Am I a hypocrite? Pricing for Photographers

This is another post for the photography industry. ¬†(So clients, you can excuse yourselves haha ūüėČ ¬†If you don’t know, I am on a mission to help save the photography industry and am asking others to join me.)

I went back and forth whether to follow up to this How to Price Photography post.   Since that was published, I have received good and bad responses.  The backlash has floored me.

The Good

Many photographers were thrilled to use the spreadsheet ¬†(SEEN HERE) and the fact that it was so affordable, and it made me happy to be able to provide something that can help the industry. ¬†Remember, I’ve been saying, this is the year to help the industry! ¬†that is what I committed to. ¬† I made THIS COMMITTMENT ¬†ūüėČ

The Bad

I received some backlash. ¬†Why? ¬†Isn’t this a win-win for all? ¬†I thought it was. ¬†The backlash implied I was a hypocrite for selling a product for “cheap”. ¬† That backlash wasn’t from photographers. ¬† That backlash was from those who sell to photographers. ¬† ¬†That’s where they get their income, or the majority of it ¬†– selling to other photographers. ¬†Is there anything wrong with that? ¬†No. ¬†But if we don’t help the photography industry at its base, there will be nothing left for anyone, and that means no photographers to sell to either. ¬†Think about it.

A Little Background

First of all, back in 1994, I started college to become an accountant. ¬†I also had training for my day job where I worked with an actuary in Excel and Lotus (remember Lotus anyone?). ¬†I quit college, married my husband, and started my first business. ¬†I really didn’t like that business, so I started a new one. ¬†Both of them were successful. ¬†I was always profiting and paying myself a good salary. ¬†I became burnt out in that second business, and decided to go back to my art roots, and open up a photography studio. ¬†I’ve done that ever since. ¬†Because I have always run my own businesses, and had the background in spreadsheets, I always used spreadsheets to keep track of everything. ¬† ¬†Now, I am back in college, again, for accounting, so this has always been my thing.

From a Business Standpoint

I have had this spreadsheet since the late 90s, evolving as I changed businesses, and it took me one hour to clean it up, and prepare it for download. ¬†After that, it doesn’t take me any time at all. ¬†I’m putting no work or time into that spreadsheet as it sells. ¬†Anything that I make on it, is direct profit, no cost of goods sold. ¬†I wanted to give it away free to everyone, until my husband looked at me and said “It’s slow time, we have bills to pay… why not sell it for something to recoup your time.” ¬† I thought “Yeah, didn’t I just go on and on about valuing your time?”

I Weighed My Options.

¬†¬† ¬† Sell it Expensive: ¬†You know, again, this is not costing me any more time. ¬†Nothing. ¬†Selling 10 of them covered my time. ¬†I could put it up for $150. ¬†Who would buy it? —- ¬†Those who are business smart who are doing fairly well enough in business to pay for it, will buy it. ¬†Well, those people usually already know their bottom line, right? ¬†How will that benefit this industry? ¬†Who I want to have this spreadsheet is those who really need the help in business management and aren’t doing well financially with their businesses, or don’t really understand they aren’t doing well —— The up-and-coming photographers, the ones that will carry the future of our industry. ¬†THAT is who I want this spreadsheet to be available to, and I won’t reach that target with a price of $100+.

¬†¬† ¬†Sell it Cheap: ¬†Is there ever a reason to sell cheap photography? ¬†If you are mass producing like Sears did, 15 minutes of time, no edits, no 10 expensive props, yes, there is a time and a place that you could sell cheap photography and still make a decent salary that you could support yourself on. ¬†It doesn’t happen often, but some business models can work. ¬†Gasp! ¬†I said it. ¬†Usually, however, as a custom photographer, you are a one man show and an artist, and won’t allow yourself to mass produce…. so that is where the conflict in this model arises many times. ¬† What would selling this spreadsheet for cheap do?

  • I’d recoup my costs within 10 sales, and now that we are up to 100+ sales, the other amount covered my expertise/experience enough, right? ¬†Sure. ¬†I didn’t work for minimum wage or less. ¬†I got paid very fairly for my time. ¬†I did not gouge. ¬†Even my tax accountant wouldn’t have charged me that much for a simple spreadsheet. ¬†There is no way he would have handed something like that to me and said, “That will be $150 please.” ¬†No. ¬†He would give me a spreadsheet so that it would make his life easier when I came to him later and presented him with my figures. ¬†He wants me to be able to profit, so his services will still be needed. ¬† I was told yesterday, just like I have told others, work smarter, not harder. ¬† I should have sold that spreadsheet for like $100 or more and been sitting on a pile of $10,000 in cash right now.

