How to not attract cheapies

Q. “These business posts are wonderful! How do you go about meeting people who value photography and not just cheapies? You talk alot about that and expectation management, but I tend to run in the cheapie circles? Heck, I can’t afford me!”

A. Before I answer, I want to lay a foundation for how I feel about this. On forums and blogs for photographers, there’s a lot of talk about ‘cheapies’ and ‘time wasters’ and whatnot. I think we really need to be careful not to get so deep into the money-making aspect that we see nothing but dollar signs when we look at people. Please please, everyone: be careful that you’ve got your definitions correct. For me, the worst cheapies have been wealthy people. Don’t look at people who don’t have a lot of money and instantly sum them up as a waste of time. I’ve actually said, “I don’t think I’m the photographer for you” to wealthy people who think they have the right to push me around.

Now, if we could put the term ‘cheapies’ aside and talk about what we really mean. I think the real question is “how do I get business from within my target demographic?” For me, my demographic is people who value photography (even if they don’t know it yet) and have some money to spend acquiring my services and products. Some of the ways I prevent business which doesn’t fit my business model:

  • I charge a session fee. This means my clients a.) really want their session b.) will follow through with an order because they’ve already made a financial investment
  • I don’t offer too many ‘sales’ or incentives or free things. As I mentioned last week, I feel that this devalues my brand, teaches my clients to wait for a sale and attracts from outside my target demographic.

But above all, I still remember how I started in this business. I wanted to make beautiful photographs of people’s families and children and make it available at a price that doesn’t take a second mortgage to afford. And I still maintain those values. As a Christian, I feel that God has blessed me to be a blessing and if He sends me a few great sessions in a week, that frees me up financially to make a time investment into someone’s family who might not have any photos of their children whatsoever had I not taken them.

If I could sum it all up, I would say this: don’t ever do something that makes you uncomfortable. I’m very sensitive to my insides and if something in me says ‘mmm not so sure that’s a good idea’ I have no problem saying no or making another suggestion that feels right for me and my business.

Now meeting people who ‘value photography’ is a whole other issue all together. If by ‘value photography’ we mean people like us who would get so deep into camera gear debt that they have to finance their obsession with a full time business, then I’d say they’re probably already photographers! I have had to recently acknowledge that the vast majority of people around me don’t stay up all night thinking about photography. They don’t cry when they look at certain images. Do you know how many people don’t even own any type of camera? So when I think of people who ‘value photography’ and are potential clients, the requirements are minimal. My ideal client wants to spend a little bit of money to make a really big statement in their home about their family. They have at least a little understanding about the time investment it takes for me to produce such pieces and they say thank you at the end.

I have some very good clients now who didn’t realise how much they valued photography until they had a session with me. For instance, I picked my son up at his friend’s house and noticed some 4×6 prints taped on the wall of the house. There was definitely a spark there. They valued photography. And are now very good clients. Some of the least productive client relationships I’ve established have been with the sort who fill their house with mass produced Ikea ‘art’ and don’t use their wall space as a venue to enjoy images of their family. I can’t possibly imagine this! I want every single room, hallway and corner of my house absolutely steeped -soaking- in memories and love of my own family. Not dogs playing poker or a scene of New York City with selective colour taxi cabs (gag!)



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Elizabeth Halford

Elizabeth Halford


She blogs about photography and business with her unique plain English approach. Elizabeth has been-there-done-that with running a photography business that doesn’t profit a penny and loves teaching photographers how to get away from the starving artist model of running a creative business.
Elizabeth Halford
  • Emma - Great post as always Elizabeth.
    I consider what we do to be a constant learning curve. Heck I met a “proper” professional male photographer last week (see? I still don’t consider myself to be a professional!) and I was chatting away saying I had had my first negative feedback from a disappointed customer and how it had really knocked my confidence. He said he hadn’t picked up his camera in a while because his confidence was low – he’s been shooting for 30 YEARS! So please keep inspiring us and boosting our confidence! Emma xx

  • carrie - oh my gosh, I love you so much. lol. This really hits the nail on the head for me. I have been reevaluating my prices and so many have recommended that I raise my prices, start charging more for this and that, turn a bigger profit and while that is great, I live in a lower income area and people here are just not going to pay what they might pay in say Connecticut or New York. I think I can have a profitable business and still take beautiful photos of the average family that isn’t busting at the seams with money.

  • Amy - Well said Elizabeth. I wanted to take minute and thank you for your posts. I’m a regular reader and find great value in your words of wisdom.

    Thanks for sharing!


  • Mary Ann - I love the line, “I have had to recently acknowledge that the vast majority of people around me don’t stay up all night thinking about photography.” That is so true and so easily forgotten. This is MY obsession, not theirs! (Until I deliver their images…:) Thanks for this post, you’re fantastic!

  • Beth - Hi Elizabeth!

    I am thankful for your posts! This is my favorite one yet. Thank you for writing from the heart. You inspire me!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  • heather johnson photography - Love these posts. I have you bookmarked on my toolbar, and visit frequently. Thanks for all of your insights and thoughts!

  • John Parli Photo - well said… selective colour taxi cabs (gag!) 🙂

  • Ria - Wow, just discovered you and so far I love all your work! Thank you for inspiring me! 

  • Adriana Morett - OMG! I live in a rented apartment and there actually is a big photo on the wall of a scene of New York City with selective colour taxi cabs!! I’m taking it down TODAY!!!!

  • Dawnelle Brown - I just found you via Pinterest and the top 10 list of photography blogs.  What a fantastic blog!  Very inspiring… thanks also for sharing how you use photography to express your faith… I am always trying to think of ways I can do this too.

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