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Advice on low pricing
Marty Price, Photographer
Concord | NC | USA | Posted: 4:36 PM on 03.09.11
->> I have had a lot of requests lately for free, or next to free, images from different sources. I am usually hard lined on my set prices and I am not sure how to handle this one. I am torn on this situation, a local high school team had a great basketball season and the coach is wanting to get in touch with me about getting the images I shot at a few games. If I stick to my prices they probably will not be able to afford to get very many images. I am considering selling low resolution images for cheap so they can use them on their computers and facebook type stuff. Has anybody done this for their local team or is this crossing an ethical line? If you have done it how low did you price the images? Just wanting to get some advice before he gets in touch with me. Thanks, Marty
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Butch Miller, Photographer
Lock Haven | PA | USA | Posted: 5:40 PM on 03.09.11
->> For any business it can be a good thing to offer a limited "sale" offer ... or special packages that could induce an increase in sales during a slow period ... or offer additional products or options/add ons to make the buying decision more acceptable ... the incentive should never be based on what you perceive potential buyers can afford ... in most cases there is a tendency to underestimate that value ...

What you want to avoid at all costs avoid creating a situation where the price reduction is "expected" each time they want to purchase an image ... much in the same way though the local supermarket had tomatoes on sale this week ... they are not expected to match that price in-perpetuity ...
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Eric Canha, Photographer
Brockton | MA | United States | Posted: 5:50 PM on 03.09.11
->> Marty consider offering him a collage of images that highlight the team as a whole or just the seniors. That way he can get 1 or 2 images of each player into the collage and you can sell him the poster at a 'discounted' rate in bulk for the whole team or just the seniors.

Have the poster printed in bulk as a 16x20 though Adorama or the lab of your choice. Bulk pricing the same 16x20 will allow you to price into his budget and still give you a decent margin.

I do this with great results for several leagues around me.
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Marty Price, Photographer
Concord | NC | USA | Posted: 6:38 PM on 03.09.11
->> Butch, I agree that I don't want to set a expectation among the community but I am tired of being thought of as the bad guy when I don't try to make some deal. There are about 50 images so I was thinking I could cut him a break on the volume if they are only low resolution files. Anything else would be regular prices. Eric, the collage was an idea I hadn't thought of that might work out best for all. Thanks for your input, I just want to have options that he might be able to accept without looking like I am trying to hit him for a lot of money. I want to negotiate a price that will make him happy and put a few $$$ in my pocket for the use.
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Mike Janes, Photographer
Attica | NY | USA | Posted: 7:41 PM on 03.09.11
->> Eric is right, the key is bulk and having a larger sale to justify the lower prices and not have to stick to a set price across the board no matter how many are ordered. After suggestions and common questions from parents the last year or so I just implemented a new system in January that I believe anyone can find something that fits them, no matter budget or wants.

Smaller orders are set prices, no discounts or deals. Added seven packages ranging from $45-$350; then there's discounts when you reach 20, 50, and 75 of the same print size or digital. Only problem so far is a parent/player wanting all images (100+) and even with the discounts it adds up to a hefty amount. Still have to explore a CD option, but as of now doing digital one by one.

However, always tell them I can't give special discounts and have the pricing structure set up the way it is to fit all needs - so they have to be a bit choosy as with making any kind of purchases - be it photos, car, groceries, etc.
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Israel Shirk, Photographer, Assistant
Boise | ID | US | Posted: 7:51 PM on 03.09.11
->> Sometimes it helps to just politely mention that you have to pay for the gear somehow, or that the margins are already as thin as you can make them. People always notice the nice gear but often don't connect the things they actually see to where that gear gets paid for. And if they ask how xx other photographer can do cheaper you can just reply that you're just not sure how they're taking a profit.
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Matthew Jonas, Photo Editor, Photographer
Evergreen | CO | USA | Posted: 8:03 PM on 03.09.11
->> Marty, I come across this all the time. Parents like to put together end of the season slide shows for banquets. Not a year goes by that I don't get the "can I get all of the photos from the season?" email. I too would like to hear how you choose to handle this.
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Jim Pierce, Photographer
Waltham | MA | USA | Posted: 8:07 PM on 03.09.11
->> Marty,

