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A collection of stories. We are all about photography for those who are crazy in love and education for photographers who love capturing the madly in love.

The nicole sarah blog

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How Undercutting Hurts

As a wedding photographer in Calgary and worldwide, I have worked incredibly hard to get to where I am. I know if you are a fellow photographer reading this, you probably have as well. The sweat, tears, anxiety, elation, – you’ve felt it all. I have developed many wonderful relationships with fellow photographers in the industry, however, some of the emails I am receiving from fellow photographers, clients, and potential clients have me worried.

More than worried, I am incredibly frustrated and saddened.

We’ve talked about it before and we’ll talk about it again because it seems that the message just isn’t getting across.


Now, we all know that undercutting is different from just starting out and having a low price to get your portfolio built. We’ve established that. We get it, everyone needs to start somewhere. Every client has a different budget range, and I am not saying that people who cannot afford a professional wedding photographer are doing something wrong. Far from that. I completely understand having been a bride myself, what it is like to have a limited budget for photography – and most people know that they get what they pay for.

This post is aimed at you my fellow photographers. It’s not all of you. I am not whitewashing or making a blanket statement. The people who the finger is being pointed at know who they are.

At the risk of tarnishing some of the relationships I have worked so hard to build, I have to tell you – You are ruining it for everyone. Your practices are hurting not only my ability to run a business, put food on the table and pay my mortgage, but yours as well in the long run.


Competitive Pricing Vs. Undercutting


I am not talking about photographers who are pricing competitively. I am talking about people who are respected, talented, professional, well-known photographers whom I know well in our beautiful province and city. Photographers who have had the same clients who inquired for my services, and then proceed to quite literally, not offer a slightly lower price to entice a couple, but have completely bottomed out in order to make a booking.

I understand we operate competitive businesses, but we are also artists. Artists need to support each other and create consistency in the market so that there is at least somewhat of a standard in the industry.

Why is this standard important? Because it affects our ability to do what we love, and continue to make a living doing so. This means being able to provide for our families and have a roof over our heads.

We may not all have the same pricing, nor do we need to. We don’t need to all be best friends and offer the same things. But we do need to have respect. Respect for each other, and respect for ourselves. And part of that involves making a commitment to fairness and sustainability in the industry. If you want to create a sustainable market and have a well-respected business, you have to think about your business practices, and part of that includes paying yourself fairly and not taking a job for almost nothing when you’re already established.

It’s a difficult season. The economy is tough, the industry is oversaturated, and people everywhere are tightening up.

But that doesn’t mean we should lower our integrity or our values.


Why This Is Relevant to You, and Are you Undercutting?

It should be common sense as to why this is relevant to you. You might be snapping up clients left, right and center. But that honeymoon will not last forever. Have you researched the market? Do you know what other photographers in your area are charging? You know, it’s okay to ask each other. We don’t need to offer the same packages but you do need to see if your talent is on par with your market and pricing. Are you lowballing inquiries to get more clients? Are you asking clients what another photographer has offered (if you don’t already know) and then low-balling?

Most people want a deal. I don’t blame them. But this behaviour with clients is talked about around the water cooler. To this day, I still receive referrals from friends of brides whose weddings I shot 8 years ago when I first started – pricing included. Word stays around and travels fast. How do you want your business to be portrayed? In 2, or 5 years down the road do you want to have a difficult time booking clients?  What do you want potential clients to think about you? If you offer your services for next to nothing, it gives clients the idea that you don’t value your work, their wedding or your time. After all, it takes many hours of work before a wedding, as well as in post-production to give them a professional product.  Do you want a solid reputation among your peers? Do you want there to be an industry that is sustainable?


What You Can Do

Be brave. Hold your head up high, and let your pricing reflect your talent and the industry around you. Don’t cave into a rough market or pressure from a client. This is sustainable. This builds you a reputation as someone who values their work, time and business. This shows that you are a competitor in an industry who cares about the industry as a whole. This is what keeps the industry-valued, and thriving.

Lift each other up. Connect with other photographers. Practice your business with integrity and in the next downturn, people will remember your name.

It’s not easy, but anything that’s worth it never was.


*Comment and share your experiences and advice below. Keep it constructive. Thanks for stopping by!*


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  1. Derek Heisler says:

    I agree with this. Sustainability is huge. For those that do not necessarily understand sustainability, it means can you pay your rent, put food on your table, pay your taxes, pay for clothes, etc. and still be running your business the following year. If you are not bringing in enough revenue and you can’t pay for necessities then you are not sustainable. Take a moment and calculate how much you need to live, estimate how many weddings you expect to photograph in a year, and figure out what you need to charge to make that much. That’s a great place to start.

    Downturns are hard. Photographers that are not confident in their services will often drop their prices just to get jobs, to pay rent. Doing this may seem like a good idea, “oh I’ll just work harder and make the same amount”. Sure that’ll work for a little while. But sooner or later you will burn out, or you will run out of jobs. Then your revenue is zero. And because you’ve been charging basically nothing, you have nothing saved so you’re even worse off. Another issue; what happens when everyone knows that can get X work for half what you were charging before? They expect the next time for it to be X or lower. The cycle repeats and it’s a race to the bottom.

    Know what you’re worth, charge appropriately for skill and service. And who knows, maybe you’ll be around next year if you follow that advice.

  2. Matthew Schonewille says:

    Nicole thanks for the article, a great read. I agree with you that the core problem of photographers undervaluing themselves by undercutting and basically giving away their services is brutal. At the end of the day it’s a shame that we as Canadians do not have a system of credidation like in the culinary industry or mechanics etc. I’m based in Ontario and in my market we are on the higher end and are blessed to sustain there. For me personally I take great pride in the hard work of running a business like yourself. So many photographers just think that our job is taking pictures but in reality it’s like all industries… We run companies ;). We are artists but a business first that enables our artistic express to be purchased and expressed. :). Thanks again for the article and I almost hope that our industry falls a part because of the flux in a lack of sustainable business practices. That way those who are doing it well succeed and those who do it flipently can’t survive. Who know.

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