And You Consider Yourself a Photographer?

I read this post yesterday by Scott Bourne of the PhotoFocus Blog. I loved it for so many reasons. So as I often do with posts I enjoy, I shared it on Twitter and Facebook.

The response was great and I know that it is easy to miss information on those platforms, so I wanted to share his insights here too.

Read “And You Consider Yourself a Photographer.” And if you have thoughts or comments, please come back here and share them, as his blog does not have commenting.

 And You Consider Yourself a Photographer?

Jodi Friedman, MCP Actions

Jodi Friedman is the founder of MCP Actions. She designs popular Photoshop actions and Lightroom presets that make editing faster, easier and more fun.

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17 Comments and 1 Replies



  1. 1

    [...] 1 votes vote And You Consider Yourself a Photographer? I read this post yesterday by Scott Bourne of the PhotoFocus Blog. I loved it for so many [...]

  2. 2

    What a great article and well put to the reasons not to be so LOW…This always gets me when somebody is selling something for lower then what I know they are worth. There are so many other great points, not enough room or time to get into them all. As always, thank you for sharing such great information.

  3. 3
    Thao says:

    I’m beginning to have real clients, so I found this article immensely interesting. I think, for me, the primary problem with starting out in professional photography is pricing, because while you don’t want to devalue yourself or the industry, how can you possibly feel comfortable charging industry standards when you haven’t yet built up your portfolio? The article was informative, but I wish there were more specifics. So we get that $500 isn’t a good starting rate–what is? I’m also interested in what you would say about clients who simply cannot afford thousand-dollar(s) photography. I reside in a community of graduate students who have no money, but want good portraits of themselves for posterity. Are they to be deprived of that because they can’t match the industry prices? I suppose what I’m saying is that, for them, it would be me or nothing. I’m not competing for the same clients as photographers like Scott Bourne. I already know I’m not at that level yet. There’s an underlying spirit of cut-throat competition here, which I find really intimidating as a newbie. And yeah, I understand, I need tougher skin, but you can understand how it can seem impossible to find one’s place in an industry that seems so closed in so many ways. Notwithstanding your great blog, of course, which has been such a great resource for so many. I also quibbled with the implicit assumption in the article that cheap = bad photography. That’s simply not the case across the board, though that’s an easy parallel to draw. I’m sorry I sound so contentious here. I love your blog and this is such a great article to spawn discussion. I really am curious about some of these complexities and would love to open dialogue about them. Thanks so much!

  4. 4
    robert says:

    His post was a response to this situation http://pursuingphotoshop.wordpress.com/2010/01/24/what-a-professional-means-to-me/ Unfortunately it seems he went about trying to prove a point in the wrong way, IMO.

  5. 5

    I made the mistake of starting my pricing low, thinking no one would pay higher rates for beginners work. Then, when I needed to and could raise my prices, the reality came. No one likes price increases, so all of the customers I had built up and everyone following my work were lower end clients. I literally had to rebuild and remarket myself all over again when I raised my prices for people with thicker wallets. In retrospect, I would have priced myself high, and offered deep discounts. Then when it’s time to raise my prices, there’s no price increase…just the discounts go away.

    • Melinda says:

