How much should you charge for your photography?
If you’ve ever been asked “how much do you charge for photography?” and been unsure what to say, I’ve written this article just for you.
When I first started to charge for my photography, I made a ton of mistakes. I was really busy and it generated a lot of referrals but I wasn’t earning any money. Worse still, all those client referrals expected the same price too, further compounding the situation.
Something had to change and this is what I did. I want to share it with you so you don’t make the same mistakes I did when I first started out.
Coming up with a price is easy: after all, it’s just a number and they’ll either say “yes” or “no”. But how do you know if the number is right before you tell them?
That’s the tricky part. When you start to charge for photography, coming up with a price is a delicate balance…
- If your number is too high, they’ll walk away
- If your number is too low, you won’t make any money — in which case, why bother charging at all?
- When your number is just right, everybody is happy. Hopefully.
Take a step back and look at the big picture… What’s your “Why?”
Knowing why you want to charge for your work is huge. It directly impacts your business and your prices, dictating what you need to earn and what you can earn.
Case Study 1: Fred wants to earn the money to buy his dream lens, let’s say it’s a 500mm f/4
That’s an expensive lens but Fred doesn’t really need to earn much money. Within a few assignments he’ll be easily be able to afford it. Fred’s is a ‘one off’ goal. Once he has the money he can buy the lens. There’s no ongoing commitment. If he loses an assignment it doesn’t matter, it just slightly delays the purchase.
Case Study 2: Jo wants to support her family
Jo’s needs are entirely different. Supporting her family is an ongoing goal. It never ends. Every month she has to earn the money. If she doesn’t, her children don’t eat.
Fred and Jo have a very different “Why”, they’re polar opposites: one just needs to achieve an amount, eventually. The other needs to earn an amount each and every month. What they need to achieve and therefore their goals are vey different.
Question: of the two, who do you believe needs to charge higher prices and why? — There is no right or wrong answer. Leave a comment below and let me know what you think.
Who are you selling to?
This may seem more of a marketing issue but unless you know who you’re selling to you cannot set your prices effectively. You need to know…
Knowing this helps you position your offering when deciding what to charge. For example, if you’re offering a performance sports car, you’ll have a hard time selling it to the client who only wants an old banger. Alternatively, if you’re looking for people with a 6-figure income, offering a $25 service means you’re (probably) undercharging.
Charge according to what you’re selling…
Do you know what you’re actually selling? It might just be a jpg file or piece of paper with a picture on it to you, but what is it to the client?
- A jpg file?
- A photo?
- Their memories?
- Maybe a piece of art?
Or are you simply charging for your time to do the job?
The same image will command a different price depending on how your client sees it.
“i never knew how much to charge for a shoot before and it paid for itself in one job” — Lee
Work out what to charge for your photography and how much you’ll really make
Defining your charges — will the market pay your price?
Your success as a professional photographer will depend on whether your chosen market is prepared to pay you’re charging. How will you know?
You could go on gut feel…
…but you’ll never truly understand if your price is correct or if you’re leaving money on the table. In my experience, this approach tends to give a price that’s either too high or too low.
Your could see what the competition is charging…
…but how do you know if they’ve got it right? How do you know if they’re actually getting bookings? In my experience, setting your prices according to what your competitors are charging is a bad idea. I’ve seen too many photographers shut up shop over the years to believe they’ve done the hard stuff like working out their goals, who their clients are and what they’re selling let alone actually asked the market what they think.
You could ask the market what they think…
…most photographers I’ve spoken to have never actually surveyed their clients or their target market to understand their expectations.
Surveying your target market to understand what they’re prepared to pay is the only way to know (a) if there is indeed a market and (b) how much you can charge.
Know what to charge by creating your pricing strategy…
What we’ve been leading up to is the foundation of your own pricing strategy.
If that sounds daunting, it isn’t. It’s just a way of positioning yourself and creating a set of guidelines to help you work out what to charge in a consistent manner. If you’re not happy with the outcome, change it. It’s your strategy and they’re your prices for your work.
Use all of the above to determine where you want to be and what you need to earn.
- Are you a high volume business?
- Do you want to be a luxury brand?
- Are you competing on price or do you want clients to choose you because of your work?
Being asked “how much do you charge?” is the “how long is a piece of string?” question. To give a price you have to know what the client needs and expects from their shoot. You also need to know what you need to charge to make a profit and work towards your own goals. There will always be an upper ceiling on what people are willing to pay and whilst it’s possible to find people who will pay any price, you have to ask will they pay you any price? If you’re an established, sought after celebrity photographer then yes, they will but if you’re not you may need a reality check.
Don’t set your prices based on what you’re prepared to pay or you’re in danger of becoming the ‘wallet police’. Be wary of setting them low in the hopes to get more work. When I did that I was chasing my tail going nowhere fast and barely earning a penny. As I increased my prices, the bookings dropped off but I soon found I was earning more money from doing less work and had more time to invest in marketing.
PS — If you’ve found anything useful in this post, please leave a comment below to let me know and consider sharing it on social media. It really helps.