If you ask any new or seasoned photographer what their greatest struggle is, the majority would say pricing. Where do we start? Should we be all-inclusive? Packages – how many? What is too high? What is too low? Am I out of my league? Should I do in-person sales – it just goes on and on.
Pricing is a struggle for many. It’s forever evolving and no matter how you price yourself, someone will always have an opinion. I’m not an authority on pricing but in six years of business, I’ve pretty much tried it all. Been there, done that. But, instead of telling you How, I will just share some of the things that I wish I would have known.
Tip #1: Don’t make enemies starting out. This was a mistake I made. I had NO IDEA how to price myself and I started too low and I was a good photographer. That meant that I took business from others who had been building their craft for quite some time. You don’t want to start out this way. I suggest that you research and find out what the going rate is in your area. Set your prices and don’t undercut. Value your time and your talent.
Tip #2: Don’t just give away everything for free or at a super low price, even in the very beginning. Set your prices and then offer a “special” portfolio building offer for a limited time. That way when your prices are back to normal, you will not have people going into sticker shock. They will know your prices from the start and were super lucky to get you at a special rate.
Tip #3: Figure in your cost of goods and taxes before you set your rates. When you charge $600 for a session, you are not making $600. Subtract that 35% right away. At least. Puts things in perspective.
Tip #4: Determine how much you want to work, how many sessions/weddings and set your budget. Then do some good old fashion math to figure out your rate. If you only want to shoot 2 sessions a week but you need to make $1000, then you know that after taxes and COGS, you need to make $500 per session. It’s simple math but so many photographers do not follow this rule. And, always build in a buffer for the what-ifs.
Tip #5: Calculate your hourly rate. I have seen photographers cry when they do this. It’s hard to realize that you have been working for less than a teen makes at McDonalds. Or, maybe you are even in the red; it’s common. Don’t do this to yourself, it’s not worth it.
Tip #6: Be confident in your pricing. YOU are NOT the photographer for everyone and that’s okay. You set your pricing according to your needs. Yes, there will be people who cannot afford and that is fine. Accept it.
Tip #7: Keep pricing simple. Too many choices make your clients shut down. Your client should “get” your pricing in under a minute. Don’t confuse and frustrate her with credits, points, and gimmicks and tons of product options. Three levels of pricing is one way to offer something for (almost) everyone.
Tip #8: Don’t discount your rate unless it will benefit you. AND only discount when you make the decision to do it, NOT them asking you. Every single person who has for (and received) a discount from me has ended up being a difficult client. They don’t value you in the first place if they asked for a discount. Don’t do it. Trust me on this one.
Don’t let pricing intimate you. Value yourself, value your time and be strong. I have found over the years that if you are not confident in your pricing, your clients will not trust you. Own it, be proud, stand tall and don’t bend. You are worth it, always remember that.
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Pricing can make or break a business. We see it every day…and we know that even with the highest level of skill and talent, if you do not have the ability to understand your business, your finances (costs, profits), and your value, failure can be eminent. But, it doesn't have to be! Check out our in-depth pricing guides.
When I was in college, I had a friend who was a professional photographer. The first time I went to her home, I walked in to find stunning photographs of her children on the walls.
There was a huge canvas in their living room and a creative photo display in the main hallway. I remember being so moved by the beauty of those images, thinking to myself, “I want to create images like this!” I bought myself a DSLR as a graduation present, learned photography from online courses and started my photography business about a year later.