How Much Should You Charge For Your Photography?
Are you struggling to set your photography prices?
If you are, you’re definitely not alone. Pricing is something that a lot of photographers find challenging. I felt that way when I first started out too.
When we’re putting a price on something that we’ve created ourselves our emotions can often get tangled up with what should be a logical decision. And doing the sums to work out what a profitable price would be can seem overwhelming.
But we wouldn’t expect any other kind of business to set their prices based on emotions. We expect supermarkets, restaurants, hotels and all the other businesses we buy from to have some logic behind their prices.
And to run a profitable photography business that pays you a salary each month, it’s important to have some logic behind your prices too.
In this article I’ll share a five step process for calculating your photography prices. The steps are:
- Calculate Your Cost of Doing Business
- Get Clear On The Minimum Salary You Would Like To Earn
- Work Out How Many Clients You Can Realistically Work With Each Year
- Calculate The Minimum You Need To Charge Each Client
- Refine Your Prices
Step One: Start By Calculating Your Cost Of Doing Business (CODB)
Your Cost Of Doing Business (CODB) is simply how much money it costs you to run your photography business.
To calculate this you add up all the expenses you have in your business over the year.
This can include things like:
- Your website
- Gallery hosting – such as Shootproof or Pixieset
- Studio Management software – such as Light Blue, Honeybook or Studio Ninja
- Professional Memberships
- Courses and workshops
- Bookkeeping and accountancy
- Studio costs
- Marketing costs
- Travel costs
For simplicity, I’ve left out the cost of goods that you provide to clients – such as prints, frames, albums, and USBs. If you do supply physical products then this is something you will also need to factor into your pricing.
Once you’ve added all of your costs together you have your CODB. The total number might surprise you – it’s probably more than you think.
Step Two: Get Clear On The Minimum Salary You Would Like To Earn
The second piece of information you need before we calculate your prices is how much you would like to earn each year.
This is a very personal thing. It will depend on where you live in the world, your cost of living, and whether your photography business is your full time job, or something you do on the side.
I suggest that you work out the minimum you need to earn each year – including all the taxes you will need to pay on that salary. This way you know that the prices you calculate in this exercise will give you the minimum salary you need, and you can decide whether to increase it later on.
Step Three: Work Out How Many Clients You Can Realistically Work With Each Year
The third thing you need to know to calculate your prices is how many clients you can realistically work with each year.
Think about how many shoots you can do each week, how long it takes you to edit each one, travel time, time spent emailing clients and speaking to them on the phone, and the time you spend preparing for each shoot.
Don’t forget to factor in the time you need to work on other things in your business like marketing and accounting.
And make sure you remember to factor in holiday / vacation time so that you’re not working during every week of the year!
Step Four: Calculate The Minimum You Need To Charge Each Client
Now you should have three numbers:
- Your cost of doing business
- The minimum salary you would like to earn (including tax)
- The number of clients you can realistically work with each year
To work out how much you need to charge each client add your CODB to the minimum salary you would like to earn (including tax.) This gives you the annual turnover that you need in your business.
Now divide the annual turnover by the number of clients you can realistically work with each year.
This gives you the minimum you need to charge each client to cover your CODB and earn your minimum salary.
Remember that this doesn’t include any costs of printed items like albums or prints – you’ll need to add these costs on top.
Step Five: Refine Your Prices
Now that you know the minimum you need to earn from each shoot to cover your CODB and earn your minimum required salary you can refine your prices.
When you’re refining your prices I recommend considering the following things:
- Your experience and expertise
- Your competition
- The type of clients you work with
Let’s look at each of these in a bit more detail.
As you set your prices it’s important to take account of your current skill level, and the quality of your work.
For example, you would probably expect a photographer who has just started working professionally to charge less than someone who has many years of experience and creates award winning work.
Do your prices reflect the level of skill and experience you have right now?
If your prices feel high compared to your expertise, can you charge less for a short time whilst you work hard on improving the quality of your work?
If the quality of your work is high you may like to consider increasing your prices to reflect this.
It’s important to consider your competition when you’re refining your prices – but perhaps not in the way that you think.
All too often I see photographers set their prices based on what other photographers are charging, and I’m not suggesting that you do this for a minute.
But it is important to understand where your prices sit in the local market. When you’re doing this compare all of the market – from big name studios to other independent photographers like you.
Are your prices cheaper or more expensive than other photographers? How does your service compare to them?
The goal here is not to make sure you’re the cheapest in the market. It’s to understand how what you’re offering compares with others, and whether you need to make any changes to validate your place in the market.
So if you’re currently one of the cheapest but your research tells you that the quality of your work and the service you offer is worth more you can consider raising your prices.
If your prices are more expensive than others, is there something you need to change about what you do to make these prices seem reasonable to prospective clients?
The Type Of Clients You Work With
The final factor to consider when you’re refining your prices is the type of market that you work with.
Who are the clients that you typically work with, and what kind of experience do they expect?
Some photographers serve clients who just want you to meet them for the shoot, take the photographs, do minimal post processing and send them a set of digital images.
Others serve clients who want to have a highly personalised experience and expect their photographer to invest time into providing it to them. From pre-shoot consultations to a personalised experience on the day to in-person viewings and product design.
Does your price match the kind of experience you provide?
If you’re providing the first, “no-frills” type of service I described, a too-high price might put clients off. You might not book enough clients to cover your CODB and make your desired salary.
A too low price tag on the premium service I described may also put clients off – many people equate cheap with “not as good” or “too good to be true.”
Making sure you strike the right balance is important to make sure your prices work for you and your customers.
How did you get on?
I hope this guide has helped you to work out how much you should charge for your photography.
I know that placing a value on your own work, and objectively assessing where you sit in the market can be a challenge. It’s something that you will become more confident with with practice.
If you’re still feeling stuck and would like some personalised help to work out your prices check out my 1-2-1 Mentoring Sessions. Book a Mentoring Session to focus on pricing and I’ll help you work through these steps and calculate what you should charge to run a profitable, sustainable business.