Sunday, August 23, 2009

Photography Business

I'm at a bit of a crossroads with my photography business. Until now I have relied almost completely on references from friends. As a result, my prices are dirt cheap compared to the serious industry in the valley. Which, you'd think, would give me an edge when it comes to competition for weddings with people being more money conscious then ever.

Not so. Why? I'm at a weird mid-range place where I charge much less then the photographers who own their own physical studios and employ staff to book gigs and process their work. But I also charge more then the people who are trying their hand at photography and are quoting potential clients fees that make it barely worth their time to do the gigs.

Case and point: I was asked to quote a wedding this week, and the package included an engagement session. Right now I am including regular engagement sessions as a freebie if people book a wedding with me, which saves my clients $150. However, this engagement session was to take place at one of my favorite mountain lakes.... two and a half hours from my house. That is 5 additional hours that day committed to photography for the couple, so while I discounted the whole package by $150, I did charge for travel time.

While I was excited about the location for both the engagement and wedding pictures, and I felt that my personality was a good match for the couple, ultimately then went with someone they found on craigslist who is doing the whole thing for practically nothing. I figured with the travel time, time taking photos, and hours and hours of post-processing for both sessions.... their photographer is making $15 an hour.

I started out the same way that these photographers did, so I completely understand the need to underbid for the sake of booking any wedding they can get. I'm lucky in that this photography job is my passion, not my livelihood, but it is still disheartening to lose fun gigs because people are willing to gather quotes, then just take the lowest one regardless of skill or experience.

So here I am with a decision to make. Do I make the leap and start advertising in order to increase interest, or do I just bag the whole thing and go back to taking pictures for fun? I'd hate to do that because I really do love being able to offer people the opportunity to have beautiful pictures of their families to put on their wall.... without having to pay a ton of money or deal with people at JCPenny who have no other qualification besides the ability to hit the shutter release.

And if I do decide to advertise, how in the world am I going to pay for it, and how do I start? Until I've been completely self-sufficient doing all my own sales tax processing, creating and maintaining my own website, meeting with clients, doing all the necessary paperwork, and I even do all my own processing, which is getting rarer these days.

So, a dilema.


OpenID wideopensquint said...

I went through a similar ordeal when I started accounting consulting. My advertising suggestions would be: Google Ad Words, Craigslist (attach your web link & a colorful flyer or business card), maybe attend some bridal shows? Setup a raffle to brides who register with certain local shops or who purchase wedding items at David's Bridal (or something similar). When I bought my wedding dress I got about 30 calls from different Mary Kay ladies who wanted to do my wedding makeup. It was very effective ... a little redundant, but effective.

7:06 AM  
Blogger Hydrant girl said...

Check out my wedding picture blog, and there is a link to my cousin's website. She's an amazing photographer, and I'm sure would be able to help you with any questions you have.

I think you need to present the arguement that a wedding is NOT the time to have a novice photographer. It's not like a family shot where you can get everyone back together if the pictures don't turn out.

Phrase something like "on your day, who will you trust with your memories."

Wow, that was good. I should market that : )

7:06 AM  
Blogger Noel said...

I say keep with it and start with the free advertising. Craigslist, city papers, facebook, etc. Boutique season is also just starting up. You don't actually have to sit at the boutiques. You can just ask to have your card or a flyer handed out during the boutique. Or if they are doing a handout for all customers ask that your name be on it. etc. That's how I'm going to work my cards, as well as Southern Living. But don't quit. You are too good and you love it too much to do that. my two cents worth. :)

9:38 AM  

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    Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

    I'm Amanda. I'm an engineer in an industry full of men, a professional wedding and family portrait photographer, a firefighter's wife, a traveler, and a dogMa.

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