      Amy, Amy, Amy… All is not lost. Your response and brilliant hindsight has thus saved someone else!!! ME:) I’ve put off apprx10 people/families asking me for portraits based on my landscape, macro, outdoor photos. (I have never advertised ‘portraits’ nor do I have any on my fb) But they contacted me saying that the reason why they would for LOVE me to shoot their outdoor, fall sessions: “MY STYLE”. It immediately occurred to me “why me” when theres the 40+ so-called photographers aka soccer moms with ‘decent’ cams, in our county of IDK 4,000? why in the world did they not go to the one-stop photo-shop people for their $50 cd burn sessions?! *clears throat* OLD SCHOOL PHOTOGS WILL ALWAYS STAND OUT & IN A FEW YRS I BELIEVE THEY WILL RETURN FULL FORCE TO STOMP OUT THESE SELF PROCLAIMED PHOTOGRAPHERS;) There’s substance in our pics!! I LOVE light & contrast, am colorblind so I was adament on working my camera before I became an ‘editor’ in ps. In short: people still prefer the ‘real photographers’ but fauxtographers have sold us out with their cheap pics & cheap prices. So my initial thought was that they ONLY desire better pics, but also want to keep the price minimal:/ Pathetic. People will pay more for a cut & highlight than memories to last a lifetime! So, after reading your comment, I decided to respond with a price list EXACTLY how you explained:) Then the wimps will be weeded out & I can finally breathe a sigh of relief, knowing HOW TO PRICE MY FIRST PORTRAIT SHOOTS!!! THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH!! THE EASIEST ANSWERS IN LIFE AKA COMMON SENSE ARE SO OVERLOOKED… SO HAPPY YOU MADE ME SAY, “OHHHH… THATS PERFECT!!!!”. :)

  6. 6
    Amber says:

    I think his points are valid but at the same time, we live in a capitalist society. There will *always* be someone undercharging, people overcharging, people doing great work at a decent price, people doing great work at a cheap price, people doing crap work for too much money and people doing crap work for a little bit of money. He only addresses this last group. Frankly, if someone does bad work, they will not have many clients. And as $500/wedding is unsustainable, they will not be in the business for long.

    I fail to see how a photographer who charges only $500 for a wedding undermines a high-end photographer. If a couple only has a budget of $500, they will not be able to afford a “real professional” anyway. Perhaps people that only have $500 to pay for wedding photography… will receive photos worth $500.

    As a photographer myself and someone who just got married, you can bet I fantasized about high-end photographers shooting my wedding to perfection. Could I afford it? No. So I paid for what I could afford.

    As long as there are people like me out there with limited budgets, there will be photographers to meet my needs. Even if that’s not a sustainable business, someone will still step up to the plate. And in the end, unless they are stealing someone else’s images for their portfolio, I know what I’m paying for and that’s what I’ll get.

  7. 7

    I agree with the general “theme” of this post, but of course agree too that we can’t forget that there are clients of every budget. I am very new to the biz side of photography but I did take the advice to price according to what I need to make my time worth while. I also can’t afford myself! I do see the necessity to value the industry and ourselves but I know that everyone deserves the opportunity to have “better than what they can do themselves” portraits…and there will always be photographers willing to provide that. I’ve very quickly learned though that if you’re not pricing enough then it’s really not worth your time, just consider it a donation~

  8. 8
    Kathy says:

    great article & food for thought. As I shoot horse show photography, my market is a little different. I just finished my first full year in business & when I did my taxes, surprised myself at how well I really did. I knew business was good, but a whole year’s worth of numbers puts things into perspective. Now that I’ve done the intro pricing, thinking of going up a little on my show prints. I know they’re getting worth it when I’m getting more & more requests for enlargements & such. I just need to do a little research on how much I should go up.

  9. 9

    What’s even worse than cheapo photographers are the Industry priced no talent photographers… there are too too many of them out there too..

  10. 10
    Elisabeth says:

