How-To Kickstart your Pet Photography Book Project

Dreaming of publishing your own pet photography passion project? So was Jesse Freidin, so he crowdfunded it and what happened next was cray cray. If you started your businesses in the shadow of published pet photographers (one my favorite pet photography books when I started my business over 10 yrs ago was Rachel Hale [she […]

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Well hello my Beautiful Beasties.

As of February 2016, Beautiful Beasties is proudly owned + edited by me: professional pet photographer + dog marketing expert J.Nichole Smith. Here I share my story and a bit of advice for pet photographers at all stages of business… Chances are, we have probably bumped into each other before. Maybe in the Beautiful Beasties […]

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Dear cheap-but-good photographer: you are ruining my life and this industry

The title to this post may seem a bit melodramatic, but it speaks to the intense frustration I feel when thinking about the issues I write about in this post. Photographers who know me, who attended one of my workshops or mentored with me back when I used to teach, who received advice/input/help/a listening ear from […]

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November 4, 2014 - 1:18 pm

Diana - Great post, Jamie. Not sure it’s actually going to fall on the right eyes but such valuable information. I’ll tell you what…. I shoot with a camera I paid nearly $3,000 for and my two primary lenses cost more than $2,000 each (I have 16 lenses so I’m in it for a lot). There is no way anyone is going to get a free ride with that level of equipment not to mention my years of experience. I know it isn’t the camera that makes the photograph, it’s the photographer. But that equipment along with my eye helps me produce beautiful images. I find I’m not booking the sessions because I don’t get away files with the session fee. Well, so be it. We all have to draw our line in the sand and being the cheap photographer is not where I want to be. Kudos for the post.

November 4, 2014 - 3:18 pm

Donna Miller - YEAH, so well said!!! I get so exhausted explaining to people my experience, equipment, etc. on cost & why I don’t give them a CD to go to a drug store to print out. Lately, instead of explaining, I just say, I’m probably not your photographer. (I think, no I know I got bolder when I met with you Jamie)! Yesterday, I had an appointment & when I arrived was questioned about why my prices were again because they had just seen a Groupon for $99 with all images on a CD for a 2 hour pet photo shoot. I promptly let her know, that’s not going to happen with me & we could cancel right then if she wanted to go that route. She didn’t, she said she loved my images & wanted the quality. Those of us who do the quality work should get paid what were worth!

November 4, 2014 - 7:09 pm

David - Although I understand your point I cannot subscribe to your argument. I regularly notice that ‘pro photographers’ who have been in the business for many years and charge a lot for their service and products often try to stop new photographers to get in the loop. Most of them long time photographers also started with low prices (see one of the comments). A new photographer cannot charge as much as one who has been working for 26 years. It is unrealistic. In every type of business there are exclusive and cheap products and services: hotels, supermarkets, airlines, plumbers… you name it. Today all photographers compete with non photographers who own very good cameras and have generally very good skills which wasn’t the case even 5 years ago. I once had a quote from a plumber for £2500 for half a day’s work. Another one quoted £3000! Finally I found someone who quoted me £500. I went with the latter of course. Some prices are insane. But there is space for everyone. You just have to be creative instead of blaming everyone else. And know your ideal client! Plus, cheap photographers are doing you a favour: they get all the difficult clients who are cheap and always want more. You should know they are the worst clients. Cheap photographers are not destroying the industry! They change the industry and that’s the way the world goes. Cheap photographers are also fed up with ‘experienced’ photographers who constantly try to push them away from being successful giving advices that they didn’t even follow when they started!! That’s hypocrite and annoying. And please don’t say that it was a mistake and if you had to start again you would charge high prices right away. Because it’s not true. If pros are where they are now it’s because they charged low prices when they started. We know that charging a lot of money per client you get the best customers who complain the least and you can work less. If you charge low prices you do get difficult customers and you have to work more. So it’s not always a choice. But a necessity. And as I said the world is changing and exclusive photographers are disappearing. In fact the industry is being ruined by camera makers and all those who buy them. These days everybody is a photographer. And that’s what has changed. If you have to blame someone, blame the right people.

November 4, 2014 - 7:24 pm

David - I just wanted to add that high prices could destroy the industry forcing people to do it themselves. So maybe people charging low prices are actually saving this industry. Food for thoughts…

November 4, 2014 - 8:27 pm

Kelly H Kenneally - Boy I needed to read this today… Thank you! So tired of being undercut or having someone post free images on FB. Our industry is in dire straits.

