I recently ran a poll on my Instagram Story where I asked photographers if they were happy with the rate they’re currently charging their clients. 71% of respondents voted “no.”
This is a problem.
Determining how much to charge can be a daunting task, even for the seasoned professional. But what I’ve discovered after countless conversations with photographers is it’s not that they’re unaware they’re undercharging, but that they don’t believe in the value of their own work and thus, are afraid to ask for more.
Read that last part again.
They don’t believe in the value of their own work and thus, are afraid to ask for more.
This is the real culprit. If you lack self-worth, you will project that belief onto your clients. If you continue to operate your business from a place of scarcity and present your services as a mere commodity, your clients will follow suit.
Let’s play a game
Imagine a potential client sends you a DM on Instagram. They want to know how much you charge for a one-hour photo shoot.
Without knowing any other details, what’s the price range that immediately pops in your head? That range is likely what you’ve been charging for similar shoots in the past.
Now take that number and multiply it by five. What would happen if you quoted that price?
This exercise makes most people uncomfortable. For many, the idea of charging five times what they usually charge is absurd. But is it?
Let’s work with some real numbers and find out.
Say you normally charge $200 for a one-hour photoshoot, which includes the delivery of ten final images. We’ll assume the following as your typical workflow: Client contacts you and asks what you charge, you respond with your rate and they accept or reject. If they accept, you agree on a date, time, location, and outfits. (All of this communication occurs via Instagram or text.) Following the shoot, you edit ten images and deliver them via an online gallery.
Let’s take a step back for a moment. At this point, what differentiates you from the hundreds of other photographers in your area? Presumably, it’s your specific style of work. Maybe you’re a master of light or a post-processing guru.
But here’s the caveat: Pure technical skill alone can only help you stand out so much. If you want to command a higher rate, there’s another way to give value and differentiate yourself: offering a high-touch service.
A high-touch service is defined as any service that’s centered around human-interaction. And as it turns out, humans value interacting with other humans.
Every potential client that comes to you has something they want to achieve. And no, “having nice pictures” isn’t it. What they value goes much deeper.
A mother looking to book a family portrait before her children go off to college places high value on capturing memories. A business owner catering high-end services to clientele values status and prestige. An aspiring model values having a portfolio that will get them signed to an agency or booked for jobs.
Every client has a unique set of values — it’s your job to determine what they are so that you can help them achieve what they’re looking for.
This is your competitive edge. This is how you turn a $200 service into a $1,000 service.
Be a Consultant, Not a Contractor
Whenever a potential client wants to book a shoot with me, I like to meet with them in person and get as much information as I can about their project. Some questions I might ask:
What is the purpose of this photoshoot?
Where will these images be used?
Have you been photographed before?
What will these images help you achieve?
By asking these questions, I’m positioning myself as a consultant, not a contractor. A contractor executes on the tasks assigned to them. A consultant looks at the big picture first, determining what the goal is before laying out a deliberate and intentional action plan.
Real life example: Recently I met with a client who was interested in booking a personal branding shoot. During our in-person meeting, we talked about their career, personal values, and what they hoped to accomplish by having professional images taken of them. I learned that they wanted to avoid stuffy and cliche “professional” images and go for something fun and approachable, and that they wanted to use the images primarily on their website and Instagram.
We proceeded to create an inspiration board of images on Pinterest to get an idea of the kinds of images they were drawn to and made notes on potential locations and outfits for the shoot. Then I made suggestions on how they could leverage the images in a variety of ways: website banners, Instagram Stories, and even as thumbnails for IGTV.
Throughout this whole process, my actions reaffirm that I’m not offering a simple service. I’m demonstrating a vested interest in helping them achieve their goal by providing value every step of the way.
Naturally, you might have some objections to the idea of charging more.
“My local market would never pay that price.”
“Other photographers charge $100 for a shoot.”
“I would never get any business if I charged that much.”
Maybe your objections are correct. But have you tried? Have you ever dared to ask for more?
Here’s the thing: If you want to start earning more, stop making decisions for your clients.
Let them decide if they can afford you or not.
Four years ago, I would have charged $250 for a personal branding session. Today, I charge $2,500. The only person keeping you from achieving your true earning potential is yourself.
Give unparalleled service, have the audacity to ask for more, and believe that you’re worth it. Because you are.