It can be divisive. It's the "third rail" of photographer talk. What are we talking about? The dreaded topic of posting your photography pricing on your website. ...But let me back up for a moment.
As an experienced boudoir photographer, I've seen it all. In case you may not know-- a quick overview of my little corner of the photographic world. Boudoir photography is an exquisite art form steeped in intimacy and elegance. As practitioners, we capture the beauty and sensuality that exists within every individual. It's an empowering and transformative experience that hinges on trust, openness, and expertise.
Navigating the business side of this craft, however, can be a challenge. One topic that continuously generates a buzz in industry circles is whether or not we should post our prices publicly on our websites. It's a matter of contention, and if you've found your way to this blog, it's likely you've wrestled with this decision yourself.
From my experience, and that of many colleagues, I've come to believe that refraining from publishing pricing online can often prove beneficial. This might appear counter-intuitive at first. In a world where transparency and instant information are lauded, why should we resist giving potential clients immediate access to our pricing? The answer, as it often is with boudoir photography, lies beneath the surface.
Starting prices can be misleading for those unfamiliar with the industry. They see a number and draw conclusions without understanding what it truly represents. It's akin to seeing a photograph without appreciating the hours of work, the skill and the artistic vision that brought it to life.
As artists, our primary role is not only to provide excellent photos but also to communicate effectively with our clients. It is imperative that we give them a comprehensive understanding of our services, our process, and the true value of the work we do. Pricing alone falls short of conveying this message.
Through years of cultivating a successful boudoir photography business, I've found that open dialogue and personalized consultations not only demystify the pricing structure but also create a stronger bond between the photographer and the client. It’s these relationships that yield the most beautiful images and the most satisfied clients.
As we take a look further into this topic, remember that every business is unique. There is no universal answer to the question of posting prices online. My goal is to provide you with a perspective born out of personal experience. Together, we'll explore the nuances of this decision, weigh its pros and cons, and hopefully guide you towards making the choice that best suits your business.
Misunderstanding The "Starting Price"
Let's take a closer look at the term "starting price." It's a common phrase, one you see in many different industries, not just photography. It's supposed to convey that this is where the pricing begins, and then it ascends depending on additional services, products, or features the customer chooses. That seems clear enough, right? Lots of photographer may list a "packages starting at..." style pricing on their webpage.
But here's where the waters become muddied. A potential client visits the website, their eyes drift to that "starting at" price, and then they form an assumption about what that includes. We can't blame them, after all, they're not in the industry. They're most likely not experts in the business of photography. They're looking to us for guidance and clarity.
A common misunderstanding is that this starting price will get them everything they want. Or does it? They see that number and believe it includes not only the session but all the prints, albums, and digital images. People will come up with their own ideas of what this starting price includes. Yet, we know that's not typically how it works. Those are often additional costs that come on top of the session fee.
I've had numerous instances where potential clients reached out to me, excited about the "starting price," only to find themselves disappointed when I explained that videos and albums were extra. It's a hard pill to swallow. Not because they felt my services were overpriced, but because they had already created a budget based on their initial understanding. People are going to see what they see... and it becomes more difficult after that point to start steering the ship in another direction.
By not listing prices upfront, we sidestep this issue. Our first interaction with potential clients isn't overshadowed by misconceptions about pricing. Instead, it can focus on what we can offer them, the process, the unique experience. This is the first step in aligning their expectations with reality. Many customers do not know the intricacies of what you do and why you are different from the photographer across town. --And why would they? They are not experts... YOU are. It's your job to present the value of what you do.
And contrary to popular opinion, it's not about hiding the cost; it's about providing context. As we'll see, showing numbers without any context means nothing. Having that first conversation about pricing allows us to explain what goes into it-- The time, the expertise, the quality of the final product, and the overall experience. It's an opportunity to give them insight into the value they're getting, not just the price they're paying. It is also an opportunity to build a relationship with a new prospect.
