It used to be enough to take beautiful photos to be a professional photographer. If you knew what you were doing and had a shop in the main street of your town, that was pretty much what it took to be able to make a living. Actually, photographers could make a lot of money back in the day.
But things are different now. These days most people have excellent cameras on their phones and they use them a lot. Courses, filters, and apps are available to make things easier and better. This doesn’t mean that the photos are that good. But many people don’t value the act of photography itself in the same way as when a camera was an investment and photography was considered a skill. Taking beautiful photos is not enough to be a successful photographer anymore. Sure there are exceptions to this, but for the most part, you feel the need to fight for your clients.
The solution for many is to lower their price. At the expense of decent pay and often also a financial surplus. Basically, you’re spending more money than you are getting in. Sometimes you won’t notice that you’ve been undercharging until you realize you forgot to set aside money for pension, taxes or insurance. Or even for upgrading your equipment or for emergencies. Other times it’s more obvious because you can’t pay yourself at all.
Now, before you think this is me being judgemental, I have to mention that the reason I can talk about this is that this is what happened to me in the beginning. I felt that I was getting paid tons of money for just photographing (which I loved) for an hour or five. At the end of the year though, my numbers were not looking so good. It turned out that in reality, I was spending money to get to photograph people. This all while a lot of my clients, and certainly most of the inquiries I was getting, thought that I was “too expensive”.
If you haven’t checked the episode about money confidence, you might want to check that out! It is all about how to build systems to make your business sustainable and profitable.
I know you want to avoid ending up there. So, instead of feeling that lowering your prices to compete for clients is the only way, consider creating an experience for your client. And focus on what you’re offering other than just a nice photo. That way you’re not just selling a nice photo. You’re giving them something more. Most times this is something you’re doing anyway, so what I’m suggesting is to get clear on what you’re actually offering and use that in your marketing.
Find out what your client really wants when working with you. And try to get to the bottom of what feeling they’re left with. Or what feeling you want them to have anyway. The way your client feels before, and after, working with you means so much. Sometimes even more than the result of the photography session.
As a wedding photographer, I give my couples so many tips along the way that they feel they’ve got a wedding planner as a bonus. I’m helping them get rid of a lot of stress in the time leading up to the day. They’ll have a more relaxed wedding day – and of course better photos. But the time leading up to the wedding day they’re feeling reassured, and they see that I’m giving them so much more than what they were expecting. And my elopement couples are often ready to leave me a great review as soon as we’re done for the day. Before they’ve even seen a single photo. Because they loved the experience. They loved how it felt.
It’s all about branding. It’s about the words you use and how you sell it.
If you haven’t listened to episode 4 yet, you have to go back and check it out. Danielle Garber has such an important perspective on branding.
Imaging a standard photography session. The photography itself, the photos, and everything you do to get the expressions and emotions you’re looking for. You can sell that same photography package as:
- A product – like: You’ll get 10 photos.
- A service -that can look something like: You’ll be photographed for 1 hour, and get 10 photos all edited for you.
- An experience: You’ll do something fun together while I photograph you for 1 hour, then you get 10 ready-to-use photos to reflect the experience you had.
- Or a feeling: You’ll do something fun together for an hour. You’ll feel amazing. To help you look back and feel that amazing feeling all over again you’ll also be photographed and get 10 edited photos.
Suddenly, the photography and the photos are a bonus. It’s the experience, the feeling, that they sign up for. That’s what they’re willing to pay for. That’s how you can stand out. You have something to offer that’s different. You have to get clear on what that is, and you have to know what your client wants from you. And if you don’t, don’t worry, we can talk more about all this later.
Remember that you are not alone in this process and I want to help you to make a living out of your passion; you deserve to get paid for what you do! Check out the Sustainable Photography mentor program, where we can talk about building your business strategy and creating a profitable photography business by diving into who YOU are as an individual so that you can do what works best for YOU.
You most likely don’t have to change anything in the way you do things. You probably already have a way of setting up a shoot, planning it, in making your couple or family interact. Are you making them laugh? Get them to connect? Is it more like a date night or a therapy session?
My point is, being a photographer isn’t as straightforward as it once was. And that’s ok. Maybe even better in many ways. People want more from you, but that’s fine because you have more to offer. Only in very few cases are someone looking for a photo. They usually want something more such as wall art, memories, feeling amazing and empowered, heirlooms, an adventure and so much more.
It’s an even bigger opportunity for you to stand out. If you find out what you can offer to your clients, you’re most likely going to enjoy your work more because you’ll get those clients who want just that! And actually, when you work with people you love, you actually will make more money.
They don’t want any 10 photos, they don’t want any random photographer taking them and editing them. They want the experience you have to offer. They want that feeling only you can leave them with.
Empowerment, love, connection, fun, body confidence. Whatever your thing is, make sure to make it clear!
hi, i'm ingvild
I spend as much of my time as I can being outside taking photos of happy couples in love. I live with my dog and boyfriend in Norway, and I love traveling the world in search of beautiful locations and love stories.