Forums > Photography Talk > fair and square pricing -- NOT

Photographer

ontherocks

Posts: 22622

Salem, Oregon, US

i find this discussion of jc penney and human behavior fascinating and maybe relevant to pricing our services and products:
http://redtape.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012 … afted?lite

i think "fair" pricing was the whole saturn thing but they've always struggled and there's always talk of selling them.

never overestimate the american consumer!

May 25 12 10:13 am Link

Photographer

Paul Morgan Photography

Posts: 541

Medical Lake, Washington, US

A good read, thanks for sharing!

Paul

May 25 12 11:02 am Link

Photographer

ontherocks

Posts: 22622

Salem, Oregon, US

seems like the first thing we hear from any potential customer these days is something about the recession or how they're on a budget. some of that may be true but i think they're also using that as a negotiating ploy to get rid of the perceived 20-30% fat in our pricing (i wish. lol). i'm thinking maybe we need to raise prices and then toss out discounts like candy. but pity the fool who pays full price. lol.

i'm kind of a logical guy but i guess it's not a logical world especially when it comes to the consumer (and especially the estrogen-based type of consumer).

personally i loved the old jc penney's. the items would be 70% off of an already 50% markdown and then there would be a 10% coupon for the whole purchase. they practically paid you to shop there!

Paul Morgan Photography wrote:
A good read, thanks for sharing!

May 25 12 11:08 am Link

Photographer

Halcyon Arts

Posts: 173

Washington, District of Columbia, US

Saturn was mostly about a newer marque with better control of a smaller number of dealers, who could capture the poorest negotiators from other brands.  Making money is possible for every day low price stores, but it requires a credible committment from the store, and some reason besides a sale to generate foot traffic (Costco and Walmart exemplify this with food and small consumables and a long history of maintaining stable prices).  That's hard for apparel shops to earn.

May 25 12 11:45 am Link

Photographer

Captured by Bree

Posts: 282

Sacramento, California, US

hartcons wrote:
seems like the first thing we hear from any potential customer these days is something about the recession or how they're on a budget. some of that may be true but i think they're also using that as a negotiating ploy to get rid of the perceived 20-30% fat in our pricing (i wish. lol). i'm thinking maybe we need to raise prices and then toss out discounts like candy. but pity the fool who pays full price. lol.

i'm kind of a logical guy but i guess it's not a logical world especially when it comes to the consumer (and especially the estrogen-based type of consumer).

personally i loved the old jc penney's. the items would be 70% off of an already 50% markdown and then there would be a 10% coupon for the whole purchase. they practically paid you to shop there!


This is where selling collections comes into play. You save money with bundled products over a la carte. Same as a sale - just not advertised as "sale" so it won't devalue the product.

May 25 12 11:47 am Link

Photographer

ontherocks

Posts: 22622

Salem, Oregon, US

yeah, on weekends you can get an entire meal grazing the samples at costco. and i find useful stuff (a small bag of potatoes or a ziploc bag of green beans) at walmart that i don't recall seeing at safeway.

best buy prices are chaotic. one day a sale and the next it's gone.

halcyonart wrote:
(Costco and Walmart exemplify this with food and small consumables and a long history of maintaining stable prices).

May 25 12 12:27 pm Link

Photographer

Halcyon Arts

Posts: 173

Washington, District of Columbia, US

If anyone wants more coverage on pricing theory, there's a very nice discussion of it in Tim Harford's The Undercover Economist.  He may have references in his TED talks but I listened to them too long ago to remember the specifics.

May 25 12 12:30 pm Link

Photographer

ontherocks

Posts: 22622

Salem, Oregon, US

basically a volume or tiered discount.

what we've seen is people want the digital files and they'll make their own products at shutterfly or costco (except for boudoir where costco won't print those). of course you can hold the digital files hostage but they don't like that and the guy down the street starts to seem more appealing.

Captured by Bree wrote:
This is where selling collections comes into play. You save money with bundled products over a la carte. Same as a sale - just not advertised as "sale" so it won't devalue the product.

