14 ways you’re NOT ruining the photography industry

by Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor on November 11, 2014

in This is Art,This is Business,This is Life

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If you’re tired of being spoken down to, degraded, discouraged and treated like a cancer on the photography industry – this one’s for you.

PTP exists because of posts like this:

Dear cheap-but-good photographer: you are ruining my life and this industry“, by the talented and tenacious photographer Jamie Pflughoeft of Cowbelly Pet Photography up in Seattle.

Jamie is a wonderfully talented artist, a leader in the pet photography niche. She is worth every penny she asks and her art is a true blessing to her clients, a value we should all strive to give. Let me be clear: I absolutely respect Jamie and the work she does, for her clients and fellow photographers.

But in her post, and in much of the established photography industry, there is a frustration that is violently misdirected toward startup and low-end photographers like you and me.

That discouraging voice greatly slowed my growth as a professional photographer throughout my career, and is why for five years now I’ve been writing PTP, to give startup photographers a voice of encouragement and realistic guidance as they embark on the amazing journey of becoming a working artist.

Folks, Jamie is frustrated.

As most grognards are – nobody without a fear of scarcity reacts so strongly to aggressive competition, either manifest presently or the perceived potential.

With lower barriers to entry in the portraiture industry (the digital revolution), there has been a flood of newcomers offering, as Jamie frames it, “cheap-but-good” options in every market.

Jamie, with intense frustration, contends that those cheap-but-good photographers are ruining her life and the photography industry.

Whoops…let me slip my hand up. Duly convicted.

At least by the numbers she shares in her post, which would put me easily in her classification of “what is not a profitable business for anyone, regardless of what your monthly expenses, costs-of-goods-sold or initial investment are.”

Well…

Horsesh*t.

I’ve been a part time photographer for 15 years, and I’ve only had three years that weren’t bottom-line profitable: my first two, and a third in 2009 when I made a go at a retail studio space.

Every year I wasn’t profitable was because I made huge investments in equipment. If you spread that expense out over the years I’ve used it, or if you count the value of those assets, I have never had an unprofitable year.

And not just a small margin of profit. Jamie quotes a PPA benchmark of a 40.7% high-end margin. On an average year, my margins are closer to 75% conservatively – including Cost of Goods Sold, insurance, equipment repair, self-employment taxes, and additional tax preparation. All this in mind, I put in my pocket close to $60 per hour I invest in every aspect of my business from marketing to booking, shooting, sales, and follow-up.

This factually, completely invalidates the scarcity arguments the grognards make when they say if you don’t charge $X, you’re working for peanuts or at a loss.

You don’t know my expenses. You don’t know my margins. You don’t know my market. You don’t know my clientele.

So don’t tell me, or anyone else, what we should or shouldn’t charge.

Let’s bust some myths

Myth: You don’t make profit off of session fees, you make profit from selling products.

Fact: I’ve made a profit every which way, with and without session fees, with and without product sales. I’ve made a profit with all-digital flat-rate packages, I’ve made a profit with session fees and upselling in the sales session. So long as you are honestly and compassionately serving your client, there is absolutely no wrong way to do this business.

Myth: Every ‘professional photographer’ should have read the Professional Photographers of America benchmark study to know what a real photography business looks like.

Fact: But for investment years when I put 100% of my business income into equipment (most of which later I learned I never really needed), my expenses have never looked anything like what the PPA says is the average. From the beginning, what the PPA defines as the ‘ideal’ business model (high-end, boutique, luxury portraiture) has had no relevance to my boots-on-the-ground experience.

Myth: You have to work 60-80 hours a week to earn a $30,000 take-home income working full time. ‘Cheap-but-good’ photographers are most likely making $0.00 after expenses.

Fact: Even at 60 hours a week, these numbers come to $9.62 an hour pay. My take-home is $60 an hour charging what Jamie contends are unprofitable prices. I know PTP readers who are making more than I do per hour, and I know readers who are making much less – but that $10 an hour, or $20 an hour is a huge blessing for their families. Never let anyone tell you you’re doing anything wrong by earning a humble wage that betters your life. [Not to cloud the issue with facts, but The Bureau of Labor Statistics pegs the median hourly income of a professional photographer between $13.70 per hour and $14.08 per hour. This may be skewed toward photographers as employees and not as entrepreneurs, but recognize, there’s nothing magical about photography that makes you entitled to multiples of real, honest wages.]