    i completely agree with him. I understand why people are talking about the economy etc and agree the economy is being hit. However, photography is one of the only industries that people are “breaking into” and undercutting the industry. You dont see people opening Drs offices, hair salons etc and saying look Im starting a business and I wont charge you what the other “people” do. As photographers we put exorbitant amounts of money and time into our equipment, training, products etc. If you are not putting money into equipment, training etc then…? I knew when I started my business that top quality equipment was essential. And it was. I sold my d80 and standard lenses and got 5ds (now mark 2s) and all L series lenses. And YES there was an enormous difference in the quality (not nikon vs canon, entry level vs pro level). Then I joined PPA, WPPI, NAPP and my local PPA and began attending conferences and seminars and again realized how much everyone needs to be trained by true industry professionals. I know not everyone feels they have the money to do this… but then you also need to realize that you are devaluing the industry by saying “I offer the same thin as the professional for a cheaper price” Can you honestly expect to not devalue the industry when you say that and then later raise your prices? I have seen people say that and it gets me every time. I read the response article too and the part about people just trying to keep a roof over their heads was what irritated me. What am I as a professional trying to do? not keep a roof over my head by charging what I know I need to in order to keep my business open? Im not saying dont break into the industry and Im actually not saying dont charge a somewhat cheaper price for your services. Im not going to get into pricing wars, Im just saying look at where the professionals are coming from and respect that. I havent been in the business forever and I am self trained, but I did it free for friends and family and charged everyone else. That built my portfolio. And if you are just getting started, put your money into a PPA membership and good quality equipment (even if you cant afford L series or equivalent) and find other photographers to talk to that will help you. And understand that it is a business and an industry and protect your future.

  11. 11
    Michelle says:

    I totally agree with the article, but I also have to say that we have to remember that we all had to “start” some time. I think that Thao. Elisabeth and Amber nailed it! This is the exact problem that I am facing right now. As more people ask me for wedding info I am in the middle of pricing packages and don’t know where to start. How do you know what to price as a new photog?? I don’t want to offend anyone, but I also don’t want to feel like I am over pricing for being farely new. Ya know? Advice please??!!

  12. 12

    There are a lot of good points in the comments here, and I’m not sure how I feel about this whole debate, to be honest. I’m only a photo enthusiast with some dreams of someday taking portraits. The original article is really intimidating to me. I can relate to a lot of what Michelle commented before me.

    Second, I’m surprised to hear the reports of couples who were unhappy with their cheap wedding photography. If the wedding photography’s portfolio was dishonest or misleading, then I agree that is a disappointing set-back for the wedding photography industry.

    Then again, if a couple looked at an accurate portfolio and were fine with the quality of work, then maybe they chose $500 photographers intentionally. Some people, believe it or not, are fine with less professional photos so long as it captures the memories of the day. I say this from a personal standpoint as well; at my own wedding, a friend took my photos and I think he did a great job. Everyone has their own wedding day expense priorities, and having professional looking photos was not one of mine. All I wanted were some candid snapshots and some group pics to look at fondly (and I do). I bet there are others like me, and some of them would find their needs met in a “cheap” photographer who only charges $500. So why all the hate for people whose needs are different than the (perceived?) mainstream?

    I’m really not an argumentative person so I’m not trying to offend or start anything. I do feel that I understand Scott’s points and think there’s some validity there. But I also think there are other perspectives to be considered. This world is big enough for different perspectives, different priorities, and different levels of photography skill. Just my two cents. :)

  13. 13
    Amy says:

    I agree with Scott. As a newer photographer myself, my business has only been up and running for 1 1/2yrs. I started on the cheap end and have made several price adjustments in that amount of time. I have now gotten too expensive for myself and alot of my friends. However, to be able to effectively run my business and be able to afford the marketing and quality I want to brand myself with, I have had to stick to my guns. It is hard to explain this to friends who just think I am being greedy. But it is more about business than friendship, and with my networking and other marketing I am still staying just as busy. What my friends don’t know is that I am still not taking home more money, it is just that more money gets rolled back into my business to help me learn more, get better equipment and offer better products. Running the business end of things is a lot harder than I thought it would be, but being a photographer has been so rewarding in more ways than just bringing in money. I have made great friends and been able to bring out a creative side that suprises me. And I know that in order to be in business for a long time I have to be able to keep up with quality and skills, and that does cost money.

