Are cheap photographers ruining the market?
Before we go further, I should present a warning that some opinions in this article may be triggering for many professional-level photographers. Today’s topic is: do cheap/budget photographers hurt the market as a whole? I know a ton of pro and non-pro photographers and I have spent many hours pondering and debating this question.
Every market has them
Whether you are a photographer, graphic designer, general contractor or mechanic, there are always people in your market who are happy to underprice you and take your clients. Therefore, so many photographers bemoan the presence of new photographers who are willing to work for cheap or free. The consensus is that because they are willing to work for cheaper than you are that they are driving prices in the photography market down overall. It doesn’t take long to find an article or video from a photography industry leader pleading other photographers to raise their prices so that the general public will begin to value the skills of a professional photographer over the amateurs looking to build a portfolio and willing to shoot that wedding for next to nothing. If you are an established pro, is that new guy who just bought his first camera really hurting your bottom line?
The market and you
The nature of a market is to change. Regardless of the industry you are in, not heeding market and industry changes can only spell disaster for any business. In terms of photography, cell phones and other portable cameras are more than capable of capturing an event with “good enough” quality. If you are a wedding photographer and fail t recognize this, you are destined to fail. The general public clients don’t value photography or retouching skills like they used to because cell phones are good enough and there are a million and one “one click” filters and automatic software retouchers that do the job well enough to not shell out the money for a professional level photographer. I would argue that the person with a limited budget of $500 USD is not hurting your business if you commonly charge several thousand dollars to shoot a similar event. If you are an established full-time photographer, don’t compare yourself to that guy who just bought his camera and put up his first Craigslist ad, you are in very different places in your careers.
On the other hand, if the person who is underpricing you is delivering equivalent quality work as you, then you need to reevaluate who your clients are. Every market has tiers, and in terms of photography, the higher (price) tiers tend to come with clients who understand the value of the photographers’ skills. It might be time for you to rethink who you are pitching your services to. Is the person not hiring you because you are too expensive really your customer? Or is that person looking for “good enough” rather than pro-level? For many, especially when planning weddings, they have so many other things they need to budget for, that they would probably love to have your quality, but need to pass because they have so many other expenditures. The key here is not to lower your prices but find the clientele who are willing to pay what your services are worth. Lowering your prices devalues your services and will be confusing when you cannot offer the same price for clients referred from that cheap wedding you shot last year.
The photographer who has little overhead and can charge $500 for a wedding will likely not be able to maintain that cost level for very long. Their skill level will increase, their overhead and gear needs will change, and they will eventually have to charge more. The irony is that they will then be in the same position complaining about lower priced photographers taking their clients.
This can all be tough to hear. With so many options out there for clients, the days of being able to charge thousands of dollars just because you have a professional looking camera are long gone. What are your feelings on budget priced photographers in the market? Do you feel they are hurting your bottom line? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, feel free to drop me a message on my social media links below. Follow me and I will happily follow you back.
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