By posting pricing on your website you may actually be doing your clients a disservice. Presenting this pricing information out of order can lead to confusion, misperceptions, or even clients purchasing something they don't need.
When we frame the conversation in this way, clients tend to be more understanding of the cost. They realize that they're not just paying for a product; they're investing in an experience, an art form, and a lasting memory. And this understanding fosters a more positive and trusting relationship moving forward.
Failing to Convey Value
In the realm of boudoir photography, or any form of art for that matter, value extends beyond mere dollars and cents. However, a simple numerical price, starkly presented on a webpage, often fails to encapsulate the rich tapestry of this value. The question then arises: how do we, as artists and professionals, convey the real meaning behind our pricing?
Consider a finely crafted timepiece, for instance. Its value lies not just in the tangible product, but also in the craftmanship, the intricate design, the hours of labor, and the years of experience backing it. Boudoir photography is no different. Behind each photo session is a wealth of expertise, preparation, and passion. There's the time spent in pre-session consultations, the planning, the actual shoot, and the meticulous post-production work.
Now, imagine trying to distill all this into a single price listed on a webpage. It's not just about the time spent during the shoot; it's about the whole journey. Yet, to a potential client browsing a website, the price might not immediately reflect all this. Therein lies the crux of the issue.
For those unfamiliar with the industry, a price tag can seem lofty without understanding the work that goes behind the scenes. Even for the more initiated, knowing the price without understanding the unique value and approach of the individual photographer can be a disservice.
Being a consultant to your clients is super important. A one-on-one consultation opens doors to a more comprehensive understanding of the process. It's an opportunity to delve deeper into the unique value proposition. The client gets a sense of who we are as individuals, artists, and professionals. They gain insight into our style, our values, our commitment to quality, and how all these translate into the final product - their photographs.
Having these personalized discussions about pricing also allows for flexibility. Everyone comes with different needs, expectations, and budgets. This is when you can do your best work, and not have to leave any money on the table. By not boxing ourselves into a predetermined pricing structure publicly displayed on our websites, we're better positioned to tailor our services to individual needs. It's an approach that not only helps us better serve our clients but also allows us to communicate the real value behind our work effectively. This is a positive for your customer's experience.
The Pitfall of Misconceptions
Misperceptions can sometimes be the most challenging obstacles to overcome. They lurk beneath the surface of a conversation, subtly steering the direction towards misunderstanding and potential disappointment. In the context of our work, misconceptions about what's included in a starting price can create a gap between client expectations and reality.
Consider this scenario: a potential client visits the website, sees a 'starting from' price and immediately formulates an idea of what they'll receive. They imagine a full array of services: the shoot, digital images, a beautifully bound album – all included in that initial figure. However, as we know, this may not be the case.
The reality check when they realize that not all their imagined services are included can be disappointing, even off-putting. Is the album you offer a hand-crafted one that not only presents your images beautifully... but has a hefty feel that speaks of luxury (have you ever held a big Finao album? Geez...now THAT'S an album.) -- and something that will be treasured for years? Or is it a mass produced album made on an assembly line with thin pages strictly produced to be a low price point item? How would would your client know the difference by a mere price listing? Even if you list all the details, this still isn't the best because your clients may not really know what they need. This doesn't just impact their perception of the pricing; it can color their whole view of the service. Suddenly, what seemed like a transparent, upfront deal starts to feel confusing, perhaps even deceptive.
By not listing prices upfront, we give ourselves the opportunity to manage these misconceptions from the outset. In a personalized consultation, we can walk clients through exactly what they're paying for and what additional options are available. There's no room for guesswork or incorrect assumptions, only clear, concise information that allows them to make an informed decision.
Another common misconception is that lower starting prices equate to lower quality. It's the "you get what you pay for" mindset. In reality, pricing structures vary greatly across the industry, and a lower starting price doesn't necessarily reflect on the quality of work.
When we list prices without context, we leave ourselves open to these misconceptions. By choosing to share pricing information through consultation, we can present our services and quality in a manner that isn't defined solely by the starting price.
