Cameras have become so dumbed down in recent years that pretty much anyone can take great shots with even an iPhone or an entry-level camera. Here’s why you do not need to worry about the explosion of mediocre photography impacting your business.
If an Amateur Is a Threat to You, You Are the Problem
If you are worried that a person with no skill or experience is going to take all of your business, then the problem is that you should not own that market to begin with. If you are replaceable by virtually everyone with an iPhone, then you need to up your game. The problem is that you are not good enough, not that the market is being flooded with amateurs. Amateurs coming in and doing exactly what you do is just exposing your lack of specialized skill.
Underbidding can also seem like a problem, but it’s not. If you are in any photography Facebook groups, you might see something like this:
Photographer needed for a clothing brand shoot. Paid! $100 for full day and must provide 50 edits.
That post will have 20 comments from people jumping at the opportunity. But the important thing to remember is that a client that has a $100 budget for 8 hours of work on top of 10 hours of editing was not your target client to begin with. That client is paying a budget rate and is going to get budget quality in return. If you are charging decent rates in exchange for a decent product, you haven’t lost any clients. You have lost the opportunity to work with someone who would undervalue your work. That’s not a loss.
A Good Photographer Should Welcome Amateurs to the Market
Imagine you are a Mercedes dealership and 18 used car lots open around you. Are you afraid of never being able to sell a Mercedes with all of these cheap 2005 Honda Civics for sale around you? People in the market for a 2005 Honda Civic are not going to suddenly be in the market for a new Mercedes, and people in the market for a new Mercedes are not going to be tempted by a significantly cheaper 2005 Honda Civic.
An influx in mediocre photography should only help you stand out more. If everyone around you is a six out of ten, then even being a seven out of ten makes so much more valuable.
How to Make Money Off Your Competitors
If you shoot high school seniors and there are five photographers in your area who charge half what you charge and offer twice as many photos, here is what you need to do:
- Identify what sets you apart from those photographers
- Communicate that difference to your demographic
I don’t mean that you should message potential clients or make an ad about all the reasons you are better than the next guy. That would probably hurt your business. Look at the people underbidding you and look for the reasons why someone should hire you instead. Is your editing better? Is your lighting better? Is your composition better? What is it about your style and your product that makes you better than the people who significantly undercharge you?
The next step is to communicate that to your target demographic. For example, if you believe that your editing sets you apart, then maybe share some before and after shots in your posts. Make it clear the work that you put into your pictures to give them your signature style. You need to make sure your target demographic understands why they would go to you instead of the cheaper version. The burden is on you to educate your potential clients.
I had a recent call with a bride-to-be. She told me that she priced around and saw that there are some people who would only charge $500 for a wedding, so she could just go with them if I didn’t lower my prices. I explained to her what a $500 wedding photographer would likely deliver, how a $10,000 photographer would be different, and how my price in between the two would probably better suit her needs and not leave her with a lifetime of regret and disappointment when she looks at her wedding photos with her grandkids.
Remember that your clients are not always in this industry, and they don’t understand the difference between one photographer and the next. If a bride-to-be sees a pretty wedding photo on someone’s Instagram and they would only charge $500 and you charge $4,000, then you can explain how you have experience in taking group photos and lighting for group photos. You have experience in low-light situations, like a dimly lit reception hall. You have a second shooter who will capture a different angle or shoot video. The point is that your potential client would probably not think about these things, even if they see that both portfolios have pretty pictures. It is up to you to educate your demographic if you want to charge more than the other people in your area.
To circle back to the original example of the clothing brand offering $100 for 50 edits, if you are worried that potential clients might see this rate and get an idea in their heads about what an appropriate rate should be, then message this clothing brand and say: “Hello, I saw your ad for a photographer for $100 for 50 edits. My rate is higher than that and the difference is X. If your budget ever changes, I encourage you to check out my work on my website. I’ve worked with several clothing brands similar to yours who have paid my rate and I’ve helped them achieve their marketing goals." Or something to that effect.