  14. 14
    mitzs says:

    Hello everyone, I am mitzs from the other side of this story. You see, while I do understand and respect what everyone here is saying. Prices isn’t what this is about. I am not a pro nor have I ever claimed to be. For petesakes I just bought my first DSLR on may 31 of last year. I just bought the 50mm lens in August. I am NOT a wedding photog. Who I am is someone in training. And I am working very hard to grow my skills everyday. I have a half dozen of photo books that I am trying to learn from. I a NAPP member, there are so many great photographers there. All willing to help another no matter their skill level. I love Kleby Training. It is like having Scott Kelby, Moose Peterson, Laurie Excell, Rick Sammon and Joe McNally right in your living room. I am part of a large twitter photog crowd who I look up to and respect. So image my surprise when one of those I did respect smacked me into next week with nasty replies. Someone who presents themselves as a professional trainer. And I was absolutely floored when others started coming to me saying he done the same thing to them. If you are a true professional you don’t run around calling those that look to you for guidance idiots, if they don’t understand what you say the first time and ask more questions. If your a real trainer your going to expect these questions or different of opinions over and over again and know how to deal with it correctly. Not running around sending hostile and insulting messages in private to them. So you see, this is not about price points to me anymore. It is about a professional trainer who presents themselves one way to the public while silently attacking you in private. How long do you think you would keep your job if you acted like this at a collage or worked with a training company? It is never acceptable to be mentally abusive to those you are claiming to help better themselve in any field. He speaks very well in public. He has a very valid source of experience and knowledge. BUT he is failing to address the real issue here and that is his rude and uncalled for behavior. So I decide to take a stand against this kind of behavior. And this is the real story, he is using that blog post to derail the real story. If one is a real professional trainer, they take the time to EDUCATE those around them. They do not belittle, harass, and verbally abuse those who ask questions because they don’t understand what you fully said, want to know more, or just agree differently from you.

    To Elisabeth it was never my intention to offend you or anyone with my blog. I am sorry if I have. I would love to disscuss this with and the others here at another time. Even though I see ranges of different opinion all of you are very civil about it. That to me is a sign of real professionalism. I think I could learn something from all of you here. Thank you to all for hearing me out.

  15. 15
    Audrey Coley says:

    THANK YOU! God bless this man! I wish so many people could see this!

  16. 16
    Elisabeth says:

    Hi I just came back to re-read comments. Mitz – I agree that he most definitely should not be attacking you in private messages and I did read those and thought that was wrong. The only thing for me with people charging way below industry standard is that it makes the public think that is what the prices should be – does that make sense? I know we all start somewhere and I agree that starting out I would not be comfortable charging what I do. I made one huge jump when I realized how much I was paying people to hire me. The only thing in your rebuttal to him was the part about people trying to keep a roof over their heads… because this is my full time job so I depend on my business to take care of our family and when people think that they should only be paying half of what I charge then that hurts the whole industry starting out or not. I think this is a discussion that needs to happen in all sorts of circles because its a big issue in photography. I do agree that cheap does not equal bad photography. I just know that when you are charging say $20 for an 8×10 you are not making any money and hurting everyone else at the same time. If anyone wants pricing advice I am willing to help and I would honestly recommend the PPA and also the Photo Talk Forum is a great place to discuss everything photography business related

  17. 17
    sheridan says:

    I thought this was great! the sad thing is that it is so true. I understand that there are photographers out there that are just getting started. We all have been there. But it is a once in a lifetime moment and I have had several phone calls from upset brides wanting someone to save there $500 wedding pictures!. My last one they thought would be ok because the guy taking the portraits was a high school photography teacher, however ther event was indoor in lit by christmas lights and he shot it with the pop up flash in jpeg….at the bridal show last year I was talking to some fellow photographers and one had joked that she was going to run an add for senior portraits in the paper that said ” Friends don’t let friends…take their senior portraits! I thought it was so funny but true….I understand that there are people that are on budgets and those who are starting out. I think its important that everyone is upfront about it. Make sure you have the right equipment and knowledge to do the job right! Try interning for a summer under a photographer and for equipment there are plenty of rentals available online!



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