Eliminating misconceptions from the beginning creates a smoother, more satisfying journey for the client. It ensures they approach their boudoir experience with clear expectations, full understanding, and the assurance that they're investing in quality and professionalism.
Posting Pricing May Actually Discourage High-Budget Clients
We've all heard the phrase, "don't judge a book by its cover." It's sage advice, urging us to look beyond the superficial to truly understand the worth of something or someone. However, when it comes to pricing, particularly in luxury services like boudoir photography, initial impressions can sometimes be everything.
Imagine for a moment, a client with a substantial budget. They're not just looking for a photography session; they're seeking an unparalleled experience, something unique, something that echoes luxury and exclusivity. They land on your website, see a starting price that's lower than they expected, and an immediate thought might cross their mind: "Perhaps the quality here isn't as high as I thought."
An irony, isn't it? You've priced your services with accessibility in mind, hoping to cater to a wide audience, yet this very act might deter high-budget clients. They're operating under a perception that equates higher price with higher quality, and seeing a low starting price might make them question the caliber of your work.
Ironically...this will happen. This scenario isn't far-fetched; it's something I've encountered multiple times in my career. It's a delicate balance - price too high, and you might intimidate potential clients; price too low, and you might discourage those with bigger budgets.
So how can we address this? By having pricing discussions during consultations rather than broadcasting prices on your website, we can cater to each client's unique situation. For those with bigger budgets, this gives us a chance to elaborate on the luxury services we can offer, the premium products available, and the exceptional experience they can expect.
It's essential to remember that pricing isn't just about numbers; it's about perception. By holding off on listing prices, we can take the time to create a personalized narrative for each client, which accurately represents our value and aligns with their budget and expectations.
Ultimately, our goal is to ensure each client, regardless of their budget, feels valued and understands that they're investing in a premium service. By doing so, we can cater to a broad range of clients without discouraging those willing to invest more in the unique experience that boudoir photography provides.
Price Without Context: A Mere Number
Every number tells a story, but without context, it remains just that - a number, an enigmatic symbol bereft of meaning. When it comes to pricing, this rule holds particularly true. An isolated figure on a webpage, detached from the wealth of information that gives it substance, is easily misconstrued. --And will be misconstrued.
Pricing isn't just a simple transaction; it's a narrative, an intricate weave of the tangible and intangible elements that constitute our craft. Yes, the client is paying for the final product - the beautifully shot and carefully curated images. But they're also investing in an experience, a journey led by a professional who is committed to capturing their essence in the most authentic and empowering way possible.
This is a multifaceted process. There's the pre-session consultation, where we discuss the client's vision and preferences, the actual shoot, where we work together to create stunning images, and the post-production work, where the photographs are carefully edited to perfection. Each of these steps is an integral part of the narrative, a critical chapter that shapes the final result.
Presenting a price without this context is like giving someone the ending of a story without sharing the journey that led there. It robs them of the opportunity to truly appreciate the value of what they're investing in.
Moreover, a standalone price does little to convey the uniqueness of our approach. Every photographer has a distinctive style, a specific way of interacting with clients, a particular creative process. These are factors that contribute significantly to the overall value, yet they can't be quantified or distilled into a price.
By engaging potential clients in a pricing conversation rather than merely displaying a number, we can provide the necessary context. We can delve into what our service entails, share insights into our creative process, highlight the premium quality of our work, and explain why we price our services the way we do.
At the end of the day, providing context is about enriching the client's understanding and painting a complete picture of the value they are receiving. It's about transforming the pricing conversation from a transactional exchange to a more meaningful dialogue that underscores the worth and uniqueness of our services.
The Photographer’s Role: Beyond Providing a Service
Stepping into the shoes of a photographer, especially in a genre as intimate as boudoir, involves far more than just snapping photos. We're not just providing a service; we're creating an experience, a safe and empowering space for our clients. We're crafting memories that are captured forever in the frames of our work.