May 25 12 12:30 pm Link

Photographer

Captured by Bree

Posts: 282

Sacramento, California, US

hartcons wrote:
basically a volume or tiered discount.

what we've seen is people want the digital files and they'll make their own products at shutterfly or costco (except for boudoir where costco won't print those). of course you can hold the digital files hostage but they don't like that and the guy down the street starts to seem more appealing.

Again, like the marketing thread. This comes down to your clientele. My clients don't want Costco and Shutterfly prints. My most recent client bought two 20x30 canvases ($765 ea) and two 8x10 prints ($50 ea). Digital files after $1250 are only $500 (for all) or they can just get all digital files for $1250. They didn't want digitals. They wanted two large pieces for their wall and one print for each of their parents. (it was a couple).

Its rare that someone comes to me for digital images. I had one digital sale yesterday but I think they wanted them "ALL" because he's being deployed (and I give military a sweet deal) but it's rare for me.

I highly advise this book : http://www.tofurious.com/marketing-tips … ographers/

if you're wanting to get into portrait photography. It explains the psychology behind pricing, and how people view pricing and why competing on price = bad.

May 25 12 12:46 pm Link

Photographer

ontherocks

Posts: 22622

Salem, Oregon, US

thx. i'll check it out.

pretty much every customer we've ever had has mentioned shutterfly, walmart, walgreens, costco. even costco does canvases now. we've had ladies rolling up in $50K SUVs after a boob job so we're not just getting the walmart folks. our first bride did her album at shutterfly and got raves about it on facebook.

maybe we're doing it wrong or maybe it's this town. the most talented local photographer i know dropped by the other day and said he had given up on selling products. but maybe you have to hold the digital files back and force them to buy product in order to get the digital files. but then they start to look at the $50 shoot&burn folks who promise 100 images for $50 (and some of those photographers aren't that bad).

Captured by Bree wrote:
I highly advise this book : http://www.tofurious.com/marketing-tips … ographers/

May 25 12 03:15 pm Link

Photographer

W Thomas Payne

Posts: 16

Champaign, Illinois, US

hartcons wrote:
thx. i'll check it out.

pretty much every customer we've ever had has mentioned shutterfly, walmart, walgreens, costco. even costco does canvases now. we've had ladies rolling up in $50K SUVs after a boob job so we're not just getting the walmart folks. our first bride did her album at shutterfly and got raves about it on facebook.

maybe we're doing it wrong or maybe it's this town. the most talented local photographer i know dropped by the other day and said he had given up on selling products. but maybe you have to hold the digital files back and force them to buy product in order to get the digital files. but then they start to look at the $50 shoot&burn folks who promise 100 images for $50 (and some of those photographers aren't that bad).


I'll turn over 100 images for 50 bucks - I'll also use my Canon point-and-click that I use when I'm hiking or backpacking.

May 25 12 03:20 pm Link

Photographer

Captured by Bree

Posts: 282

Sacramento, California, US

hartcons wrote:
thx. i'll check it out.

pretty much every customer we've ever had has mentioned shutterfly, walmart, walgreens, costco. even costco does canvases now. we've had ladies rolling up in $50K SUVs after a boob job so we're not just getting the walmart folks. our first bride did her album at shutterfly and got raves about it on facebook.

maybe we're doing it wrong or maybe it's this town. the most talented local photographer i know dropped by the other day and said he had given up on selling products. but maybe you have to hold the digital files back and force them to buy product in order to get the digital files. but then they start to look at the $50 shoot&burn folks who promise 100 images for $50 (and some of those photographers aren't that bad).


The clients you are finding don't place a high VALUE on your work. I have a lot of middle class clients. They aren't rolling in SUVs or wearing Coach purses. They're regular people but they place a high value on photography and beautiful portraits. They either save for them or sometimes I will do payment plans. smile

I will say again that the books I posted in the marketing thread this morning and the one I just posted may help you stop being so pessimistic about this field. Only YOU make certain businesses your competition.

Ferrari is not Toyotas competition just because Toyota is cheaper
Nordstroms is not WalMarts competition just because Wally is cheaper
I pay my hairdresser $50 for a cut when I could get it for $7 at Supercuts. smile

Don't be the WalMart of photographers and don't compare yourself to them. Pretend they don't exist. Figure your costs of running your business, how much your time is worth, what you want to make and price accordingly.

