Ah the age old question “How much should I charge?” I know it’s a confusing question and one even those who have been business for years probably have to rethink constantly. But never fear! There are some guidelines and tips I have for you to help you on your way. Keep in mind these are just suggestions and my way isn’t the only way, but through experience and with the advice of those who have been in business longer than I have, I think you will find this information helpful!
The first thing that probably comes to mind is that you should be researching your competition to find out what they charge. The fact is, most likely your competition is under pricing themselves as well. Not only that, they probably have no clue about what the market is really willing to pay for fine photography products and services. Sure it might be a good idea to know what your competition is charging but don’t base your prices on it. Base your prices on you!
Now, I am not about to tell you that you should be charging $xx for an 8×10 or $xx for a 5×7. Because we are all in different markets, all at different levels and our prices should be different. Suzy Photography who is in a retail location might need to charge more than Sally Photographer who is home based and doesn’t have the expenses that Suzy has.
Start a base line. What’s the first thing a client always asks when they call for the first time? How much is an 8×10, right? Well forget about your expenses for a minute. What do YOU think your worth? $20? $40? $100? Ok, now double it! Yes, I said double it! Why double it? Because we always under value ourselves. We are our own worst critics. Of course this really pertains more to those photographers who are new to the business and haven’t established a good client base, who might start a mutiny against you for raising your prices so drastically. For those of you who have been in business and do have a steady client base, you may not want to double your 8×10 cost, but you should definitely take a look at it and see if it is REALLY where you want to be and not just what you chose based on costs or worse…fear. Keep this in mind: If at least 2/3 of your clients aren’t complaining about your prices, then you are too low!
From the baseline price of an 8×10 you can then determine how you want to structure the rest of your print products. A word to the wise: what is the cost difference to you from your lab between a 5×7 and an 8×10? $1? $2? So why on earth would anyone give such a huge discount to their clients for a 5×7? My advice to you is to keep your 5×7 and 8×10 prices relatively close to each other. If your 8x10s are $60, then charge $50 for a 5×7. I can guarantee you will get a lot more sales for 8×10 prints with such a small gap in price.
As you move onto wall portraits, you are in a whole new area of pricing. Wall portraits require more work. They are larger prints and may require heavier retouching, finishing sprays, mounting, and more attention to detail. Therefore, they should be priced significantly higher. Wall portraits are your more elite products and the items that clients have to push themselves to invest in. At a minimum they should start no lower than three times your 8×10 print size and each size as they go up should again have a significant price difference.
As you are coming up with your prices, think about this. If you were to take two photographers of the same skill level and put them side by side in front of a brand new prospect and both of them sell the same product but one charges $25 for an 8×10 and the other charge $100 for an 8×10, which photographer would this prospect “perceive” is the better photographer? Of course, anyone would think the $100 photographer MUST be better to charge that much more. It’s human psychology to think so! The higher the price something is the more valuable it must be. So by charging low prices, then doesn’t that very act reflect a lower perceived value to our clients?
The last thing to consider is your pricing for the future. One trick I learned many years ago Charles Lewis is that you must raise your prices every single year! I recommend taking care of this in December, over the holidays when you are relaxing from a crazy holiday season. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING gets an easy 10-15% increase every year and applies to all sessions as of January 1st. 10-15% is nothing. It’s slightly more than sales tax. It isn’t scary and it’s only once a year.
Remember that your prices will reflect your perceived value and your work deserves to be treated as a very valuable product!
Photo Credit: Elliott Brown on Flickr