Understanding this role, however, is not immediate. It is not something that can be gleaned from a quick glance at a price on a webpage. It's a realization that dawns over time, through meaningful conversations and interactions that paint the bigger picture.
Indeed, as a photographer, I am first and foremost a storyteller. Each client is unique, and my role is to capture their individual essence, their personal narrative, in every frame. To do this, I need to connect with them on a deeper level, understanding their desires, their fears, and their dreams.
At the same time, I am also a guide. Many clients stepping into a boudoir shoot may be doing so for the first time. They're stepping out of their comfort zones, entrusting me with their vulnerabilities. My role involves guiding them through this journey, offering reassurances, and making the experience enjoyable and empowering.
In addition, there's the role of an artist. Each image captured is a work of art, a creative interpretation that carries a piece of my style and vision. It's not just about pressing a button on a camera; it's about framing the shot, capturing the light, evoking the right emotions, and creating a piece that both the client and I can be proud of.
Finally, there's the role of a consultant. This is particularly relevant when discussing pricing. Each client has unique needs and budgets, and as a photographer, it's my role to help them understand the available options, tailoring a package that suits them best.
By engaging with clients on a personal level, I can fulfill these roles effectively. Instead of presenting a flat rate on a website, having a discussion allows me to outline the depth and breadth of the service, and most importantly, show them that they're not just paying for a service, but investing in an experience that is crafted meticulously with their needs at heart. This personal touch, this willingness to go beyond, is what elevates the relationship from service provider-client to a partnership based on trust, understanding, and mutual respect.
The Personal Touch: Serving the Client's Needs
I know what you're thinking: "Mike, people are going to pass me by because they don't want to reach out to me, " or "Yeah, you may get more inquiries, but these are not going to be my ideal client." This is where you would be pleasantly surprised. This is where you get to shine being a consultant. As a service professional, this is where you get to use your ability to design a package specifically that fits your clients needs. And it starts by asking someone about their budget.
Every client is a new adventure, a unique set of desires, dreams, and expectations waiting to be fulfilled. Each has a different story, a unique vision of how they want to be captured, and a distinct budget. And herein lies the beauty of this profession - the opportunity to tailor an experience to match these individual needs.
But how does one translate this personal touch into a standardized price listed on a website? The answer is, it's challenging, if not impossible. A one-size-fits-all price is a convenient tool for quick transactions, but it fails to account for the nuances that make each client experience unique. Maybe a client really wants to do more boudoir videos...and not so many pictures. You can have that discussion and create something that best fits their needs.
I've been doing sales for a long time. It takes practice... no doubt. Take the consultation process, for instance. It's here that we start unraveling the threads of the client's story. It's an intimate, shared space where the client feels seen, heard, and understood. It's an essential part of the boudoir photography journey, and yet, how does one quantify it into a price? This kind of understanding, empathy, and connection cannot be neatly packaged into a dollar amount. And here's one more error that so many photographer make-- A clients indicated budget isn't necessarily what they actually will spend... it may be merely be what their perception of the value of boudoir photography is. That number is simply a number they thought was appropriate to spend-- without really having any insight of your business.
Now, this isn't the case for every inquiry, sometimes people only have what they have, but people inquiring have attributed some value to your service. If they only stated their budget is $500, they are attributing a value to your service, and they could have always chose to attribute less, and for that same reason they can always choose to attribute more-- and after that conversation with them they may realize they need to allocate more of their budget to their anniversary boudoir session.
Literally-- just as I was writing this part of the article I received an inquiry from a client who was looking for a gift for a fiancé, and indicated her budget was $250. Now, to be honest, I can't even turn my lights on for $250, but I don't panic when I see that type of request... I see opportunity! I couldn't of asked for a better example if I wanted one! 😄 She was eager to chat, so we did... I don't even bring up money at first, I merely explain what I do, the process, and how I want to help her get the best experience possible. I am very interested in her needs. In the end I presented a few options that fit the type of gift she was looking to present. At that point she had an understanding of what I do, how the process works, and fully understood the unique process of boudoir photography. So, a few hours later I received this.
