In July 2013, I started a photographer's networking group that has met once per month since the initial meeting. The topic for our November meeting was price. Although we spent nearly an hour on the subject it was not long enough. I'll share some random thoughts in the rest of this post about price, quality and the market.
In photography, so many people get a "nice digital camera" and decide they will be a weekend warrior burning numerous images of a family to a CD for $99. That's fine for people who are shopping price and don't mind working with someone who has a "nice digital camera" but really doesn't know a lot about photography. There will likely ALWAYS BE those type of photographers.
The wedding photography industry also has these type of photographers who may shoot for $399 for several hours of coverage and hundreds of images. Not everyone can afford the $3,999 photographer and again, I say, "That's fine and there will likely ALWAYS BE those type of photographers." Price is not the end all cure all. When it comes to price, there should also be a quality and market balance in the mix.
Quality is often, but not always, associated with pricing that is NOT the cheapest in the market. Notice, I did not say, "Quality should be EXPENSIVE." There are some photographers who do both themselves and the industry a disservice by providing premium quality at a discounted rate below the market. There is nothing wrong with not being the cheapest price in town. The price a photographer charges should include multiple factors that can often be too complex to cover in a short blog post.
As for pricing in the market, that will vary from Rural North Carolina to Raleigh, North Carolina to New York City and beyond. Pricing is often reflective of the market that a photographer is located in especially if the photographer does not travel outside the local market as well as whether the photographer is focused on consumer vs. commercial work. Even within the consumer and commercial markets, budgets will vary based on multiple factors like the income of a family or their willingness not to spend more than X on photography services and the same holds true with companies because they still try to maintain a budget. In both scenarios, that doesn't mean either will choose the lowest priced photographer.
For me personally, I have worked hard to find out the pricing in the market that I target primarily by getting feedback from inquiries about what others have quoted, what their budget is, etc. I like knowing whether my quote is low, medium or high compared to any other quotes. I'm not out to be the lowest quote nor be considered "EXPENSIVE."
It's not always easy to find the price vs. quality balance, but it is one area that photographers should find their own personal balance: Profit is NOT a dirty word. It's not good business practice to simply say, "I'll be the lowest in my area." I know from being hired numerous times for projects that my clientele on the corporate side are rarely looking to hire the lowest priced photographer they can find. What they are often looking for is a quality end product at a fair market price from an experienced photographer. Experience comes with time, but finding the price and quality balance in the market can all come together relatively quickly.
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