This post was sparked by a phone call that I had a few minutes ago with a lady needing a professional headshot which is a core area that I focus on for my commercial photography business. She mentioned that she had family pictures done a while back and the photographer burned all the images to a CD. She was a little surprised by my commercial pricing model of per image pricing. So I'm going to RANT in this post.
As photographers, each of us has the right to run our business as he or she would like. However, in the digital age, the photography industry has become diluted by "wanna be" ..."weekend warriors" ... "still have a day job photographers" ... that like shooting family photography sessions for next to nothing and burning all or a boat load of images to a CD. Sure, "I'll take two hours out of my day and shoot for you on a Saturday then burn 9,000 images to a CD for $99. No problem, it's not how I make my living." Yes, I'm being a little sarcastic, but I'm driving the point home. I hope!
In the commercial world that I work in, it's a lot different than that. I'm thankful that I don't have to compete against the "cut throat photographers" in the consumer world. At least I know when I quote a project that I am likely quoting against another full time professional with a very similar business model. For example, when I do headshots in studio, the fee that I charge to do the shoot includes ONE... YES, ONE... final edited image. Each additional image beyond the first one is an additional fee. YES, I charge by the image. Guess What? It works just fine that way. There are some photographers that would argue... SELL PRINTS. Most business professionals that I work with DO NOT NEED prints.
I recently photographed a dentist that got 3 final headshot images. He paid the base fee that included one image plus the per image fee for two additional images. BUT his wife was searching for a family photographer and would not dare pay the same price for 3 images of their family. The reason is because so many family photographers in the Raleigh market, and likely around the country, charge a fee that often includes either all the images burned to a CD or a large amount of images burned to a CD. The per image price often works out to $10 or less per image. FYI, I don't see how these photographers can include any editing in that and I have yet to see many photographers than can nail it so well out of camera that their images do not need any editing at all.
Even within the family photography industry, the pricing is still very different. For example, the wife of the dentist above told me that the range she was finding in the Raleigh market varied from $150 to $700. Sure there is likely, and should be, a quality difference from the low end to the high end. But when someone is looking for family portraits, they likely look hard at two things: 1) How many images do I get on a CD? 2) What's the price? It's true that everyone has to work within a budget, but what happened to focusing on the quality experience and end result over the previous two things. One thing that I have learned about headshot inquiries is that I book an extremely HIGH percentage of those I speak with that don't ask about price first and rarely book those that the first question is: "What's the price of a headshot?" The reality is that I am competitively priced for headshots in Raleigh, but if price is their primary concern, I am not the lowest headshot photographer in the Raleigh market nor do I want to be.
The sad reality of this post is that it will likely NOT change anything. It's just a RANT from a professional commercial photographer about a frustration with the family side of photography. But as long as digital cameras are easily available for the masses to put on "P" and get a decent image, there will be "wanna be photographers" diluting the industry with the approach of burn an enormous amount of images to a CD for peanuts. I'm thankful that I'm a commercial photographer and don't have to fight those battles.
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