Getting A 'Deal' Won't Get You Great Photography

I'm posting this to help not only the general public that wants to hire photographer but also to help aspiring photographers.

There is a trend online where people are looking to hire photographers for extensive commercial or product photography work, full crew shoots, full weddings, and event corporate photography but list their budget at "$150-$200". There's a problem with that. If I went to a Porsche dealer and said, "I want your top-of-the-line model, but I only have $150", they'd laugh and forcibly remove me from the premises.

No one says to an architect, "I want you to build my dream home, but I only have $200". Anyone who is a professional is their field does it not just because it's what they love or what they're good at; they do it to make a living. And, the more experience a professional has in their field, the more they can charge for that experience.

But how should people with limited budgets hire photographers? Easy. Tell the photographer what your budget is, and understand that if they are more experienced, they might pass on the job. However, ask if they could refer you to a less experienced photographer who is getting started and could use the work, the portfolio piece, and a little money, too.  Just don't expect Porsche-level service (with a full crew) for lower fees.

This is not meant to sound elitist; it's the reality of business. I do this work to put food on my family's table (though I also love the work). While newer photographers are trying to build their portfolios and get experience, there is an entire audience for whom their experience level is perfect.

That said, there also exists in this industry the overzealous amateur who hurts the industry and customers at the same time. Many industries have them: the wannabe professional who won't put in the time or effort to become skilled but wants the success and recognition without the hard work. There's the "designer" who just bought Photoshop; the "fitness guru" who only bought the workout clothes; the "photographer" who bought an expensive camera and doesn't know the first thing about lighting, exposure, or composition.

This last person hurts clients and fellow photographers at the same time. Customers think they're getting a deal for $75 headshots but are then deeply disappointed when the images come back. Similarly, this "photographer" thinks "Hey, I'm getting paid!" but they don't realize that they are hurting the industry by making people think that all headshots should be $75. Instead, be honest that you are starting out and are charging a lower-than-usual rate because of that. Later, when you're more experienced, you can gradually raise your rates commensurate with your dedication and effort. Everyone wins.

In the end, I want everyone to get what they want, but I also want us all to make a living. Being honest with each other -- and ourselves -- will go a long way toward making sure everyone can win.