Is My 16×20 Print Worth $200 or $6,000?

“This has always been a MAJOR problem for me. And namely, it’s articles like this that say “sell it at it’s real value” or “charge what it’s worth” or other such statements and then don’t go on to say what something is worth. I have no idea if a 16x20print print is worth $200 or $6,000…Where do I get THAT information? NO ONE EVER GIVES THAT INFO. Should I charge by the hour? Or per project? Why would charge $300 for a regular portrait session but double that for a glamour session where they’re essentially the same thing? How do I decide to sell my basic wedding package at $4500 instead of $1900 even though nothing has changed?

The lack of this sort of information is what prevents a lot of photographers from charging accordingly. If you go to a bodyshop to get work done on your car you can expect to pay around $75 an hour for labor. If you go grocery shopping you can expect to pay around $4 for a gallon of milk (4 litres for those of us in Canada). But photography [prices range SO much, no one actually knows what to charge and that’s the biggest problem I ever have; knowing what to charge AND justifying to my clients why I charge that much.

If only the industry could work together to make things more even on the playing field it would probably help a lot.”
~ Dave Wilson

I received this comment a day ago, and as I sat there typing up a response, it got longer and longer. I knew this is probably something more than one of you have had questions about, so I decided to make it today’s post.

Hi Dave

Thanks for your comment. Now lets dive in and let me share with you why giving you an exact price is impossible. (Don’t get frustrated yet, I’ll share a lot to help you out!)

If you go grocery shopping and buy a gallon (or 4 litres) of milk, you will pay around $4, depending on your area. The reason you do that is milk is a commodity. It’s a product. Grocery store A pretty much sells the same milk as grocery store B, hence the reason its always around $4. You may pay $5 if you run to a convenience store, but you expect to pay more because its convenient. Likewise if you decide to go organic, you will also pay a bit more because there isn’t the same demand for it and it has a higher value. But milk is milk. Nothing makes one gallon of milk better than the next.

Likewise, if you go to a bodyshop, they pretty much all do the same level of work. Your car has a scratch or a dent, and they simply have to make it look like “new”. If one worker doesn’t do a good job, or doesn’t show up for work, they can hire another one to replace him or her immediately. Yes, there is some skill. But it is a learned skill; one you can teach anybody quickly. Which is why from bodyshop to bodyshop, they pretty much charge the same amount. They have parts and labor to account for when coming up with their pricing structure.

Now we move to photography. If we treated photography like milk or like a bodyshop, we would train photographers to place people on an X in front of a backdrop, take the shot, move them to a computer for showing and selling, and send them out the door with photos in hand. The only training for the “photographer” would be to roll down the right backdrop, insert the appropriate prop on spot X, place people on the appropriate spot X, push the trigger, and do a little computer work. And yes, if this sounds familiar, its because these types of studios exist all over the world. Big box stores saw the opportunity and jumped on it.

 

 

But look at those images. Those are the photos that are the “cheesy” images. They are the ones that get placed in those “awkward photos” books and sites you see online. There is nothing magical about them. They are simply snapshots tracking a moment in time.

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Do You Need To Be A Storage Facility Instead Of A Printer?

One of my favorite parts of blogging is research. I love seeing what other people are doing, what they are thinking, and how they are setting businesses up for the future.

Today I ran across a great article on H&H Color Lab – Towards a Brave New World in Photography. And it reminded me of an article I wrote months ago – Photographers – The History Killers.

Digital is here to stay. And whether we like it or not, photography is changing. Twenty-five years from now, our homes won’t be set up the way they are today. Instead of a paper printed photographs hanging on the wall, we’ll probably have a screen displaying a series of images that we have pre-selected. We won’t use photo albums; we’ll use devices that allow us to store mega amounts of data in a variety of formats. We’ll be able to carry all of our memories within one small unit.

It’s coming whether we want it to or not. You can’t change it. It’s like standing at the base of a volcano and trying to hold back a flow of lava. No matter what you do, it will flow around you and just keep going. You can’t hold back the progress.

But it also makes me question once again:

Is this the generation that will end up with zero memories in 20 years?

I too have met people that treat flash cards like film. They keep shooting and buying flash drives because they don’t know how to get the images off the card. So the cards stack up on the desk alongside the computer.

Others rely on CD/DVDs, and expect them to be there 10 years from now when they decide to look at them again. They throw them into a box with all the other CD/DVDs – which ultimately has very little value, and very little significance.

Still others load their images on a computer, and store them in a file “personal photos”. They add new images every chance they get, and the file continues to grow.

I’m willing to bet less than one percent of today’s consumers backup their computer on a regular basis, if at all. I hear the horror stories all the time: house fire, theft, computer failure. It happens in the blink of an eye, and all of your data, all of your memories are gone in an instant.

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A Guide To Getting Started In Selling Microstock

There are two ways to make a full time income. Price your services high and select a few customers to cater your services to. Or price your services low and work for volume.

Increasingly people are looking at the low price high volume model, and seeing how lucrative it can really be. You can build apps (I would love to be a part of Angry Birds model), ebooks (think Kindle and Nook), or in the photography world, microstock.

How Does It Work?

If you want to sell microstock, the best place to start is with microstock agencies. There are a number of great agencies, and more are being created every day.

Dig Deeper: 65 Stock Photography Sties To Find And Sell Photography and a couple of new ones

Stockfresh

Pixmac

As you visit an agency, head to their photographers section, and find out what it takes to build an account. Each agency has their own set of guidelines. They want serious photographers only, so you will have to meet their requirements. They usually do that in two ways:

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9 Ways To Present Your Photographs And The Value They Portray

How do you present your final photographs to your client? How you present them says a lot about you. Do you take the cheapest way possible to save money? Or do you spend a little extra to present something your clients can’t get anywhere else.

If you shop at Wal-Mart, you expect the cheapest plastic bag possible at the checkout. You’re there to save money, and you don’t want to spend anything more than absolutely necessary.

But if you go to Tiffany’s, how it’s presented is almost as important as what is inside the box. If you give a Tiffany’s gift, you can present it in the box and in the bag it comes from the store in, knowing the recipient will squeal with delight when they see that light blue color.

How are you presenting your images? And what value do they have in the eyes of your client?

CD

Does a CD truly portray value in your photography? Or is it the cheapest presentation possible? Even if you create a custom insert in the jewel case, and etch the CD with your logo, they don’t get to experience your images upon receipt.

While a CD may be a great addition to a large package order, it should always be presented as an afterthought. You want people to look at your photography and experience the artwork – not have to take it home and pop it into their computer.

Loose Prints

A stack of loose prints has low value to a client. They receive a stack of loose prints from the big box store. Yes, they may love the images, but by presenting them in a stack, they can shove them in a drawer, touch them with dirty fingers, and bend them by throwing them on a desk.

Cardboard Folders

Cardboard folders have been around for decades. It’s a great way to add value to an image, and give the customer a better way to temporarily display it, and hand it out to family and friends that have placed orders. It’s also a step up from a loose print, and can be used to combine a two or three images, similar to what sports photographers give when presenting a group and individual image.

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Who Really Owns Your Photos On Social Sites?

Like most people, you probably don’t think twice about it. You head over to the newest social site, sign up for an account, check the “terms of service” box without really reading it, and begin posting. Content, photo videos – it all goes up without much thought as to the true impact. But what rights … Read more

Who Is The Best Photographer On Flickr?

Flickr just celebrated 7 years online. Originally created as a service within a multiplayer online game platform, Flickr developed into a more feasible project, and the rest as they say is history. Flickr can be used in a variety of ways, and a lot of people have found success showcasing their images. Flickr can be … Read more