Thank You Cards? Do you send them to clients? And other questions

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Woodrow72, Sep 23, 2009.

  1. Woodrow72 macrumors member


    Nov 16, 2008
    I have enjoyed the advice I have received from this forum so far, so I return to you with more questions.

    I am in the process of starting my photographic business, I am a student and am still learning everything that goes along with taking good photographs and the technique and skill involved.

    I have 2 main questions that I pose to all of you on this forum.

    First: I have heard many different photographers mention how they do not like amateur photographers charging money to do shoots. That these amateur photographers bring down the business and charge little to nothing for their work. I understand this complaint but at the same time I dont. How else are we suppose to learn and gain experience? Everyone was, at one time or another, an amateur. For the first few shoots that I have done I have charged very little or nothing because I am starting out. I explain to the people that I am still learning and I explain to them what to expect.

    What is your opinion on this? What is the best way to start out, without bringing down the industry but not gouging your customers at the same time? I live in a state where people get married at a young age and often their weddings are on a shoe string budget, in most cases they cannot afford the best photographers. Does this mean they shouldn't get a good photographer? I am trying to keep my prices affordable while still giving them a quality product.

    And on a separate note: Do any of you that run a photography business send out Thank You Cards? I am thinking of doing some but am not sure if that is standard in the industry.

    Thanks in advance for all of the help
  2. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem


    Feb 19, 2005
    My thank you is on my invoice. I think that suffices.
  3. PeteB macrumors 6502a


    Jan 14, 2008
    And thanks them personally when they pick up the CD or album. Although, if they're the customer, they should really be thanking you for your good service...
  4. Doylem macrumors 68040


    Dec 30, 2006
    Wherever I hang my hat...
    There are many kinds of photography where you can make a seamless transition from amateur to semi-pro to pro... but wedding photography isn't one of them. It doesn't matter how much - or how little - you charge; the point is that you are documenting (and choreographing...) an unrepeatable event. You have to be very professional at the first wedding you cover; nothing less will do...
  5. Macinposh macrumors 6502a

    Jun 7, 2006
    Welcome to the about-the-awesomest profession in the world.

    It´s a two edged sword.
    If you dont charge money,peeps consider you as a amateur and dont put so much pressure on you either.If you fail,well,tough..
    But if you charge money,you are pro and are supposed to deliver the goods.
    Big time. When doing that kind of personal photos (weddings,bar mitzvah,funerals) people can go both ways. They can be happy of everything or bitch about anything. I mean anything. It doesnt matter if the bride actually looks like a whale..

    But if you dont charge, or worse dont charge "by the book", you are dumping the prices,shiiting your own bed and doing youself and everybody else a disfavour.
    Obviously we all have started somewhere but it is good to get the pricing to decent levels so that you can make a living out of it.
    You are spending your precious time,using your expensive equipment and letting them have your expertise. You are deserved
    a decent compensation for that.
    I am not talking just about wedding photography (no experience about that..) but in general allso.

    I might get a bottle of cognac or calvados to some certain long time clients (and drink it with them!) but usually it is of no idea if you work with bigger publishing houses or ad companies (too much people).
    You would have to reach directly the dude who decides of your future assignments and make him open the damn thank you card.
    And sending them to civilians...meh...not worth it,I would say.

    Use that time to build yourself a good physical portfolio, make a good website and take a tour to the possible clients.

    And a quick opinion,love it or leave it : Think big.
    If you are passionate about photography,ditch all the ***** like wedding photography and stuff. Go to ad´s and editorials and stuff.
    Unless you are a total pervert that feeds of other peoples happiness, that genre will suck your brains out.