Myth: If you teach the market your work is only worth $X, you have ruined that market for every other photographer charging more.

Fact: I have a lot of local competition, and most of my fellow photographers are very good – several are far better artists than I am. Some charge more, some charge less. None have ever affected my bookings. Some of my lower-end clients found a better fit with a less expensive option, some of my higher-end clients had a better fit with more expensive offerings, but I have never struggled to book clients I love who are happy to pay what I’m worth. Your people, the clients who perfectly fit with your personality and art and prices, are out there – great, targeted marketing makes that win-win connection over and over again.

Myth: A client won’t pay $1,000 for what they can get for $175, all things being equal (art, quality, service, experience).

Fact: Well, okay, I’ll give you that one. As a consumer, I’d be an idiot to pay five times as much for the exact same product. But art is subjective, and so is the experience we create for our clients – we differentiate our value in our markets through our unique art, message, and personality. Your people are out there, and if they can afford you, they will hire you for what you uniquely mean to them – but if you aren’t out hustling, shaking hands, telling your story, finding your people and getting your art and message in front of them, that’s not my fault or anyone else’s fault – that’s on you.

Myth: Cheap-but-good photographers are destroying the industry, which may already be ruined.

Fact: The cheap-but-good photographers in my area (cheaper than me, to be clear) haven’t hurt my business. Nor has Apple, Samsung, HTC, LG, who all make fantastic camera phones. Nor has Canon or Nikon, who make powerful consumer and prosumer cameras. Again, the blame is misplaced here: viable, competitive, ‘good enough for me!’ alternatives to a talented, expensive, worthwhile professional photographer will have no affect on that photographer so long as he or she knows their market and how to communicate their value in the ever-growing landscape of options every potential client has.

Myth: If you aren’t running a profitable business, you’re destroying an industry many photographers who came before worked hard to build.

Fact: The vast majority of my new clients have never had professional portraits made – those who have were typically photographed as children at a chain studio. My very customer-friendly pricing and policies aren’t hurting anyone – but they are enabling an entire segment of the market to afford professional photography. Nobody used to paying a super-talented boutique photographer is knocking on my door, and that’s okay – I’m not that guy. In my area, I know that guy, and I refer out to him often – like Jamie, he charges multiples what I ask, and he’s worth every penny.

Myth: If you can’t do X, Y, and Z, then you have no business being in business.

Fact: Welcome to the Free World (America, specifically, in my case). Welcome to capitalism. I can run my business any way I see fit, with or without a profit, with or without insurance, with or without a dSLR, with or without a web site or Facebook page or business cards or even an ounce of experience or professionalism. My art can suck and I can still get paid. My personality can be abrasive and I can still get paid. Within the law, I can do anything I damn well please – the onus is not on me as a rights-bearing business owner to conform to your vision of the ideal; the onus is on you to run your business so well that there’s nothing I could ever do to affect it.

Myth: To make $30,000 charging $175 session fee which includes images on CD, you have to work 12-14 hours a day.

Fact: With my margins and at that price, I’d have to work right at 16 hours per week to earn $30,000 in-pocket – that includes everything from marketing to delivery and follow-up. Fair enough: this is after 15 years of streamlining my workflow. But the numbers Jamie is using are based on models with extremely high expenses and time-intensive workflow, which may be reality for her business – but they are by no means realistic or necessary for the rest of us.

Myth: I need my income, therefore you should charge more than I do.

Fact: What I do as a photographer should have absolutely no effect on your business, unless your business model is unsustainable in the face of aggressive competition… Which is not my fault, nor is it my responsibility. A competitive market doesn’t negate a successful boutique offering: Apple, the most valuable brand in the world, proves this. Here’s the truth: if Apple didn’t curate a customer experience, a brand loyalty, a culture that uplifts it to this status, it would be just another manufacturer. If Apple didn’t establish and maintain its market position, that’s Apple’s fault: not IBM, not Microsoft, not Nokia or Samsung or Motorola or Dell or Gateway or any other player in the industries it touches.

