Operating your own photography business has many benefits, but it also brings occasional frustrations. One of the most frustrating (and awkward) moments you may face as a photographer is when a client objects to your pricing. It’s difficult not to take it personally when someone suggests that your work is worth less than its set value or compares your pricing to another photographer’s pricing.
Know that some people will always ask for a discount; it’s in their nature to negotiate. For others, it’s almost like a game. So try not to take it personally. But, of course, that’s easier said than done when you’ve had three objections in a row during the slow season.
Still, try to stay positive and always respond professionally. Here are some ideas for navigating client objections to how you set your prices.
You’ve just settled in at your desk with your morning cup of coffee, ready to respond to client emails. Unfortunately, the first email you open is from a potential client informing you your prices are “outrageous.” What’s your next move?
Is a Response Necessary?
We recommend calmly responding to the email with careful, fair, and professional language instead of ignoring it or deleting it. Sometimes, it’s helpful to take a walk or engage in other tasks for a half-hour first. Allowing yourself to cool off before responding helps you avoid an angry gut reaction. Then, if you’re still angry, have someone else read it before you hit send.
You might think it’s a waste of time to respond to someone who isn’t going to book you. But remember, clients who might not be able to afford you now may be able to in the future. They could also refer you to their friends: “She’s out of my price range, but her work is amazing!” So responding calmly allows for the possibility of future business or referrals, whether the inquiry can currently afford you or not.
Should Your Response Justify Your Pricing?
Some people recommend never justifying your prices. But here at Picsello, we believe in full transparency. If photographers new to the industry don’t know what to charge for their photography services, how can we expect clients to know whether they’re getting ripped off? Educating clients on what it takes to run your business will help you and other photographers in the industry.
Yes, your work should speak for itself. Yet in the “anyone is a photographer” day and age, we believe talking about your experience, and the costs is a great balance. So if you’re unsure how to craft your response, check out the examples below.
I saw your work on Instagram, and I would love to book you, but your prices are outrageous (no offense). I’ve gotten photoshoots for half that price in the past! Do you offer discounts or anything more reasonable?
I’m glad you enjoyed my work!
My current pricing structure allows me to cover the cost of doing business to answer your question about pricing. To answer your question about pricing, my current pricing structure allows me to cover the cost of doing business.
For me, that includes cameras, batteries, memory cards, tripods, lighting, backdrops, props for photoshoots, computer, software subscriptions, hard drives, backups for my storage, insurance, studio rent, training and education, and many other expenses! I also have to factor in travel to and from my sessions, accounting fees, taxes, repairs and maintenance for my equipment, and updating broken equipment. I also have to factor in the amount of time it takes to plan and execute a photoshoot, cull, edit and retouch the images, prepare the final product for my clients, and the time it takes to do so run my business. Usually, for every one hour of a photoshoot, there are approximately 9 hours of hidden work that you don’t see. Profit margins for the photography industry are very low due to the high cost of running a business - any small business actually!
So, lowering my prices or offering discounts would mean losing money on running my business.
If you change your mind, I would be happy to schedule a shoot with you!
Glad to hear you liked my work!
I know pricing for photographers varies, but that’s usually because of differences in experience or skill level. I’ve been a professional photographer for the last X years and have had my work recognized through awards and publications.
When you book with me, you can feel confident that you’ll get a fantastic experience and beautiful images - whether it’s a headshot, family photos, or an engagement session. My pricing structure accounts for my experience and the high quality of the images you’ll receive.
If you change your mind, I would be happy to schedule a shoot with you in the future!
I’m happy to hear that you’re interested in my work!
I do want to mention that several different factors go into my current pricing structure. For me, that includes cameras, batteries, memory cards, tripods, lighting, backdrops, props for photoshoots, computer, software subscriptions, hard drives, backups for my storage, insurance, studio rent, training and education, and many other expenses! I also have to factor in travel to and from my sessions, accounting fees, taxes, repairs and maintenance for my equipment, and updating broken equipment. I also have to factor in the amount of time it takes to plan and execute a photoshoot, cull, edit and retouch the images, prepare the final product for my clients, and the time it takes to do so run my business. Usually, for every one hour of a photoshoot, there are approximately 9 hours of hidden work that you don’t see. Profit margins for the photography industry are very low due to the high cost of running a business - any small business actually! If I were to lower my prices or offer discounts, my business wouldn’t be profitable.
