Photography prices can feel like a tricky topic. One of the most common questions I’m asked by photographers is “How do I charge a lot more for my services?” Followed by “How can I do this when I have photographers in my area charging £99 for a personal branding shoot or under £500 for a wedding?”
This can feel overwhelming when you’re trying to set your photography prices – it’s easy to go down the wrong path if you’re thinking this way.
And the answer to this question doesn’t lie with your photography or your photography prices alone. It’s not about selling your images either.
Your clients don’t buy images, they buy a solution to a problem or in response to an emotion, we’ll come to this in a bit.
The cut-priced photographers are actually doing you a favour. They are servicing the price-hungry tyre kickers whom nobody wants to work with. The customers who buy on price alone and don’t put any value in your services, they just want a cheap deal. You must ignore these people and avoid them at all costs.
The Answer Starts with PERCEIVED VALUE
To understand Perceived Value you need to understand Price. Price is only what we as a consumer deem to be a fair monetary exchange for the value of a service or a product we buy, simple as that. If you think about it, cheap can still be expensive, and expensive can often represent great value for money.
For example, you buy some cheap emulsion to decorate your living room. After an hour of using it, you realise that more of it is going on you than the walls. You’re going to need 20 coats of paint just to cover the old colour. This is where cheap just doesn’t cut it (or cover it should we say!!).
With regards to expensive, that’s easy. Compare BMW to Ford, Ralph Lauren to H&M, and M&S Food to Lidl. Neither of the expensive brands in each example, cars, clothing, and food offer anything more than the cheaper brands do.
The only difference is the Perceived Value of quality, service, and value in relation to price. People pay more because they believe the brands are worth more and their products are of higher quality. It’s worth noting that they make Ralph Lauren shirts in China and that many of the premium car brands use parts from manufacturers that also supply the cheaper end of the market.
Your Brand Speaks Volumes
I know you’re not BMW or M&S, so how do you create a high Perceived Value? Well, this is all in your brand and your brand message. Your clients aren’t photographers, they don’t look at your images the way we do, but your clients are brand experts and so are you, even if you didn’t realise it.
Ever since we were kids we’ve grown up with brands. We have been sold to through clever branding by companies who spend millions and millions of pounds to make sure their logos, fonts, colours, brand identity and brand message appeal to us as consumers.
So much so that we’ll often pay a premium for their products even when we have much cheaper alternatives on offer. This is because as a consumer we can recognise a premium brand and the feeling it creates.
These well-known companies have all spent a lot of time and money researching what brand messages, colours, and fonts appeal to their ideal clients. In fact, all the premium and bespoke brands in every sector from weddings to hospitality, family brands to business solution brands do this.
For this reason, these make great brands to study for inspiration when looking at your own niche of photography.
For example, if you’re a wedding photographer, don’t bother yourself about the cut-price photographers, and don’t look at your direct competitors branding either. Instead look at the high-end wedding venues, the premium boutique bridal shops and the on-trend wedding magazines.
Their clients are the people you want to work with. You’ll notice that a lot of the colours, fonts and messages used in their marketing material are very similar, and it’s all about the client NOT about them.
Consider this price and brand analogy
Imagine you are in a town you’ve never been to on a little staycation break in the UK. You decide to go out for a meal and start walking along the main street, you see a lovely-looking restaurant and say to your other half, “this looks really nice, shall we check out the menu?”.
The restaurant signage, outside paintwork, and hanging baskets have all created a visual appeal – it looks quality. You already have a higher perceived value and are expecting a higher price point. You decide this just from what you see outside. The look, feel and attention to detail, it’s already starting to convince you that the extra money will be worth it for great food in lovely surroundings.
Then you check out the menu in the window. At the top of the menu, it states that ALL their ingredients are locally sourced, and ALL their dishes are freshly prepared every day. You start to read the description of their fish & chips. It reads “Sustainably caught North Sea Cod, cooked in a light and crispy beer batter, served with thick cut, triple cooked chips, minted mushy peas and our chef’s homemade tartar sauce – £30”.
