Is Groupon Killing the Photography Industry?


I’m trying to understand why some photographers seem to dislike other photographers who use social coupon sites like Groupon and LivingSocial to promote their businesses.

Conversations that happen among photographers often start with comments like “Groupon is bad” and continue with statements about how it’s a devaluing factor for the industry. Many believe that the more people see super cheap deals on professional photography, the more they will come to expect them.

As an example, check out this insanely discounted photography deal on LivingSocial (link removed due to expiration of the deal on LivingSocial). Do you think it’s wrong for photographers to make offers like this? Is it a sign of desperation? Conversations about deals like this often lead to speculation about how the photographer can possibly be making any money.

In my experience, these types of conversations happen a lot among photographers who are trying to build their businesses and price their products and services appropriately. Some of those conversations lead to a thorough analysis filled with fuzzy math. It starts with a calculation of the price of the deal, multiplied by the number sold, and goes on until they reach the conclusion that the photographer is actually losing money because of the extremely low hourly rate they are getting.

Why do they care? Do they REALLY believe some photographer in Timbuktu who’s selling three hour portrait sessions for $10 has any real impact on the industry as a whole? I’m not buying it. When you get an amazing deal on something, do you really believe that discounted price is the standard you should expect from every other professional in the industry?

As a cost conscious consumer I love Groupon. I’m still placing orders for the four gallery wrapped canvases I bought the last time I participated in one. I doubt I’d ever use Groupon in my own marketing mix as a photographer, but I’m sure many have found it very helpful as a kind of “loss leader” for building awareness of their new or growing business. I say good for them, as long as they aren’t ripping anybody off. Even Duct Tape Marketer John Jantsch says the Groupon Train is Worth a Small Business Ride.

Where do you stand on this issue? Does it upset you when people in your industry deeply discount their products or services?

Cartoon courtesy of Tom Fishburne, the Marketoonist


  1. David Mason says

    Groupon for things you use on a regular basis makes a lot of sense. You’re going to get repeat business. Photography isn’t something you buy daily, weekly, monthly or even yearly (for the most part). So the marketing payback on groupon would be year’s off if any. Maybe some exposure to the friends, but at 75% discount off prices with groupon taking a cut too, there’s smarter ways to spend your money on advertising.

    Personally, I think any photographer worth anything wouldn’t sell their photography at the prices you see on groupon. You may get clients and at least some money, but I think if you do some basic math, it’s not a sustainable business model. I know quite a few business owners who have tried groupon only to find the customers are not long term clients, simply bargain hunters. I’ll give you an example. You used a coupon for your canvases. Is that company now your long term provider of canvases, or are you “canvasing” groupon every week for yet another cheap provider. Pun intended. And there, you have your answer. If you compete on price and that’s your only differentiator, then you’ll continue to cut prices until it’s no longer worth it.

  2. Guest says

    Hi Collin! I was wondering if you could post a blog about copyright. I work at a studio and had an “author” come in the other day and wanted just a print of himself for the back of his book. He didn’t want to pay the price for a printing release, saying it was “just a picture.” I had to tell him his book was just words and it’s fine for me to make a copy of his book and sell it without his permission and make money because they were “just” words before he GOT IT. He ACTUALLY ASKED ME if this was “some kind of law.” My mouth dropped right in front of him as I tried my hardest not to be rude explaining the United States federal copyright law to him.

  3. Asorich7 says

    if your a good photographer and starting out Groupon is awesome- It brings in clients- Its then up to YOU as a person and obviously your images to make them stay. For those of you whom are crying about the new photographers marketing themselves on here seem to be struggling. It may be your photography but it also may be your customer service. If you have time to spend being negative against a vast growing industry maybe you need to reshape your goals, b/c obviously your not making in the industry due to the fact your call your self established yet you complain about the amateurs trying to promote themselve.  

    If you wish to call me out please feel free- it will just prove my point. Every business starts somewhere if your images and personality shine people will be back and they will tell their friends whom have friends whom have friends- and even if they are not the best you personality is really what draws them in!!

    So being a negative persona about a positive situation is a bad start!

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