One of the most fun aspects of social media is the friendships that come out of Cyberspace. This post is an example of one of those friendships. While Simon King from the UK and I have never formally met face to face, we share the same passion for the industry and have stayed in touch since he wrote this guest post almost five years ago.
This morning on Facebook, Simon shared a post expressing his frustration at being in the hospital the last few days. Well, catching up with him for only a few seconds this morning got me thinking about this post he wrote about pricing. Simon compared professional photographers to needing to adopt the attributes of a great head chef and the challenge of clients wanting to price shop the difference between top shelf and lower end restaurants.
But, I want to take the comparison one step further. Think of a wedding album as the ultimate meal with various courses, each requiring a slightly different skill set. Each course has to be a component of an entire outstanding meal, just like each image in a wedding album is another piece of very special and unique story.
So, Simon, as president of your US Fan Club I hope you're feeling better and thanks for your never-ending support of an industry we both love!
Recently I have seen a number of photographers asked for the RAW files from a wedding or asked to match someone elses price because the client likes your work, but the other photographer's pricing. I wonder what other profession attracts this kind of behavior. A lot of photographers blame the advent of the camera phone and social media for devaluing our collective brand. But, on the flip side there are many photographers out there building a decent business from what they do.
Sometimes I like to compare our profession to others to see if I can understand people's thinking. Take the idea of customers asking for the RAW files. Most of us deal in providing a customer with the finished product. Much like a fine dining restaurant. When I go out for a nice meal I expect the head chef to know his art and I've chosen the restaurant based upon the menu and the establishment's reputation. I don’t, on entering the premises, start negotiation on my meal and ask to chop and change the menu.
I don’t suggest I go into the kitchen take all of the RAW ingredients and make the meal myself using their ovens and utensils. I have an oven at home, which makes me a chef right? Also, my oven makes pretty good food. The point to this is we need to stay in control of what we offer and what the boundaries are for customization of our packages. If we start giving RAW files out to the customer we have no control over the editing and therefore no control over our reputation. Your name will be on those photographs no matter how they end up looking. So when asked, who was the photographer, the customer will be giving your name.
Pleading that you really want to eat there isn’t going to help either. If you really want to eat at the top restaurant you have to pay the asking price. It's as simple as that. It’s exactly the same for us; if a customer is working this angle tell them to use the other photographer. Keep that line throughout all discussions, if they really, really want you they’ll pay what you ask. If the higher end restaurant isn’t busy then they have priced themselves out of the market. Again, the same goes for us.
None of the above logic prevents you from running promotions, agreeing bespoke packages with customers and most importantly good old customer service. Once we start to let customers treat us like a commodity we’re on dangerous ground. Sometimes we may let a customer dictate to us because they are well connected. The issue then is that any referrals coming from that contact will expect the same.
Remember most head chefs cook because they love cooking but they would never consider being dictated to by the customer. Most photographers love what they do first and foremost, but maybe we should all behave a little more like a head chef!