“You’re worth more than you think.”
Keep that mantra in mind when you’re trying to wrap your head around portrait photography pricing.
While you may take your skills for granted, your clients typically do not. And it’s important to remind yourself that you’re running a business, so revenue is just as important as your artistic expression.
Yet, the question of “how much is too much?” is one of the most perplexing for many growing photographers.
How much should you charge for portrait photography?
This question seems simple on the outside but is, in fact, difficult to answer broadly.
Yet, trying to identify an “average” cost of portrait photography does help you understand where you stand amid the industry.
If you check online market places like Upwork, you can gain some informal insight into the rates being charged by freelancers in the portrait photography industry. From there, you can take a look at the lowest rates, the highest rates, and the middle ground and see where you think the most advantageous position for your services should lie.
On Upwork, reputable portrait photography services range anywhere from $65 to $175.
When reviewing Upwork it’s important to remember that the rates on the website tend to be at the lower third of the industry average cost of portrait photography. While you can match those rates exactly, your regional rate should be higher than that.
How much should I charge as a beginner portrait photographer?
How do you go about breaking into the portrait photography scene altogether? Isn’t it a bit disingenuous to charge a high rate if you have little experience?
The fact is, you should be entering the industry with plenty of experience even if it’s not paid experience. And if you have the experience, then you have the value that that experience affords.
Yet, as a beginner portrait photographer, it’s perfectly reasonable to charge a lesser rate to establish a client base.
If you want a very simple, general figure, charge somewhere in the lower-middle if you’re a beginner, like in the realm of $80-90 per hour plus the expenses accrued to get you on location and keep you there for the whole session.
Just bear in mind that a “catch-all” rate isn’t suggested in identifying an average cost of portrait photography pricing, so it’s much more advantageous for you to set your rate after making a few considerations:
Low paying clients are often the most difficult
The fact is, if your client doesn’t value you enough to pay market rate for your portrait session, then that lack of consideration for your services may foster a challenging working relationship.
Be prepared to charge a lesser rate but be ready to increase it
As a burgeoning portrait photographer, it’s totally okay to start somewhere on the lower end of the industry rate.
However, don’t hesitate to increase your rate on an annual basis as you accrue more clients.
There are tactful ways of doing this, especially if there’s a lull between requests. What better way to become reacquainted than to show your prior client all of the new work you’ve completed and let them know that you’ve had to increase your prices to meet your increased demand? All of these steps are moving towards adding value to your service.
Avoid scope creep
“Scope creep” is an industry term for when you start a project on one set of terms only to find yourself doing much more than originally agreed for the same amount of money.
This is an easy situation to find yourself in in the photography world — you might agree to one session, only to be three sessions deep while also accidentally agreeing to retouch every photo on your roll. Your pricing should be precise, concise and thorough.
Any deviations from the original scope necessitate a conversation about the budget.
How much should I charge as an expert portrait photographer?
If you are an expert in the portrait photography field, then the sky is the limit when it comes to what you charge your clients.
Truthfully, expert portrait photographers are pop culture icons in their own right. They can charge thousands of dollars for a session. Not to mention, you can establish your services as exclusive, increasing their value in the process.
However, if you haven’t achieved that level of mainstream success but still find yourself swimming in clients, you can certainly charge a rate that is at the far end of the spectrum.
Not only does this value your services appropriately, but it serves to thin out your client base. After all, you can only be one place at any given time.
With a high rate, a steady platform of reliable clients and a stellar reputation, you’re probably at the point in your portrait photography game where you’re charging upwards of $300 per hour.
A true professional and has done the work of adding value to their services. They deserve the fruits of their labor.
What considerations are there for pricing a portrait photography session?
There are many considerations to make no matter your skill level that will change what you charge a client.
You need to understand that each client will bring with them unique circumstances and with that, you should price your services appropriately. But what are the primary considerations to make when pricing your portrait session?
What are your operating costs?
It’s important for you to fully understand how much it costs for you to simply exist as a portrait photographer.
In understanding how to price portrait photography and portrait session cost, factor in living expenses, health insurance, transportation and everything else that comes with a full-time job. Equipment could be very expensive, for example look at how much these Canon Rebel T6 lenses and Canon Rebel T7i lenses cost.
These costs should be factored into your rate at a level where your current workload will cover them while still gaining you a profit at the end of the month.
How much do you want to make in a year?
You should consider how to price portrait photography by first setting an amount you expect to make in a single year, which you should consider your salary.
From there, your rate, overhead, operational costs and everything that brings in money or costs money should factor into you achieving that salary. Then do the math and break that down into an average portrait session cost based on your forecasted workload.
What am I delivering to my client?
At the beginning of each project, you need to spell out what you’re delivering to your client. Once you’ve both agreed on the exact deliverables for a given job it’s much easier to fully appreciate the total cost of a job.
Not only are you giving yourself a clearer path to success, but you’re setting clear expectations right from the start.
Portrait photography is fun, but it’s also business
At the end of the day, make sure you’re having fun doing what you’re doing. Anyone can get a job in a cubicle but you chose to strike out on your own and make a living expressing yourself creatively.
Yet, just because you don’t have a micromanaging supervisor breathing down your neck doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have high expectations for yourself and your work. Learning how to price portrait photography starts with having courage and self-respect.
Portrait photography is fun, but it’s also business. Treat yourself and your clients with respect. Most of all, ensure you value your services or no one else will.
Leave me a comment!
Now I want to hear from you! Is there anything new you learned or something I missed regarding portrait photography? Either way, leave a comment down below!