Myth: Photography is the only industry where inexperienced people try to sell professional services.

Fact: Every year there are fewer and fewer barriers to entry into almost every industry, which is naturally going to cause an influx of lower-end offerings. Notice I say lower-end, not cheap: there is plentiful room in the market for startup photographers, who have less developed skill and less experience and charge less because of this. Just like a model may trade for images early in her career then fetch hundreds of dollars an hour years down the road; just like a good mechanic with a great reputation can charge more than the guy fresh out of vocational school; just like every other industry with a low-end, a middle, and a high-end segment of clientele.

Myth: If you charge $100 and hand over a DVD of images, you’re a glorified non-profit.

Fact: What if I charge $100 and hand over a DVD of images on a 15-minute headshot shoot? What if I’m a school photographer and shoot 90 kids an hour at only $25 per kid? What if I’m already doing that with high school graduation ceremonies with an average sale of $65 per graduate? What if I run a lean business and streamline my workflow? What if my chosen lifestyle means I need less income than you? What if I live in a one-bedroom studio apartment and you live in a 3/2 home? What if there is absolutely no way you can make a factual statement about the profitability of my business without knowing my numbers?

Myth: If you’re a cheapo photographer, you’ll get cheapo clients who will be a paint in the butt and make you miserable.

Fact: Hey, you can talk trash about me all you want, but don’t dog my clients. I can’t tell you how many of my now good friends started as photography clients, and they came from all walks of life and income levels. There are good photographers and good clients at all levels of wealth and affordability.

Myth: If all these ‘facts’ have you freaked out, you need to go back to being a hobbyist.

Fact: This is the exact kind of sick discouragement I have fought against for years.

Grognards are frustrated. They’re pissed. They’re scared because that they don’t know how to maintain their market position in the face of aggressive, low-priced competition.

Welcome to reality: there are no guarantees.

Ask IBM, ask Lehman Brothers, ask Pan Am, ask Kodak, ask Atari, Ask Blockbuster, ask Woolworth’s, ask Circuit City, ask RadioShack, ask Borders – ask any business of any size that ever got it’s butt handed to it by innovative competition or changes in the market or industry.

Then go ask Apple, ask Southwest Airlines, ask Nintendo, ask Netflix, ask Amazon – ask any business of any size that ever toppled its bigger, more established competition through innovation or recognizing and adapting to changes in the market or industry.

Never forget: you’re 100% in charge of your business – you’re the boss.

Nobody can tell you what to charge: that’s price fixing.

Nobody can tell you how to run your business: that’s restraint of trade.

In 1711, Lord Smith LC said:

“It is the privilege of a trader in a free country, in all matters not contrary to law, to regulate his own mode of carrying it on according to his own discretion and choice. If the law has regulated or restrained his mode of doing this, the law must be obeyed. But no power short of the general law ought to restrain his free discretion.”

Don’t let any grognard put the onus of responsibility for the whole photography industry on your back – it’s unrealistic, unwarranted, and unreasonable.

You have every right to conduct your business as you see fit.

Don’t buy into the scarcity-minded horsesh*t the grognards promote – they are speaking from a position of fear, not of innovative creativity.

And while I definitely promote knowing your numbers and earning a humble-but-worthwhile wage that leaves you walking away from each sales session with a cheshire grin, I am at the same time a huge advocate that those numbers – and that humble wage of your choosing – are yours to define.

Again, I absolutely respect Jamie’s work as an artist and teacher in the photography industry, but I have to vehemently disagree with her position – it’s the same “blame the new guys!” mentality that I have seen over and over again in my 15 years as a professional photographer.

We photographers aren’t special, despite our stamping of feet and crying woe – business is business, and while no doubt it’s frustrating as hell when we get underbid or undercut or can’t hit our numbers or can’t feed our families from our art alone, it’s not the fault of the tens of thousands of photographers entering the market over the last 15 years.

