Home Forums Let’s Talk Photography Pricing for Newbies. Value vs. Cost

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    I know pricing can be a big subject of confusion and even controversy among photographers, but they way you market and how you set your pricing shouldn’t be that difficult or scary.  The bottom line is value and how your present that to your clients and not being afraid of showing them what that value is and why you charge what you do.

    It seems a lot of photographers are scared to charge their clients?  Why?  They want great photos.  Well, what are you selling?  The answer should be great photos.  We look at pricing as what we think would be fair to our clients, but you also need to consider what is fair to you.  What is your talent worth, what is your time worth.

    Over the weekend, I found this website.  Now, the website is awful. It is all over the place and there is no consistency in brand or identity, not to mention the lack of just cheap feel of “FREE WEBSITE” all over.  The photos are, EH.  They are OK.  Certainly not the best, but not the worst, but the attention I really want to focus on is the pricing found here http://storyintime.com/blog/the-prices/

    The pricing here is laughable, its atrocious, and it is exactly why you need to know business before starting a photography business. Let’s look at the second to last package.  Now some of you newer photographers may think ” Wow, I wish I could get $2800 for a wedding.”  However, this price point is sending a horrible message to brides. It is not presenting value AT ALL and it is cheapening  the value of wedding photographer in their area.  Why?  Here is why.

    First, two photographers.  Any good second shooter is paid between $30-$40 an hour. So that is at least $300 out of my pocket right there.  If you are a husband/wife team, you still need to account for the pay your are getting.  Even if you aren’t physically paying your spouse, there is still time associated with that and your clients need to know your time is worth money.

    Second, the books.  1 16×20, 1 10×10, 2 5×5’s.  I don’t know about you, but I use quality albums.  1 10×10 costs me $400-500 to have designed and produced.  I am not a graphic designer.  My clients know I am not, why would I design an album for them.  I want them to have the best they can get, and that is what I offer. It is a bad practice to design an album when you are not a designer or have no formal album design training.  Also, quality books.  If you are using shutterfly, or some other equal self publication, just please get out of the business now.  Find a quality album binder, lets your clients feel and see your samples and sell the value in it.  The album is an heirloom and should last for generations.  If you are giving them substandard products and design, then truly shame on you.  “Oh, but they are so expensive!” Yes they are, but you are passing this cost off to your clients. You are not paying for anything.  From us, these books at our cost, at the cheapest, $1400.  We are now up to at least $1700 cost for us to shoot a $2800 wedding.  $900 profit not bad right?   Well we are not done.

    Engagement slideshow.  “You want an engagement session thrown?  No problem! Remember, my time isn’t worth much.  So why charge?  Plus I will put all the pictures on a tablet for you.  So we still have that $900 yay.

    I shoot about 2500 photos per wedding on average.  We no longer do processing in house, but when we did, it took about 40 hours to cull, and edit. and about another 5 in Photoshop for select images. Albums 30 pages and about 30 minutes to an hour for each page.  So here we have about 80 hours, plus the 10 hours it took to shoot the wedding.  So assuming you can keep that $900 profit, you just made $10 dollars an hour. I know people that work a In N Out that make more than that.

    What about the other cost, that are not being considered?

    Insurance, Liability, E&O at least $120 a month

    I checked their city, no record of a register business license or DBA

    Probably safe to say they are no using any type of color calibration and cheap LCD monitors.

    Presentation material.  Give your clients quality packaging, not just some gift bag from Target.

    With the insurance alone, they just knocked down their hourly rate to $9.

    Is your time worth $8.50 an hour.  Is that the message we want to be in this business.  That wedding photographers time is only worth $8.50 an hour?

    If you are asking how I would price this package, first, I wouldn’t.  My clients don’t want 4 albums.  If there are parent albums to be sold, then they would be done post wedding by the person wanting to buy them.  Something we might offer would be close to this would be our middle package which is $3800-4500 depending on the area we are shooting (Yes, you can and should adjust your prices according to area.  It is not globally the same)  Our studio profit from this is about $2300 to $2800.  Do people book this?  They absolutely do.  This also doesn’t include post engagement and wedding sales in which we average another $1000 profit.

    The point here is get your prices up.  Don’t be afraid to lose a client based on price.  If they want cheaper, let them go to Craigslist and learn their lesson.  If you don’t value yourself and your time, no one else will.  I have lost plenty of clients based on they wanted something cheaper or XYZ photography down the street is giving them everything and this kitchen sink.  Well, I am not XYZ photography and if that is what they want, then that is a good deal for them, they should take XYZ photography.  They are obviously not my clients and can’t perceive the difference.  When they are deciding on price, they are not concerned with quality or products or quality of photography.  They are simply getting a photographer because they feel they have to.  Not my client.

    Prices up.  Don’t bargin.  Integrity in pricing.  No discounts. You will be better in the long run.  Don’t scrape the bottom.






    Yep, so many photographers that are not going to make it, all because they don’t understand pricing.  They price themselves like a high volume discount studio like sears or walmart, and offer boutique and full service personal photography services and products.  Couple that with small business overheads, and crash and burn!  Along with taking the value down considerably for everyone else trying to make a living.  It drives me nuts, and makes me sad.

    It reminds me of a salon that was bought privately in my Mom’s small town.  They are walk in only, and price like a high volume salon, and pay their sylist hourly, yet they are full service, and take on average an hour or more per client.  This leaves everyone unhappy, and makes it very difficult to make a profit.  I saw how things worked while waiting for my mother to get her hair cut, and just sat there in disbelief, as 7 people walked out the door because of the wait, 5 phone calls came in asking if they could make an appointment, and were denied, and a small child wiggled and sat for 55 minutes getting a hair cut and style while Dad made phone calls explaining to people why he was running late.  I told my Mom “They will be out of business within the year if they don’t decide which business model to use”.  Sure enough it was sold and is now ran as a booth rental salon.

    You can’t price yourself as a high volume shoot and burn and done business while offering full service and fully finished products, and expect to make a profit.  I don’t even think high volume shoot and burn is viable as a self run photography business regardless. They want to give the very best they can, yet make their clients happy by being “affordable”. In a perfect world maybe, but this is reality people.

    I will never understand it.  Why would you put all that work and effort into something to only get paid minimum wage or less.  Why?!  Why would anyone do this?  Even crafters or any sort of hobbyist will price their goods for a profit, or at the very least fund their hobby.  I see a lot of people going into debt being “in business” buying props, actions, templets, textures, workshops, equipment, etc etc and not charging appropriately for their service or products.  Basing your pricing on skill level or some sort of skewed “What would I pay?” basis is silly.  Prices should be about how much it costs you to be in business and what you need your profit to be per client to stay afloat.  Once you figure this out, then it’s a matter of finding people that are willing to pay that amount for your services.

    With all that said, maybe this photographer isn’t quite established yet, and is only pursuing this part time and hoping to grow their business?  I’m not a pro, and don’t claim to know what needs to be known about running a business, but… when I contemplated/played with the idea of being for hire,  I figured my first few years I would only pay myself the equivalent to a minimum wage salary (plus product sales), and raise from there.  Their prices don’t anger me as much as most I see.  They are priced at a good legit starting point I believe, depending on their product costs and IF they are legit and paying taxes, insurance and whatnot.


    Exactly.  I think a lot of new photographers obsess about photography rather than business.  If you want to make a business out of it, obsess over business.

    As far as her not being established, her website claims she has been shooting since 2008. I would assume she could get it together by now.  I also just read on her Facebook page, a post she created by the way, that she ran out of gas and had no money on her way to a photo shoot.  Hmmm.  Why do you think she had no money?  So unprofessional.

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