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setting your price as photographer

Professional Photography: Setting your price

January 27, 2016

As a new photographer, it can be very difficult to get yourself established in a professional way. For some people, the first stumbling block can come when they realise they need to set their prices. It may well be that a potential client has come your way, and that is fantastic – but when they ask how much it costs, what do you say?

It’s important that you set your price carefully and think about it from a range of different angles. It should be a deliberate decision, not a random choice. When you have a formula or idea in place to help you decide how much you price for one service, you can then easily price for a second service as well without having to make big leaps. Your price list will be cohesive and logical, and – more importantly – you will be paid what you deserve. Here is how to go about setting your price for the first time.

Consider All Factors when setting your price

There are five main factors that you have to consider when you are pricing your work. The first is how much you want to earn. This is very simple: let’s say that you want to make $2000 a month, and you think you might be able to book in three shoots a week. That means you are going to be doing around 12 shoots per month (though sometimes more and sometimes less, depending on the month).

You would need to make a profit of $166 per shoot to make this goal. But remember, that’s profit. If you have any costs – such as renting a studio, renting equipment, paying for prints, and so on – then you need to add those on to your price. Expenses, then, become the second factor that you need to think about.

You also need to understand the marketplace. The third factor is what your competitors are charging. Look at this area with caution. If all of your competitors are charging $50 or less for a shoot, does that mean your plans are unrealistic? No – it just means you have to market yourself to customers in a higher pay bracket. Does it mean it might be difficult to find enough customers willing to pay more? Possibly. The fourth factor will help you decide.

That fourth factor is how confident you are in your skills, and how high a quality your work is. If you are a phenomenal photographer with no qualms about charging customers, you might stick with the $170-area and work out your price from there. If you feel that you are only as good as your competitors are, then you might want to rethink. Perhaps you could do four shoots a week and bring the price down to $125. How about adjusting your goals as you start out and then bringing them up slowly as you learn more about your craft?

The fifth factor is your overall satisfaction. Let’s say that each session you charge for is a two-hour photoshoot with a selection of 20 edited images for your client. Would you feel comfortable being paid $125 for that time? If you spend two hours editing, that’s four hours, which makes your pay just over $31 an hour. Does that feel like enough to you? If yes, then you have found your price. But if no, and you feel yourself wondering how you will be able to keep up with that much work or why you bothered learning how to take photographs if that was all it paid, then you need to readjust.

Never take less than you feel you are worth. It will only demoralise you and make your dream job into a living nightmare.

Don’t Discount

One of the biggest pieces of advice about pricing your work is not to offer discounts. When you set a price, you have to stick with it. Your work is worth exactly that much, and no less.

Offering a discount means devaluing your work and suggesting that it is actually worth less than what you normally charge. This opens the door to all kinds of problems, such as clients waiting until you next offer a discount rather than booking right away. It may also attract the wrong kind of clients – will those who took you up on your 50% off deal actually be able or willing to afford you at full price in the future?

If you want to offer a deal for new or existing clients, try adding something extra for free. This is still a great way to hook in new customers whilst also maintaining your price point and your reputation. Remember to adjust your expenses, however – if you offer a free print, for example, you will have to pay for it from within those session fees.