If you cover this school regularly try and build upon this for future work!!!! I work with no less than 20 or so teams at my local HS. I have worked with the parents boosters clubs for the past 8 years for these teams and provide all with senior framed collages that they give to the seniors at the end of the year banquet. I also discount the images on CD for the end of the year video or printed team yearbook, NOT the HS hard covered yearbook but the one parents put together and get printed. The ice hockey and Lacrosse teams also have a game day program as well that I provide images for.

Once you work with one team it explodes, beleive me. I got a request to cover another local High schools football team and before I covered the game one of the soccer parents called requesting me to cover the varsity soccer game the same day and prior to the football game, two games one day and they both wanted framed senior gifts can't beat that! I have also been requested to cover the baseball games for the same school and supply them with the senior gifts this spring.

This has repeated itself twice this past hockey season.

If I were you I would try and combine this into something more for next season! If the BB team likes what you do an you do it at a fair price you will most likey get more work come this spring. It is well worth it.

I do charge for the images of the games on CD but it all depends on how many senior frames I do for the specific team. I am currently working on 45 framed prints/collages for various teams from this past winter season.

Just another option.

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Keith Coward, Photographer
Charlotte | NC | USA | Posted: 9:20 PM on 03.10.11
->> I agree with Jim....

I let the coaches know I'll donate images for THEIR use or the SCHOOL's use, provided I get some sort of free plug out of it, like a half-time announcement that I'm on the field taking photos that can be seen at www.whatever.

I'll even donate a Pro Show Gold slide show for the banquet, NOT using JPEGs that can be easily removed, and always sell images after the banquet.

I donate images to the yearbook, in exchange for a link on the school's website, an ad in the yearbook(not worth much but it's the thought that counts)

Now, I'm not exactly getting rich doing this, but even the Athletic Directors speak to me on campus and offer assistance when needed. It's all marketing as far as I'm concerned.
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Marty Price, Photographer
Concord | NC | USA | Posted: 9:34 PM on 03.10.11
->> I have email contact with the coach. I explained my pricing for individual images and I am offering a discount for the volume that he is wanting. He has been receptive and understands what uses are available. He wants them for the end of the year banquet and we are negotiating a fair price. I feel this will end up being a positive for both of us and it might generate some sales from the parents. I also offered some of the ideas presented here and he seemed interested in those as well. Thanks to all for their input, Marty
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Michael Fischer, Photographer
Spencer | Ia | USA | Posted: 10:37 PM on 03.10.11
->> Pricing is as much art form as it is business - and knowing how to blend the two is important.

Eric is one of the best minds on when it comes to this kind of question. He understands the art form part as well as anyone.

Let me make one other suggestion. You know your cost of doing business and hopefully you've figured out your selling price.

Now, bump them by 10% - on everything.

That way, when you offer 5% off on prints or 5% off on graphics time and 5% off on sitting fees or whatever ( up to 15% off the total) - you've not shot yourself in the foot.

One month it's 5% off on this - and next month it's 5 or 10% off on something else.

And what about the other 5%? It's there if you need it - "ok, give me the check up front and I'll take another 5% off" and you haven't impacted your profitability.

And if you don't need to take another 5% off?

Gee, guess you'd have to keep it for a rainy day.
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Jim Pierce, Photographer
Waltham | MA | USA | Posted: 12:43 PM on 03.11.11
->> Keith,

I am surprised you agree with me as your method is miles away from mine.

1. Donate to the yearbook in exchange for an ad? This ad will be seen by very very few and too late. I sell to the yearbook and have done it many times when they could not make it to a game or team I covered.

