Saturday, 31 July 2010

Value... at what price?

When times are tough, put up your prices. That's what some people would say - but is this a good idea? Is it better simply to stick to your guns, justify your rates... or do you drop prices to bargain basement levels in order to get would-be clients to part with their hard-earned cash?

These are tough times for sure, and the temptation to undercut one's opposition is ever-present. So much so, in fact, that people do this with a complete disregard for the future security of their industry. This is a real shame, I think, because it is only panic and desperation which leads to such actions; ordinarily, these same people would be comfortably justifying their rates to all clients, new and old.

To play devil's advocate for a second, I'd like to pose a question: Can any responsibility be placed on the buyers' side? You have to ask whether clients who insist on 'cheap' are actually worth considering as customers, if they don't value your services highly enough to begin with. For example...

I'm no expert when it comes to car mechanics. Far from it. I freely admit this and, on occasions when my car needs fixing, it is duly taken to my local garage for repair. Of course I want to know, in advance, what the final bill will come to but - and here's the thing - I appreciate that these people have a skill set which I don't and I expect to pay accordingly. They are trusted suppliers, so I know they won't rip me off, and I also know that their rates for a given job will be a fair reflection of the work undertaken.

How many times have you shuddered when your mechanic announces how much the labour alone will be for your repairs? You might ask yourself how long the work will take and just what is he charging for... but certainly the answer to the latter is a simple one - he his charging for the wealth of knowledge, expertise and skills which will ultimately save you money in the long run.

The same is true of a photographer. I've said many times and, you know what, I'm going to say it again - you are not paying a photographer simply to press a button! The technical side of producing striking and effective imagery is a given (we all need to learn our craft) but a shoot is so much more than the sum the parts you see on the day. What about organisation, people management, styling, props, lighting, assistants, location scouting, research, creative meetings...? The list goes on.

When the kit bags are all packed at the end of the day, my work doesn't stop there either. Depending upon the scale and duration of the shoot, the editing process might take several days, along with continued communication with the client, fielding further requests and requirements.

I have recently stumbled upon two local photographers going in far too low on their pricing, jeopardising the local photography supply chain for the sake of getting some quick cash through the door. And we're not talking a just few pounds here.

On one occasion, I heard of a quote being 60% below the going rate. That was shocking enough, but I was stunned to hear of a second at... wait for it... 83.5% undercharged for the work involved. Surely, this can't be a good thing, can it?!

Explaining to new clients that they should think of photography not merely as an additional 'cost' but as 'value to their business' has always been part of the deal as a photographer. And I'm more than happy to have those conversations.

After all, everyone likes to know where their money is being spent, and an educational approach is never a bad thing when it comes to getting the message across.


Paul Davis said...


83.5% Blimey !

Is that on a daily rate for commercial photography ?


Giles said...

Hi Paul,

Thanks for the input.

Yes - in fact, it was for a 2 - 2 1/2 day commercial job, so far more involved than the rate would suggest.

Moomin said...

You're so right, and it's not just in your own field. As a long time craftsperson I have so often seen hobbyists, with very basic skills, taking low quality standard goods to the market at a fraction of the price of quality goods, and the buyers just want 'a bargain'. Until people realise that they are paying someones wages, and compare what they are paying to what they would work for themselves, the 'bargain' culture will continue to undermine the value, as seen in price, of skills.

OceanCraft said...

The problem is Giles it is all down to the introduction of digital technology. Photography has effectively 'dumbed down' with a high resolution camera in virtually everyone's phone and cars have introduced a computerised complexity and can only be repaired or adjusted only with expensive equipment and by experienced people. The result is that everyone now thinks they are a photographer and conversely, no one can be an amateur mechanic any more. In the days of film, a 'snapper' would only have 24 or 36 expensive shots and people were more careful over the photos they took. Now with digital mobile phones and the regime of 'point and press' photo after photo can be taken and the rotten ones just deleted. We call it 'Facebook Photography' (because you will never see a decent photo on Facebook). We believe you need to emphasis the 'Professional' part of photography as it is this which distinguishes you and your talents from just someone 'snapping'. Don't bother about those who put in stupidly low prices, they still have to produce the results at the end of the day and the customer will find out that cheap means cheap and poor results. So concentrate on 'Professional Photography' and forget about 'Facebook Photography', they are two very different things.