How to make the most out of selling your photography
When photographers turn pro, an important issue is how to price their products and services. Unfortunately, photographers are at the low end of the pay scale because they usually don’t apply standard marketing and business strategy when pricing their work.
The goal of this article is to give you advice that will let you earn what you are worth and at the same time, elevate the price positioning of the entire industry.
Should I sell the image that accompanies this post based on the number of square inches it occupies?
To answer that question we need to start at the beginning – What are we selling?
Are we selling square inches of paper? For some reason, the first thing that enters a photographer’s mind when pricing is print size. This has cost more photographers money than you can imagine. The most important thing to know here is to build value in your product. You do that by considering ALL the factors that go into making a salable image.
So what are we selling? How about that creative eye? Anyone can buy a camera but can they see through it the way you do? Are the hours you spent training for this moment worth something? Your mechanic, doctor and lawyer all get paid for their time, shouldn’t you? Then there is your present technical ability. The casual amateur may not be able to get the most out of the same equipment as the everyday pro. And speaking of equipment, you need to consider the value of all those gadgets you have laying around the studio. When you price, charge for your logistical skills, intelligence, time and your ability to translate your client’s desires into a visual statement.
You should consider standard usage and copyright in the price as well as basic business economics. And here is one of the first places that photographers stumble. They aren’t honest with themselves about the cost of doing business.
In order to price something, you must know what it cost to make. Here are some things to look at:
3. Market Type
Calculating overhead requires you to consider all the costs that are associated with being a professional photographer. That means:
1. Equipment depreciation
5. Legal Fees
6. Accounting Fees
7. Payroll Fees
15. Office Supplies
Calculating profit is a bit easier. You consider your cost of doing business by allowing for a percentage of your overhead to be applied to the cost of each job. From there you add mark up. This can be based on any number you want but a good starting point is to double the cost of your product.
Now you also need to adjust this figure based on market type. Is the image being used in a small or large market? Will thousands of people or just a few see it? What is the value to the client? What will the client do with your image? What choice besides you does the client have? Are there 50 photographers in town or only three? All of these factors go into calculating a price.
Now that you know what you have, what you are selling and what it costs you to make it, you need to devise a pricing strategy. This can be as simple as jotting down some basic facts. 1) What is your overhead? 2) What is your marketing strategy? 3) What is the competition charging? 4) How much income do you need to survive?
If you have a real business plan, you will have answered most if not all of these questions. If you don’t have a business plan, now would be a great time to write one. It doesn’t have to be fancy but you need to be able to articulate your goals or you won’t be able to measure success.
Educate The Client
After you have decided on a strategy, you need to start educating your clients about your business. Most people have no idea what it costs to run a business, let alone a photo business. Share that with your clients. If you run a portrait studio, make sure they understand the differences between what you do and what the chain studios do. If you are selling fine art nature prints, discuss your education and training, the cost of dues to professional organizations, etc. If you’re a catalog shooter, dealing with art directors, let them know when you have purchased new cameras or computers that feature advanced technology. Once the client can see a nexus between value and price, the higher rates become less of a stumbling block.
You can embark on this education process in a number of ways. Issue press releases that tout your equipment acquisitions, attendance at seminars and new employees. Bring these things up in casual conversation when selling. Publish a studio newsletter. Conduct your business in a manner that exudes professionalism.
Once you have gotten this far, it’s time to make the offer. You sell your work for $$$. Should you charge by the hour, by the day, by the job? That’s up to you and a question I can’t answer without having consulted with you about your situation. But what I can do is tell you that I’ve tried every pricing model there is. I’ve settled on a per print (regardless of size) or per job model. These offer me the most flexibility. If I am bidding a job by the hour, and the client is price sensitive, then I’ll lose every time if my per hour rate is higher than the competition – even if I can do the job in half the time. The human brain is wired to think illogically about such things. Pricing per print or per job takes that thinking and arrests it – causing the client to think about the value of THE JOB not the time.
There is one last but very important step that you must take to profitably price your photography. Ask established photographers how they bid jobs. Smart photographers who have made a good living at photography will gladly help beginners with this information. They realize that if you are new, you might undercharge, thereby bringing prices down industry-wide. Ask for help. You’re likely to get it.