We’ve all seen the memes on Facebook in response to the question “Why do photographers charge so much?”. They usually talk about the cost of gear, and other things that your client doesn’t care about. Sure, equipment, insurance, and all the rest of it are expenses you need to earn it back. But, your expenses are your choice. It doesn’t really make difference to most clients whether you’re shooting a 10 year old DSLR or a $30k Hasselblad.
The only thing that matters to your client are the things that benefit them. Your costs are irrelevant. Photographer Don Giannatti at Lighting Essentials has put together a more realistic invoice. It shows things your clients, at least commercial ones, really should care about. Things that help them and their business.
Notice how it doesn’t mention gear, insurance, paying assistants, keeping a roof over your head, or any of that stuff? Because those things aren’t important to your clients. They’re important to you, sure, but your client doesn’t care. They’re not going to pay you more just because you shoot a $6K 1DX Mark II rather than a $1k D7200. Because to them, it makes no difference at all.
Don freely admits that this is a “Smart ass” way of looking at things. Of course, he also admits that he’s a smart ass, so has no problem with that. And while he doesn’t suggest presenting this list to a potential client, he’s still right.
Yes, your costs are important to you, and they are why you need to charge what you need to charge. In the past, we’ve posted a bunch of guides on pricing yourself for various types of photography. You need to cover your costs to stay in business. If you’re not making a profit, you’re not a business. But that doesn’t mean your potential clients are happy to pay it if they don’t understand the value you’re bringing with it.
Some of the things in Don’s invoice may not necessarily apply to your type of photography. But, there are many parallels, whether you shoot weddings, portraits, pets or whatever.
If you do weddings, for example, you’re unlikely to use the risk of a reshoot as an example. Of course, making the client aware that you understand it’s a one-time, never-to-be-repeated event and that you can guarantee you’re not going to have to stop mid-wedding is important and valuable to them.
I’ve seen countless posts on Facebook over the last year “I’m in the middle of a shoot and my camera’s died, what do I do?”. That is a question that nobody calling themselves a professional photographer should ever have to ask. Because the answer is simple. You pull out your backup body, finish the job, then worry about it later. Doesn’t matter what you shoot. If you have to cancel mid-shoot because your camera’s dead, you’re doing it wrong.
Wedding clients aren’t likely to be using the images sell products to customers, either. But, if you can produce images that will make them feel as wonderful when viewing them years later as they felt on the day itself, that is also valuable and worth paying for.
There’s a huge difference between cost and value. Make your clients understand the value of what you do. Because your cost, simply doesn’t matter.
Image used with permission.