Competing with cheap photographers

“They aren’t your clients”, “Set yourself apart”, “Why do you care what others charge”, “Everyone starts somewhere”.

We have heard all these and more when the discussion appears talking about cheap, lowball photographers who do full sessions for almost nothing, give all them images from the session (often 50 or more).  So many photographers talk about how they don’t compete with those people because they have clientele who understand the value of their “art”.

Let’s actually think about this and analyze markets a bit.

Here is the latest victim of the cheap, lowballer markets; Bowens International Ltd, the manufacturers of studio flash and lighting for 94 years.  The reason?  Cheap products from other manufacturers.  Read the story here.  I must admit that I have bought a flash from one of the manufacturers listed.  Low price, good quality, full of features.  I bought the flash mostly out of curiosity but the quality of the product makes it difficult to justify 3 or 4 times the cost (in some cases nearly 10 times the cost).  This has led to closures in the steel, oil, and auto industries.  When Walmart comes to town its presence often has a dramatic effect on small business .

We can stick our heads in the proverbial sand and keep telling ourselves that we don’t compete with the cheap lowball photographers but in reality you do.  We all do.  Look at the recent developments in photojournalism when entire photography departments have been closed and laid off depending on reporter supplied or reader supplied photographs. Some larger magazines and newspapers still buy photographs from freelance photojournalists but at a much lower price than a few years ago.

I don’t intend to make it sound like a doomsday scenario but unless we recognize the problem and work to address it, eventually your clients will be the clients of cheap lowball photographers.

So how do we compete?  Good question.  The first step is admitting there is a problem.  The whole thought of “educating” the clients is ridiculous to me.  They don’t care about your expenses.  We need to educate the cheap lowball photographers, those that don’t follow the laws and good business practices of having insurance, paying taxes, obtaining necessary business licenses, etcetera should be noted and if necessary reported just as we would report anyone who violates the law.  Those who fail to follow this good business practice will also have an effect on professional photography in the number of lawsuits, lost respect for the profession and more.




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