October 22, 2013
One of the biggest issues every beginning photographer faces is pricing. We all typically start out photographing friends, family, and clients for free (or under some sort of trade agreement) which is the best way in my opinion. This way you are able to perfect your craft without the added pressure of wondering if you'll need to refund your subject's money because you are still learning your camera and all the other things involved with taking a technically and aesthetically "good" photo. But once you grow past that stage of trial and error, how do you figure out where you should price your services?
"Why are photographers so expensive? It's not like taking a picture is all that difficult. I could take the picture myself if I wasn't the one getting married/ engaged/ etc..." is something I've heard before. The reason for our pricing is that this is in fact our job and if we want to be able to eat and pay our rent/ mortgage, our pricing has to reflect that. Just like with any job, the rate has to be conducive to the price of living. So, to figure out what you need to charge per session, you need to know a few things.
1) The basic question is how much do you need to make per month to be able to pay your bills?
2) How much does your business cost you per month? Take into account all the supplies you buy each month (memory cards, Adobe payments, website fees, domain names, print paper, ink, photo paper if you print in-house, etc...)
3) What is your overhead? Do you work out of a studio you rent monthly? Are there electricty fees, maintenance, water... that you have to pay for?
4) What is the state tax for your area? Will your pricing include tax or will you need to add it? The fact is, if you have a business, you have to pay taxes for it (Which is weird since if you don't work in this country, you don't have to pay taxes. But mine is not to wonder why...)
Once you've added all those amounts up, you'll have your goal of what you need just to stay afloat. Photography pricing is really no different from pricing any other business on a basic level. However, if you want to run a photography business, there are a few more things you should do to make sure you are at a competitive level.
When I was starting to research pricing, one of the things I read was that you should set your prices once and not change them. This basically was referring to the fact that a lot of photographers will set a price, and then raise their prices once they feel they've reached the next level. The issue with that is that photography is very much about branding, and once you've set a price and started to bring customers in at that price, they probably won't take too kindly to it if you start raising prices on them. So, to avoid that situation, my advice is to do some research and know your market. Who is your perfect customer and what is their general spending habit? To help you figure this out, the census is a good place to see what demographics your market offers. Once you know what range your average customer spends, you can start to figure out your prices per shoot/ package. I also reccommend checking out what the average sales for your type of photography are in your area. If you are subscribed to Jellifi, they have a nice little feature that emails you an overview of what the trends are in your business field, like what the average rate is, how much is typically spent per customer, and some other neat tid bits.
My last bit of advice is to be sure to market yourself as an original. Once you define what separates you from other photographers in your area, you can have your prices reflect that. Specialty and experience go a long way in terms of price, and for all consumers out there who think that getting the best price is everything - you get what you pay for. Make sure when looking for photographers, you like their work as well as their price.
Hopefully this helps you figure out where you should price your services. Do keep in mind that the main thing is to be confident in your prices because there will be customers who will want a lower price, always. There will also be customers who think they've gotten a great bargain by utilizing your awesome services at whatever price you charge. Have advice on pricing? Enter it below, we want to know!