If we can’t create and communicate our value, it doesn’t matter what we think we’re worth – the market will decide for us.

That is nobody’s fault but our own – not as an industry, but as individual, empowered business owners with agency over our destinies.

A lot less blame and a little more #hustle goes a long, long way.

Author Christopher McDougall, quoting Roger Bannister:

“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed.

Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle – when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”

Next Steps

  • Take a deep breath; take 10 minutes to meditate and clear your mind. This is heavy stuff, and it’s easy to bear a lot of weight when someone points the finger of blame at you for their fear and frustration. Center yourself, and let it go – recognize that someone else’s crisis is not your own.
  • Brainstorm session: get out your pen and paper. Play with some numbers: how much have you spent on your business so far? How much have you earned? Are you profitable? (If you haven’t done your first paid shoot yet, project how many shoots at $100 per, then $200 per, you have to do to get profitable.) If not, why? Are you producing a Minimum Viable Product, the least complex and expensive art and experience that your initial clients will pay for? Are you spending excessively on equipment you don’t need yet? This is a very, very easy trap to fall into with so much outside pressure to buy this, buy that, go boutique or go home. Focus on what you truly need, then iterate and invest as the money is earned by your business. File this in your Brainstorms folder.
  • My writing at PartTimePhoto.com exists to serve your needs as an amateur photographer making the transition to paid professional. I appreciate and welcome your readership, and invite you to subscribe to my e-mail newsletter at the top of any page of this site.
  • What’s the biggest struggle holding you back right now? E-mail me your answer (yes, right now!), and let’s make a breakthrough today.
  • If anything in this post has spoken to and inspired you, please comment below, drop me an e-mail, or call or text me at 830-688-1564 and let me know. I’d love to hear how you use these ideas to better your part time photography business!

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Kat November 11, 2014 at 4:09 pm

I love this! I hate hearing how there is only one model for a successful photography business and everyone else is “ruining things”.

Thank you for writing this!

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Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor November 11, 2014 at 8:11 pm

Kat,

Thank you so much for your kind words and readership! I’m glad you are benefiting from the site!

Please do keep me posted on your successes and adventures!

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GigoloJoe November 11, 2014 at 5:51 pm

You keep throwing a bunch of faux numbers to prove your point

As you said
“What if there is absolutely no way you can make a factual statement about the profitability of my business without knowing my numbers? ” – – –

– – perhaps you should provide your CODB numbers for a the last 12 months, for us all who want to make money at $25 a session with dvd or at $175. Maybe that would prove your point. Rather than making up stupid names to call a hard working quality photographer.

It would certainly be a lot better than

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GigoloJoe November 11, 2014 at 5:53 pm

It would certainly be a lot better than making up stupid name to call a hard working quality photographer.

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Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor November 11, 2014 at 8:09 pm

Joe,

Thank you for your comment! I’m sure my numbers can be picked apart, and I of course welcome critical consideration of anything I’ve ever written.

I can only say that what I write here is what I’ve lived for 15 years as a professional photographer.

What if I told you at $25 a dvd, you could clear over a thousand dollars an hour?

School photographers do this across the country. It’s their business model. Beyond a workshop I took years ago on school photography, my research comes from this link, specifically: http://blogs.photopreneur.com/how-to-earn-1000-an-hour-as-a-photographer

As for the term grognard, it’s a term I’ve been using for five years. I mean no disrespect with it, merely intend to classify those photographers whom I feel unduly rest blame on startup photographers for their business challenges in the digital age, just as Jamie uses the term “cheap-but-good” to describe artists like myself. The term originates in board and video gaming, wargames specifically, for arguably draconian players who believe there is only one puritan way to play a given game.

If you have any factual references to refute any factual statements I’ve made, I greatly welcome them. Otherwise we are in the realm of opinion, and we merely disagree – lack of evidence is not evidence of lack. As I stated in my post twice, I have great respect for Jamie and her work, and my post is intended as a passionate counterpoint. She has every right to have posted what she did, free speech and all, and I’m exercising the same.

Thank you again for bringing a fresh point of view to the site!

