‘Price-shopping’ is the oldest would-be-client trick in the book and every photographer been on the receiving end of it. It doesn’t feel good, does it? Being compared to other photographers merely on price rather than the true quality of our imagery.
Any experienced photographer knows what their work is worth, but sometimes, the conversation between you and your potential client dwindles down to a severely lowered price that wouldn’t even make up for the time you’ve spent convincing the lead to book you. It seems that photographers have to deal with incessant price-haggling more than most other industries.
When I first started taking photos for a living, I struggled to charge what I truly thought my years of experience were worth, simply because I didn’t know how to deal with pushback from potential clients. I didn’t go to business school and had very little training in sales and marketing at the time. Yet there I was – a young photographer only winning the occasional bid for a job, while losing projects to other photographers with the business savvy needed to stay afloat in this industry.
It took me years of struggling with self-confidence, pricing structure, and lead management (as well as good business and marketing strategies) to work my way up to consistent multi-thousand-dollar commercial work. At Picr, I wondered if any of our full-time photographers would have good advice on how to deal with this, so I opened the conversation to our Facebook Community.
Here are 5 great responses for clients who think your photography service is “too expensive”.
1. “What other photographers are you considering whose work you could compare to mine?”
Make sure that your lead is comparing apples to apples and gauging the competition in terms of price and quality. If they’re having an open conversation with you about this, chances are that they see the value in your work and the price is the only deciding factor. This response poses you as the authority figure and assumes that your work and customer service is of much higher value than that of the compared party. Keep the communication line open and you can establish your value to win the job. Our community member, Michael de Nysschen, said this:
“What I usually ask them is to compare the work of the photographer [they] would like to go with to that which I offer. More often than not they will acknowledge that they are aware that the work is not the same quality but they don’t think the difference in price can be justified. What I found works is that I explain the process of making one decent image and what is involved… just a run down.”
By getting your potential client to openly compare your work to another photographer, you put them in a position to justify their decision. By doing this, you create an opportunity for the value of your work to be built in the mind of the client.
2. “What budget do you have in mind? Here’s what I can offer in that price range.”
This tactic works particularly well if you are willing to take a lower payment on a job, especially if you’re in a period of growing your business, this could quickly expose you to a lot of new clients – even if the payout for the jobs is less. Lexi Zozulya, one of our Picr community members and the leader of a 50k+ Instagram account, had this to say:
“My tactic is to ask if they had a budget in mind and tell them what I can offer in that price range vs. what I quoted. Otherwise, I invite them to contact me in the future when their budgets allow.”
The authority and confidence in this response communicate that you will not budge without respecting yourself, your work, and your business.
3. “Here are my rates. Let me know what you are able to afford.”
Similar to the “tell me your budget” method, this method works particularly well because it puts the competition against only one person: yourself. Get the potential client to compare your packages against each other, instead of comparing your rates to another photographer’s rates. By doing this, you keep the client in your ecosystem and automatically assume that you have won the job. This is a tactic that also works particularly well in any sort of sales.
“I always offer my rates up front and if they say that I am unaffordable, I always ask what their budget is instead of giving them another quote, and scale down the package of work offered to them based on their budget.” — Daniel Livingstone
Creating a few different packages for potential clients ahead of time will help them find their comfort zone and allow you to win their business, instead of sending them to the cheapest photographers available.
4. “Have you considered the long-term value of these images?”
Often times in the digital world, we quickly eat up and eventually lose imagery in the constantly growing digital landscape. It’s easy for potential clients to forget the importance of professional photography when photography itself, at a non-professional level is now accessed, consumed, and even created quickly. One study even shows that more than 40% of consumers no longer print their photos. Our community member, Criss Hammack, had this to say:
“I ask compared to what? It opens up a dialogue about what they’re comparing me too. If they’re comparing me to the “So and So” down the road then that’s easy. I offer service products and an experience that they can’t. If they say compared to say a car then that’s easy to the car will lose value the moment you drive it off the lot and you likely won’t even have it over 20 years but that wall art is priceless and will be in their family for 100+ years if cared for properly.”
Showing your lead the long-term value of the images you’ll be creating could be a gateway into convincing them that your work is worth the price you gave them at the outset.
5. “Here’s how my pricing works, and why it costs what it does.”
Photography is an industry where the clients don’t always understand the price – and it’s not up to them to try and figure it out. It is our job to educate consumers on the value of photography as a service, and why the cost is appropriate. Photography clients rarely, if ever, see the work, gear, and time that goes into producing a set of images beyond the initial booking phase and the shoot itself.
Just like any other business, photographers who make their full-time income from the service of photography pay bills for upkeep, management, gear, and insurance, and most importantly, should be paid well for the effort they put into developing their craft. Jeffrey McPheeters, a photographer in our Picr Community had this to say:
“I try and identify that if the potential client is comfortable with asking for a lower price, they are likely comfortable with me telling them how it really needs to be and why.”
If the potential client wants to ask for a lower price, then they’ll likely also be okay with learning why your service costs as much as it does. Be kind and explain simply so that they can understand the costs associated with your price.
Dealing with clients who have pushed back on pricing comes down to a few key strategies that can bring your photography business to the next level. Often times, the conversation just needs to be kept open. It’s really easy to tell a lead that their desired budget is too low, and just move on. It’s equally easy to become discouraged when lead after lead does not have the budget you hoped for. While there is a time and place for accepting lower-rate work (such as expanding into new markets or building your business anew), the thing that holds photographers back from making more money is that we simply don’t keep the conversation open long enough to help the lead see the reason for our cost.
This short video from The Futur is quite insightful – while the example is elementary and comes from a graphic design frame-of-reference, this video provides a real-life scenario for photographers dealing with the issue of price shopping.
How do you deal with this issue?
If you’re new to Picr, our vision is to help photographers grow their businesses through software, education, and community. This post was created alongside our community of photographers.
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