2. Donate to the coach or school. Once you do this the only market you have left players/parents will get there hands on these and will have no need to buy from you. Donate prints yes, files no way.

As far as the announcement goes who actually listens to the half time anouncments and there is not enough time to grab a pen to write the website down.

3. I do donate, an example I donate to the hockey teams game day program, in exchange I get a half page color ad on the second page that informs the visiting team that action photos are available. I know for a fact this pays off for me as I have 2 orders from 2 opposing teams for senior framed prints, 14 total, as well as a handfull of online orders.

you can use this as marketing but what are you getting in return for the marketing?
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Marty Price, Photographer
Concord | NC | USA | Posted: 12:27 PM on 03.16.11
->> So much for giving discounts. I offered more than 70% off my individual price for 30 or more low resolution images and the coach responded that it was too much. Less than $3.00 an image is too much? I guess he was expecting them for free........
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Steve Violette, Photographer
Gulf Breeze | FL | USA | Posted: 12:49 PM on 03.16.11
->> +1 on what Jim responded- we do the same thing - we provide a slideshow on a disk for use at the banquet - and take the disk back. We work with the boosters clubs to sell collages to Senior parents - We even set up and actually sell AT the banquets - now it is being requested by all the major sports - it took time to develop the position - but usually they are looking for a slideshow for filler at the banquets upon entry and before awards/meal. the best way to move forward in this area is to get involved with the boosters clubs. more than likely the coach was going to make the purchase himself and it was more than he could put toward the project

good luck moving forward

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Marty Price, Photographer
Concord | NC | USA | Posted: 1:08 PM on 03.16.11
->> The coach wanted the files on CD for himself to keep and then also use during the banquet. They were shot as newspaper assignments over three different games and not as a commercial venture. I had offered him the lowest discount I have ever offered, after he already knew my original prices. Once the coach used them at the banquet he would keep the CD and who knows how many copies he might give out.
I put forth the collage idea and he wasn't interested in that, he just wanted the images from the three games that were on the newspaper's web site.
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Tim Cowie, Photographer
Davidson | NC | USA | Posted: 8:53 PM on 03.16.11
->> You mention it was shot as a newspaper assignment. I don't know your contract with the newspaper or if it was a freelance assignment with the newspaper. I know as a freelancer with a lot of papers, you don't have the rights to sell the photos.

Again, I can't speak to your situation, but I would make sure you have the right to sell (and display) those photos. I believe the freelancer contract with someone like the Charlotte Observer, would not allow you to sell those photos and I believe you need to gain written permission to even display those photos.

Just a thought.
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Marty Price, Photographer
Concord | NC | USA | Posted: 9:10 PM on 03.16.11
->> Tim,
As a freelancer, my contracts with the local papers I work for, including the Charlotte Observer, have covered this. I retain all of my copyrights, including sales of images to other publications as well as personal prints. I have had these agreements in place for more than 20 years and I have never signed away my copyright. Luckily I was taught the importance of copyright ownership as a young college student and I have never signed a work for hire agreement.
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Tim Cowie, Photographer
Davidson | NC | USA | Posted: 9:37 AM on 03.17.11
->> Smart thinking!
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Jim Pierce, Photographer
Waltham | MA | USA | Posted: 12:38 PM on 03.17.11
->> Marty,

Above I mentioned about donating to groups were you have the best opportunity to hit your market and best bet for a return. This looks to be a perfect situation, most if not all of your market will be in one place at the same time. A perfect marketing opportunity!!

Just a thought if it is not too late..... Donate these low res images in return for some sort of written advertisement AT the banquet, Place a handfull on each table with your biz card attached and have the coach mention that you donated these images and have him point out the ad and samples and that prints are available on your website. I would also get a couple of these images printed, say 11x14, and have them on display. My main sales pitch is to supply customized, personnel, senior framed collages; you may have other ideas but include this on your ad. This would cost you very little out of pocket and you will nail your market.