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Roseann November 12, 2014 at 4:55 pm

I should take way more of your advice than I do, it’s golden. Your website is what gave me the push I needed to start my business almost two years ago in the face of so much online discouragement. I love this post and I love that you stick up for the underdog. Thank you for what you do, it is so positive and empowering. I am so grateful!

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Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor November 14, 2014 at 10:26 pm

Roseann,

Thank you so much for your kind words and readership! I greatly enjoyed visiting your blog tonight, you take such awesome and fun photos! Your clients are truly blessed by your art.

I appreciate your support! Please do keep me posted on your successes and adventures!

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Adam November 14, 2014 at 10:31 am

James,

Seriously, this is a great retort to the above mentioned article.

I’ve actually recommended people cheaper than me on more than a few occasions. If my prices aren’t in the customers range but I know someone that can benefit I will lose the sale. It doesn’t stop me from getting clients who are willing to pay the prices I charge.

I’ve never understood the belittling of those who are trying to establish themselves in fields such as art or photography. People have to work through trial and error, supply and demand, and make adjustments as they grow that will benefit their business.

Who’s right is it to tell me what I can or can’t charge or what services or products I should be offering? Demographics are so varied that statistics are just that – “statistics”

The saddest part I find about this is that this particular photographer actually does have some really good information for pet photography but her “High & Mighty” attitude is just downright bothersome.

It’s a shame really.

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Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor November 14, 2014 at 10:39 pm

Adam,

Thank you for your kind words and comment!

Said by Mark Twain and attributed to Benjamin Disraeli: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

While I obviously greatly disagree with established pros blaming startup photographers for their troubles (see my comment response to Cara above), I am not without sympathy – there are thousands of professional photographers who worked their butts off to earn their market dominance, only to watch the market and industry shift wildly with the offering of low-cost dSLR cameras. The digital revolution, online and off, has upended countless business models – including my day job career also for the last 15 years, as a print newspaper journalist – including my father’s ‘retirement’ job as a big satellite dish installer 24 years ago.

Game’s changed. Certainly not just in our industry.

But that’s not the fault of those who now have access to the equipment, to the knowledge, and to the market. The barriers are down and the doors are open.

#hustle will, as it has for all time, win the day.

A life-changing quote from author Christopher McDougall:

“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed.

Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle – when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”

Thank you again for your comment and readership Adam! Please do keep me posted on your successes and adventures!

Reply

Rick Mutaw Photography November 16, 2014 at 6:14 pm

Why on earth would someone who is obviously skilled at what she does make comments like this? She would do so much better to mentor rather than degrade up and coming newbies to the industry….sad really. Everyone else keep their chins up!

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Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor November 17, 2014 at 5:37 pm

Rick,

Thank you for your comment and encouraging words!

I hope the tide is turning online as discouraging established photographers are recognized for who and what they are, and their words have less impact on startup photographers. The market is vastly larger than the grognards pretend it is, and most markets are sorely underserved – there is room for growth, and always room for artists with hustle and passion to earn their share of clientele.

Greatly enjoyed visiting your portfolio today Rick – I appreciate your readership! Please do keep me posted on your successes and adventures!

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Steve Arensberg November 18, 2014 at 3:03 pm

You go, James! Well said, and with fire, sir!

Good ideas not just for photographers, but for other creatives who are struggling to figure out how to break into an established industry, and where they face gatekeepers like editors and publishers and producers and even other artists (more established or not), all looking to keep them from directly reaching the audience that’s the right match for their art, their level of skill, and their pricing.

I think this post represents exactly the reason PTP exists – you stand up for those underdog photographers who are trying to start their own photography biz, and seeing resistance from the gatekeepers at every turn. Glad they have you!

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Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor November 18, 2014 at 3:09 pm

Thank you so much my friend!

I’ve been blessed to watch so many PTP readers flourish once they realize that: they can do this; they don’t need permission; they just need to start, to put one foot in front of the other. Success can be earned with #hustle and compassion.

There’s no gatekeeper big enough, ugly enough, or mean enough to hold back someone with that truth in their hearts.

Thank you for your kind words sir!