    And it wont pay for *****.
  6. davegregory macrumors regular

    Jul 7, 2009
    Burlington, Ontario
    In response to your first question. I understand your confusion with this. I sometimes don't understand it myself. For me, it helps to think of photography as a trade. Like any trade it takes practice and education to become proficient at it. If you were an auto mechanic and spent your time from apprentice, to journyman, to pro, you'd probably be upset if some guy who was a weekend warrior fixed cars in his garage and did it for half the price you charge while on weekdays works a 9-5. There may not even be a perceivable difference in the quality of service this man performs in comparison to yours. I would think that would be frustrating for me if I made my bread and butter as an auto mechanic. But like any economy there were always be people who will undercut a professional to get the money. There will also be people looking to spend $500 on a wedding photographer. You have to show your client what value added services and what kind of quality you bring to the table for $2000, $5000, $10,000 whatever you charge. I can go to Tim Horton's and get a coffee for $1.50, I can also go to Starbucks and get one for $4.50. They're both coffee but there is a value add to Starbucks that makes it seem as though it's worth $4.50, whether it's the ambiance of the store, or free wifi, whatever you feel makes it worth $4.50. I think as a wedding photographer, more than simply selling the service of photography, you have to sell/market yourself. You have to build a raport with them. You want them to be comfortable around you, once they're comfortable with you, you can get the best shots. Just like with my auto mechanic example, if you offer people something above and beyond "mechanical service", they'll keep coming back to you, especially if you build a relationship with that person. That's something that most weekend warriors can't do. Do I think you can make the transition from a $500 wedding photographer to a $5000 wedding photographer? Absolutely. Do I think it's difficult? Yup. I don't think there's anything wrong with doing a wedding or portrait shoot for free. But I would ask them to pay for the prints. And I don't mean the $1.40 at Costco. I mean the time, energy, knowledge, equipment, etc. that went into that photo. If you feel that an 8x10 you took is worth $30, charge the customer $30 for that photo. They'll pay for it. Even if you did the shoot for nothing. Or, if the person you're photographing is trying to get into modeling then maybe work out a deal trading shots for their portfolio for his/her time. Do what you think it will take to become a pro. If it's wedding photography, maybe talk to a pro in the area and see if they need a second shooter for weddings. Everything you do has value. As simple as something like creating a DVD of all your images may seem. A lot more went into it than putting a blank disc in your drive and hitting burn. Great photographers don't always make great business people. I think next to restaurants, it's got one of the highest failure rates as a business.

    Sorry for the long post. I'll get off my soapbox now lol.

    As for thank you cards. I don't think they're necessary. As someone else said, thank them in person. There are print services like WHCC which can create custom gift boxes for your clients to match your business, that's a nice touch. However, a good idea might be to send them a card on their anniversary (if it's a wedding), so they'll remember you're still out there. These people will start to have children, and they'll want photos of them. You don't just want them to come in and leave. Keep them coming back!
  7. Captpegleg macrumors member

    Jan 19, 2009
    There is certainly nothing wrong about you still learning about photography and becoming a professional. All of the folks that follow these boards are still learning and that process will never end no matter how good you are.
    What is wrong is holding yourself out as a pro, even with the caveat of "just learning" if you possess neither the skills nor the equipment to do the job at hand. If you think that having a beginner DSLR camera and a willingness to learn qualifies you to do weddings you're very wrong. Justifying taking a wedding assignment by discounting the price and delivering poor quality work is not the way to do it. You should find someone near you that does the kind of photography you want to do and see if you can help at some of their jobs. Passing out cards for him or maybe working as a second shooter until you develop the skills you need and acquire the equipment needed to deliver a professional product is a much more realistic approach. And, that would also give you a much more realistic chance for eventual success.
    Best of luck to you
  8. Phrasikleia macrumors 601


    Feb 24, 2008
    Over there------->
    I say go for it. Just jump on in there and do your very best. Study and learn all you can, and invest a good portion of your earnings into better equipment and into education of whatever sort you can manage (the education bit is important). And if like Icarus you end up flying too high, well, try to learn from your mistakes and press on.
  9. Designer Dale macrumors 68040

    Designer Dale

    Mar 25, 2009
    Folding space
    I agree with the archeologist. You have got to start somewhere and not be tentative about it. Learn what you're going into first, though. Working with a wedding photographer is one way to start and most I have known are more than happy to talk about their work. Plan your approach to fees. Decide to shoot x jobs at x rate and then raise your scale. Don't be iffy though and run your rates up and down. That would look unprofessional and you must be, from the very start, professional.

  10. Koodauw macrumors 68040


    Nov 17, 2003
    absolutely you should send thank you cards

    Sending a thank you card is one way you can let other people know you appreciate working with them. It is also an excellent way to stand out from everyone else in your industry. (Look at all the people above who do not send them out) I send out thank you cards to everyone, my dentist, my barber, any lenders that I meet with, the list goes on and on. (I am not a photographer, but am in a business based solely on referrals)

    Its a great way to build rapport with people and keep you at the top of their mind. PLus people want to work with people who they like, and who like them. When someone asks a customer of yours if they know of any good photographers, who do you think they will recommend?

