Topic Tuesday – {Pricing}

August 28, 2012

Today’s post is coming to you a little late due to the fact that I was traveling home from an amazing time at Folio Love!  It was such a great experience and I will definitely share all about it later in the week.  So stay tuned!!

Last week we began a new series on the blog called Topic Tuesday.  I envisioned this to be a chance for everyone out there to start a conversation about a certain topic.  I truly believe that by sharing and helping one another we all can grow!

Last week’s topic was all about the struggles you face when beginning your photography business.  Lots of great comments were received but the most common struggle was in regards to pricing.  So I thought today’s post would be about just that!

Pricing is something everyone struggles with.  Even the photographer who you think has it all figured out and is raking in the dough, struggled with pricing at some point in their career.  It is an ever-changing thing that really takes some time to figure out.

When I began my career in photography, I will honestly admit, I looked at other photographers’ pricing.  I figured if my competition was pricing something a certain way, then I should too.  How many of you out there have been there and done that?  I think I can actually see the nods! 🙂  It seemed like the right thing to do at the time.  However, I did not take into account a couple of things…

One – maybe they didn’t really know what they were doing when it came to pricing.  They could have just simply saw that someone else was charging this too.  And what a bad cycle that could be!

Two – Their clients were not my clients and maybe their market was not my market.  So why would I think similar pricing would work for me?

It seems like an easy thing to do…come up with some cute products, name your price and start photographing.  However, there is a business aspect to photography that we all need to learn, and pricing is a major part of that!

I have changed my prices from $75 for a session and the same amount for a cd. (Yes, Gasp, I am admitting that that was a huge mistake on my part!) to $150 for a session and much more for the digital images.  Now, I am not the photographer that makes thousands of dollars on a single session but that doesn’t mean I haven’t learned my lessons when it comes to pricing.  I think all areas of the country are different and figuring out YOUR market (not another photographers’) is the key to creating a pricing structure that works for you.

When you start off like I did with low prices, it is very difficult to climb out of that inexpensive hole.  And raising your prices is never easy.  But finding the confidence in the beginning to charge the higher prices is hard too.  So what are you to do?

Well, I highly suggest shooting for your portfolio for a while, and practicing your craft before charging for your services.  That way, when you do start charging, you can charge a little more than some and not have such a big hole to climb out of when you raise your prices.  Make sure to tell your first clients that you are portfolio building and that you will be charging professional rates after a certain amount of time.  That way these clients don’t come back to you in six months expecting to get their session for the same deal (whether that is free or very inexpensive) they once did.

Another thing to think about when setting your prices, is Cost of Goods.  This is definitely not something I thought of in the beginning, and most creative minds don’t think this way.  We just want to take beautiful photos and create art.  Who wants to think of spreadsheets and cost of goods?  Not me!  I mean, I am the girl that chose my major in college based on the least amount of math involved!  Ha!

But figuring out the Cost of Goods is essential to your business.  When I first started, I treated my pricing a little like a retail store would.  I actually used to own my own stationary business where I would purchase bulk invitations and double the cost and charge for printing.  Most gift type stores take the wholesale amount and mark it up a certain percent.  That covers their cost and shipping but that is basically all that is in it.  So that is what I did.  I figured a print was $1.00 so I would mark it up from there.  I did a little more than double but the concept was the same.  There is no real magic number for how much you mark up your photos…I have heard everything from double it to three times to even higher than that.  You need to do what you feel comfortable with and what is right for your market.

But just marking up a product is not the only thing that should be taken into consideration when pricing your photography.  You also have to look at the time you spend on shooting, driving to and from the shoot, communication with the client before, during and after a session, editing and more.  It helps if you come up with an hourly amount that you feel your time is worth.  When I was charging $75 for the session, I was spending at least two hours at the session, anywhere from 10-30 minutes to travel to and from the session and who knows how long to edit these images!  Even if I was spending five minutes per image and giving at least 30 images, then I was only making $13.64 per hour!!  (this is based on two hours at session, 30 minutes there and 30 minutes home and 2.5 hours of editing)  Does that seem like enough to you?

When I first started, I just paid attention to the $75!  That is what stuck out in my head.  I didn’t need the money because I wasn’t the main bread winner in my family, so $75 was a nice little bonus that I could use to pay for my child’s clothes from Crewcuts!  But that is no way to run a business.  I didn’t stop to think about all the time I was taking away from my family for only $75.  And when you put it that way, you realize that your time AND your craft is worth more!

And then we have the digitals and collections aspect of pricing.  Of course there is a huge debate on whether to sell your digitals or not.  Some photographers don’t and some do.  I feel like seniors are so in the digital world that selling them seems to just be what they want.  But selling them at a high enough price and not giving them away is key.  Now everyone has a different price that will make them happy if they sell a cd of digital images.  Figure out what that is for you.  Don’t just think you have to charge $1000, $2000, $3000, etc.  Again, it goes back to your market and your business.  What is right for you, will always be the best decision!

I originally started selling the cd for $75.  Then I went to $150.  And now I am more than that.  Because, what I realized is that at $75 and $150, I was basically giving away my images.  I like to use the analogy of sitcoms.  Sitcoms, really?  Yes, stay with me.  You know how back in the day stars would get paid for their talent and acting on a certain sitcom.  These sitcoms or stars didn’t have the foresight to see that the sitcom would eventually run for years and years and years in reruns on TV Land!  So they worked on their show, got paid per episode or whatever and once the show was over, it was over.  No more money even though they were plastered across tv screens in homes across America for years to come.

That is like a CD of images.  A client buys the cd of digital images, pays you one fee and then can print them a million times if they are so inclined.  So, why not charge enough for that cd to make up for the fact that you are not going to get any of the money for all those prints they make from that cd?

I was initially scared to raise my cd prices.  That big number was scary for me to say to my client and I figured scary for the clients to hear.  Again, I was digging myself out of a hole of being too inexpensive in the beginning.  But I did a little math and figured that when I broke it down, it really wasn’t that much per image.  And considering the time it took to get those images (taken, edited, etc), they were worth it!  And don’t forget to consider the cost of goods for the cd.  I know the cd itself is only a few bucks but what about the custom cd box you package it in?  Don’t forget to add that in as a Cost of Goods!

Now I have admitted many times above that in the beginning, I didn’t do the right thing for my pricing.  I too, struggled with it. Changed it a million times.  But really paying attention to my market and figuring out what my time and cost of goods was worth, helped me with my pricing.  Also, listening to my clients, paying attention to what they were ordering and coming up with a simple line of products that met their needs (not what I thought was cool) helped me come up with collections that clients want to order.  Again, there is no magic number or price that I can give you for YOUR photography.  But if you take into consideration the things mentioned above, you should be able to price your products for your business.  Remember, prices change and it is ok to do that with the more experience you have.  Sometimes that causes clients to go elsewhere but that is ok.  You will get other clients that will pay you for your time and talent, and your business will prosper because of it!

Remember, I am not a math whiz so I can only share what worked for me.  But, I am always here to help if you need me.

And because every post is better with a photo, below is a photo from a recent senior shoot I did! 🙂