I think you may do well looking around some forums geared towards portraits  or wedding photographers. MM is great but the portrait business and the model business (here) are completely different things. Good to have additional perspectives.

May 25 12 03:25 pm Link

Photographer

liddellphoto

Posts: 1801

London, England, United Kingdom

I'm not sure how much you can read across commodity/volume product pricing to personal services like wedding photography (which I believe you are alluding to) - different markets, different rules. With weddings the absolute last thing you should be competing on is price.

May 25 12 04:01 pm Link

Photographer

Carle Photography

Posts: 9227

Oakland, California, US

My clients won't go near Costco or other printers.
They come to me for the fact that I do all in house printing & have very exclusive never show anyone at all their private images.

My Leather albums are doing well for boudoir this year, I buy the blank albums & then put the prints in them myself again all in house. They sell for 1000.00 on average.

May 25 12 04:09 pm Link

Photographer

ontherocks

Posts: 22622

Salem, Oregon, US

we've been doing that yet the customer remains elusive. maybe it's as simple as adopting high-end pricing and talking about investment. but i tried that for our boudoir business and pretty much killed it off. there are a couple photographers in this town who've been written up in PPA (robyn long and eric john) so maybe it's just a two-horse town. dunno. but i will check out that link you gave me.

looking at your site kind of made me miss california (bay area for 26 years).

Captured by Bree wrote:
I think you may do well looking around some forums geared towards portraits  or wedding photographers.

May 25 12 04:10 pm Link

Photographer

Carle Photography

Posts: 9227

Oakland, California, US

hartcons wrote:
we've been doing that yet the customer remains elusive. maybe it's as simple as adopting high-end pricing and talking about investment. but i tried that for our boudoir business and pretty much killed it off. there are a couple photographers in this town who've been written up in PPA (robyn long and eric john) so maybe it's just a two-horse town. dunno. but i will check out that link you gave me.
looking at your site kind of made me miss california (bay area for 26 years).

Captured by Bree wrote:
I think you may do well looking around some forums geared towards portraits  or wedding photographers.

A website that has a front page with "snapshots" taped to a graphic does not give the impression that you guys do high end work...The website has too look like it is about the images not the graphics of the site...

May 25 12 04:14 pm Link

Photographer

ontherocks

Posts: 22622

Salem, Oregon, US

we also emphasize the privacy thing (except for using outside labs but the aren't local).

and we've sold some gpalbums optimus albums (self-stick with really nice cover material and lots of cover choices). but at a price point more like $200 than $1,000 (and even at that price people haven't been that interested). we're currently offering a collages.net album (they have a nice album builder) at $650.

but we just haven't been able to get any traction in the marketplace. the one lady in town who's doing a lot of shoots is using groupon and doing the discount thing (and also more pinup than boudoir) -- but there's no living to be made on giving away shoots (unless she's able to get a lot of upsell but groupon can be iffy that way plus they won't let you cap it).

sometimes i think it would be easier to sell strollers to virgins! we've had husbands go nuts after the wife gets back from the shoot. men around here are very controlling.

Death of Field wrote:
My clients won't go near Costco or other printers.
They come to me for the fact that I do all in house printing & have very exclusive never show anyone at all their private images.

My Leather albums are doing well for boudoir this year, I buy the blank albums & then put the prints in them myself again all in house. They sell for 1000.00 on average.

May 25 12 04:16 pm Link

Photographer

ontherocks

Posts: 22622

Salem, Oregon, US

May 25 12 04:33 pm Link

Photographer

Carle Photography

Posts: 9227

Oakland, California, US

Look at your home page the "snapshots"  were in direct reference to the graphic design of your website.

Images with boarders held with tape.
Those are made to look like snapshots.
Your telling your client base that the images you create are no better then something to tape to a wall or on a fridge.

May 25 12 04:40 pm Link

Photographer

ontherocks

Posts: 22622

Salem, Oregon, US

it seems to me that consumers go for the promotion, the deal, the discount. even with portraiture. look at how the mall places advertise. $7.99 for a package of 7 different prints (of course i assume they're putting on the hard sell after that). are wedding photographers immune from that? our first bride came to us and said she wasn't willing to spend $3,000 on her wedding and what could we do for her.

liddellphoto wrote:
I'm not sure how much you can read across commodity/volume product pricing to personal services like wedding photography (which I believe you are alluding to) - different markets, different rules. With weddings the absolute last thing you should be competing on is price.

