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A Guide To Pricing Your Photography

A Guide To Pricing Your Photography

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A Guide To Pricing Your Photography

Photography Business Pricing

How often do you find yourself in a maze of exposure settings, ISOs, and apertures? These are just some of the things that were always at the forefront of my thoughts. And as I sit here and reminisce about my own personal journey from novice to expert photographer, one memory really stands out much more vividly than the rest–the time I found myself grappling with the incredibly daunting task of pricing my own work. 

One of the most crucial parts of starting a photography business is determining your pricing structure. You’ll need to balance your skill level with the value of your work, the demand for your skills, and other factors to determine how much you can charge locally to ensure profitability. 

There are various approaches to finding the right balance between competitive and fair rates. Here are some things you need to consider as you focus on building your business and developing a pricing structure that your customers are willing to work with. 

How to Determine What You’ll Charge

Before you can ever open a business, you need to determine what you’ll charge for your services. It’s vital to have strategic pricing because you want to position yourself as an expert while still capturing your market share of customers. 

There has to be a balance between your skill level and current market rates. You should also consider other factors that impact if or when you’ll be hired, such as if the local area has a tourist season or if photographers aren’t in high demand because they’ve flooded the market with offers. 

It’s best to look at industry guidelines to get started and then do local market research to see what other photographers are charging near you. You’ll also want to listen to feedback on the rates you’ll charge before you ever launch your business. 

Industry Guidelines

The demand from consumers largely determines how much you can charge, but there will always be exceptions. For the most part, you’ll want to stick to industry standards for pricing your services.

Why? While you could undercut the competition to get started or charge an exorbitant amount, industry-standard rates have been vetted and used by many. They’re often the right range for people with the same level of experience and offerings. 

Some in the industry claim that a fair market rate for a student photographer is $50 to $100 per hour. Per image, they should charge between $25 and $100. 

On the other hand, top-tier professionals can charge anywhere from $200 to $500 or more, and images can be upwards of $1,000 each. 

Essentially, the answer to “What should I charge?” will vary based on your experience. Additionally, consider your competitors’ pricing and geographic variances. If you are in a small town, the likelihood is that you’ll need to charge less compared to working in a big city (such as New York City).

As a note, remember that industry rates are guidelines, and your portfolio will play a large part in how much you can charge. If you’re a student who has extensive training and can produce high-quality, in-demand photographs, then charge more. It all comes down to if the market is willing to accept your rates.

Determining Your Value

Determining your own value is an important part of setting your pricing. Many people, including myself, when starting out, undervalued their time and products. Why? They’re passionate about doing what they love.

Yes, you can probably do a photo shoot and get some prints for $25 or $50. Will that pay you for your time or effort? Will that help you put aside money in case you need to replace equipment? Likely not. 

You need to consider the industry guidelines as well as your own Unique Selling Proposition (USP) as you get started. What sets you apart? For me, it was my skill in Adobe Photoshop. For you? It might be access to horses for equestrian photo shoots, pairing up with a local wedding venue, or other factor that makes you stand out as valuable to your potential clientele. 

You need to differentiate yourself in some way, whether that’s through great customer service, offering a unique artistic style through post-production edits, or being in a location that makes it easy to book clients.

Assess the local demographics and try to adjust what you offer (and charge) accordingly. 

Creating Your Price List

In my experience, it’s a great idea to offer packages with the option of adding additional prints “a la carte.”

Every photographer creates their own packages. I had three primary packages and added three additional packages later. I’ll give you an example of some of my rates.

Here’s an example of my “a la carte” items. 

  • One-to-three-hour session: $100 per hour
  • 8×10 print: $25
  • Two 5×7 prints: $25
  • Eight wallet prints: $15

Now, I made my packages appear as deals with discounts on the prints. In reality, I still had a great margin on the prints regardless of the sight difference in my pricing, but my customers could see they were getting the wallet-sized prints as freebies.

  • One hour with the photographer. One 8×10 print. Two 5×7 prints. Sixteen wallet-sized prints. $150, normally $180.
  • Two hours with the photographer. One 8×10 print. Four 5×7 prints. Thirty-two wallet-sized prints. $250, normally $310.

What you charge will depend largely on what your clients are willing to pay. My flexible pricing meant most people were more than happy to purchase a package and add on some a-la-carte items.

We’ve talked a bit about how to determine your rate, but in reality, you need to think about what you’ll offer and the demand for your services first. Then, you can sit down and start looking at the cost of prints or how much you want to earn for your time. 

List the types of photography services, packages, a la carte, and per-project rates you plan to offer. You’ll be able to compare the model that works best for you by doing this. For me, a combination of hourly, package, and a la carte rates made sense. For others, a per-project rate might be effective (particularly for shorter photo shoots with minimal prints).

Understanding Your Costs

Photography businesses can be expensive. You’ll have:

  • Fixed costs such as rent, equipment, and insurance
  • Variable costs, such as travel expenses and printing costs
  • Costs associated with your time, such as the length of a photo shoot or the time you’ll need to edit the client’s photographs

Write down your costs before you come up with your pricing so you know your costs are covered with a profit on top after each shoot. 

Communicating Your Pricing

Arguably, the easiest part of the process is showing your clients what you charge. What isn’t as simple is showing them why you’re worth it.

There are several ways to educate your clients on your value. Having a website with a strong portfolio is the first step. Being transparent and listing your package pricing is also essential, in my opinion. People like to work with transparent businesses that do what they say and charge what’s expected. 

As you build up your brand, get client testimonials. You can also take those from Yelp or other review websites. Add them to your website so people immediately recognize they can trust your business.

Common Pricing Mistakes

There are three common pricing mistakes you could make (but should avoid).

Underpricing

Setting prices too low. Interestingly, when you set your prices too low, you may find it more difficult to get clients. They may be wary because you charge so much less than the competition. They may think you’re not a serious business or are too inexperienced for their business. 

On top of that, setting your prices too low could result in you actually paying out of your own pocket. Ensure your prices cover your expenses and time. You can start at the bare minimum, but listen to customers and adjust what you’re charging as you gain experience.

Related: How to get clients for your photography business 

Overcommitting

Taking on too much work for too little pay. Overcommitting is the single most frustrating thing you can do as a new photographer. While you might think you can do three photo shoots on a Sunday, you can’t forget to calculate travel time or delays because someone is late. Never overcommit, or you’ll end up with dissatisfied customers who think you’re not professional.

Inflexibility

Flexible pricing for special circumstances is common in photography. You should have standard prices as well as discounted prices for long-term commitments and nonprofit/charitable work.

Related: Common mistakes made by new photographers

Pricing Changes, But You Have to Start Somewhere

At the end of the day, every photographer has gone through the struggle of determining their value and ensuring they actually earn something from the work they do. It’s important to maintain balance—you have to be competitive, but you also need to value your time, effort, and education. 

By building a strong portfolio, listening to customer feedback, watching the market, and getting to know fair industry rates, you’ll be ready to start building your rates. Just remember, you should be flexible and willing to change your pricing as the market changes as well. What you charge today can be a great starting point, but it may need to grow as you become an established figure in the photography industry.

Author

  • Cartina Cowart

    Catrina Cowart is a professional photographer and she provides the unique insights she learned as the owner of Catrina Daniels Photography.

A Guide To Pricing Your Photography

A Guide To Pricing Your Photography

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