Know Your WORTH: a MILLION Dollar Idea

Dear “Million Dollar” Photographer,

Can we have a little talk? I’m sure you’re busy so I shan’t take up much of your time, but this is kind of important.

I read your open letter: “Why You’ll Never Make it as a Professional Photographer.”


Listen, “Million Dollar Photographer,” I’m a fan of telling it like it is, but that was so harsh, I felt rug burn on my face after reading it. I mean, it was like the literary equivalent of a Brillo pad on the heart. I’m by no means new to this industry, so while it didn’t apply to me, I still felt myself wince as I read it, kind of like watching a horror movie or a car wreck where you want to look away but you can’t.

As I perused the end of the article, I see it was written in response to those posting dissenting opinions on your Million Dollar Photographer Facebook page, which means it was written from a perspective of butthurt, which is never a good perspective from which to write.

In the article, you inform those with dissenting views that they will never make it as a professional photographer because they don’t think as you do in regards to sales.

And, as is the norm with some lately, I see you’ve posted a screenshot of computerized charge card amounts showing impressive totals. Good for you! Really, that’s awesome. Not as impressive as my Costco or Total Wine totals, but still, respectable.

And while I agree that as professional photographers, we must take our profession seriously, charge appropriately and value what we do (or no one else will) that letter gives the impression that if you aren’t charging the likes of $1,000 for an 8×10, you are doing something wrong.

Again, butthurt can do that to you.

You know what? Let me tell you a little story. Do you have a minute?

Just sit down for a minute in your Million Dollar Photographer chair (I like to think it looks like a throne and is covered with crushed velvet) and allow me to share with you the story of a photographer who wasn’t charging enough. She had attended a workshop (you know about those things called “workshops:”–I see you give them, now, too) and was told her prices were too low and she needed to raise them. But not just raise them slowly and steadily, but skyrocket them. Quadruple her prices overnight.

This advice was given to her by a workshop-for-a-living photographer and so, of course, when she returned to said workshop giver with the unfortunate news that she was now booking NOTHING because she had raised her prices too high too fast, she was quite upset and looking for advice as to what to do now. Upon hearing it, the workshop-giver laughed and said…wait for it… maybe she should consider workshopping.

If that doesn’t make you want to run into your Million Dollar Photographer kitchen and down some Million Dollar Photographer vodka from a Million Dollar glass, I don’t know what will.

My point, dear MDP (yes, I got tired of writing it out) is that a portrait business (like ANY business) should grow steadily and surely, and with it, its pricing. Very very few begin a career in this industry and create a six or seven figure income within a few years, unless they are workshopping, and then, of course, they ALL do. ( I rolled my eyes when I wrote that. You can’t see me, so I wanted you to know.)

I do understand and agree that there are many who play at being a professional photographer and in so doing lower the bar of the industry for all. I realize these individuals aren’t really interested in investing the blood, sweat, tears and time it takes to make their business truly successful and yes, that can be frustrating. So frustrating, it can make one write articles with “click bait” titles, like, ““Why You’ll Never Make it as a Professional Photographer.”

Trust me, I understand.

But can I make a suggestion? A humble plea?

To the guy or gal who is starting out in photography, let’s encourage them to create VALUE before raising their prices beyond the point of sensibility. Let’s encourage them to view their photography business not as a 100 yard dash, but rather, as a marathon they never stop running. Let that marathon be dotted along the way with checkpoints that serve as goals, among which is the gradual increase in pricing.

This aint’ my first rodeo, dear MDP; I can show credit card totals, too, but really, who cares? Instead, let’s focus on making the industry GREAT by reminding portrait photographers of their worth, rather than telling them they have none and they’ll never “make it.”

Because when people believe they are worth the price, they will charge accordingly.

I’m glad we had this little talk.


3 Comments on Know Your WORTH: a MILLION Dollar Idea

  1. I have never commented on your blog before but I couldn’t resist here. Your response to the douchebaggeryness was so needed. There are two problems with the industry: those who undervalue and those who overvalue. This person falls into the second category mainly due to being so pretentious. I would consider taking his workshop but I fear that he would bring forth electric shock techniques if I don’t agree with his wise words.

  2. From the MDP BLOG POST: “… you assume everyone is like you, with the same budget as you, and then unfortunately, you attract clients that are just like you.”

    My God, he understands me completely!!! I deliberately market to people with a low budget because I believe EVERYBODY deserves nice photos of the important moments of their lives.

    I am at a place now where I can afford a “good” wedding photographer for my daughter’s wedding. Ditto her graduation photos. I worked for a photographer when my son graduated 12 years ago, so got a discount or wouldn’t have been able to afford her prices.

    That may be why I have the outlook I have and charge the prices I do.

    RE: workshops? I’ve only ever taken two online workshops and have found the same information in books, FB groups and YouTube. There is an old say:”Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.”

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