May 25 12 04:40 pm Link

Photographer

ontherocks

Posts: 22622

Salem, Oregon, US

that makes more sense. sorry i misunderstood. you might have a point on that. i'll mention it to the wife.

Death of Field wrote:
Look at your home page the "snapshots"  were in direct reference to the graphic design of your website.

Images with boarders held with tape.
Those are made to look like snapshots.
Your telling your client base that the images you create are no better then something to tape to a wall or on a fridge.

May 25 12 04:42 pm Link

Photographer

Carle Photography

Posts: 9227

Oakland, California, US

If the market in Salem is not what you want, then go for the market in Portland.

I have tons of clients who travel up to 2+ hours to come to me.
Some even fly in from out of state.

Portland is only an hour from where you are.

May 25 12 04:47 pm Link

Photographer

Captured by Bree

Posts: 282

Sacramento, California, US

hartcons wrote:
it seems to me that consumers go for the promotion, the deal, the discount. even with portraiture. look at how the mall places advertise. $7.99 for a package of 7 different prints (of course i assume they're putting on the hard sell after that). are wedding photographers immune from that? our first bride came to us and said she wasn't willing to spend $3,000 on her wedding and what could we do for her.

I haven't had a sale or a deal or a promotion or a contest or anything since Dec 2010. I have clients.

Hi cheap bride! What can I do for you? I can refer you over to a cheap photographer... good luck with your search.

I get lots and lots of inquiries and I send info and hear back "too expensive". OK, good luck with your search! If anything changes feel free to call me!

Simple.

May 25 12 07:11 pm Link

Photographer

Bob Helm Photography

Posts: 18213

Cherry Hill, New Jersey, US

Americans always want a sale. If they priced everything $1 over cost people would still look for a sale.

I used to manage a major Consumer Electronics store and our holiday sales always started the week before the holiday plus we had a low price guarntee so we would tell customers that they could buy now and avoid the rush. Nope , they would wait for the holiday, get caught in the rush and pay the same price!

Photography and other professional services are different...sometimes.
When I first saw JCP's ad I knew it would not work, and you did not need a crystal ball to know that.

May 25 12 07:26 pm Link

Photographer

wiseleo

Posts: 1686

Castro Valley, California, US

Their (JCP) ad campaign is for some reason heavily targeting me on Hulu. Hulu has enough behavioral data (I work with behavioral analytics) on me to know that I am not the appropriate target audience. I suspect that mainstream shows like Glee and House might be skewing that targeting.

The campaign is incoherent and generic and annoys me. "That's fair and square" - why should I care?

Geico's ad campaign, on the other hand, is top notch and very varied. I happen to be a Geico customer because I support people who let me watch my favorite TV shows for free. smile

Car dealers have the same problem as explained in this article. When they try to be honest, their customers go to the crooked competition.

May 25 12 09:56 pm Link

guide forum

Photographer

studio36uk

Posts: 21914

Tavai, Sigave, Wallis and Futuna

Just like one of my local shops. Regular price of "X" is £0.75 each, but then they all of a sudden go on "SPECIAL" at 2 for £1.89.  DUH!!!!!

ROTFLMAO!

Oh, yeah, and the store is actually owned by Wall-Mart.

Studio36

May 26 12 12:44 am Link

Photographer

liddellphoto

Posts: 1801

London, England, United Kingdom

hartcons wrote:
it seems to me that consumers go for the promotion, the deal, the discount. even with portraiture. look at how the mall places advertise. $7.99 for a package of 7 different prints (of course i assume they're putting on the hard sell after that). are wedding photographers immune from that? our first bride came to us and said she wasn't willing to spend $3,000 on her wedding and what could we do for her.

Then you  need to have a good look at why you are attracting the sorts of clients that are not right for your business. Mall places advertise the way they do because they are in the high volume market and are targeting the cheap people who only care about price.

