At least once a day I see a social media rant about other photographers, also referred to as “the competition”, and how they are “devaluing” photography. I see it across the board from wedding and newborn photography, to commercial work and fashion photography.
With developing technology, it’s true that taking a photograph has never been so easy! It’s also true that our lives are over-saturated with images, almost to the point of information overload. And yet, the demand for photography keeps on growing regardless of budget.
Regularly I see posts in wedding photography groups complaining about the low prices of other local photographers. Ironically, I also see in bridal social media groups, that photographers are practically entering bidding wars and making themselves look painfully desperate in order to secure a booking. This is something I have done myself in the past when I’ve felt the real-life financial pressure of needing that regular income. So, trust me, I understand it.
Both sides of the argument are a part of an issue that affects us all – money.
You see, price does not equal quality. Nor does it guarantee it. I think this is where the problem lies as a lot of people believe that the more expensive something is, the better it is. Of course, this has a massive truth behind it but it is also down to marketing, style, budgets and most importantly business plans.
This itself is the dangerous tightrope that photographers walk. On the one hand, it’s our job and we want to have an income that allows us to be able to afford the lifestyle we want. On the other hand, we want to be open and honest and not overcharge our clients based on our believed worth.
I’m open about my prices and will always have them displayed on my website. I’m also open about the fact that I only take on 35 weddings per year and if you’re any good at maths, or have your phone near you, you can figure out what my business turns over. However, this is the part most people forget – after expenses and taxes, I could earn more working in McDonald’s. It’s as simple as that. I could probably make three times as much working in an office.
On the other hand, clients, brides and grooms, also have a budget to work by, and I think as photographers we forget that. This is why I don’t care what others are charging, and I really mean that. I actually do not care how much money someone is charging for a photography service. Because somewhere along the line that price will be someone’s top budget.
Some people can’t afford the photographer they want but this doesn’t mean they don’t respect your work or don’t pick you because others are better. It just means you’re out of their price range and there’s nothing wrong with that.
I actually could not afford the photographer I wanted to photograph our wedding. In fact, for perspective, the photographer I initially wanted costed more than our entire wedding did in the end! Thankfully we found an amazing couple who photographed our day at a price we could afford.
As far as I’m concerned, as long as the client is happy with the quality of work and the photographer is running a legal business and paying taxes etc. then happy days. The only devaluing of the industry I can ever see, is when people are scammed out of money, which sadly happens more on the lower end of the investment spectrum.
Lastly, people talk about competition as if it’s a bad thing but it’s not. It boils down to the fact that those who are rubbish and can’t make their clients happy, won’t be in business for long. So why worry? Those who are amazing and great will have their own style, their own target market and their own social circles. I adore all the local wedding photographers around me. I talk openly and often with them and we’re always exchanging ideas together, to helping each other with current issues our businesses may be facing.
Affordable photography is not devaluing your work. I firmly believe that the grass is greener where you water it. Stop worrying about your neighbour’s garden. We need to stop blaming “competition” for our own shortfalls. Let’s own up to mistakes, rectify them and grow as a community.