Value What You Do

I found at least three sites that attribute that quote to Oprah, so I'm at least 90% sure she actually said it. More importantly. I believe it's a very accurate statement.

Problem is, many photographers undervalue their own work, with the result that the world (which includes their clients) undervalues them. As photographers we have two choices -- Value what we do in a positive way, or allow the rest of the world to undervalue us.

In other words, If we charge too little for our work, we're undervaluing ourselves, and the rest of the world -- our clients -- won't value our work.

Or us. A couple of months ago, a fellow local photographer (let's call him, "Ralph") managed to beat me out of a new client. I actually talked to him about it, and during our conversation, "Ralph" made an interesting statement -- "Wow. You were asking for more for a single photo than I was charging for the whole job." Really? I'm not greedy, I just value myself and my work. I ask for what I feel is a fair price that reflects my cost of doing business, and what I perceive my work to be worth. I also factor in things like number of shots to be taken, complexity of those shots, the client's ability to pay, and turnaround time. The last thing is very important. Call me on a Monday and tell me you need 50 finished photos delivered no later than Thursday morning, and the price is going to go up. Sometimes I get the job, sometimes I don't. That's life. A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from a potential client: "We really love your work and want to work with you. Please send us your rates and terms." I sent them a rate that was a little higher than I charge some of my clients, and less than I charge others. Like I said, what I charge is based on a number of factors, and isn't the same for any two clients. Their reply was very telling -- "Thanks. We'll be in touch." In other words, no thanks. Interestingly, they then approached me about licensing some photos that I had previously shot for another client (and which were available for licensing), and made me an offer. That offer was considerably under what I would normally have charged for such a license, but because I wanted to show them that I wanted to work with them, and was willing to cut them some slack, I agreed to their offer, and licensed the photos in question. Their check arrived within a couple of days. Just two days ago, I discovered that this potential client had hired my old friend "Ralph." I haven't talked to him about it, but I'd be willing to bet he's once again charging less for the whole job than I would for a single photo. Oh well. So how can I be so cavalier about losing a potential client? Because the very day I discovered that "Ralph" had "stolen" this potential client, I had a shoot for a client I've worked for before. Someone who recognizes that my work has value. And this client is willing to pay my price, because they see value in my work. Trust me, if they didn't like my work, they would not call me again. For this particular shoot, I shot for four hours, edited for another four or five hours, and banked EIGHT TIMES what Ralph will make on one job (based on his statement regarding my charging more for one photo than he charges for an entire job). Again, I want to emphasize something here -- I am not being greedy. I ask a fair price, based on the factors I listed above. The difference is that I value myself and my work. The problem is that there are so many photographers out there who either don't think they are worth the higher prices or are afraid to ask for it because they are afraid they'll lose the job. I've lost a lot of jobs because of prices. A lot of them. But I have also gotten a lot of jobs. But I don't loose a lot of sleep over losing a client that doesn't value me or my work. Those that do, I work for. Those that don't, use other photographers. And that's okay. Still, it all comes down to one thing -- as a photographer, do you value yourself and your work? Or do you undervalue it? And If you don't no one else will, either. If you don't think that your work is of value, neither will anyone else, especially your clients. My wife and I have had several discussions about how much money the music, television, movie, and sports stars sometimes make. Tens of millions -- or more -- per year. And we've wondered why. The answer, of course, is simple . . . They value themselves and their work, and the expect the people who are paying them to pay them accordingly. Remember -- when you undervalue what you do, the world will undervalue you. You can call yourself a professional photographer and make a decent amount of money at it. But if you don't value your own work, you'll be working your butt off just to make ends meet. Don't be greedy, but charge a fair rate. Charge what you are really worth.

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Oklahoma Freelance Photographer

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Don Risi Photography
Oklahoma City 

Based in Oklahoma City, able to travel anywhere in the

continental United States

Using Nikon Cameras and Lenses exclusively since 1979.
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