Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.
I have been writing this blog post for almost two years. Literally. I started it one night in 2011 after a great debate arose on Twitter. Two rock stars of photography were going back and forth about the price, cost, value of a 1-on-1 session, priced at over $16,000. One found the number to be too much, the other said that the number reflected the value of the information.
This led me to ponder. Clearly, value is a hard word to define and, therefore, a hard word to acurately use in conversation about your [or my] photography. When I got back from WPPI in 2011, I had been pumped up. I listed to so many speakers talk say that “what I do has value” in the context of pricing your services. So, I come away with the thought, “Charge more; you’re worth more.” Then I get insulted when a bride doesn’t have the money to afford me. Or worse, I get SCARED that I’M not valued. Something is wrong there. Or at least that there is more to “it” than what it seems.
Now, I am far from an expert in the business of photography. I started my business in 2010, so the experience I’m pulling from isn’t quite the Olympic sized pool other’s have. In fact, I might come back a few years from now and disagree with my own thoughts. However, this struck a chord in me to find the meaning of value and what the heck it has to do with price. Perhaps if I do, I will better understand myself and my photography.
Value. [some thoughts pulled from the Office of Technology Licensing at Stanford University]
Is it dollars and cents? Is it beneficial outcomes? Is it meaningful relationships? My mother’s wedding dress, as it is now, is worth MAYBE $200, if that, but as her daughter, I wouldn’t take $1000 for it. Merriam-Webster defines value as “a fair return,” or “relative worth.” Great. Two subjective words that really nail down how I go about valuing my work.
Here is a statement from one of the photographers from the Twitter arguement: “We all place value differently… what is outrageous to one is commonplace to someone else” and another “…expensive or cheap isn’t about price tag, it’s about how much value a person is getting. Which is up to them to decide.” Is value is on a spectrum? Or is value absolute? I’m not assuming one position or another; its just a question. Can a service can vary in value depending on who you are as a client?
What I See.
PRICE has to do with BUSINESS. Making money, paying our bills, supporting our family. The money we NEED to make to move forward. I believe that our distorted and differing thoughts about VALUE as photographers has nothing to do with price and everything to do with ego–our pride. In other words, we attach it to how we think of ourselves and how we think others see us. Because lets face it. The price we charge for our service, has nothing to do with the value of the product we offer. We tend to think that value is placed on ourselves. We put ourselves up on a pedestal and feel like our throne has been swiped out from under us when someone says, “That’s too expensive.” What we hear is, “You aren’t valuable. You aren’t worth that.” When most of the time what they are really saying is, “I just don’t have the money.”
Are you finding your personal worth in what people are willing to pay for your service and art? If so, please take time to find out who YOU are. Because, the truth is that you are not your work. You are SO much more than that.
If you’re trying to figure out what number to place on your work, how to price yourself in an industry that charges $500-$10,000 for wedding photography, REALLY EXAMINE YOUR BUSINESS. NOT yourself. You are not a price tag. Take time and add up all of your expenses, in life and in your business, figure out how much you want to make and how many weddings you want to shoot. Know that if people aren’t booking, lower the price and raise the number of weddings. If people start booking like crazy, raise that price and work less!
So what is value? In a paper titled, “What is Value,” J. Prescott Johnson tries to answer this question, but ends with the answer, “I cannot say everything at once.” What I do know is that as photographers, we best be careful when discussing this topic. We need to examine our own hearts and our own ego with sober judgement. Love people. Serve them. And just have some fun.
Also, what are YOUR thoughts on all of this?