The 2nd in a 2 part series about business smarts from fab contributor Design Aglow — enjoy!

Malice (or Get the Message?)

I always call clients back __:

a. within a day.

b. within 2-3 days.

c. depending on who it is.

d. when I get off of the forum.

Answer: a. For any studio with office hours, it’s important to answer the phone. On a shoot?

Call back as soon as possible. Often surprised at the number of thankful people on the other

end of the receiver who tell her she is the only photographer who called them back, Lena

says, "As a higher-end studio, we’re charging a premium for our customer service. When

someone is shopping around, if you don’t answer your phone or respond to calls, potential

clients are going to go to the next person."

Impatience (or Flea Market Folly)

It’s fine to discount your work ____.

a. for really good clients.

b. once or twice a year.

c. if someone spends more than other clients do.

d. for my big VIP client who I want recommending me to all her friends at the country club.

e. never.

Answer: b or e. When photographers start out with zest and a spring in their step, not a few

probably tend towards granting free photo shoots in return for model releases, or allotting

friends a ridiculously low $25 session fee for all images. "If they’re giving discounts right off

the bat, referrals won’t be based on talent—it’s because they’re so cheap," Lena says. "You’re

training people to expect discounts and to not respect your work; and, in addition to killing

your brand, you’re attracting the bargain hunters who want more and more for less and less."

Sure, it’s all right to have a promotion once or twice a year if you absolutely need to, but

studios should: offer something they usually don’t, make it a special, and make it for a very

limited time (a week or less).

Naivete (or It’s all Free!)

It’s smart to give away slide shows and high resolution

files to clients__.

a. because my clients love it and I love them!

b. because a client is a real pain and I want them to go away.

c. because a client spends more than my car costs.

d. because for $100…hey, the disk only cost me $1…I’m making big


e. never.

Answer: e. "This is a new phenomenon, because you can buy a digital SLR for $1000 and become a photographer," Lena says. "Photographers are making $100 for a session and giving away all the files. The shoot only lasted an hour, and the photographer thinks they’re doing awesome." The problem: "People are not figuring in their expenses," she explains. "If you give the files away for $500, your top sale will always be $500." In the long run, not only are those uber cheap sessions probably costing camera wielders, they’re also devaluing the industry since many potential clients now expect the same, rock bottom prices, says Hyde.

Because Lena doesn’t believe in telling a client ‘no’ (she tells them, "Yes, and it will

cost this much."), for those who want an archive, Hyde offers a digital file for sale for $5500, or $500 for each image. Still, she says, technology is not foolproof when compared to owning actual portraits or albums. Long-term management of slide shows can be harrowing, and knowing how even DVD technology has changed (as well as the damage that can be wrought to discs), means that studios are much better off selling a wall gallery or an album over a digital file.

Thrift (or I See Poor People)

Being the cheapest photographer means you can ___:

a. rake in loads of cash because everyone will come to you.

b. be super busy and post more on your blog.

c. put other photographers to shame.

d. make your clients really happy.

e. kiss your brand goodbye.

Answer: e. "You know, I think a lot of people think the way to start out in any business is

to be the cheapest, because then they’re going to get a lot of business," Lena says. "That

may be true, but you’re also going to put yourself out of business because you’re never

going to be able to keep up with your expenses."

In any market, photographers can either be the cheapest or the best—and that’s how they

will be known, advises Hyde.  And while it’s difficult to be the best in any market (and there’ll always be somebody cheaper), says Lena. "You have to figure out what you’re best at and what your talents are, and capitalize on those things."

First Rate

Hourly rates on which to base session fees should include: photographer’s time (and time away from family), equipment, insurance, taxes, licenses, professional memberships, education, rent, utilities, transportation, CPA and legal fees, phone, internet, studio costs, website fees, and actual cost of goods and services. "The $100 session fee that includes all the files is probably not going to keep you in business very long," says Lena, who warns that with such low prices, turning a profit is nearly impossible.


With its unique combination of written workshops, stunning images, innovative ideas and contributors who include the best of what the industry has to offer, the downloadable, quarterly magazine is a celebrated resource used by colleges and professional studios alike. From information and products directed at professional wedding and portrait photographers, to Photoshop actions, templates, fresh marketing materials, album design and seminars for the boutique wedding and portrait studio, Design Aglow is the marriage of art with a collection of resources for the cutting edge contemporary photography studio. With online resources such as robust blog content, and a shop brimming with tools and information, marries innovation with instant gratification.  marries innovation with instant gratification. 

* indicates required