Why You Have to Value Yourself for Clients to Value Your Photography

Photography is a competitive industry in which professional photographers are competing against anyone with an iPhone, which means pretty much everyone. How do you convince a client to pay you for your work when they can get something that’s ‘good enough’ from someone else for free?

Competition doesn’t always mean the best photographer wins. When you look at your competitors in the marketplace you might compare yourself to similarly experienced photographers or similarly priced photographers. In reality, sometimes the cheapest photographer wins, which might mean someone whose prices aren’t based on actually needing to run a profitable business.

One thing I’ve learned is that it’s vital to control the arena that you’re competing in. You can’t control what someone else values, but you can choose to value yourself. Let’s talk about how to choose the arena, why you should value yourself, and the consequences if you don’t. And if by the end you’re on board with this idea of valuing yourself, I’ll give you some ideas as to how.

Choosing the Arena: How to Value Yourself

One of the major problems with value is that most of us are programmed to receive and remember criticism while dismissing compliments. The first arena that you need to learn to control is the arena of your mind. We spend far too much time worrying about the people who don’t value us or our work when we should be focused on our fans and supporters.

There are individuals or companies who value photography and are willing to pay you for your time, experience, expertise, and creativity. And there will always be others who are searching for a deal. It’s your choice which types of clients you allow time and space in both your mind and your calendar.

Regardless of the photography industry you’re in, you can choose where to place yourself in the market. Don’t compete for the jobs with clients that don’t value photography, that’s an uphill battle that you’re simply not going to win. It’s the wedding photography clients that want you to work for exposure at their venue or the portrait clients that want one epic photo from a super quick inexpensive mini session or the commercial brands that want your photos in exchange for free swag.

Value of Photography Debate

Digital noise is louder than ever, we see countless images on any given day and it takes more to impress us. The quantity of content circulating around us is overwhelming. In some ways, it feels like photography is losing value because of the sheer amount.

The industry doesn’t have a set value for photography as you can see in the range of stock imagery pricing. There are people willing to work for exposure, experience, or for free simply in order to build their portfolio. That certainly can have a negative impact on the overall value of photography and it definitely makes it harder to charge a living wage.

And at the same time, people’s expectations are higher than ever as everyone is busy curating their lives to ensure they’re picture-perfect and it takes more to catch someone’s eye. While there are potential clients who expect things for cheap or even free, there are other people who are seeking your expertise to create something that stands out amongst the noise. You could argue that high-quality photography is more important than ever and that there are clients that understand that they get what they pay for.

Consequences of Not Valuing Yourself

Why does all this matter? Your mindset on this issue has the power to make or break your career as a photographer. If you choose to value yourself and thus limit yourself to the clients that value your work, then you’re going to push yourself to create work your clients value.

We can sit here and debate the state of the photography industry. I could certainly complain about the people who don’t understand how hard I work or that I have bills to pay too. We can focus on the challenges or we can take them on and use them to fuel our creativity to new levels.

In the end, we know the cost of running our businesses and what we need to charge in order to be profitable. If we don’t value ourselves enough to charge what we need to run our businesses and focus on people willing to pay those prices, we won’t be in business very long. We can’t control the state of the industry, what other photographers are doing, or how other people value photography. All we can do is choose to value ourselves which will lead us to the clients who value our work.

How to Value Yourself So Your Clients Value Your Photography

What do you think? If you value yourself will your clients suddenly value you? Maybe not, but if you value yourself enough that you start to seek clients that value your photography then you might find it possible to silence the frustration with the state of the industry.

It’s hard to compete with anyone and everyone with a camera, so don’t. Choose to play in a different arena.

If you’re committed to the photography profession, and I imagine this can be applied to other industries as well, there will always be a moving target and frustration with the way things are. We’re going to have to make a choice and I hope you choose to value yourself. But if you’re with me and you’re wondering how you go about valuing yourself, here are some ideas to get you started.

  1. Know your literal value, the cost of running your business, and charge accordingly.
  2. Push yourself to create more value for your clients.
  3. Use your frustrations as fuel to stand apart from the noise creatively.
  4. Know and believe in what sets you apart.
  5. Practice gratitude and a positive mindset.
  6. Seek clients that value your creativity.
  7. Ignore the clients that don’t value you.
  8. Focus on the positive feedback and silence the negative.
  9. Choose where to place yourself in the market.
  10. Remind yourself why you’re choosing this profession.

About the author: Brenda Bergreen is a Colorado wedding photographer, videographer, yoga teacher, and writer who works alongside her husband at Bergreen Photography. With their mission and mantra “love. adventurously.” they are dedicated to telling adventurous stories in beautiful places.