What Kind of Photography Studio Are You?
“What kind of photo studio are you?” We get asked this question quite a lot. Not always in so many words but when asked something like “how much do you charge for an 8×10?”, or “why are you so much more expensive than Wal-Mart?” that’s really what our potential customers want to know. More often than not they’re simply trying to find out what level of service they’ll get and what sort of investment they’ll have to make. Will they be pampered and treated as royalty or will they be rushed in and out with no real regard for their satisfaction? Will they get a large package of prints for $50, or 1 print for $50? What does the difference really mean to them?
As we were talking about this the other day, as we often do, we not only asked ourselves the question “what type of studio are we” but naturally “what type of studio do we want to be?” This is a tricky question for us. We feel like we’ve really come a long way as photographers and can offer a valuable service and some very cool products to our customers. We’ve spent a ton of time, money and energy learning, practicing, investing, reading, preparing – basically doing everything we can to be better photographers. Trying not to sound conceded about it we truly feel we have a lot to offer!
So, do we want to take that next leap into trying to become a “high-end”, more “exclusive” studio? Now we’re back to the tricky part for us. Following the industry trends and seeing the exciting new products and styles it’s really easy to set that as a goal. Take great photographs, offer fantastic products, and charge A LOT of money, because honestly, it’s worth it. I know it sounds cheesy but when asked the first thing that people would grab if having to flee a burning home they almost always answer with family photos. Most things we spend our disposable income on are just that, disposable. But photographs of loved ones are priceless.
At this point in our conversation Andrea and I have established a couple of things: 1) We think we’re pretty good at what we do. 2) We think what we do is valuable. A great start but still leaves us asking where do we go from here?
Anytime we’re trying to price new products or create packages we always try to think as one of our customers, or, as we would were we a customer. In doing so this time we got to talking about the different types of stores that we shop at. When we shop for clothes, for example, there are different stores that we go to. When concerned only with price, when we’re willing to sacrifice quality, durability and style we’ll go to Wal-Mart. They certainly sell a lot of clothes and have a large selection at low prices. That’s what they do and they sure do it well.
On the opposite end of the spectrum we talked about important moments in our life that called for more “important” attire, specifically our wedding. When I was shopping for my suit I went to a very well known, respected local men’s store in downtown Lancaster called TMB. I was treated courteously and with respect, educated about what I was purchasing and lead to buy something of true quality that I will have to appreciate for years to come. Of course, that service and quality came at a price. The same was true for Andrea’s gown and her experience at a quality bridal shop.
So, are we Wal-Mart or are we TMB? Do we try to go for high volume and bargain basement prices or quality and great service. The obvious choice here is the latter with just one problem for us. Doing so takes more investment in every sense and ultimately calls for higher prices. What if we price ourselves out of the range of some of our clients? Over the years we’ve met some fantastic people and have made a lot of friends doing what we do, and one thing we’ve truly come to appreciate is being appreciated. Knowing that our customers are willing to invest a little extra in us because they trust us to create lifelong memories for them is a great feeling. Thinking that we’d no longer be accessible to those people is not.
I’ll try not to drag this out too much farther but stick with me for just a bit more. Back to the clothing store analogy. What type of store do we enjoy shopping at most? One where we get great value and sometimes something really unique. One such store for us is TJ Maxx. Yeah, TJ Maxx. We love it there! We can get name brands, latest styles, and unique finds. All at reasonable prices. I know, I know, it’s definitely not a perfect analogy. We hope our service is better and we definitely don’t want to be as “hit-or-miss” with the good stuff as they can be, but the basic principal is the same. High quality doesn’t always have to mean premium prices and most importantly, you can offer both premium goods for those that want it and more basic stuff for those that don’t, all without being cookie-cutter and static.
So that’s our goal. Continue doing everything we can to grow as photographers. Adding to our gear, our skills and our product offerings. Create fantastic images for every client and let them take the lead on how to proceed from there. Do they want to buy a few 8×10′s and be done with it? That’s okay! We hope they’d like their images enough to buy more but we don’t have a minimum to purchase or upfront package to buy. Do they want us to design an awesome custom album, a wall cluster of canvas prints and some fine art cards? Cool, we can do that too!
We definitely don’t want to pressure anyone and don’t ever want to talk someone into buying something they cannot afford. If you want some family portraits and only have $50 to spend we’re not the place for you and that’s fine. But if it’s a special time for you and you’re willing to invest a little more we’ll do everything we can to not disappoint.
What do you think? Is this really an answer to our original question or just a cop-out? Are we just trying to be everything to everyone? Is TJ Maxx a good analogy for you or do you have a better one? What do you think we should do differently? Let us know, we’d really love to hear what you think, past client or not, what are your thoughts? – Joel