Within the 4 step model for strategic marketing, step 3 addresses the method of achieving the target market and positioning which had been decided in step 2.

The post focuses on an element of step 3 – price, which is not just a decision that is arbitary, but a deliberate action part of a positioning strategy. Are you low cost, mass market, premium, or luxury?

I have struggled to find out enough information about other photographers’ prices and finding out what potential clients are willing to pay, I have a bit more experience now. The strange thing is clubs find R300 per hour standard, students running events find me expensive and corporate clients find I charge less than half what they normally pay photographers. I increased my rates for events gradually as I got better (and for inflation), from about R150 per hour when I started out in 2010 to about R300 per hour in 2012. I realised that not events have the same demands for a photographer and some are more or less stressful and specific, so am probably moving towards different prices for each event. I often have to price below R300 to handle for 21sts for friends or for student organsiation, I would probably move it up to R350 or R400 for higher budget events for clubs and corporate events. So could could quote someone R400 for an event – if they say “you’re expensive” I could ask “compared to what?” Or I could say “Well, I believe in my own value and ability, and if you’re convinced by my experience and portfolio, then you should find that R400 indicates high quality work.

I face paradoxes occasionally – a person will say that they love my style and they only want me to be at their event, but they also say please don’t be expensive because we’re only a student organistion, starting model, struggling band, etc. If they love me as much as they say or my style is irreplacable, then in theory, I should actually be able to charge maybe double my current price or those of a competitor and they should still want to hire me. They might even be prepared to pay that much but the question is what their budget is, based on phyiscal cash or cashflow, or what they can justify as a business expensive.

I used to mark down the prices of my model shoots down for friends or strangers who ask me as the first photographer they ask (read more about these satisficers in this post). Or if would quote R750, and someone would try to persuade me to put my price down to fit within their planned budget. I would feel obligated to do this for a stranger, just to be kind, even if I don’t want the shoot particularly. Now, I quote R1000 without feeling guilty. If the person tells me “You’re too expensive”, one could argue that I would lose the client by not dropping my price. But I’ve come to realise through my marketing lectures and conversations with my father who is a marketer, that the individual is not a lost client and in fact was not in target market.

My target market is models with some or a lot of experience, who are willing to pay R1000 to R2000 for a shoot. (The later includes R1000 worth of make-up and styling, which I would outsource). My target market is not people who want to pay R200 to R500 for a shoot. Those are the kind of people who have probably have decided to do a shoot because their friend or family member told them they could be a model… they probably have few poses, little experience in posing, might arrive late for the shoot or cancel at the last minute. If I charge R1000 to a stranger or a friend and they say yes, then I know that person is in a segment who has experience and puts effort and thought into shoots. They also recognise my value as a person and a photographer. They are not only looking to get a budget shoot for their own convenience but they believe I offer benefits and quality.

Maybe I will do less shoots by charging more, but it will be the shoots that matter more or that are more enjoyable, under the assumption that low budget shoots are stressful and demanding but give little satisfaction. Having said that, I have had some wonderful low budget, charity or time for print shoots, but usually because I built up trust and friendship with the model, so that I was willing to commit to the shoot.

To the extreme side, maybe I would do a handful of shoots a year if I charged R20 000 – but then that would mean I would have to do one shoot instead of 20 and get paid the same. I would end up doing high profile shoots for magazines, celebrities, etc. The reason why I don’t charge that amount is for several reasons. There are pros who charge that and they are already well known in the industry. I am still building experience, a solid portfolio and networks. But some of these pros who do high budget ads get known amongst the right clients and networks, some are very in demand throughout the year. I guess its a long term goal for many photographers to get to a glamorous and luxury level of income of clients, but it takes a while to get there and there are a limited number of clients with high budgets. But it’s something to aim for – I’ve read UK photography magazines and some of them talk about success stories where a photographer gets discovered by a band, magazine, etc. and that shoot gives them credibility. For the rest of the year, they are in high demand, working with big names and travelling far to see clients, working with the likes of global ad agencies or fashion brands, who respect their ability and style as a photographer.

Read the other posts on my blog regarding Stratetic Marketing for the Photographer.