Pricing structures

shmne

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I'm currently overhauling two studios and wanted to know why everyone liked certain pricing structures. I've seen (and tried) everything from charging for your time with cheaper prints, and charging for your prints with cheaper time. The current clientele visiting the two studios are basically split into lower income at one studio and middle class at the other; a lot of this is strictly due to the pricing plan.

My goal is to overhaul the studio currently tailored to lower income, but there is a slight catch. The studio has "theater" quality sets inside like lemonade stands, bathrooms, tree forts, and much more. The owner wants to incorporate a "picture-yourself" component so that random people can come in and photograph themselves using our sets and equipment. While it sounds like an interesting idea in reality the execution is very poor and truthfully while the sets range from very good to very poor most people aren't convinced enough that its a good idea so we get a lot of walk throughs to see the studio but very few conversions (on average I'd say we convert about 1-5% of the people that come through).

All that said, I think the main problem we are currently experiencing is cannibilizing our product. By offering a "picture-yourself" option we set the bar very low for pricing, because why would people want to pay to photograph themselves? Then since that pricing is so low trying to charge for prints becomes an issue since most of the clientele converting are lower income and only come in here in the first place to avoid paying a professional.

I have a very nice plan laid out on how I am looking to change it, but I'm just curious if anyone here has any thoughts on how a photography business can succeed by allowing its customer base to take the photos without an on-location component like photobooths. Currently my plan is essentially to make it more like a standard studio.
 
Quite frankly, that's the strangest idea I've ever heard. How are you going to supervise? You can hardly let the public just flounce around on their own. You're going to need someone to ensure that there's proper lighting, cameras are set up, etc. I see this as far more manpower intensive than a regular old studio shoot, and then there's the whole copyright issue; if they take the picture, they actually own the copyright, so how are you going to monetize that?
 
Quite frankly, that's the strangest idea I've ever heard. How are you going to supervise? You can hardly let the public just flounce around on their own. You're going to need someone to ensure that there's proper lighting, cameras are set up, etc. I see this as far more manpower intensive than a regular old studio shoot, and then there's the whole copyright issue; if they take the picture, they actually own the copyright, so how are you going to monetize that?

There are a few other frustration points since I'm coming in as a consultant to these studios, the owner is really caught up on the concept and thinks its going to be "the next big thing." You did bring up something I don't think I've even considered though, with the public operating our equipment I just realized that our insurance may not even cover damages done... so if someone breaks our lights we may just be SOL. The man power needed is a massive issue, especially as a 1 year old company operating as lean as possible (the location is in a mall because the owner got a great price on it, but that also means we need it staffed about 80 hours a week right now).

Personally I don't see the current set up working, but I was curious if anyone else could see the potential. The only way I'd see it working out would be more like on-site photobooths w/ nice theater style sets that travel well and are manned by unskilled staff.
 
.. with the public operating our equipment..
Whoa! Hold on, there! When I read your first post, I assumed the general public would be using THEIR OWN cameras. Now you tell me the owner of that studio is going to let them run RUIN his stuff?

Oh, my word!

Is he planning to teach them how to be a photographer in one easy lesson?

O.K., the owner's business plan is a given (a rather poor plan, but a given) so now you want internet strangers experts to help devise a pricing structure. I would just charge them by the hour and whatever they came up with in the time they paid for, that is what they would get. Never mind trying to set up a two-level pricing structure (time plus prints) because let's face it, the cost of paper and ink is not going to break the bank anyway. So they get to use the gear for say; one hour, and that includes the printer, so they take photos for 45 minutes, and print in the last 15 minutes, and leave. Happy as clams they are.
 
...so now you want internet strangers experts to ...

Eh, more like I've run out of options and I'm trying to determine if I really want this client still. I was curious to see what thoughts others had before I made any kind of decision. My local group of photographers consist purely of wedding photographers, none of them actually have ever owned or worked in a studio setting so they didn't have much to offer in the first place.

I haven't signed anything with the owners yet but I was hopeful because they have a LOT of resources that could turn this into something worthwhile. Large meh! It was exciting at first but now its just a headache and a time sink.
 
Maybe you'll need to get together some info. to share with the owner to help him realize what's involved in this (as mentioned - insurance, copyright, etc.). Try American Society of Media Photographers or PPA for resources. If the owner is still determined to do this, I guess you'll need to decide if it's for you or if it would be better if he find another photographer.
 
Just had a thought - why are there walk throughs? I mean, whatever they see obviously doesn't make them want to pay for or purchase anything for the most part, but why are they even there to see the place? I'm just thinking somehow they're finding out about it and coming in to check it out.
 
Just had a thought - why are there walk throughs? I mean, whatever they see obviously doesn't make them want to pay for or purchase anything for the most part, but why are they even there to see the place? I'm just thinking somehow they're finding out about it and coming in to check it out.
I "projected" what I imagined the sets would look like. If the sets do not inspire anyone, they're not going to spend money to make photographs there.

Is there a designer involved in making the sets? Is the designer limited by the owner's budget? Is the designer simply limited in other ways?
 
Just had a thought - why are there walk throughs? I mean, whatever they see obviously doesn't make them want to pay for or purchase anything for the most part, but why are they even there to see the place? I'm just thinking somehow they're finding out about it and coming in to check it out.

The storefront is in the local mall, which is why they are seeing foot traffic but no sales. People are curious to see what the new store is but disinterested when they find out that either the sets aren't nice or that they have to take their own photos.

I can't see this business lasting very long, IMO. Why pay someone for prints if you are going to be the one taking your own photos. Most people can buy a half way decent printer for home use and some photo paper and probably come close or be better than what is being provided. Second, equipment damage. You will need staff there from open to close to keep equipment from being damaged. I'm not sure how many insurance companies will insure equipment if you aren't the ones operating it. Then there is liability insurance which will be through the roof if, again, the staff isn't operating it. The overhead alone will put this business under. IMO, cut this client loose while you can.
 
It's an interesting idea, but so is the flying car. You fly into an airport, shed the wings and drive the car part down the highway. That's been kicking around since what -- the 1930s ? -- and never "flew" yet. Sorry.
Now if a cameraman hired by you let the customers play director and he shot what they wanted within reason. Well maybe. You could use the place for portraits, etc. in the conventional way when you didn't have Mr. John Ford Hitchcock on the premises. If it was that easy to figure out tomorrow's hot ticket we'd all be rich. Hang in there.
 

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