It's Not About the Price; It's Not About the Quality

By: Brad Cansler, M. Photog.,Cr.



             It's NOT about the price; it’s NOT about the quality.

           It IS all about the perception of VALUE!

           Or to put it another way, what is YOUR art worth?



First, let’s talk about quality. Quality is a value, property, or characteristic that we assign to something. Sometimes photographers make blanket statements about quality and price, which seems to prove they don’t have a clue about why people invest what they do. Often these photographers Cansler 117369 HSwill say that if someone claims they are paid a certain amount for their photographs that means they must be lying. Why, because they looked at their website and their work didn’t measure up to the standards of the photographer making the judgement. Naturally, this proves that the artist in question is lying because no one would pay those ridiculous prices for such low “quality” work. The fact is the value of our art is squarely centered on our ability to establish and guide the “perception of value” in the eyes of the buyer. There are a lot of factors that go into creating the value of a portrait artist’s work in a buyers mind. Factors that go far beyond the cost of materials, the time it took to create it, or how it might be judged by other artists.

If we stop and think about the hundred dollar bills that you have in your wallet, you will realize they have no real intrinsic value; it is only in your perception and the perception of others with whom you wish to exchange the money for something, that those hundred dollar bills then become valuable. We have collectively agreed that this piece of paper is valued at $100. To take this reasoning further, if you were to believe the hundred dollar bills to be valuable and no one else in world valued them, they would be worthless if you wanted to buy something with them.


When it comes to art, the VALUE IS IN THE EYE OF THE BUYER. Let’s examine a session I did recently, I had a 90-year-old mother and her five children come in for a formal session. We did a nice standard traditional image, then a second image that was more fun, however, both would be considered boring by many. Nothing that I would call crazy creative. The portraits are well executed with lighting and posing that flatters the subjects, but based on the criteria of many photographers, if they looked at the images, they would judge them to be of low value. Yet, to the family, these portraits already have a high value before the images are even delivered. They had fun, they have nice expressions, they are showing love and affection, and this was for a special occasion, mom’s 90th birthday. In fact, the daughter that arranged everything called back later that afternoon and said her mom had a blast, loved the experience, and can’t wait to see the portraits. The value to this family is not based on anything in their daily lives that is necessary to live, work, or play but instead the value is in emotional currency, a currency that celebrates their family and honors their mother.


So how much is this photographically average portrait worth? $500? $1000? $2000? $5000? The truth is these numbers are irrelevant. What does Estep staircase Midsouthmatter is this; does the value to the client outweigh the price? For each client that answer will be different. Our job then becomes one of connecting with those prospects, who value the emotional pleasure they will receive from the service/product we are offering, more than the big pile of cash we are asking.

Am I saying that delivering excellence in our portrait art is unimportant? NO, ABSOLUTELY NOT! Nevertheless, to put it bluntly, often photographers confuse what they value with what a prospective buyer values. Our goal should always be to deliver our best work but with the understanding of what is important and valuable to the client.

Personally, I often see art that is $500 or less but I would never pay that for it because to me it has NO value. Yet other pieces I see are in the 5 figures, and they seem like a bargain because to me their value exceeds the price. Why is that? Maybe it is because I respect the artist and like their work. Maybe the art reflects the story that the artist has to tell and that affects how I see the art piece. It could be that I feel an emotional connection to the art and it touches me. Or perhaps, I really can’t put my finger on it but for some reason I love it.


For us as portrait artists our job is not to just take pretty pictures, because any amateur can do that, instead we must learn how to communicate through all of our marketing that the value we offer is far greater than any amount of money we could ask in return. How we network in our community, the way we present ourselves and our business, how we handle our sales process, and of course, the images we create all play a role in establishing our value. Too often, mistakes are made in one or more of these areas which ultimately devalues our service and product in the prospective client’s eyes.


If you want to be financially successful, quit thinking like all the other photographers and become a value-seeking missile, targeting exactly what the clients you want value the most! What do your clients get from you that they will value highly? If you can answer this question then you are well on your way to connecting with your ideal clientele.

“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get". ~ Warren Buffet

If you want to improve your marketing and learn more about connecting to your ideal clientele, join us in Chattanooga July 15 – 18, 2018. A workshop focused on your business success.