Saturday, March 5, 2011

I Hate This Part

Thank you, Wendy L. White Photography, for allowing me to share.

I am not a business woman.  I play at photography because I love it.  I'm truly obsessed.  It is always on my mind.  I voraciously read everything I can get my hands on.  I've spent thousands (!!) of dollars on continuing education, better equipment, webpages, and more.  It is just the most fun I've ever had in my life.  I love being a mother, I do.  But photography is something creative.  It is entirely separate from my role as Mom... something JUST for me. 

When it comes to the business side, I just feel so torn about the whole thing. I keep prices low and offer digital images because I actually WANT to "work" (truthfully, PLAY) and love what I do. I seriously just plain LOVE doing photo sessions. 

But there are a couple of things wrong with my pricing: 
  1. There are families of actual professionals who DEPEND on the income. My low-balling hurts the photography community as a whole. Two of my BEST FRIENDS in the whole wide world (Kelly and Chryshelle!) are trying to actually make a real income.  Kelly can't quit her day job until she replaces her salary.  People like me make that really difficult.  :(
  2. I don't make money. I just don't. I spend everything I make on more photography equipment or buy templates for announcements or new websites... I mean, this is truly not a business but a hobby.  I listen to Dave Ramsey, and he makes fun of people like me!
  3. I spend a whole lot of time away from the family doing this wonderful thing.  While I am perfectly content to "work" (PLAY) for free, it causes dissension in my marriage.  It isn't fair to my family.  Adam doesn't want to work for free, and he does work when he is home alone with the four kids all day and helping maintain the house/cooking/etc on his own. 
  4. Yes, my husband supports us with his income. But I know I could be contributing more. I have student loans that I need to pay off. I want to adopt in 5-7 years. Money doesn't motivate me the way it does some other people, but it is necessary. I could really use it.
But I am afraid. 

I've changed my pricing structure too many time, and I am afraid of alienating clients.  When I tried changing my pricing at the beginning of 2011, I got a whopping total of ONE booking in 2 months. I was so sad. It really broke my heart to see clients going for the cheaper shoot-and-burners. 

I try not to be snobby, because I started somewhere too. Those photos will never see the light of day again.  But UGH. Everyone with a DSLR thinks that they're a photographer, even when shooting in AUTO and with horrible Photoshop actions run on 100% opacity on EVERYthing. So price-wise, I can't compete. And I really don't even want to compete.

So now I've talked myself in a circle. This is just really hard.

I really don't think the average person understands the work behind  custom photography session.  And I don't think the average person understands the difference in print quality between a professional lab and a retail store's one-hour printing shop.  I reposted this yesterday on my page, thanks to Wendy in hopes of providing a great visual.

So the eternal question and struggle and source of much angst and conflict in my life.... what is the purpose of Lerin Photography?  Am I a content hobbyist or is this a profession?

What do you think?


Julie said...

What you do is more than a hobby. The quality of work you do has surpassed hobby work.

From a business only booked those 2 shoots because the previous clients and their referrals were in sticker shock. It takes time for people accept a change. When people have similar prices, people start looking at quality and judging talent..instead of price....

When you made that change you were well aware you may take some takes time to recuperate those losses. It doesnt happen over night.

When it comes to what you do..your goal is to keep up with your competition or beat them but still retain your dignity and properly reflect your service that you provide.

If you wish for your passion to be your hobby, you can't offer package deals that are similar to the photographers that use this service as their source of income.

I would suggest limiting "hobby work" sessions to 20-30 minutes, and offering only 1 pose packages for a decent price. Additional poses will cost a significant amount more. Only edit 3-4 images for them to look at and chose from.
This method will decrease your work load, but still enable you to enjoy your hobby.

What I see from my perspective is you are like a middle choice for people. You offer a good selection for a good price. You dont want to be too cheap but you dont want to be as expensive as your competition either. But you really should choose one side or the other based on what you have said.

I hope this helped


The Lewis Family said...

I think you couldn't have said this better! It is now up to you if you want to be a part of the professionals who value their craft and support others who study like you do and create a pricing structure that is good for you and your business ;) one that separates the Dslr shooter to a photographer. Or if it works for you and your family what you have going then keep it that way, but like you said maybe a hobby and not a professional photographer. It's All about how you want your work to be valued or just having business ;) good luck lerin, been there and had to choose have a talent just get the courage to value it and do what puts you and your family first. If you want to chat I'm here ;)

Tracey said...


I know this is a hard decision for you to make. However, on the side of a bride who just selected a photographer for my wedding pictures, I did choose the photographer who offered the DVD of all my shots. However, he made it clear that he goes through and cleans up the shots and puts them on the dvd, however, if you order prints through him he does further detail work (skin stuff and etc).

One idea would be to offer the cd/dvd as a low res so your clients can post them on fb but don't have the ability to reprint. If they want to have reprint abilities they only get a cd/dvd of the prints they ordered from you.

I have enjoyed watching your work improve and the shots you post. You are more than a hobby photographer, but you have to decide as a mother and a wife how much time you really have to devote to being a professional.

Love and hugs!

Liz @ Sugarplum Creations said...

It is hard, Lerin, but I think you know what you need to do. You are a wonderful photographer, and your prices need to reflect that. I'm not saying that I think you need to over-charge, but you do need to be making money for all of the time, work, and skill you put into it. Of course, I say this as someone who feels the same as you. I love photography, it is fun, and something just for me. And money doesn't motivate me much either {though I'd love to be able to contribute a little to our growing family}. I think you hit the nail on the head, though, when you mentioned that it wasn't fair to other photographers who *have* to make a living.

Tough decisions, but you will be supported.


Delicate Dewdrops Photography said...

Julie has some extremely excellent points. Also, please keep in mind that January, February, and a good deal of March are slower months for most photographers, regardless of region. And interestingly enough, it's when I notice most veteran photogs raising prices. So honestly, I think you've planned it well and your prices are still amazingly affordable for what you offer. They really are. Anyone that would call you "expensive" at those rates isn't seeing the full picture. I've seen you beginning to end and I can assure everyone reading this: YOU.ARE.WORTH.IT. Every last penny, and then some.

Milehimama @ Mama Says said...

I think... you should not be asking us what we think. Because ultimately, you and your husband are the ones who need to work this out and make these decisions.

That said, I'm a former office manager/Accounts manager and I'll be happy to help you with the number crunching/setting up as a business/taking a look at the P/L and where you can go with your photography as you determine how much "hobby" and how much "business" you want to do/balance, if you want an objective opinion. (Plus, we STILL haven't gotten together even though we've talked about it for over a year! :) email me.)

Hil and Bob said...

Our family is going through a similar situation. My husband has a wrestling training center that he is passionate about, but doesn't actually turn a profit on. It is hard to strike a balance in life, isn't it? Ok, I'm having trouble with your comment section because it will only allow google links, but I'm over at wordpress.... I really enjoy reading your stuff! Write more! :)