November 4, 2014 - 9:43 pm

Amanda Carey-Whelan - Well said 🙂

November 4, 2014 - 10:15 pm

Rose - BRAVO!

November 4, 2014 - 10:18 pm

Melody Henkel - Great post! As Sue Bryce says you have to value what you do before others will. It can be hard but I’m learning.

November 4, 2014 - 10:42 pm

Karmel Baker - I loved this post!! Well written, I couldn’t have said it all better myself!

November 4, 2014 - 11:40 pm

Jet Ska - I think this is what happened to the web design industry as well – and also coding ! Even worse for those two industries because they aren’t reliant on geographical location so someone in India can do a website or code a lot more cheaply than someone in Australia, the US etc who needs to eat and pay rent!

November 4, 2014 - 11:43 pm

Kim Ortiz Photography - I love your honesty and agree 100%.

November 4, 2014 - 11:58 pm

Marianne Cherry - Well stated. In addition to making a profit (which is NOT a 4-letter word) – I’m beginning to see that it’s all about building a relationship with a client, and learning how to sell. Clients need to be educated about the differences between professionally created products and the options they have (Walmart, Costco, inferior online repro shops that advertise ridiculously low prices). People buy from people they like, so if you’re not a people person, this may not be the best business for you. Just my 3 cents.

November 5, 2014 - 12:06 am

D. Brent Walton - Good analysis. Thank you for writing this. In the end, those who aren’t making money disappear and go by the wayside. The problem is, another comes along to take their place.

November 5, 2014 - 12:20 am

Thomas Morelli - In my 35th year in business (in Maine, one of the highest taxed, lowest income, oldest states in the US) I am busier than ever and making more money (mostly wall portrait sales) than ever. I am a fulltime portrait photographer. It can be done, if you have a system in place. My gross is about $160,000, so my net is higher than the average Mainer’s income. I am open Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm, no nights, no weekends. (I did 26 years of weddings, so of course those were on weekends, but in 2006 I was so busy during the week with portrait work that I gave up on the weddings, after doing1,281 weddings.) I LOVE seeing all of the part timers cut each other’s prices to the bare bones – it really tells potential clients that I am different than the others. I was new, may years ago, and quickly burned out until I learned to charge properly. By the way, and I am sure you know this, all of the people you mention in the article as well as any part timer with a camera and a dream will laugh and say “it ain’t my problem that I undercut you! Butt out” – because I have been told that myself by a few part timers that I talked and complained to, a few years back. Let them fight for scraps, I will work with those “cream of the crop” clients, who, by the way, are middle class and upper middle class, NOT “rich” people. Thanks for posting this though, it’s an important subject.

November 5, 2014 - 1:55 am

Bradford Rowley - While I enjoyed reading the article, it seems like I will be the only one here who will disagree. This is America, and we are a capitalist society. One of the great things about that is that people can charge what they wish to charge both high and low. Bottom pricers have always served an important role in our economy, and I would never want that to disappear. For example, look what competition and lower prices did for long distance prices after deregulation (for those old enough to remember). Most the country has benefitted from that. Bottom pricers will always be there, so to blame them for ruining an industry or any individual business won’t solve any problems for anyone, it will only cause to leave you pointing fingers instead of finding creative solutions to distinguish yourself. Many years back in our California operation (I run 3 studios now [CA, NY and FL] but back then, I was only in CA) we were struggling. I didn’t blame competition, and I didn’t blame those charging lower prices, instead, I called my small staff together, and we brainstormed until we found a creative avenue to increase revenue which has resulted in millions of dollars in increased business over the years. I pay very little attention to competition wether it be low, middle or high end. I really don’t even know the names of photographers around me, nor have any clue of what they charge. My focus is on what can I do to take myself to the next level and draw clients into me, and hopefully at the end of the day that is what each photographer who reads this article will do. It’s useless to worry about what others do. If clients complain about prices, think, think, think, “how can I be more creative to make myself irresistible at the prices I charge.” You will get much more mileage out of your mental exertion than getting upset at people who charge less. By following this strategy, I have earned well over 20 million dollars (gross) in the last decade, and as far as I know (again, I don’t keep tract), I am the most expensive photographer I know in the country for portraits. Let me suggest a book to end my comments. It is http://www.amazon.com/Sell-Prices-Higher-Than-Competitors/dp/0963192302 A great read for those who want to get ahead at great prices.

