A photographer's vent...

Discussion in 'General Shop Talk' started by photographyJeane, Jul 10, 2008.

  1. photographyJeane

    photographyJeane TPF Noob!

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    Just need to vent I guess to a community that will understand. My question of the day is.... how can one avoid looking like a highway robber in the eyes of the general public who think that you are making a killing on your photography and are greedily charging them 500 times more than you should? How does one avoid those nit-picky clients who expect 5 million things for the dollar they want to pay you?


    I have to admit, I've been there, on the other end. Even though I have always been a good photographer, who just never did it for money, I VALUED great photos (like many photographers do) and would still hire a professional to take photos of my family (after all, I can't take the photo and BE in it). Before I ever charged for my work, I used to be on the other end - I knew I could do as good job myself and felt I was paying an exorbitently high price to someone else and obviously expected a lot in return.


    Eventually I was led into doing sessions for others (portrait/family photography). It all started with me deciding that I need to charge for all the "favors" and "freebies" I was doing for friends. Plus I could use the extra income.

    Wow.

    Now I can sit here and say that there had been times I'd have gladly paid someone the same money they were paying me just so I could get rid of them and their expectations for their dollar. The funny thing is that when people are paying you something (vs a "take it or leave it" favor) they suddenly feel like they own you without even realizing the amount of time you are spending on them.


    I edit/proof all my photos in photoshop, as many professionals do now a days. I go the extra mile to make them perfect. I'm talking airbrushing, editing out objects that shouldn't be in the photos, flaw correction, artistic effects (coloring etc) - the works. Now clients have come to expect that this is what I do and have ridiculous requests. I would complete a gallery (after loads of time) and then get an order in where someone would want this that and that and have additional requests for each photo - I want photo A with this that and that edited out, I want photo B with that that and this done to it. I quickly realized that all my creativity is now costing me way too much time. I want to provide an outstanding service and yet how can I do it when I'd like to add a few **** words to it to tell them what I really think!


    Maybe I priced my services completely wrong to begin with. I would rate myself very highly in photoshop skills and have transformed even mediocre photos into amazing ones. But as all of you know, this does not happen at the click of a button. I thought I would stand out by offering wonderfully finished portraits/photos at great prices and was extatic when clients kept pouring in (without any advertising other than word of mouth). But now I can see a good reason why they are pouring in - because they would pay 10 times the amount to get this kind of service anywhere else!

    I am also so sick and tired of people assuming you are making a killing on photography. I actually had my dentist tell me (when noticing my interest on photography since I was flipping through a photography book) that if I am any good I should go into it and make tons of money - that his sister is getting married and is being charged a whopping $1400 for the wedding photos! I'm thinking "that's cheap!" - and its scary how the public thinks "that's expensive!!"


    Everyone thinks that photos are easy. You point and shoot. Everyone can do it. The only difference with the pros is that they point and shoot with a fancy camera and they are dedicated to the task on the big day (vs having your uncle Harry do it who also needs to actually be IN the photos). I could not believe that a dentist (talk about a real highly paid professional) was standing there telling me all about the killing I could make on photography!


    What about the time spent proofing? Putting up galleries? Writing invoices? Emailing the client back and forth about their order (all the communication)? Dealing with labs and placing all those orders? Packaging the finished product? Creating CDs or whatever else they ordered? Material costs? Shipping costs? Your TIME TIME TIME TIME that adds up BIG on all the seemingly tiny insignificant things.

    When you charge for your photos, you don't just download them off your camera, zip em up and send them to your client. Heck, even THAT takes time. Do that for 10 people in a week and it becomes a "task" pretty fast. But no... you work on each photo, you display it, you deal with all the back and forth ordering (not to mention the dissappointment when you spent all that time working on a photo you thought to be fantastic and the client didn't even want it). You deal with labs and accounting and SO MUCH else. And at the end of the day, people still think you ripped them off. You can bet that some aspiring photographer friend of theirs (after all, every other person these days is) would look at one of your photos and say "I could have done that". And then smirk or faint in shock when told how much they "paid" for the photo.

    And what about all the freebies people expect of you? I cannot count (well, I can, but that's just as painful) the amount of times a friend has excitedly announced to me that they were thinking about getting their photos done professionally at so so and so, BUT then they thought hey since you do this as a hobby, maybe guess what ... YOU could do their photos for them!!! :D They then expect you to jump in excitement at the thought of this wonderful "project" and feel immensely honored they they actually considered and wow - chose YOU for the task!! Wow! Yes, you have all the time in the world to painstakingly take on their projects and do some of that "amazing work" for them.