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Katherine Benjamin November 18, 2014 at 6:12 pm

Really love all of the points in this post, but the one that stood out the most to me was:

“My very customer-friendly pricing and policies aren’t hurting anyone – but they are enabling an entire segment of the market to afford professional photography.”

Thank you for that line. Photography, especially GOOD photography deserves to be had by everyone, not just the people that can afford to save up for the “super-talented boutique photographer”. Not that I believe everyone should charge the same, I simply love that we have a wide variety of good professional photographers at various price points.

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Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor November 26, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Katherine,

Thank you so much for your comment and kind words!

Agree fully with your statement. There’s a market for every photographer and a photographer for every market, and the market will decide who belongs where. There’s a lot of anger in the established pro side of the market because they’ve been knocked down a few notches – they can’t command the prices they once could. The bar has been raised; to earn top-tier pay, you have to provide top-tier art and service, not just one or the other.

The best will always command the best prices.

And startups will command startup prices.

And the same ladder exists that always has for artists to earn their way to the next rung through better art and a better experience they craft for their clients.

Step by step!

Thank you again for your readership! Please do keep me posted on your successes and adventures!

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Croila November 19, 2014 at 5:12 am

James, firstly, thank you SO much for an absolutely fabulous resource in the form of this website. It’s incredibly useful and I’ve learned so much from you, as I’m sure each and every other reader has. Sincere thanks for all your hard work in putting all this together, it’s very much appreciated.

Regarding this latest post of yours, gosh, it’s VERY interesting. It certainly does sound as though that lady wrote her article from a position of fear and panic. I feel sorry for her – she sounds very unhappy.

I hope you don’t mind, but I’d like to disagree with one of your counter-points, though, specifically “Myth: A client won’t pay $1,000 for what they can get for $175, all things being equal (art, quality, service, experience).

Fact: Well, okay, I’ll give you that one.”

I think in most businesses, not just photography, there’s the issue of “perceived value”, where clients WILL actually go to someone more expensive even though the art, quality etc ARE equal.

I know people like this myself who will just absolutely not buy cheaply because they’re convinced that there’s more cachet involved in paying more – it’s more of a status symbol to actually show the world you can afford X instead of a mere Y, even though X and Y inherently have absolutely no difference in quality, results, experience, etc etc.

I reckon this is just part of human nature and something that will always exist. If you know what I mean?

Totally agree with everything else you said though! 😀

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Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor November 26, 2014 at 3:50 pm

Croila,

Thank you so much for your comment and kind words! Always welcome additional perspectives!

I agree fully with you about perceived value – that falls squarely into the realm of Communicating and Commanding value: that’s part of the challenge many artists face as startup professional photographers. They know how to Create value, but they don’t know how to Communicate that value (creating and managing perceived value), which leads to confidently Commanding a given value in the market.

I would place the highest-end boutique photography clients in the same realm as high-end art buyers. Like you say, the value to them is the perceived value of what it is they’re investing in – their appreciation is in part tied to the price tag. Nothing wrong with that at all.

If you’ve ever attended a junior livestock auction, you can see the same dynamics at play – there is ego, power, peacocking, all influencing the final sale price of a given heifer or sow.

Thank you again for your readership Croila! Please do keep me posted on your successes and adventures!

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Gail November 19, 2014 at 1:11 pm

THANK YOU. Thank you. Thank you. Your article was so great. Never before have I encountered such resistance and lack of support for a fellow entrepreneur starting out in a business. Over and over when searching the web for advice or helpful information, usually the only advice posted was to not do the shoot and let a “real” professional handle it. Didn’t all these “real” professionals start out as amateurs too?!?!?!?

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Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor November 26, 2014 at 4:00 pm

Gail,

Thank you for your comment and kind words!

Many of the established pros who put up the most resistance for startup photographers earned their market position in a time when it was much more challenging and expensive to become a full time photographer. They went to school, learned manual exposure and focus, learned to develop film. They bought the highest-end digital gear, made huge investments in their artistic development and equipment and business training. Their overhead is far higher than a part-timer’s. The food their family eats at dinner is paid for by the work they do – and when the digital revolution came and put powerful cameras in the hands of tens of thousands of amateur photographers, who then were able to go pro, the entire industry shifted in ways the established pros weren’t prepared for.

