.  Given the opportunity they will literally take off the customers heads, colloquially expressed as:  I just buried them;  What a score!  I made a ton of gross! and so forth.  For some reason, it catches up with them and they don’t build a good following.  They leave, they go elsewhere and start over.

You should be aiming for that middle ground and a win-win for the business in order for you to grow enough to secure your future and vision, to achieve all of the objectives and sustain the necessary growth you forecasted in your business plan. 

But make sure your business plan includes the following real costs:

  •  Labor, human resource requirements, as in new employees, insurance and pensions
  •  Parts and supplies for the expansion
  •  The Unknown factor -  profits are needed to compensate for the unknown factor, Murphy’s Law, and market factor. Some loss's or adverse conditions exist.  Slush funds, holdbacks, what if’s are protection for inevitable future losses, costs and problems in need of financial solutions that are risks 
  • Capital, the cost of borrowing money

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