I know I mentioned in my previous post not to donate files... I was referring to High Res files. These are low res so they will not yield a quality print, so the parents will still need to come to you for a quality print but they can only do this if they know that they are available and after seeing some samples they are much more apt to buy.

Another thing this will do is help you get away from your "bad guy image" in the community and this alone might make it worth it.

I know for a fact that if you have a quality product this has a huge upside to grow to other sports. I will guarantee most of these players play another sport, have a brother/sister that plays sports and it is likely this coach, coaches another sport. The boosters are run by a very tight knit group of parents, so it is typical that the main contact of one booster club say, Football, is also be the main contact for hockey and so forth.

Based on my real world experience I would not be worrying about donating 30-40 low res images as long as I got the opportunity to have an ad and display at the banquet.

This has huge potential for growth and I am not assuming it does, I am experiencing it! I would not walk away from this over 30 low res files.

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Marty Price, Photographer
Concord | NC | USA | Posted: 1:01 PM on 03.17.11
->> I have reached an agreement with the coach. I am putting a gallery on line that he can run as a slideshow on a browser during the banquet for no cost to him and it keeps my images on my web site. This will satisfy his needs while not releasing any images. He is going to refer his players and parents to me for images from the slideshow and hand out cards with the my contact and web site information. I think this will turn out to be a win-win situation without lowering the overall value of my work. Luckily by negotiating and looking for solutions I think I have avoided the bad guy image by finding a working solution for us both. Thanks to all for the input.
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Stanley Leary, Photographer
Roswell | GA | USA | Posted: 1:37 PM on 03.17.11
->> I think the key to all the discussion is finding how to serve the client with something they cannot do alone or not something they care to do.

Continue to look at your clients and think of ways that you can service them. Some great ideas above for example from photo books, collages, and the list went on and on.

Learn the art of being there for them in the way you talk. We often come off as being there to make a buck and not as we are there to make them have a more enjoyable event.

Remember folks these are the same group of folks that when they choose to go out and eat will pick fine dining over McDonald's, but when they do so they expect the experience to be worth it.

We are selling an experience beyond the photograph itself. We are selling ourselves and how we will treat them throughout. How you show up and shoot can be a bad, good or great experience. How easy is it to navigate your on-line ordering can be bad, good or great. Can they easily call you and get their questions resolved?

Think a great deal about if you were the customer what would they be hearing you say. Is it focused on them or on you.

If you think it is all about the photo--you will not be doing this for a living, but only a hobby.
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Marty Price, Photographer
Concord | NC | USA | Posted: 3:24 PM on 03.17.11
->> Just to clarify, the coach was not my client the newspaper was. I am allowed to sell reprints for personal use and licenses for editorial use only. Being these were editorial assignments I can't use them for advertising/commercial purposes. As a member of the press I have to be careful not to cross ethical lines by turning this into a commercial venture. Also if I do some of the things suggested it might be viewed as favoritism to this one school and my objectivity might be questioned. I cover 9 schools in this county and several in the Charlotte area and if I do something for one I would be expected to do it for all. I have made my living as a photojournalist for 28 years, 23 as a freelance photojournalist in this area, so I do think about all these things and this has never been a hobby to me. I appreciate the help and suggestions.
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Stanley Leary, Photographer
Roswell | GA | USA | Posted: 10:05 PM on 03.17.11
->> Marty

Great to know you are able to help all the folks in an ethical way. In a way by doing so you become more valuable to everyone.

It is a fine line to walk, but after the years of experience you have I am sure you are able to do it.

I understand putting things here on the board to see if there are other ways to handle the situation--we all realize we have hit a way when trying to help someone and getting an idea on how to go back and try a different approach increases your value.

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Jeff Napier, Photographer
Brush Prairie | WA | USA | Posted: 11:35 AM on 03.18.11
->> A great deal of excellent information here, thanks for sharing these ideas.
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Thread Title: Advice on low pricing
Thread Started By: Marty Price
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