Pricing for PhotographersYes, I know…. I could have done that. ¬† That’s what many are doing, there is nothing wrong with that. ¬† However, this wasn’t about money to me. ¬†This was about something more. ¬†What is bigger than any amount of money for this industry right now? ¬†Raising awareness to photographers what exactly they are paying themselves and what they can do to make changes for their future pricing that will keep this industry strong. ¬†Hmmm…. I’m sorry, maybe I have too much morality deep down inside, but I felt that being able to help the industry at its foundation, its base, would be a good thing. ¬†Did I do wrong? ¬†Am I a hypocrite?

Backlash

I was kicked out of a group of professionals and told that I was untrustworthy and apparently undercutting my fellow ‘sell-to-photographers’. ¬†Hey, I was a team player. I kept their secrets. ¬†And what is there to trust? ¬†I didn’t see anything illegal going on. ¬†Is there something I should have seen and didn’t? ¬†I really have no idea. ¬†I saw people sharing their business techniques for making money. ¬† ¬†If you know me, I am too honest at times and make myself vulnerable by telling exactly the state and numbers of my business versus lying to the public to keep some sort of facade up. ¬† I’m not the one they shouldn’t be trusting. ¬†Wow… if they only knew what else was lurking in that group… ¬†but I digress…… I will say this. ¬†They better start paying attention to the foundation of this industry. ¬†We need to educate at the base, even for cheap (but yes, pay for your ACTUAL time, doesn’t have to be “the photographer tax” we sometimes add on…..because we can….), just to get photographers to learn business management and to better themselves and value themselves. ¬†If we don’t, even these “sell-to-photographers” types, will not have anyone to sell to. ¬†Then, we are all out of luck, right?

There’s a strange underbelly in this industry, that I stepped into, completely naive. ¬†I had no idea it existed, and moreso, it’s hard for my brain to wrap around the fact that many who I thought wanted a better industry that has some longevity, really don’t. ¬†It’s all about the cash in the pocket today. ¬†I lost several deals yesterday I had with other people. ¬†It was like a hit went out on me instantly. ¬†How dare I care for my fellow hard working photographers. ¬†Backs were turned on me.

Conclusion

Maybe it’s because I’m still in the trenches with all of you, that I made decisions like I did for this. ¬† I still depend on a client base to make my bills. ¬†Don’t get me wrong, ¬†I do sell to photographers. ¬†I sell my expertise to in my books, and they aren’t cheap – they are very much valued, but that’s because those books are my heart and soul and took me years of experience to write and contain my secrets to everything I do with a camera and lights. ¬† However, 90 percent of my income comes from having real live clients, and that’s the area of this industry that needs help. ¬†We need to protect the future of the foundation – the photographers. ¬†Those who make this industry what it is. ¬†Those who do the hard work. ¬†If we don’t do that, we will have nothing.

I wasn’t out to hurt anyone. ¬†I’m loyal to those around. ¬†Even if I see something I find is just a bit slimey, if I’m in with you, I’m in with you…(unless it’s illegal, I won’t stand for that) and I will try my best to see everything from all angles, and be a team player. ¬†I’m an ISTJ – look it up. ¬†You can’t find a more responsible and hard working personality type… an ISTJ is a machine (that’s why my other part of my brain likes math).

So if you feel I’m a hypocrite. ¬†It’s okay. ¬†I can take it. ¬†I now have said what I had to say. ¬†I’d rather spread an easily accessible help for businesses in the hopes that seeds will be planted, and maybe a strong root system will develop for our future. ¬†If anyone wants to make this a them vs. us. ¬†I’m on the side of the photographer, and that is where I always will be.

The alternate title to this post, I know, it’s not very classy, so pardon me, please, but a note to the sellers-to-photographers. ¬†Keep this in mind: ¬†“You shouldn’t defecate where you eat.”

About Jodie Otte

Maryland Newborn Photographer and Child Portrait Artist, Jodie Holstein-Otte, specializes in unique photography of newborn babies, kids, and families. She works on location in Harford, Howard, Cecil, Anne Arundel, Baltimore and other areas throughout Maryland. She uses both both natural lighting and soft studio lighting techniques.

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