Good is not cheap, cheap is not good

It seems like I have been doing a lot of ranting lately. The thing is, I just see a lot wrong with journalism and photography right now. So here we go again. This is sure to piss off a few people.

When I got my first tattoo I was surprised by how expensive it was. My tattoo artist looked at me and said, “cheap ain’t good and good ain’t cheap.” That’s probably why I kept going back to him over the years. He was right about tattoos and right about a lot of things in life. You get what you pay for.

Over the years I have been working for the newspaper, I have had many opportunities outside of editorial photography to make pictures. I have shot weddings, portraits, head shots, fashion, annual reports, you name it. Recently I have been shooting weddings and portraits to supplement my decreased income at the paper. Times are tough and we have been subjected to furlough days. Long story short, I am making less money today than I was when I started working at the paper.

Last summer I was underbid by other photographers on a couple of weddings. Way underbid, actually. I thought that I would lower my prices to start around $1000. Apparently this was still about %50 more than what a couple of other photographers decided they would do it for. I don’t mean to be a jerk, but I hope that those couples got what they paid for.

A quick search on Craigslist.org in Denver under event services will result in lots of “wedding photographers.” I put this in parenthesis because if you look at the quality of the service you will understand why they shoot weddings for $350. Some of the samples I saw for that price point where not even in focus! I understand competition. I understand economic factors that you have to take into effect to stay competitive. Here’s my problem with charging $350 for an 8 hour wedding, it effects the entire industry in Colorado. I know what my cost of operation is. It is much higher than $350. I have to take into consideration the cost of liability insurance, renting equipment if needed, travel and additional wear and tear on the equipment I own just to name a few. Its fairly obvious that the other “wedding photographers” are not. When they undercut everyone by so much, It forces everyone else to lower prices to stay competitive. At $350 per wedding a lot of professional photographers will be using another section of Craigslist: the photo/video classifieds to sell their unused equipment.

The bottom line is that my time and my experience is worth more. At a certain price point I simply have to say no. Convincing a client that I am not a commodity is also extremely difficult. I see a great story telling opportunity to capture. The client sees a dollar amount and wants to know why I charge more. Times have changed and people do not value good photography like they used to. If you buy a Toyota you can’t expect it to handle like a Audi, however it will still get you there. Like any business there will always be some one who is willing to do it a little cheaper.

If all of the “wedding photographers” are truly serious about what they are doing, they should read John Harrington’s Best Business Practices for Photographers. In the book it shows you how to break down what it actually costs to do business. It also tells you how to value your work. I think they will find that they aren’t just hurting the wedding photographer community, they are hurting themselves.

Owning a stethoscope doesn’t make you a doctor but somehow buying a camera makes you a photographer.

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