You turn to your partner and say, “Wow that sounds delicious”. It does sound delicious. You haven’t even seen it yet, but from the outside of the restaurant and the menu description, you’re ready to walk in and pay £30 for fish and chips because of the Perceived Value.
Would you do this if the paintwork was flaking, the hanging baskets were full of weeds and the menu read simply, Fish, Chips and Mushy Peas £30? Of course, you wouldn’t.
Using this analogy does your website, which is your equivalent of a restaurant frontage, or your brochures, the equivalent of a restaurant menu, create a High Perceived Value? Do your photography prices sound like a £30, premium meal?
Do you use descriptive words to help potential customers visualise working with you or owning your products? Do you say “wedding album” or “handmade Italian leather fine art wedding album?”
If you ever want to listen to a good example of desire creating descriptive wording, listen to an M&S Food advert. It’s not a normal cheesecake, it’s an M&S richly indulgent, triple Belgian chocolate cheesecake. It’s just words but it sounds AMAZING!!
Sell the Emotion or Sell the Solution
The final piece to the puzzle is to sell the benefits to the client. People don’t buy images they buy the emotion captured in those images or the solution those images provide to a problem.
For example, a restaurant doesn’t want nice photos. What it wants is more bums on seats, more diners through the door and more money in the till, it wants a solution. Don’t sell the images.
Tell them you create drool-worthy images. Images that their followers can virtually smell and taste through their newsfeed. You create images that get their fanbase to like and share and fill their restaurant every night of the week.
Don’t sell a bride images, sell her how she’ll feel on her big day. Sell her fun, natural and hassle-free wedding photography that captures every laugh, every tear, and every intimate moment of her special day.
Can you see how powerful branding and desire-creating words are to your business?
Brand is not your logo, it’s everything your potential clients, think, feel and believe about you and your photography.
Get this right, create a high perceived value and you can double, treble, or even quadruple your prices. Many of my mentoring clients have done this with ease. But only once we’ve nailed their branding, their brand message and created a higher perceived value for what they have to offer.
Why you MUST include photography prices on your photography website
While we are talking about price, and I’ll go into this again another day, another thing that photographers often miss out on is putting their prices on their websites.
Part of creating a premium brand is being clear and proud of the photography prices associated with your services. We want to put off the tyre-kickers, right? But we also want to reassure potential customers that we are the right photographer for them.
That means including at least “from” photography prices for your services on your website. You will be prequalifying your website visitors at that stage. Customers who are ready and willing to pay for professional photography services from you will be reassured that they’re in the right place.
Having done all that work building up your brand and your message as a Premium Brand with a High Perceived Value, it’s important that your website reflects this too. It all works together. Your website needs to look premium when your customers land on it. Your brand needs to be in keeping with your photography prices.
How to get started improving your website today
Helping photographers create an amazing Scroll to a Sale style website has become my mission. These website designs will always include a pre-qualifying price on the homepage.
My new company The Photographers Suite specialises in creating very affordable, high-end, premium-looking websites. These sites are all built to my Scroll to a Sale format.
If you’re not sure what to do about your website, why not find out more today? Check out the website at The Photographers Suite
If you’d like to learn more about creating a website that captures customers and converts them into paying customers, I also released a book in December 2022 entitled “Help, my photography website needs MORE customers!”.
Like my other two photography business books it’s a step-by-step solution. I break all the elements of online branding, website creation, photography prices and content writing to help you convert more of your website visitors into paying customers. My 3rd book, like my other two, is available through Amazon. Search for “Help my photography website needs more customers”
My own mentoring website, The Photographer’s Mentor also contains lots of helpful blogs and free downloadable resources for growing your business.
As always, if you have any questions please reach out. I’m happy to advise. You can connect with me personally on LinkedIn where I always answer messages with a detailed voice reply.