May 26 12 02:14 am Link

Photographer

ontherocks

Posts: 22622

Salem, Oregon, US

our 2nd bride and groom got their engagement photos at the mall place. they were busy and just wanted to get it done. i think it's also about convenience in addition to price. and i've had models talk about how fun the jc penney baby images are. the peeps who shoot at the mall places are sometimes pro photographers who've shut down their studios. but you're right that not everyone wants the mall experience plus i don't think mall places do the sexy stuff?

also, i've been told that the mall places are looking for at least $300 per customer so it just seems like you'll be spending $7.99 but that's just a way to get you in the door then they hard sell.

one of our mall places actually managed to go out of business recently.

as you mentioned the trick is to find people who are interested in photography as more than a commodity. that's the group we're having trouble finding/reaching.

liddellphoto wrote:
Mall places advertise the way they do because they are in the high volume market and are targeting the cheap people who only care about price.

May 26 12 08:01 am Link

Photographer

ontherocks

Posts: 22622

Salem, Oregon, US

many of our boudoir clients (and our first bride) have been from portland or other towns that are 2-3 hours away. they said they went with us because we were cheaper/closer than what they could get in bend or eugene. the wife's theory is that some women prefer to have the boudoir shoot done away from where they live.

we did a dealchicken (like a groupon) through the local salem paper offering $50 (we see half of that) boudoir sessions (3 5x7 prints and the retouched digital files) and only got 7 signups and so far only 4 of those have shown up. i think salem will be the death of me. if you factor out senior citizens, mental patients and felons (and their families) you're left with a very small town indeed. lol.

Death of Field wrote:
If the market in Salem is not what you want, then go for the market in Portland.

May 26 12 08:11 am Link

Photographer

ontherocks

Posts: 22622

Salem, Oregon, US

yeah it seemed like they were trying to clean up an internal mess (too much overtime because of all the sales) and then somehow making it seem like that was also good for the consumer (for my part all the deals never bothered me i just wondered how they managed to stay in business). i like jc penney (they have a sephora mini-store where we found a MUA) but i'd have to say "nice try" on this one. i wonder how they can save face and go back to discounting?

wiseleo wrote:
The campaign is incoherent and generic and annoys me. "That's fair and square" - why should I care?

May 26 12 08:15 am Link

Photographer

Warren Leimbach

Posts: 2686

Tampa, Florida, US

In my brief tenure in retail sales, I worked for a retired architectural photographer who had a stall at a flea market.  I would volunteer information to customers why the used German binoculars was a much better deal than the shiny new Chinese crap ones, etc.  The boss took me aside and his advice is still ringing in my ears: "Never educate a dummy."

Conclusion 1)  I am clearly not cut out for retail.

Conclusion 2)  Salesmen are not your friends.  Caveat emptor, y'all.

May 26 12 08:31 am Link

Photographer

ontherocks

Posts: 22622

Salem, Oregon, US

yeah, i follow up with some people who don't call back and they're like "well i think your $179 family package is only worth $100" and we have people coming in the door telling us how much it should cost because they have a relative who is a pro photographer and he said X. we've also had customers who sent proofs out to their relatives for retouching and then sent them back to us saying "can you make it look like this blurry mess?" we're in scrapbooking hell!

Captured by Bree wrote:
I get lots and lots of inquiries and I send info and hear back "too expensive". OK, good luck with your search! If anything changes feel free to call me!

May 26 12 08:32 am Link

Photographer

ontherocks

Posts: 22622

Salem, Oregon, US

i think that's true in general but there's a wedding photographer here who runs a store and he's always trying to talk me out of buying stuff (or recommending something cheaper). but we've been faithfully shopping at his store for years and i think he's just looking out for us. it's like the local watering hole for photographers.

Warren Leimbach wrote:
Conclusion 2)  Salesmen are not your friends.  Caveat emptor, y'all.

May 26 12 08:37 am Link

Photographer

Captured by Bree

Posts: 282

Sacramento, California, US

Again. You need to market to people that don't like WalMart. Two - you are full of a lot of excuses. Three - you are obviously not setting up client expectations if you have people telling you what to charge. Honestly I don't think you're cut out for the portrait business.

May 26 12 10:39 am Link