What to do When Dad Balks at the Cost of Photos?

If you are like me, you have worked hard to market for a shoot, reel in the client, perform the session, edit the photos, to display them beautifully. You have primed your studio with delicious snacks, appropriate music, created an emotive slide show, dressed to earn and are set to go. You have discussed pricing in advance with your clients, shown them your packages, discussed possible wall displays and more. Your clients arrive at the reveal and ordering session, they love the slideshow, mom is in tears. It is all going well. Then Dad looks at the price list and has a heart attack. It turns out Mom did not ever get around to talking about prices of fine art photography with Dad after all. She went rogue on you.

This is probably the most uncomfortable situation to be in. After all, you have done everything right. But we cannot control our clients and we cannot always expect them to be one hundred percent up front with us. So, what can we do in this more than awkward moment? I am coming from the perspective of a maternity and newborn photographer, but I hope that what I have discovered are things that you can apply to your own studio, either during the initial talk about pricing, or, heaven forbid, you find yourself in the above situation.

1. If you do not have a reasonable entry point, create one on the fly.

There is a reason why most photographers have three levels of packages, or a reasonable minimum purchase if your studio sells a la carte. This is to ensure that, with your lowest package, clients feel that they are not over their head, but you still sell at 25% cost of goods. It is good to have something to offer your clients in this situation, even if it is not “officially” on the price list. Of course, to do this, you absolutely have to know what the minimum amount you have to earn per sale is. Because I had this situation happen to me a couple of times, I created what I call the “Chicken Door Package”. Of course, I do not present it like that to clients, but that is what it is. Something I can pull out in a pinch and say, “Well, the labs I work with are offering an incentive on X this week”. I love to say this. It is usually true. Labs always have some special going on. While it seems that this is a last-minute deal that came up, it isn’t. It is my emergency make-a-sale-or-get-nothing package. And I know that it will include 5 prints and a canvas, or whatever I know most people want. And I price it so that dad’s heart can start beating again and he too can look at his baby’s pictures and enjoy the moment. But I still make money.

2. Make an Analogy to Wedding Photos.

This tip may not work if you are a wedding photographer, obviously. But I like to drill home the idea that if clients were willing to spend X on their wedding pictures, surely their baby, especially their first born, is just as important if not more so than their wedding. Having a baby is the most important event in anyone’s life. If you are a senior photographer, you can draw a similar analogy that “your son or daughter will only graduate from high school once, that parents have worked so hard to raise this child to be the person they are becoming” …etc. Most people do not want to knowingly spend more on their own wedding photos than on their kids. It is just something most people do not want to do. When clients see this portrait session and images in this way, they often realize that this is a major life event that they are celebrating. And while they may spend more than they imagined, it is now justifiable in Dad’s mind.

3. Emphasize That These Images Are Something Mom Deserves.

In the maternity and newborn world, images are mostly for and about mom. After all, mom does 90% of the work in carrying, feeding and caring for a baby, especially in the first year or so of life. Mom deserves these images of her baby. Most Dads do not feel the same way about baby pictures as mom does. Not that Dads do not want pictures, they do, but the emotion attributed to them is different and may be not as intense as it is for mom. It is just the natural way of things. So, you can appeal to Dad in this way; that mom not only has earned these images, but they are going to be meaningful to her for decades. This can help dad come to terms with the cost. He is doing this for her, the mother of his child

No photographer ever wants to be in the situation above. But it can happen even though you do everything to avoid it. It is good to have planned for this possibility and to try to save what you can of the sale.


Katie is a maternity and newborn photographer in Los Angeles.