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The Number One Mistake I Made in My Photography Business

Photography has been a hobby of mine since high school, and although I never planned to open a photography studio at any point in my life, sometimes life throws you a curve and you can catch it or duck out of the way.  I caught my curve ball and opened my studio.  

While I've owned several businesses over the years, I still stumbled into problems when I started my photography business.  Most problems were just hiccups, but one was huge: shooting for free.

By offering photo sessions with digital images included for free, I found that most people who booked my free session just didn't value my time as much as if they spent their money to hire me.  They would show up late to their session or reschedule several times before cancelling altogether.  This was tough on my ego.  I couldn't understand why people didn't appreciate the value of the photo session and the amount of time I had wrapped up into them!
I quickly learned two better options: 
  1. giving a client more value than they expect: Instead of giving sessions and digital images for free, I will do little things that they will love instead. For example, I might bring treats to the session or send a hand written thank you card with a 4x6 print from their session afterwards. 
  2. giving a discount on standard prices for digitals and prints: I will give a large discount on a full digital gallery if they buy it within two days from when I open the online gallery for them. 
I have found these are things that make clients feel special.  They want to refer me to their friends so their friends can feel the love too!
I also do other things that help me stand out from my local competitors to build my value.  
  • I don't require clients to agree to my modeling clause.  Listen, I love taking photos!  And, I am over the moon when a client shares my photos on their social media accounts.  But, I personally have a love/hate relationship with social media.  So, I completely understand when someone doesn't want their photos used in my marketing...for any reason (or even no reason).  To me, it's well worth doing a session without a model release than to force the issue and lose a client.
  • I don't limit the number of people per session or impose a sitting fee per person.  I realize that it takes extra time to pose a large group, but I don't want anyone to feel as if they are an imposition.  I also don't want to have such a high session fee that would turn off a client from buying all of the prints that they want.
  • I don't choose which digitals they receive.  I usually take about five times the amount of photos I've promised in their package.  After the gallery is culled, it's usually 3 times the number of photos that remain for their selection of digitals and prints.  I have found that the photos I love are not always the ones that my clients love.  So, I don't force them to take the ones I choose.  Bottom line: they pick.
  • Have transparent prices.  Be very clear about what is included (or excluded) from your session fee.  There's no "right" answer here about what to include in your session fee...just be sure you are clear to your clients.  There should be no surprises to your clients from start to finish.  If you are discounting your prices, you should also reveal your standard price.  This will facilitate their appreciation for your value.
These things work for me and may not work for every photographer with every client.  Use what works for you!  I'd love to know what you do that helps you stand out from your competition!  Comment your advice below!  
The bottom line is that people will value your work more if they pay for it. When they value you, they will put more effort into preparing for the session and be less likely to reschedule or cancel. Also, they will take your business seriously.  To turn them into repeat clients, make them feel special and extra cared for!
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My mission with photography is to capture the moments of your life: belly laughs, smiles, excited faces, hugs, tears of joy, and loving glances.  Let's have some fun!  Click on the button below to schedule your photo shoot with me.  It's quick and easy!


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