What about the $150 photographer? Advice for communicating the value of your business.

I received this question from one of our Workshop attendees and I’ve heard it so many times, I thought I would blog it for you this week.  I was really in need of a good HOT TOPIC to discuss!  Do you have a steamy hot question for us?  Join us on FAQ Friday after the workshops this week!

dear heidi

I have a client who recently approached me with this situation regarding referrals.  She was saying it was difficult to refer me to her mommy group.  I’m not sure how I should respond or if I should.  Can you help?

“I’m so excited about Charlotte’s pictures.  They completely exceeded my expectations.  I’ve been telling all of my friends and family that they have to book a session with you!  I feel bad even telling you this, but I wanted to let you know what their feedback is.  A lot of them are excited about your work until they see your price list.  They are just used to paying in the $50-$200 range for pictures.  I know you are seriously worth it with everything that you provide.  I’ve used some of these other photographers and I KNOW that your work far exceeds theirs.  I guess there is some photographer in Tampa they are talking about selling a newborn session that includes the sitting in her studio with all of the edited files for $150.  I want you to know that I’m so happy with my experience and have been gladly referring you to others, it’s just tough to get them to see the difference.  Thank you again for the amazing session.  We will be customers for life!  I can’t wait for my canvas to come in!”    



I think most business owners have heard something like this before.  What’s worse is that it is coming from someone who is super nice, loves your work and does believe in you.  So how do you get the rest of the world to see the value in what you provide?  How do you communicate the value of your business while keepin’ it classy?

First, let me say, one of the best pieces of advice I can offer you is: “the truth needs no defense.”

You never need to get defensive over your pricing when you have calculated it to support your business model, you are running your business legally and you are paying your bills.  If this was someone just calling up and spouting out other photographer’s prices, I would thank them for their time and encourage them to find a photographer that better suits their needs and budget.  Done.  No defense needed.

But, this is a different situation.  This is a mom who loves your work, wants to help you and is simply stating the truth of what she has heard out there.  I often hear comments like this from my own friends and family.  Even other professional photographers don’t always understand our business model and pricing when it is different from theirs.  You may also find you get questions like this from consumers who are genuinely interested in booking you and just need a little further assurance and information regarding your pricing.  It is good to give some thought to your response so you are able to answer from an honest place that champions your business without putting others down.

There are always going to be different perceptions of your business.  Consumers will always have valid questions.  You have to believe in the value of what you provide and not take it personally.  You have to thank the customer for trying to help and remember that your business is not any of those other businesses that she is referring to.  You have to know why you’re worth it.

Comparison is certainly the thief of joy.  When someone compares our business to another, our work to another, our service to another, we immediately feel defensive.  We want to list out all the things we do better than that “other” person who charges $xxx.  We want to prove we’re more legitimate, more talented, more professional.  We want to say “you get what you pay for!”  or “it’s all in what you value”!  We want to remind them that we are supporting our families and our employees families.  We want to list out all of our business expenses and the hours that go into each session.  We want to tell them about how we were editing their photos at 3 in the morning!


Trust me, there have been plenty of families where mom carries a $2,000 Louis Vuitton Diaper bag draped off her $15,000 Rolex and comments that $500 for portraits is too expensive.  There always will be.  People value different things.  Your job isn’t to tell that mom what she SHOULD value.  We can’t change peoples values.  There is nothing wrong with her values.  They might be different from yours, but different isn’t wrong.  It is just different.  All you can do is tell the consumer what YOU value as a business owner.  What YOU provide to clients.  Tell them why you believe in what you do. 

Why do people wait in line for days for the new Iphone releases?  Because they believe in Apple.  They believe in innovation.  They believe in being productive, cutting edge, fun and beautiful.  They believe in Apple’s brand, what it stands for and the value it provides.  When you communicate the value of your business, eventually you will attract consumers who believe in and value the same things as you.  It is as simple as that.  

When communicating your value, it is important to remain positive and professional.  You can speak well of your business without speaking ill of others.  Here are 3 things to avoid (so you can keep it classy):

     1: Do not berate or blame other photographers at any price point.  You have no idea what their business model is, just as these consumers don’t understand yours.  
     2: Do not be defensive.  The truth of your business needs no defense.  You don’t need to defend where every dollar goes or lament about how you’re barely making minimum wage.  If you feel the hairs on your neck raise, check yourself!  Take some time until you can respond from a positive place.  Remember, “the truth needs no defense.”
     3: Do not berate or blame the consumer who does not understand your pricing.  Their comments come from their own personal situation.  Don’t insult what they value spending their money on or their budget.  You can’t expect them to understand where you are coming from and it isn’t your job to educate them on how to run a photography business or what your cost of goods is.  

When you have crafted your answer, run each sentence by these 3 checks to ensure you are communicating in a positive and professional way.

So what should you say? 

Your client in the above situation might not need a very lengthy answer.  You could simply say that you totally understand and you are glad she is in love with her portraits and the experience you provided.  What about consumers looking for more answers?  How can you communicate that you’re worth every penny?

Here’s what I would say about my biz off-the-cuff.  It’s what I believe in.  It’s what I value.  And the people that choose Heidi Hope Photography ultimately value the same things.  It’s as simple as that.

“There are so many amazing options for portraits out there in every budget imaginable.  Sure, we believe that the quality of our work is unrivaled and we employ an extraordinary team of talented professionals, but that isn’t all that goes into the investment clients make at HHP.  At our studio, we truly believe in the importance of an amazing client experience from beginning to end.  We know that you can snap a digital photo anywhere.  Everyone has access to fancy cameras and great photography.  380 billion photos are taken every year!  What happens to all of those photos?  Are we truly preserving our memories or are we burying them in a sea of digital data?  

At Heidi Hope Photography, we LOVE people who LOVE photography.  Heck, most of our clients are amazing photographers themselves!  We want to create something truly special for photography lovers and handle everything from end to end for them.  From the planning session all the way to the custom design of our products, we are passionate about helping families enjoy their portraits forever.  Trust me, I’m that mom with thousands of digital images sitting on a hard drive.  It’s hard to make time for planning wall displays when you are a busy professional or raising a family or both!  I’ve taken millions of photos, but the ones that mean the most to me are the ones I see hanging everyday in my home.  The feeling I get when I see them is the heart of what I do.  It is priceless.  I want everyone to have that feeling. 

We want our clients to LOVE their portraits and enjoy them everyday.  The investment at our studio goes into providing all of those special things we do from start to finish that ensure they do!  From our 3,000 square foot studio, to our talented team and quality of work, to our assortment of props and product line, to our level of service… we are proud of what we are able to provide for our clients.  I’m sure there are thousands of other options out there at every price point imaginable.  I can’t vouch for those businesses or the experience they provide.  I just know what we want every family to have with their Heidi Hope Photography experience and we work hard every day to give it to them!”

So what do you believe in?  What do you value?  Everyone has a different answer.  Your answer is within yourself and it is the foundation of your business.  Start your response from there.  And forget about everything else!

Then let me know your thoughts in the comment section below!

believe in yourself so strongly small