Whether beginning a new professional photography business or evaluating your current practices, pricing is a major factor to consider. There are a variety of approaches to pricing your photography, but successful photographers agree on a few main points.
You cannot operate a successful photography business by pricing your work solely based on your costs, or on the prices charged by others. To appropriately price your professional photography, you must know your own value—this includes the unique aspects of your business that are not replicated by your competitors and the value of the dozens of hours of your time you will spend on each client.
First, make a list of all of the unique ways you offer value to your clients (such as having an elaborate studio or including StickyAlbums in your packages). How much are these qualities worth to your clients? If you don’t feel you are currently offering unique value, consider what you might add or modify to set yourself apart from competitors.
Next you will want to determine the amount of time you spend on each client and what these hours are worth. Photographers often fall into the trap of underselling their time—as a creative professional, your time and expertise are the most valuable factors you bring to the table.
If you are actively running a photography business, look back to previous clients and the amount of time you spent consulting, shooting, editing, ordering, and selling your work. If you are starting a new business, do some reading or ask fellow photographers about the amount of time you should realistically expect to spend on each of these activities (and other business-related tasks) and estimate.
Repeat after us: you do not have to be the cheapest photographer in your area to find clients. In fact, if you are aiming to price lower than any other photographer, you will be hurting your business—you will not appeal to the most profitable clients (who expect to get what they pay for) and will be lucky to stay in business past the first year!
You cannot base your pricing on what other photography businesses in your area are doing. You don’t know whether or not their business is profitable and, again, you are basing your pricing on your personal value and offerings. If your work is excellent and you offer clients a unique experience in working with you, there is no reason to look to others and attempt to follow their model.
As we touched on earlier, you should not join the race to the bottom because your goal should be to reach your target clients. Unless your target clients are those with bare-bones budgets and no appreciation for quality photography products, setting your prices unprofitably low will not help you attract them.
Knowing your target market and pricing with them in mind is crucial in doing the work that you love to do and working with the type of clients you wish you could photograph all the time!
From day one of operating a professional photography business, you should think of it as just that: a business. Your primary goal as a business owner is to create profit! Your pricing structure should be created with profit in mind, and you should not feel guilty or unreasonable for charging what you are worth and what you must to continue running a successful business.
If you are regularly working for free (or “for exposure”) or discounting your work due to client pressures, you are not appropriately valuing your work and are likely not profiting much from the many hours you spend on each client. Don’t be afraid to turn away unpaid work or clients unwilling to pay your prices for the sake of your business.
There are a couple of tried-and-true strategies for making your pricing appear reasonable and appealing to your target clients.
The first is to list your highest package or collection first on any materials available to clients. This establishes your value in the eyes of clients. If they see a higher-than-expected price when they first visit your website for pricing information or receive a brochure from your business, they will assume this rate is being paid by your clients and that your work is worth that price.
You should then list the package that you prefer clients to purchase somewhere in the middle. After seeing the higher rate on your first package, the price on the preferred package will appear to be quite the deal! You have drawn in the target client with your talented photography, established your value with the highest package listed first, and now extend an offer of a rate that seems affordable in comparison (even if it is more than they had intended to pay).
An important note: we would never suggest pressuring clients to spend more than their budget allows! When structuring your packages in this way, you will likely prompt clients to invest more than they initially intended to, but your goal is not to bankrupt them in the process—merely to establish your value as being worth the additional investment.
When you are selling a variety of high-quality photography prints and products, you want to have samples of each of them available to your clients. Rather than leaving the quality to your clients’ imaginations, as you walk them through your packages and a la carte options for prints, albums, and other product offerings, allow them to admire in person. You as the professional photographer are the expert; don’t be surprised if your clients don’t know that there is a difference between drug store prints and professional photo lab prints without seeing it firsthand!
For those of you with a few years (or more!) of running a successful photography business behind you, what pricing tips have you found most helpful? Any we missed? Join the conversation on Facebook!
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