Updated: Mar 26, 2022
As photographers, we work in a service-based industry. It is difficult to place a price on our services since they don’t always rely on the purchase of a product with a pre-existing price. It can often feel as though we are “selling ourselves,” and by representing or “being” a brand, we are often doing just that.
Before you can begin charging at all, you should examine your branding and marketing to ensure you are delivering a clear message to all potential clients. It's important to know exactly how someone would describe your brand. Once you can adequately and consistently communicate that brand to clients, then can you charge profitable pricing.
I believe that all photographers, even those just beginning in their career, should charge sustainable prices. Here’s why:
1. You should profit from your sessions.
Run the numbers. List all the expenses you invest into your business. The obvious things to think of include gear, but when you add up all of the other “small” expenses, you will see how much you invest into your business per year. It can be eye-opening to see how much you actually profit per session, if at all.
To begin, list the yearly cost of all of your equipment, computer/laptops, logo/branding investment, insurance, licenses, merchant fees, studio rent, memberships, software (Adobe, Honeybook, 17Hats, PicTime, etc.), website, domain, client wardrobe, workshops/classes, client gifts, postage/shipping costs, film, etc. This number is the amount you need to make yearly to break even without losing any money.
Now divide that total number by month to see how much you need to earn monthly. Remember, this does not include taxes yet. As a rule of thumb, it is a good idea to set aside 30% of sales for tax purposes.
Lastly, you need to determine how much you want to profit from your sessions and add that amount in. At the end of the day, you should profit, not solely break even.
2. Avoid burnout.
Most small businesses do not last longer than 7 years, and this is especially true in the photography industry. A large reason for this is because many photographers do not price themselves adequately in the first couple of years and then end up overworking.
If you double your prices and work HALF the amount you do now, you will not lose any money. You will then have the energy required to do your job to the best of your ability and in turn, provide your best work to your clients.
3. Provide Your Clients a Better Experience.
When you take on fewer sessions, you not only are able to earn more profit, but you are also able to devote more time to your clients and the experience you provide. The most powerful advertising is word-of-mouth, so ensuring you provide a stellar client experience should be fundamental to your business.
There is also a higher sense of obligation that comes with raised prices. We always want our clients to be satisfied, but when we charge more for our services, it lights the fire within us to ensure our clients are happy. Happy clients mean talking clients, and talking clients mean more clients!
4. Your Creative Vision is Art.
After you run your numbers, you need to decide how much you should profit per session. It can feel strange charging a specific amount for digital files, albums, wall art, etc. knowing exactly how much it costs to create or purchase those items.
However, you have to remember that you are an artist. If it weren’t for you, there would be no digital files, or albums, or wall art. They would be blank. YOU are creating that art, and NO ONE is going to create the same exact vision you have.
You need to charge for that creative vision. This price will vary based on your experience, the amount you have invested and learned from certain education, etc. That creative vision will make you unique as an artist, and that is worth charging for!
5. Higher Prices Benefit EVERYONE.
Charging more for your services benefits everyone - you, the photography industry, AND your client.
Earning more benefits you, of course, but it also helps the industry as a whole. When photographers are not adequately priced, it lets clients determine what an average range and/or value for a photographer is. Photographers who are in the luxury market will experience more potential clients telling them they have never paid that amount for photography before, and so they may not see the value. When more photographers are priced at higher prices, potential clients will begin changing the amount of value they assign to a photographer.
Higher prices also benefit clients because they require photographers to provide a stellar experience, as mentioned above. In summary, it is a win-win for everyone!
6. If you are part-time, you have nothing to lose.
If photography is not your primary source of income, you should raise your prices TODAY. You have absolutely nothing to lose. In fact, if you have less clients because you are less booked, you can then spend more time building your business to make the switch to full-time, should that be something that interests you.
7. You WILL find clients.
It can be so daunting to make the leap to a higher bracket, but I promise you, there are clients that will pay. Money is relative, and even if you would not invest in the amount you charge, it doesn't mean others won't. If your branding and marketing are clear and consistent, you will be able to find clients. It may take time, but with patience and persistence, your business will have a strong foundation that will last.
In summary, raising your prices can transform your business. You have the opportunity to profit, avoid burnout, provide your clients a tailored experience, educate your clients to value your creative vision, and help the industry as a whole.
The largest barrier to raising prices is simply your mindset. That's really it! You CAN do it. We promise.
We'd love to hear - what's holding you back from raising your prices?
All the best,
Marie Elizabeth Photography