Photography, pricing and art.

Every week on facebook I see someone searching for a photographer who ‘doesn’t charge an arm and a leg’ or charges ‘reasonable prices’. This is always followed by a list of people who presumably fit this category, and sometimes photographers reply proclaiming ‘Hi there I charge reasonable rates check my facebook page’ and even worse ‘and you own all the photos, you get 100 images on disc for $75’ etc. I try not to get mad, but inside, it still drives me crazy, and I will explain why in this post. I’m not mad because I won’t get the job (I’m too expensive), I’m mad because the whole industry has been sliding downhill for years and is not getting better. If there is a way to save it, which there probably isn’t, I think it is in the education of the consumer buying the photos.

So, back to those facebook posts. The first thing that comes to mind is that these photographers are not business people and are not trying to live off their work. The second thing that comes to mind is that the bargain-seeking mum does not care at all about the quality of the photos she is paying for. I guess they are a good match for each other. So what’s the problem? The dumbing down of photography as an artistic medium, that’s the problem. People are saying me that most would-be clients can’t tell a good image from a bad one. As a photographer, I simply can’t understand this, nor can I really accept it.

You see, the sheer abundance of photographers these days has produced a new average. The market is saturated with images that vary from the terrible to the truly excellent, with the average probably lying somewhere in the middle. Anyone can call themselves a professional photographer. But, you might say, shouldn’t this then help those really good photographers to stand out? Well maybe, if they have a big advertising budget and can shout louder to be seen. They have to shout louder because the bargain-seekers tell anyone and everyone how ‘amazing’ their photographer is. So in order to sustain a half-decent lifestyle, pay their rent and put dinner on the table, full time photographers have to raise their prices to stay afloat. Since they are shooting less, they need to earn more per session. Their other option is to lower their prices and shoot high volume. This will lead to burn-out and potentially a reduced quality of photography or service. Why should someone with years of experience, artistic ability and skill with a camera be forced to charge the same as a person who picked up a cheap SLR with a kit lens and started a facebook page? The former runs a business, pays insurance, has very expensive gear, invests in further education, pays taxes and does everything a proper business should. The latter are not making money, earning a profit, or doing things that real businesses must do. They can’t. At the prices they are setting, it’s not possible. They are working at a loss, or at least an extremely low wage. But they may be popular because of their pricing, but in the long term is this really a good thing for YOU, the client? Why pay for photos you could take yourself? If you are going to pay someone, it should be because the quality is better than you can do, right?

I have no intention of dissuading anyone to change their prices, put down their camera, or even to understand where I’m coming from. People have tried, it won’t happen. What I would like to do though is have you, the clients, understand the difference. If you choose your photographer based on who is the cheapest, you are contributing to the mass exodus of talented photographers closing their doors and saying goodbye. Don’t think this has happened? It has. It’s a real shame, some of these photographers were extremely talented with years of experience, but they just couldn’t compete in this new market. Is this really what you want? The loss of photography as an artistic medium? Disposable photos that are not even good enough to print as a 4×6? Or do you want an image that you can give to your grandchildren, so they can laugh at your clothes and your hairstyle? I want this for you, I really do. This is what my clients get from me, and I know they appreciate it. They see the difference, they know that they get what they pay for.

Real ‘professional’ photographers (whatever that means these days), are charging according to their income needs and their talent and their experience. Those running a real business have real expenses. No-one is funding their healthcare or their retirement. They are trying to put food on the table too, just like you are. That’s fair isn’t it? One might even say, reasonable?

Only you, the client, can really save this industry, with the choices you make.

Thank you for reading.

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