    After an uncomfortable silence, they usually follow up with "I'll pay you of course"... which translates to - I expect you to charge me as a FRIEND, meaning peanuts or a "nominal" fee - but my expectations on your time will go WAY up and I will ride you like Zoro to expect nothing less than utter PERFECTION, cause after all I'm PAYING you. And even then our friendship may suffer, cause now, its all cold business. You'll certainly have to go the extra extra EXTRA 100 miles for me to make sure it doesn't!

    I used to be there, where I would excitedly take on these projects and truly feel affirmed as a photographer simply because someone wanted ME to do this special thing for them. Ha. Now I literally CRINGE when I hear that "guess what?!" openning to the conversation.


    So in summary, what are the top 10 things I have learned in this time of being a "photographer"...?
    1. Dealing with people sucks.
    2. Turning a hobby into a business can not only ruin the hobby but can also ruin a good many friendships
    3. Dealing with people sucks.
    4. People are delusional about what it actually takes to create and deliver professional pictures and all the components they take for granted
    5. What is a "fortune" to someone's personal budget when they are shelling out on your services, can end up barely paying for your time.
    6. Both parties can walk away feeling ripped - the client feels ripped of their money, and you feel ripped of your time
    7. Dealing with people sucks.
    8. In order to actually make profit, you had better forget about all your wildly creative ideas (that take up time time time that noone wants to pay for) and deliver the absolute base that someone would be willing to spend on. Anything above and beyond will not make you any more money.
    9. Dealing with people sucks.
    10. I'd rather be a dentist.

    ** editing to clarify - these 10 points are intended to be humorous. Please do not take seriously. **

    thanks for listening! (and hey, if you have any creative tips on how to combat the public and point out what I've been doing wrong - I have a few ideas already - feel free to pour them out!)
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2008
  2. BuZzZeRkEr

    BuZzZeRkEr TPF Noob!

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    Wow what a rant, I'm sure it was an interesting post but I didn't make it past 6 paragraphs.

    Look, it doesn't seem like your ready to run your own business or even deal with customers. My suggestion would be just to simply get out of the business and not take on any more clients weather it be your friends or referrals. You should've took the time to make it clear to your clients about your entire photography process from taking the pictures to your post production techniques what ever they may be instead of ranting about it on a photography forum. If the clients want extra work done to their photos just inform them your going to charge them for it and give them an estimate. If they don't wanna pay for it, now sweat off your back. However, if you included that in your original contract you just screwed yourself.....you at least made them sign a contract right?
     
  3. photographyJeane

    photographyJeane TPF Noob!

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    Sorry if I made it sound so bad :) There are simply little things that have been irking me lately - like how people assume you are making a killing simply because they do not see the time put in. Maybe I'm dealing with the wrong people. And yes, I try to please way too much to make someone happy and do not charge for all that extra time.
    I do need to revisit my business sense and plan to. (I guess I probably need to revisit the length of my posts too.)
    If noone else here deals with any of the things I'm mentioned, I'm DEFINITELY doing something wrong.
     
  4. Village Idiot

    Village Idiot No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I skipped most of it, but the answer is easy.

    Charge what you want to. People will pay for it, they won't, or they'll try and haggle you down to nothing. You know what you're worth, don't let other people get under your skin.
     
  5. Christie Photo

    Christie Photo No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Hmmm.... I think this question is a bit "telling."

    I don't approach my customers as if we're in battle. I actually would like MORE interaction with people.

    I doubt too the dentist thing would work out. Maybe bookkeeping or warehouse work?

    -Pete
     
  6. photographyJeane

    photographyJeane TPF Noob!

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    You know Pete, no reason to be sarcastic (bookkeeping etc). So I wrote a long post. Is it THAT uncommon?
    And I didn't mean combating my clients - but the general public who think photography is an easy money-raking business.
    I didn't realize I'd end up being made fun of, posting on a board of photographers.
     
  7. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Welcome to the forum.

    I think this is not uncommon...it certainly is a problem that much of the general public think that photography is just 'point & shoot' and it can be hard to convince them that professional services are worth paying for.

    I think the solution is fairly simple on the surface but may be harder to carry out.
    Raise your prices!

    The instructor of a class I took, about starting up in wedding photography, said that the most common reason that people failed to make a go of a photography career...was that their prices were too low. That was, in fact, the biggest message of the whole class.