Other factors in pricing my work include quality and experience. I’m an experienced, published, award-winning photographer who’s worked in the business for X years. When you book with me, you know you’ll receive extremely high-quality photos for your portfolio, holiday card, or to frame on the walls of your home. My prices account for the years I’ve spent developing my craft and the high quality of the images you’ll receive.
If you change your mind, I would be happy to schedule a shoot with you!
Glad you enjoyed my Instagram! I’m sorry to hear that my prices don’t work for you at this time. If you ever change your mind, I would be happy to schedule a shoot with you in the future.
If you often receive complaints about your pricing, save your favorite example above as a template for responding to pricing inquiries. That way, you can copy, paste, and move on with your day. Of course, feel free to tweak our examples to fit your business and your style.
At the end of the email, always leave the option open for the client to return and schedule a shoot if they change their mind.
Finally, recognize that if a customer remains obstinate about your pricing, you may be better off referring them elsewhere to save the cost of stress and frustration!
After you send the email, take a walk - preferably outside. This will help you reset your brain. Then, use the following steps to help you regain your confidence.
What’s the best way to remind yourself (and others) that your work is worth the price? Rave reviews from your clients!
One easy way to increase client reviews is to send a follow-up email thanking your clients and guiding them through the process of leaving a review. It’s a good idea to mention that this email is coming at the end of a session (when everyone is happy and excited) and let clients know how much their feedback means to you.
Some photographers also offer an incentive for reviews, like an extra print or a small discount on their next photo shoot. (If you do offer an incentive, include it in the subject line of your follow-up email to ensure it gets opened!)
Once you get great reviews, sprinkle them on your website and post them on your social media platforms. Add the Google Review link to your email signature. When love for your work is everywhere, it’s hard to let people who haven’t even booked you bring you down.
Here are a few other strategies to get your positive mindset back on track:
Here’s why mindset matters.
When you surround yourself with clients who value you, the occasional Debbie Downer won’t shake your confidence. Try these steps:
Identifying and defining your ideal client will help you strategically find more of them (and less of the ones who don’t see your value).
If you’re constantly bombarded with price-sensitive clients, you need to reexamine your marketing. Are you attracting clients that don’t value your work? Why? And what can you do about it?
First, review your marketing materials to see where you can improve and elevate your work.
Sort through the images you have on your website and social media. Do they reflect your current work and target client? You can even have another photographer do a portfolio review and give you feedback.
Here is a blog post on getting your portfolio set up right.
Review your website and branding to make sure it’s presenting you in the best possible light. Highlight your level of experience, attention to detail, and commitment to each client’s happiness and satisfaction at every step.
Walk potential clients through the process of a session to demonstrate your thorough, careful approach to successful shoots.
And as always, be sure to display your glowing reviews!
Double-check that your pricing guide is consistent everywhere it’s posted. Conflicting prices can confuse and open the door to haggling and complaints.
Then, make sure that you aren’t underpricing yourself. Believe it or not, sometimes client complaints about pricing result from prices that are too low, not too high. Bottom-of-the-barrel prices communicate that you don’t value your work, which attracts clients who won’t value your work either.
Finally, look at the email responses you’re sending to clients. Are they professional? Do they demonstrate your value?
How are you marketing your services? Have you invested in advertising? Perhaps being mentioned on the Facebook ISO groups isn’t attracting a profitable audience. If that’s the case, it’s time to expand your reach.
Google Ads and Facebook Ads can help you target more potential clients in your area. Savvy marketing campaigns on social media are another way to reach a larger audience and attract the right business.
Read the blog post How to Book Clients for This Weekend for more suggestions on marketing and advertising. And if you want to up your Instagram game, check out our post How to Get Clients (the Right Way) on Instagram.
If some people can’t afford your services, that’s okay. Don’t feel guilty. They can always seek out a more affordable option, like a department store portrait studio. They run their studio as a loss leader—its real purpose is to get people into the store. Can you afford to do that?
You can’t, and that’s something that potential clients may not realize. Remind yourself that you know far more than your clientele does about running a photography business, the cost of your gear, your time and expertise, and so on.
And remember that it’s a numbers game. You will always be too expensive for someone. Yet the more inquiries you get, the better chance you have of getting that “yes.” The world is huge, and it’s full of people who are ready to appreciate your work and accept your prices.
For every client that may object to your pricing, there are several more that will recognize the quality of your work and value it as you do. Therefore, you have zero reasons to undermine or undervalue your work!