So, in this example closing the client for 3x their stated initial budget. Not a big sale in my world (I shoot for $1800 - $1500 range) BUT if I am showing $1800 pricing on my website...do you think this person ever even contacts me??? Probably not. After a consultation I can create an $800 session... instead of having nothing. I created a package that had what she wanted, and once she better understood, the increase in stated budget is not an issue. A win in my book.
Now back to my article...
Literally, the consultation part is entire animal in and of itself. So, as you can see this is complex web with lots of moving parts-- and it takes time and sales experience to bring all of this together and present it in a confident way to your prospects.
Similarly, each client has distinct expectations when it comes to the final product. Some may dream of a beautifully crafted album to cherish for years to come, while others might want digital images that they can share across various platforms. Some clients might want more videography, multiple outfit changes, or the inclusion of professional makeup and hair styling. Listing a starting price on a website might inadvertently set expectations that don't match what the client has in mind.
By opting for personalized pricing consultations, we can adjust and customize our offerings to suit each client's unique needs and expectations. It's an opportunity to break down the services offered, explain the value each brings, and help clients choose what works best for them.
This approach also allows us to display a high degree of professionalism and customer service. It shows the client that we're not just interested in a transaction, but in their satisfaction, comfort, and in delivering a service that aligns with their desires. This is the true essence of the personal touch - the willingness to adapt, to go the extra mile, and to ensure that each client receives an experience that resonates deeply with them. In this way, the absence of pricing on a website is not a lack of transparency, but a commitment to serving the client's unique needs.
Boy, I could go on about this for hours... 🤣
It becomes apparent that the question of whether or not to post pricing on a website isn't a black and white issue. It is steeped in the nuances of understanding the client's perception, the value offered, the potential for misconceptions, the role of the photographer, and the commitment to a personal touch. It’s a question of context, of narrative, and ultimately, a question of what best serves the client’s needs.
It's also an expert move that's needed to bring you to a new level. It removes boundaries and limits. It will increase inquiries, but there is a skillset needed to convert those inquiries into dollars.
Opting against the display of pricing on a website is not about concealing information or making the process convoluted. It's not going to drive people away. Quite the contrary, it's about creating an open space for dialogue, an opportunity for clients to understand the depth and breadth of the service being offered. It is an opportunity for us, as professionals, to explain our process, highlight our expertise, and most importantly, to understand and align with the client's expectations.
The one caveat I have is that you need to really hone and be very good with your consultation skills. And don't be fooled: I'm NOT talking about spewing boudoir nonsense narratives such as "I'm changing women's lives..." That's not a consultation. That's not bringing your client closer to understanding the value in your business. Removing all the pricing from your website, and not having a great command of the other skills necessary to bring everything together may be a recipe for disaster. BUT this is also what separates the people who can turn boudoir photography into giving themselves a better financial life... vs those who love flailing their arms around wildly, while ultimately just sinking to the bottom.
It's important to remember that boudoir photography, or any form of photography for that matter, is more than a service; it's an experience. It's a creative partnership between the photographer and the client, each bringing their unique visions and expectations to the table. Standardized pricing might streamline the process, but it can strip away this collaborative spirit, reducing it to a mere transaction.
Every profession has its unique considerations, and in the realm of boudoir photography, these considerations become intimately tied to the personal experiences of each client. A price listed on a website might give a superficial understanding of the cost involved, but it can seldom paint the full picture of the journey that awaits.
In conclusion, choosing not to display pricing on a website is a conscious decision to prioritize individual client needs over standardized transactions. It is a commitment to authenticity, transparency, and personalization. It's an acknowledgment that each client is unique and deserves an experience tailored to their specific desires and expectations. By engaging in a personalized pricing discussion, we can honor this individuality, crafting an experience that captures the essence of who they are, in the most empowering and memorable way possible.
I wish you all the best.