November 5, 2014 - 2:10 am

Hilary Mercer - You wrote this SO much better than I would have. Thank you so much!

November 5, 2014 - 2:21 am

Josh Smolenaers - From a ‘non-photographer’ and one of your potential customers…
I understand trying to make a living from your buisness, and therefore what rates you would like to charge.
But consider from the customer’s point of view…
For the ‘average’ person $1000 for a photoshoot is rediculous!!
I would be lucky to save $100 a week after paying for a family of 3 with a single income (which by the way would be considered less than average by metro standards).
As someone looking to get the best possible deal in order to pay for what would be considered a luxury, the provision of a dvd to enable our own printouts is essential. I can understand paying perhaps $200 for 5-10 images on dvd, however your price of $750 for photos is unrealistic for most customers these days.
You decide what price to charge for your services, and therefore who you are marketing to. If you want high end customers who don’t mind laying then go for it. However if you want the custom from the ‘average joe’ then get realistic and be prepared to bargain for your work.
Or the other option is to get out altogether and find another job!

November 5, 2014 - 2:49 am

Irma Shanahan - You think it’s bad for photographers, imagine what it must be like for practicing artists…..

November 5, 2014 - 4:06 am

Jesse Evan Freidin - Here’s to the honest truth, Jamie.

November 5, 2014 - 4:49 am

Dagmar Woltereck - Love this article, thank you for that. For me it does make sense, however, clients who go to the shoot and burners won’t be my clients, aren’t the clients I want to attract. I am not just making great art, I am also giving them an awesome experience, superb products and customer service with the extra touch. That’s what will set me apart from those who are making 10 bucks an hour and will burn out in no time.

November 5, 2014 - 6:14 am

Jodie Otte - I started discussing this with photographers around 2009 when I saw the writing on the wall. I was an established well-known photographer in my area and was turning clients away prior to 2009…. some time in 2009, I saw the problems begin. When well-known photographers are charging $3,000 for a workshop yet their attendees realize that they are only charging $300 for a CD of images, the attendees don’t think they are worthy enough to charge what that photographer charges – then things get skewed.

I was called every name in the book for voicing that the over saturation and cheap (but good) photogs were ruining this. I was told I was negative. I was told I need to work harder. I was told that there were enough clients for everyone.

Bullcrap.

The funny part is the people who yelled at me the most are OUT OF BUSINESS today. I’m still hanging in, but I put my eggs in other baskets. I’m an accountant by day (studying to be an actuary to keep my six figure salary I had with just photography for years) and I do a few photo shoots on the weekends or in the evening – usually no more than 4 a month, but I charge PRIME for those shoots. I REFUSE to do cheap (mini sessions ruined the industry as well, but that’s another story…. Photogs giving 20 images for $200 mini sessions WTH? Why would they ever need to do a full session?)

Anyway, I would like to scream “I told ya so” to a lot of the photogs who are dealing with this, but it’s too sad to go there.

And for all those that say that they don’t want cheap clients – these WERE your clients. I have had clients spend $3,000+ with me per session now go to $300 shoot and burners… why not? The $300 shoot and burners are pretty good? Good enough for cheap is where it’s at – since the economy crashed, that’s the motto for most every middle class and even middle to upper class family. The client pool that once spent thousands on photography is growing smaller by the day. So don’t delude yourself by saying “they aren’t my clients.” They ARE/WERE your clients…..

November 5, 2014 - 6:17 am

Mel Hammonds - So well said! I nearly lost it on a client the other day who got very aggressive about my digital pricing. As I defended and justified my pricing, I got really angry inside, but that experience and this article reinforced how I felt. I am proud of the work I do, the experience I have, and the business I have been building, and their attitude and ignorance about the business aspects (even after I attempted to educate them about it) was even more infuriating because I do feel what we do in this industry is so worthwhile and we deserve to make a decent living at it provided we are working for it! Thanks for posting this!

November 5, 2014 - 6:19 am

JodieOtte - And just read the comments here – people want cheap. And they will find cheap because good photogs are charging cheap. There is no reason to go to a photog who is priced to have a salary when there are enough cheap and good enough photogs out there. That’s reality.