The same happened to buggy manufacturers. The same happened to large satellite dish installers like my father. And so many other industries whose leaders are now only read about in history books. Entire industries have been swallowed whole my innovation.

Change is constant. For those unprepared or unwilling, change can be a nightmare.

The onus is on us to be flexible, be forward looking, be nimble, and to be where our clients are – literally in marketing and figuratively in our business models.

Thank you again for your readership Gail! Please do keep me posted on your successes and adventures!

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Allen November 25, 2014 at 4:39 pm

Another great article, as always, sir James. Thank you.

In addition to part time photography, I tune and repair pianos, play gigs, teach, etc. Music is certainly one industry/area that somebody somewhere put a cap on how much a working musician should be paid per gig, per hour of teaching, and even tuning a doggone piano.

People shop this market on price alone big time! And cheaper (less expensive, that is) is better for them, and from my experience, most often sells the job. Fuggedabout “perceived” value! Most of these price shoppers are nitpicky and will waste all of your time if you let them. It doesn’t matter to a lot of people if you’re an ‘Outlier’ and have well exceeded 10,000 hours honing your skills. This is probably true for a lot of industries.

Hustle is indeed the name of the game. I’d add to that – flexibility, innovation, creativity, and good negotiation skills, among other things. Any one living the artists’ life needs to constantly find ways to reach large numbers of people in order to earn the number$ they desire. Music artists sell songs and merch, tour, etc. It only follows that we photographers need to do something similar, and streamline the workflow for increase, whatever that means and whatever it takes.

Complaining and petitioning to music instrument manufacturers to stop making digital keyboards because I have fewer pianos to tune…well…that’ll sink quickly. And they’ll probably have some concrete boots custom made just for me! lol!

Be well, James. See you on the next one.

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Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor November 29, 2014 at 7:31 pm

Great insight as always Allen, thank you for your kind words!

A lot of negative noise in the photography industry is just echo – most of the second-tier pros are just copycatting the opinions of the first-tier pros who are blessed with enough free time as to complain about the startup photogs online. Righteous rhetoric spreads like wildfire.

Common sense isn’t so common.

The photography industry has become vastly more competitive, which is a blessing to two camps: consumers, enjoying more options and a better ratio of price-to-value than has ever been in the history of portraiture; and innovative photographers, who know what boutique really means, and have hustled to both become and promote their being worth-every-penny.

Thank you as always for your readership Allen!

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Kristy January 1, 2015 at 4:19 am

I just stumbled upon your great blog and what a great rebuttal this is. You are spot on with everything you wrote. Believe it or not more photography is not the only profession that deals with this type of elitism. I am a retired real estate agent and the same venom is used against “discount” brokerages by full service agents. Truth is, not matter what field it is, there are more than enough consumers for everyone and I’ve never understood this attitude. Like you stated this type of behavior is just irrational fear and quite frankly shows a lack of marketing skills or understanding of the market they service.

The client who hires a high priced photography will demand different skills or services than the low priced photographers provide and the lower priced client either can’t afford or doesn’t want to pay for the higher priced one. So in reality the only person it affects is the photographer who gets themselves worked up over nothing. As my teenager likes to say, sounds like a personal problem to me 🙂

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Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor March 12, 2015 at 10:27 am

Kristy, thank you so much for your kind words and readership!

I agree in full – boutique clients should receive art and an experience they love. Startup-end clients should receive art and an experience they love. Just as a startup photographer should find ideal clients whom they love, as should the artists serving the luxury end of the market.

It’s all about alignment. Over time, those alignments changes – due to a thousand factors, those startup photographers grow into respected professionals, and sometimes those boutique photographers face competition that’s hungry and ready to #hustle, and they have to adjust their message, unique value proposition, and alignment accordingly.

Ultimately, the market decides where we belong – but the onus is on us to create, communicate, and command our true value to our target market.

Thank you again for your comment and readership!

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Kristy January 1, 2015 at 4:23 am

Gosh just noticed all the typos in my post. What I get for writing this at 4am 😀

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