    Firstly, if you are not charging enough to account for all the time & effort that you are putting in (not to mention the overhead costs) then you will soon find that it's just not worth it for you and you will get burned out. It looks like you may be headed in this direction.

    If you raise your prices, you can charge enough money to make it worth your time. It's one thing to go that extra mile to please your customers...but you can't give them too much for free...and once you do, they will come to expect that. For example, if they want changes made, after you have delivered the product, tell them the rate is $50/hour...or $100/hour etc.

    Here is the good part...when you have higher prices, you will be more likely to get 'better' clients. If your prices are high, you will get clients who hire you because they like your style, not because they think you are cheap. If a client already likes your style, they are less likely to complain about things and request changes etc.
    Also, with low prices, you attract clients who are always looking for a deal...always looking to get that little bit (or a lot) extra. They are probably like that with everyone and that's how they go about their lives. So, by raising your prices, you not only get more money, but it's likely that you would have less hassle with clients as well.

    There is also the issue of respect. If someone hires you for $4000, they will be more inclined to respect your professional service than if they had hired you for $400. You may even need to remind some clients that they are paying you a lot of money and they should let you do your job.

    I've heard from several photographers who have said that their business actually increased when their raised their prices. It can be hard to explain but it's possible that people view you differently when you charge a good amount than if you are cheap. Low prices tell the client that you aren't that good...higher prices tell them that you are pretty good.

    Of course, you do have to have the skills and portfolio to back up the higher prices.
     
  8. Christie Photo

    Christie Photo No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Jeane....

    It's not the length of your post, but that, FOUR TIMES, you included the statement "Dealing with people sucks."

    I have to wonder if you're truly suited for a business that requires intimately dealing with people who are feeling vulnerable and exposed.

    No sarcasm intended.

    I think you'll find folks here are helpful.

    Welcome to the forum. I look forward to "seeing" you here.

    -Pete
     
  9. Mike30D

    Mike30D TPF Noob!

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    There will always be those who do not see the value in your services as a photographer. That's just the way it is, you can't change people. Those are also the people that pay $4,000.00 to the florist for their wedding. Whatever you do, DO NOT justify your pricing to anyone! If they decide to walk, then they walk. There are plenty of "craigslist photographers" for that client who wants it all, but wants to pay nothing. As Big Mike said, some photographers find out that after raising your prices you get more clients. I happen to think when you raise your prices you also get the client who sees more value in your services, a sort of like...."weeding out" if you will.

    Also, the more you do this you realize that you may not book every client out there. That's totally okay. Some people will be a PITA no matter what you do for them, that's when you just politely tell them that maybe you're not the photographer for them.
     
  10. kellylindseyphotography

    kellylindseyphotography TPF Noob!

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    If it helps any, I TOTALLY HEAR YA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And I totally feel like that somedays.

    I just laughed out loud in the middle of class when you wrote about
     
  11. photographyJeane

    photographyJeane TPF Noob!

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    Everyone, thank you for the more friendly responses.
    I do realize that this was my first post and one that I wrote in need to vent out some frustrations for the day which I tried to do in a humorous manner (hence repeating that dealing with people sucks 4 times) but perhaps failed at this.

    I am very much a people person and maybe a little too much so, since as I had mentioned part of the problem is that I do try to please and bend over backwards way too much and its coming back to bite me.

    I do very much appreciate the helpful suggestions to raise prices and weed out some clients and this is what I might have to do.

    When I started out with photography, I wanted to be able to give everyone beautiful photos and memories of a moment in time that will never be again. As a parent, I know how valuable it is to have these memories and I wanted to make them affordable for everyone.
    As I had mentioned, my whole entry point into this was because I had to start charging for the favors. I have a lot of friends with a lot of kids and everyone wants pictures.
    I guess my mistake has been that I've tried to keep things at a "favorable" price while trying to not work completely for free (which at times I feel like I'm doing). Naturally word spread wide and friends and friends-of-friends keep knocking. And expecting a LOT for very little.

    I have a problem when I see on someone's face that they don't think they are getting a good deal, which happens shockingly when they are actually making out like bandits.

    I do apologize if I offended anyone in the profession with my rant, which was intended to be a humorous way to vent off some irritation for the day.
     
  12. nynfortoo

    nynfortoo TPF Noob!

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    You might also care to make it clear to friends, if you ever give them a discount, that the price does not extend to their friends too.

    I hope you get it all sorted out though. Cheer up, and let us know how everything goes. Stick around and have fun :)
     

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