Photographers: How to Set Your Prices

Setting prices is a constant struggle for photographers. Since photography is a creative service, the pricing in this market differs wildly, seemingly with neither rhyme nor reason. It gets even more confusing once you start doing research on photography pricing. On one hand, you'll find some photographers willing to shoot weddings for $200, and on the other you'll see photographers selling $1,000,000 pics of potatoes. This can be extremely frustrating for those looking to set their price, but don't fret, it's easier than you think.

The Basics

The first thing you need to do is decide what your time is worth. To do this, look at how much you need to be paid an hour to make a photoshoot worth your time, how much experience you have, the strength of your portfolio, and the quality of your work. For example, let's say someone wants you to photograph their event for 6 hours. That much time will blow a hole in your day, so a good rate would be $100/hr. That adds up to $600. Now lets say you've been doing this for awhile, and that experience makes your photos more solid than those of your competitors, and you have the portfolio to prove it. This makes you more desirable, so lets bump up the hourly rate to $175. Now you're at $1050. After you get that base price, which accounts solely for your time, you can decide what to add to it, like editing time. Lets say it'll take you 4 hours to edit all the photos and you charge $75 an hour for editing. They want a printed album? That'll be another $400. So far you're at $1750. You just keep going on like this until you've covered all your bases, and you'll end up with a project price. From then on it's up to you whether or not you break it down for your client in an itemized list, or to offer it as your all-inclusive, take-it-or-leave-it price. I'm a fan of the latter because it minimizes the chances that a client will try to nickel and dime you into the poorhouse. Which brings me to my next point...

The Power of No

Once you set your price, stick to it. Don't let the fear of being turned down lower your price. Ever. Send out that quote and don't look back. If you haggle yourself down before you've even been told no by the actual customer, you'll lose out on being paid what the project is worth, and that's just stupid. Now, what if the client wants you to lower your quoted price? "This package looks amazing, but we had to buy solid gold rims for our Hummers and install a fourth swimming pool this week, so it's just a little out of our budget. Can you lower your price by $1000?" When this happens, say NO. Don't be a douche about it, or start arguing with the client, simply say no in a professional manner. If they still want a lower price after being told no, let them know you're not the photographer for them, and suggest an alternative. I think you'll be surprised at the amount of clients that backpedal and pay your asking price. Saying no to a prospective client is agonizingly difficult for creatives since they want/need the work, but trust me, if you say yes to being ripped off, you're gonna have a real bad time. In this market, giving price hagglers an inch will instantly make you their beotch, and it'll never end. It'll also set a trend for how you operate, and you'll be lowering your prices more and more frequently. You know, since it worked last time. Set your price, stick to it, and don't waiver. This will eliminate you having to deal with low end customers(who always expect the most out of you, btw), giving you time to focus on the clients who appreciate the value in what you have to offer. 

This is exactly what it feels like saying no to lowering the price on an awesome project. 

This is exactly what it feels like saying no to lowering the price on an awesome project. 

Understand Your Customer

Once you get into a pricing groove you'll begin to see who your target customer is. It's crucial to know who your customer is when it comes to pricing because it allows you to see who you're actually competing with. If you offer high-end photography and price accordingly, you don't have to worry about Glamour Shots offering photo sessions for $1.00, or photographers offering month long wedding packages for $36.72. Those prices are set by photographers/companies who focus on reeling in the customers looking to get photos on the cheap, and then they end up hammering them on the up-sell for prints and other items. That, too, is a solid business model, and is favored by many, especially if you're more business minded and want to focus on pitching extras and selling prints. If you're at square one, and are unsure of which pricing model you want to adopt, simply start by pricing out your time using the tips above. Once you decide how you want to spend your time and price it out, you'll see your target customer appear before your eyes, and your specific pricing model will be that much more defined. A lot of photographers think they need to compete with every photographer on the planet, and they're so wrong. These are usually the people who see all other photographers as a threat, are constantly changing their pricing structure and photo styles through paranoia, and needlessly fret over other people "stealing their business". Don't be that guy.  

I hope this helped anyone struggling with that demon pricing and their follow-through on quoting photography. And remember, this is just a basic guide. I know I didn't cover the rental pricing of your light that harness's the power of the sun, or your 8mm underwater drone camera shaped like a shark. Each photographer is different, and it's up to you to make sure you're setting a price for everything you offer. If you have any thoughts, gripes, or special feelings, leave them in the comments below. We'd love to hear from you!