    I just recently read a great book on this subject, I would highly recommend it. Its a fast read.
  11. Woodrow72 thread starter macrumors member


    Nov 16, 2008
    Thank you for your comments and suggestions so far and please keep them coming.

    Phrasikleia & Designer Dale - I am doing exactly what you have advised. The first wedding that I did was with my D40 and kit lens and I did not charge them for a few different reasons. Now that I have better equipment and more knowledge I am charging nominal fees mainly to cover my expenses. And Phrasikleia thank you for the advice about education, that is where I am putting all my eggs (and money) right now. I love learning and will never stop
  12. SLC Flyfishing Suspended

    SLC Flyfishing

    Nov 19, 2007
    Portland, OR
    My wife is in a similar boat (I'm just a hobbyist, my wife makes a living at this). She's just starting out in one sense, but she's been at it for 3 years.

    What she did is similar to what you are doing, she began by shooting photos of friends and family, building a portfolio from it, then relying on referrals for further work. She now has 10-20 clients a week coming to her for portrait work. She has a small studio that she operates in our home and she specializes in photographing portraits of children and infants. She's getting very talented at it.

    She has also shot 4 weddings in the past two years, but she doesn't seek those out, usually it's someone we know who either asks her to do it, or has a friend who asks her to do it. Usually she will advise that they look elsewhere, but if they can't she'll do it with the understanding that she's not very experienced in weddings, and that she traditionally operates under a controlled studio setting and not the unpredictable nature of weddings. So far all clients have been very pleased.

    My wife started out very cheap, but she'll now charge $70 for a 30-60 minute session at her studio. This includes 30 images burned on CD and a copyright release statement so they can have them printed. She's now considering moving to offering prints only, but we'll see how that works.

    After watching her carreer taking off I can't stress enough that you need to practice practice and practice some more at whatever it is you plan on doing, and don't charge people until you're sure you can deliver the goods. Even if you charge someone $20 to take family portraits, they're going to be upset if they don't turn out.

    Where in Utah are you from by the way? I'm in the downtown SLC area.
  13. jbernie macrumors 6502a


    Nov 25, 2005
    Denver, CO
    Regarding the chargingI won't comment, looks to sensative a topic and I do photography as a hobby only.

    In general I would say no on the basis that you are performing a service for them which they can not perform themselves which means they should be thanking you...


    1) If you have a client that refers new clients to you, a thank you note to the original client is a good way to recognize/thank them for the extra business

    2) If you have a client that is a repeat customer and/or has you do large assignments which provides you with lots of business then a thank you note for the continued support is not a bad thing

    3) If a client provides you with a special assignment then thanking them after the assignment would be good too. Though I am thinking along the lines of maybe where they take you on a trip, get you access to a special event and the like.

    I would suggest avoiding making it the normal to thank everyone, at the end of the day you are running a business and spending all your income sending cards to them doesn't necessarily help you grow your business.

    Don't be afraid to include a few business cards either, if the person is willing to say to an associate that you do a great job then they would be willing to pass out cards for you.
  14. Woodrow72 thread starter macrumors member


    Nov 16, 2008
    I live in Sandy. I have noticed you posting on these forums and I appreciate your advice and I love the pictures you post. Thank go the advice and insight on the business your wife does, I am trying to do a similar thing to what she is doing and it is nice to know others are doing the same thing.

    I'm always looking for people to go out and shoot with, hit me up if you ever want to go shoot together.
  15. SLC Flyfishing Suspended

    SLC Flyfishing

    Nov 19, 2007
    Portland, OR
    Yeah let's go shoot sometime. That would be fun, and it would actually get me out and behind the camera.

    Did you hear about photoshop world? It might be sold out, and it's probably way too short of a notice; but it's being held in vegas next week. Students get a huge discount. My wife and I are heading down on Wednesday.

  16. HBOC macrumors 68020

    Oct 14, 2008
    I would look on craigslist for gigs, or even post something on the gig forum looking for models, trading their time for photos; just to get practice.

    If you are really serious about wedding photography, I would head over to and check out their wedding photography forums. Some amazing photographers there, and there is some great advice over there as well.

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