Lobstahs – The art of pricing photography

In talking with a  friend who is a wedding photographer on the East Coast about pricing and then a discussion about wedding photography pricing at a LobstahKelby walk and finally talking to another friend who expressed, he always gave the max no matter the price… I thought it time I gave some thoughts about pricing photography since, without a doubt, it’s the cause of more confusion and angst among photographers.

One common thread though out all of these conversations was the discussion of “Quality” or the “Best” in relation to price. In the first case, The person asked me to look at 3 of her competitors to see if she was of the same or better quality in order to raise her price to their level, In the second, it was said “You get what you pay for” and “for $1000 you’re going to get a  shitty photographer” and the last it was said that he “always gives a full boat session, because quality matters”, no matter the price paid. But is any of those really how “pricing” itself works?

The answer is no and I’ll explain why. I will use, as I always do, the restaurant example because just about everyone has gone to a  restaurant to eat and understands them and what they expect and get.

So in this example we have: a Hamburger Stand, a Steak House and a Lobstah (sic) Shanty. These will represent: Economy, Mid-Priced and the High End (Not the true High-End which is an entirely different animal with different rules but just the high end of normal)

If we were to use the above thoughts and thoughts of many photographers we would believe that: at the low end we get a bad meal, at the mid price we get a slightly better meal and at the top we get a good meal. But that’s not at all how it works. We expect quality within context of every price point. What is different is merely product and experience

If we have an economy priced Hamburger Stand we deliver a quality delicious Hamburger at a Market price. A mid-priced Steak house also gives you an equally juicy steak and the High-end Lobstah Shack delivers succulent Lobstah at market pricing. None of them price according to getting a bad meal or a great meal, that, as it applies to pricing, is Irrelevant.

Lack of quality, execution and customer experience (within context) do not affect price. They, only in the end, affect success. Failing to execute within any market segment will lead to a business’s failure. Failure to understand the market segment you are in will also lead to the same.

To that end, it’s just as bad to give Hamburgers at a Lobstah Shack as It is – as is much too common- to give Lobstahs at a Hamburger stand. Don’t Give Lobstahs

Doing so will lead to failure or at the very least… burnout. I see so many photographers burned out because they are trying to give Lobstahs at Hamburger prices because “I have to do my best!”. You do…within Context

You must know the market segment you are in or want to be in and from there pricing actually is easy. There IS a market price for everything. So price within that segment and then deliver the product and experience that that segment expects and deserves.

Also, don’t fall into the trap of “Only the high end makes money” all segments make – or can make – money. But they won’t if you don’t recognize the market segment you are in and provide what that warrants. You can’t put in 40 Hours on a $500 wedding, but you may on a $7,000. But done correctly even a $500 wedding can give a quality product and make money…if that person understands what it is they do.

Now this isn’t to say there isn’t a difference in overall quality from Economy to High-end. Surely a 4 Star Michelin chef will be (or should be) a better chef than someone making burgers (although of course not always the case) But again it is within Context of the segment you are in. If you are making hamburgers you want to be the best at making Hamburgers, If you are serving “Oven Baked Black Sea Bass with Syrah Sauce” at Daniel…then you need to be the best at that.

And lastly, this doesn’t apply just to wedding Photography, It applies across many segments of the photography industry and even into Art prints. Even within that market I see people trying to give Lobstahs

Don’t give Lobstah…unless someone pays for it