Upload & Sell: Off
This turned out to be a fun thread! Wish I could have joined up earlier ;-).
First, to all the people out there not in California who are getting on Marti: you simply don't know what the overall economy and photography market is like in CA. The state can't even re-pave the roads correctly, businesses are leaving in large numbers as are people all the while the state is sucking everything it can from the people. The mood is not bright. Norcal seems to be doing better than Socal, but let me put it to you this way: the Socal market is so bad, in most cases photographers are moving out of the state or getting day jobs who were once full time pros because the market is so over saturated with cheap photographers it's insane. A lot of photographer's incomes have been cut in half in a state that's extremely expensive to live in. The $1000-2000 price bracket is where most brides are in SoCal.....and they want the world for that price (2 photogs, all day, album). To those who have never lived in Socal, you can't live even a modest life with this income, you're living like a college kid. Why is the market so cheap? Because the Socal photo market is full of desperate people who are willing to live like a college kid chasing a dream. Metro LA has 18 million people, when you pack that many people together in a bad economy, bad things start to happen. With our economy the way it is, you're not only dealing with thousands of real photographers who get into the underbidding game, you're dealing with an incredible amount of unemployed people who suddenly pick up their cameras and become a "photographer" because they have nothing else to do. They're all over the streets and facebook screaming and hollering about how cheap they are....and yes, they're impacting market expectations. On an almost monthly basis I have an old friend I haven't heard from in years email me asking how to be a photographer because they bought a camera and have "some extra time" (unemployed). It's scary and it's frustrating. It's not just weddings. Commercial photographers are also freaking out. I have a buddy of mine who's a photo assistant on commercial jobs. Over the past year he worked only a few days. Let me reiterate that: Over the last year he worked a few days as a photo assistant. The year before he was really busy.
But that doesn't mean you have to start charging $900 for photography if you're willing to work hard. Marti, I'm going to be constructively harsh. You sound miserable. You probably sound miserable to your clients. I know you think you're hiding it, but you're probably not. I think you've described before that you're in your 50's and I can imagine this entire experience is not fun by any means for you. You already paid your dues with building your business, and now you're having to re-build. You're not alone. I know a lot of people in the industry in their 50's and there's a lot of people hurting and freaking out and having to rebuild what as of a few years ago was a lucrative, well oiled machine. These are very talented people who have gotten caught up in the market. In my experience, you're only as good as who you photograph and who you work with (coordinators). But they're digging their heels into the dirt and making it happen.
If I didn't have the coordinators I currently have I wouldn't be making it. I also had to revamp myself because a few years ago the coordinators I did have bottomed out....their brides suddenly wanted $1000-2500 photography which I don't provide. I had to work very hard and move into the high end of the spectrum. So maybe you need to talk to your coordinators and tell them to stop sending you cheap brides (if one of my coordinators told a bride I had cheap pricing I'd be pissed as hell!). Talk to them and get a grasp of what they're seeing with their brides. Tell them you're only accepting jobs that pay enough for you to actually pay your bills. If they don't give you the answer you like, you must adapt and I'd suggest by trying to get new coordinators (not an easy task). And yes, raise your pricing. You lowered to $900 and you're still having issues. That's because $900 is the bottom of the dredges and underbidding yourself means you'll eventually have to get so low you'll end up angry at those cheap jobs. I can't imagine having to deal with clients with those unrealistic expectations. In fact I don't. When I get a bride who brings up pricing in the first sentence, I know I won't book them. When a bride starts talking about why she likes my work, I'll book them.