Secondly, for David above who said a new charge can’t charge what an experienced photog does. So the guy who opens a restaurant and has only 1 year of restaurant ownership can’t charge what a restaurant owner in business for 20 years charges? I’m pretty sure they have the same expenses – food expenses, employee expenses, rent expenses, equipment expenses. Yes THEY CAN CHARGE THE SAME. They have to, or they wouldn’t be in business because they aren’t going to take “pats on the back” for payment.

I charged $3,000 for a CD my second year of business…. because I had to to be able to pay for my expenses and have a modest salary. The amount of photographers who are making just enough to pay for their expenses and give themselves no salary at all is staggering.

November 5, 2014 - 7:02 am

Corrie - Love this! IT has opened my eyes. I know I don’t charge enough and plan to change things this new year. I so wish all photographers could see and read this. 🙂 Thank you so much

November 5, 2014 - 7:37 am

Jodie Otte - Beware of the people who are trying to tell you that you are negative or whatever… just had one try to blow me out of the water for my feelings on this…. and meanwhile, he’s mentoring/coaching. Mentoring/coaching for money is how you know they are out of touch with current photography problems.

November 5, 2014 - 8:01 am

Mark - It’s complain about the masses and I appreciate your frustration. This has always existed in the art/creative community – musicians have been complaining about this for decades – and now the problem is in manufacturing, retail and more. Photographers were more immune back in the days of the physical negative, but less now. Charge what you can – if you can’t make a living, figure out how to do it differently or you’re out of luck. We compete every day with lower priced competitors.

November 5, 2014 - 8:22 am

Kimmie - While I can somewhat agree with your Post I also have another side of this that is almost never discussed or talked about….. While newbies/shoot and burners are what we Pros think are ruining the industry, I have to disagree, I think the industry is cheapened by how cheap it is to become a photographer, how everyone boasts about how easy it is to become a professional. “Take my under-priced, over-valued under-educated workshop and you too can be just like me.” Education in this industry is a joke, people who have been in business less than 1yr, 3yrs, 5yrs are boasting they know it all and are willing to teach to every housewife with an open ended checkbook. Your post itself opened with the fact that you teach workshops, it didn’t start out with your educational background or years of experience or even how you worked to earn the easily given title of Professional. This industry is broken and it started with the fact that Pros were willing to give their knowledge away for basically free, no one has to work for it anymore, no one pays their dues these days….I don’t blame the newbies I blame the ones who cam before them, that is in my opinion where the fault lies….

November 5, 2014 - 8:33 am

Karen - Yes! This is exactly how I feel. Especially the bit about part-timers who do this for fun and don’t actually rely on the income…they should be charging more than anyone else!

November 5, 2014 - 10:31 am

John - It sounds like you don’t fully understand what it means to run a business. Sure, you know what it costs to run your business. But you have no idea what it means to compete in a free market.

Capitalism is quite simple. You create a product or offer a service for which other people are willing to pay. If you are making money, other people will try to replicate your business in order to make money for themselves. Now that you have competition, you have to distinguish yourself if you plan to charge the same amount. If your business is in an industry with a small barrier-to-entry then the best way to compete is by offering your service/product at a lower price. Which is what it sounds like these “cheap but good” photographers are doing.

My two cents…
There is no real barrier to entry for the photography industry. All I need is a camera and some digital editing software. Sure, I need practice and to develop an eye for taking the right shot. But I don’t have to love it. I don’t have to have a passion for it. I don’t have to invent something. I can simply just do it. Your business is in an industry built for high competition and low prices. Asking your competitors to change their pricing will get you nowhere. You must either offer something new and better than what they are offering, or you have to charge lower prices. That is how the capitalist system works.

The Difference Camera Raw Profiles Make

(Originally posted on the Kira DeDecker Photography blog) Camera Raw profiles may seem like a small and boring thing but it can actually make a big impact on your images. Why? Because your Camera Profile affects the color, contrast, saturation, brightness (and more) of your photos! So what camera profile should you use? Whatever works […]

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Turning Brown and Yellow Grass Green in Photoshop

(Originally posted on the Kira DeDecker Photography blog) Here in the Metro-Phoenix area of Arizona, grass is not a natural occurrence. If you’ve never had to the pleasure of visiting Arizona, it could best be described as flat sand covered in concrete. Desert living, eh?! Like I was saying, to grow grass, you need to […]

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