You know, where another photographer poses as a client and asks for more information because they just want to see your prices.
It’s one of the most annoying things you’ll deal with as a photographer (and yes, we know you’re doing it. There are hints that make it more than clear). So don’t do it.
If you want to see someone’s prices, simply ask them. They may or may not let you see them, but at least you’ll keep your dignity and not burn a bridge. Having good relationships with other photographers is priceless and can help you grow your business faster (it’s true!) so it’s not worth the risk.
The real questions is, though, is it really a good idea to look at the prices of other photographers anyways?
Let’s look at the pros and cons of seeing other price lists, and how to get them without being unethical and lying.
Why it’s helpful to look at other photographers’ prices when setting your own pricing:
You can learn about pricing strategies that work
By dissecting the price lists of other photographers, you can see what structure they are using and what is working for them. For example, do they charge a lot for the session but very little for products thereafter, or do they charge hardly anything for the session and then a lot for prints and products afterwards. Or maybe they do everything a la carte, or have incentives to get people to book bigger packages. If you look at their pricing and ask yourself, “Why are they doing this?” you can learn a lot from what they are doing.
You can set yourself apart
If everyone in your area is doing packages, you could offer a la carte and spin that as a benefit to your potential clients. If everyone charges a fee for their sessions, you could call it a retainer that goes towards the purchase of prints and products after the fact. This will help you know how to set yourself apart and become a “better” option for prospective clients.
You’ll gain confidence in your pricing
If you feel scared to raise your prices because you don’t think people will pay it, seeing that other photographers in your market are charging those amounts or more and still booking clients can give you the confidence you need to charge higher prices as well.
You’ll see what low, average, and high prices for your market really are and where you sit.
If you are wanting to be a boutique photography business that caters to the high-end clients, you’ll want to make sure you’re pricing above most of your competition and creating a brand and experience that speaks to higher-end clients. Or maybe you will find that your prices are on the low end, where people are only hiring you based on price, so you will want to raise your prices to more of a middle-ground in order to gain clients that really value photography and aren’t just looking for the cheapest place possible. It helps you find and determine your position in the marketplace.
You’ll know who to send your referrals to
If you’re a wedding photographer, you’ll have the chance to recommend other photographers when people contact you to shoot their wedding and you’re already booked. It’s good to know who charges around the same amount as you so that the couple is more likely to book the person you refer. Because when you help others get bookings, they will send referrals back your way as well.
Warning: When looking at other photographers’ prices is a bad idea
When you’re being lazy
Some people don’t really want to go through the work of finding out what they need to charge to be profitable and just want someone to tell them what to charge. If you do this and are just copying (or undercutting, which is even worse), you’re setting yourself up for failure. Having an attitude of not being willing to do things right is a sure sign that you likely don’t have what it takes to run a business and you’ll eventually go under. Successful businesses take LOTS of work, so don’t skimp on one of the most important parts.
When you don’t know your own numbers
Your business is very different from all other businesses out there. The amount of sessions you do, the type of sessions, your expenses, the amount of time you have to do photography, how much you hope to make, and several other factors all play into how much you need to charge to reach your goals. You can figure that all out with ease for free by clicking here. Because this will vary from business to business, you might only need to charge half (or double) what someone else is charging to make what you want to make. In this case, it does you no good to look at other photographers’ prices, because you’re just being lazy (see point 1 above) unless you’re checking to see if your market can actually bear that.
When you’re actually looking at the numbers and not the structure behind it
It’s almost always wrong to just look at the numbers alone. This is especially bad when you’re looking at pricing from a different market completely. I’m sure my pricing here in the midwest USA would be far too low for something in New York City, but my expenses and needed income are much lower as well so it all works out fine. Just looking at numbers doesn’t help anything.
When you don’t know if the business you’re considering is actually profitable or not
If you’re looking at and analyzing the price sheet from a business that is barely making it or that is close to going under, it’s not going to do you any good and could severely hurt you if you copy what they are doing (or implement their pricing structure). Look at the portrait studio chains that were found in Walmarts and other big box stores that just went under. If you were replicating their pricing and structure, you may be setting yourself up for failure as well.
When you don’t know the whole story
Someone may look like they are hardly charging anything, but if they are masters of the upsell after the session, they may be making far more than their price list may let on. The price list is just one part of the big equation, so don’t put too much weight in it.
All that being said, I think there is a LOT to learn from looking at other people’s pricing if you know that they are successful. You just have to be VERY careful about how you use the information you’re getting to make sure you’re not making a big mistake that will severely hurt your business.
So how do you get these price lists without posing as a client and lying to them?
The easiest way is to simply ask. They may or may not share it depending on their motives. If they choose not to share it, don’t worry about it and move on. However, you’d be surprised at how many people are willing to share when you introduce yourself and explain why you want to see them.
Another great way to see pricing and learn about pricing structures is to befriend successful photographers and ask them questions over coffee or lunch (which should be on you, btw). You’ll find that someone who knows and likes you is far more likely to share their pricing with you than someone you’ve never met before that you’re emailing out of the blue.