One of the biggest struggles I had when first starting my business was how to price my photography. And while there’s no easy answer, there is a recipe for success that I’ve followed for the past few years.
1) Your Time + Your Costs
There’s more that goes into pricing your photography than just your time shooting. You have to remember preparation and setup, post-processing and client communication. Most clients don’t like to see these items lined out on an invoice, but be sure to pack it into your overall hourly cost. In fact, the only item I include separate from my main fee is travel time.
But that’s not all you have to take into account. Look at the costs you have as a business. What you spent on gear, software, accounting, studio space and more, should make a difference in your hourly rate. There’s an amazing calculator online by BeeWits that will walk you through all of these items and help you determine what your rate should be.
2) Be Flexible
When you go into estimating a project, stay consistent with your pricing. This will not only make your life a little easier, but it can help in preventing surprises to your client, especially if they’ve heard of you through a current client of yours.
That said, have a low figure that you would be willing to go down to if necessary. For instance, I recently worked with a client who had a set budget, but I was able to meet them in the middle, making them pay slightly higher, but having me still take a bit of a cut on the overall fee.
For clients with big budgets, know that you will probably want to increase your pricing. The reasoning here goes back to expectations. In this case, the client is expecting higher-end results, and therefore will be more likely to ask for things like additional edits, extra time spent on-site, etc.
3) Don’t Publicize
This is one thing that’s talked about quite a bit, but I don’t recommend putting your price list on your website. Why? Simply, it prices you out of some work. You might have an organization that you’ve always wanted to work with look at your website, but when they see your costs, they know they can’t afford you.
Similarly, if you publicize a low price, it could tell potential clients that you aren’t up to par with other photographers they’ve worked with.
The exception here is for wedding photographers. Still, I wouldn’t list your exact rates — I’d say something like “Weddings starting at $2000.” By giving a figure that you start working from, you avoid having the cheap “can you photograph my wedding for $300” inquiries.
4) Compare, But Don’t Let Others Determine Your Rate
It’s important to know what other photographers charge in your area. But don’t let that completely determine what you charge. Early on, this really tripped me up, and I tried to be the cheapest guy in town, so I could get the most amount of work. But it’s not about having the most amount of work — it’s about having the most quality amount of work. This goes back to what I said about being flexible with your rates, and not pricing yourself into or out of different types of clients.
5) How to Market Your Pricing
There’s a simple way to think about this — you don’t. When showing your portfolio (via your website or other means), focus on the work and not how much something costs. Likewise, when responding to leads, ask all the questions necessary before giving a formal estimate. The more you know about the specifics of the project, the better your estimate will be. Do your homework.
Why do this? Putting the cost at the forefront shows that you care about money, rather than meeting your client’s needs. By focusing on them, their needs and the upcoming shoot before giving them your costs, that mentally gives them a positive picture of what you’re like to work with.
For more on Photography Marketing, see our weekly column.
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