You don’t have to be a long time pro to come face to face with the major problems that plague our industry. In fact, they will likely keep you from getting anywhere in the first place.
One of the major problems of professional photography today is that people have begun to think that it’s no longer worth paying for and that haggling is the best way to get what they want for cheap or even for free.
Besides being insulting, this raises a number of other issues.
These are the same people who wouldn’t dare go to a supermarket and try to negotiate a discount or who wouldn’t dream of having a few dollars cut of their check at the cocktail bar. Yet they come to you and me and raise their eyebrows as if they were in a bad TV commercial when you tell them how much your work actually costs.
Why is this happening?
There isn’t a straight answer, because if there was one you would probably not be reading this article. But one of the major factors I believe is the fact that a photographer is usually a one man shows. He is the business man who has to sell the product and sign the contract and the one who delivers the final result. He is not a company that has other people doing all these things for him. And people have a tendency to believe that if they talk to the owner of a business directly, there is room for negotiating and cutting down prices.
Pointing fingers is probably useless most of the times. Is it the camera manufacturers, the hipsters, the weekend shooters? Who knows? Who cares actually? The point is people aren’t paying enough and something needs to be done about it.
So what can you do when you get bullied into a forced negotiation? First of all, stand your ground. You might read a few books on business, but communication and public speech books will probably help you more. Deliver the message in a confident, yet polite note: this is your way of making a living, just as theirs is being a shoemaker/doctor/banker/plumber, etc.
I can cook a few good meals that I’m not ashamed of in any circumstance, but that will never make me a chef. Most folks are capable of getting a few good shots, especially with today’s equipment, but that doesn’t mean they will know how to capture the essence of a commercial concept, the atmosphere of a certain location or the personality of a certain model. It actually is that simple.
Try not to use arguments like how much your gear costs because from what I’ve gathered in my experience, people have little or no sympathy for that. They think that if you can afford to spend ten thousand dollars on neat toys, you can sure spare them a few bucks.
If you back down then and settle for a low price, all the clients that will be sent to you in the future will expect the same low price. That leads to an inaccurate price of value per work, low self-esteem and ultimately bankruptcy. Don’t go down that road and don’t be your own enemy either. Believe in yourself, your work and your worth and if you do, so will the others. The mechanism by which this works is still strange to me, but the point is it does.
So have faith and deliver your message with confidence. You might not get the job, but you will at least earn respect and keep your dignity.