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FAQ: Pricing your photography business.


“Hi Alex,

Recently someone approached me about a commissioned photo shoot – more of a lifestyle shoot around campus, I’ve never done it before because all my work had been TFP with models and friends, as I was building my portfolio and getting my name out there. I had no idea what it would entail ie. copyright release, pricing, etc. and I really want to do it right because it would take my career to the next level, so hopefully you’ll be able to let me know how you dealt with this when you did your first paid photo shoot?

Couple of specific questions:

1) I’m not sure how much I should be charging and if I should leave room for negotiation with my clients?

2) Is there a specific kind of CD that I should be using when I give the post-processed photos to my client (copyright release etc.)?

Thanks,

Claire”


Darling Claire,

You are at such an exciting time in your career! You are definitely doing something very right if someone has approached you and wants to hire you to take their photographs. Because of that, I congratulate you! If you are just starting out, and your photos are already in demand you should be celebrating! Good for you!

 

To answer your questions:

“1) I’m not sure how much I should be charging and if I should leave room for negotiation with my clients?”

It sounds to me like you are ready to take your career to the next level and that by sorting this issue out you will be one step closer! Well, before I begin, please know that I am no expert on pricing – and that there are many places you can go to that will give you “official” advice on pricing. But since you asked here is my take on it:

Finding the amount that you should charge depends on a variety of elements all specific to you and your business. These elements include the  cost of running your business, your living costs, your experience levels, how valuable your brand is, your life circumstances and much more. You really need to think about everything. It may all seem a bit overwhelming so here is where I started:

  • What are my fixed business costs?  (Wikipedia defines fixed costs as “business expenses that are not dependent on the level of goods or services produced by the business”. For example: monthly business insurance payments.)
  • What are my variable business costs?  (Wikipedia defines variable costs as “expenses that change in proportion to the activity of a business”. For example: the products I purchase to deliver to my clients, )
  • What are my personal costs? (I define this as the costs for the things I need. Things that would be included: Rent, food, bills. Things that would not be included: shoes, lenses, trips.)
  • How long is it taking me from initial contact with the customer straight through till the customer receives their images? How many hours of work is required per booking? (Make sure that you include the time it takes you to speak to them on the phone, the time it takes you to plan the shoot, the time it takes you to get to the shoot, the time it takes you to shoot, the time it takes you to edit the shoot, the time it takes you to put together the final product etc… Make sure that whatever you decide to charge covers the vast amount of time you are putting into the shoot – as more often than not it is much more time than you originally thought.)
  • How many shoots a month do I want to be shooting? (For me I was totally happy with shooting a larger quantity of shoots for less money each at the beginning, but knew that as time went by and demand grew I would prefer to shoot less quantity for more money each.)
  • Who is my target market and will they be able to afford me? (I had to ask myself – who is paying for the shoot? My target market was young women, and many of the time they received an Alex Beadon Photography Portrait Session as a birthday present from their parents! This definitely played into how much I charged and also into my marketing strategy.)
  • What will they expect of me? (Be specific. Put yourself in their shoes. What will they expect of you? What would you expect from yourself? Now blow those expectations out of the water. It will be so important for you to go above and beyond all expectations – give them an experience, give them something to talk about so that when they go home they will have to talk about that awesome photographer that they just met. This will help your name spread like wildfire and will be pivotal to your future success! I know that you may feel that this has nothing to do with pricing – but everything in business all seems to hold hands and intertwine at some point or another. Mastering the art of exceeding expectations time and time again will in turn increase your demand which will in turn allow you to raise your prices. ChaChing!$$)

Answering the first few questions really helped me know and understand my minimal value. It gave me a value in which I would be “cutting even”. It made me feel worth something even if I had no experience.  It then gave me the confidence to think of my ideal client, and wonder what they would value my work at – this helped me to choose a percent that I wanted to make from each shoot as “pure profit”. This would be my extra monthly money to spend or save as I please. I have made the decision to put aside a certain amount each month specifically for my business needs (I heard a wise woman once say the businesses that survive are always the ones that have a little extra saved away for a rainy day). As time went by, and my experience increased, and the value of my brand increased, if the demand increased so did my prices.

This is how I found my price. It is not the right way. It is just my way. Your job now would be to figure out your way.

Note to keep in mind: There are so many other things to consider such as the structure of your pricing (eg. á la carte) to your sales strategy (eg. upsell?), but what I mentioned above was a simple starting place for me, and is what I stuck to for the beginning of my business. I kept it very simple. You might decide otherwise. That’s the beauty of choice :).

 

As for negotiating on your price? I firmly believe this does nothing but devalue your work. Again, this is my own personal opinion and at the end of the day it’s totally up to you! Do some research and see how you feel about it! :)

Here are some links you might find helpful:

“2) Is there a specific kind of CD that I should be using when I give the post-processed photos to my client (copyright release etc.)?”

Concerning the second part of your question – the final product that you choose to give your client when all is said and done is completely up to you. Just remember that what you give them will leave a lasting impression of you and your business. I know you are just beginning, so for now a regular CD may be perfectly acceptable, in fact I still use DropBox to send high resolution digital images to my clients -  But if you really want to look and feel professional to your client, it’s important that you put a certain amount of thought and effort into the final product which matches your brand and the vibe that you are going for :). Presentation is key! I’ve actually started a board on Pinterest where I am pinning all of my business aspirations – mainly concerning presentation and things I want to be able to offer myself and clients. You can check it out here for some future ideas.

Concerning copyright releases/model release forms/contracts – to confirm a client’s booking they have to send me a non-refundable deposit (or retainer) along with a signed version of my contract. What I have in this contract basically covers everything from which dates their full payments are due, to what happens if they are ill on the day of the shoot and can’t make it, to protecting myself in case for some reason I lose all the photos from the session and we need to reshoot. This way everything is laid out in writing from the very beginning, I have set the expectations, and we are all on the same page! Again, I am not a lawyer and am not the best person to ask about this – so my advice for you would be to do your research (try googling contracts for photographers and see where that leads you), get some legal advice from a reliable source and make sure that you and your business are fully protected!

Some more links you might find useful:

Free Wedding Photography Contract Template by ToFurious
Creative Pricing and Packing for Photographers by ToFurious
2 Simple Ways to Gain Customer Loyalty by ToFurious

And there you have it, Claire. As I said – I’m not an expert on either of these topics and strongly urge you to do your own research – but I have left you with my opinions on the matter and I hope that they are able to help you in even the smallest of ways! I wish you all the best in your photography business, I know that you’re going to take it to the next level and I’m so excited for you! If there’s anything else you need help with please let me know!

 

Huge hugs,

xoxo

Alex 


Do you have advice for Claire?What has worked for you with pricing and what hasn’t?

What is your opinion on negotiating prices with your clients? Is this something you are okay with?

How do you present your final images to the client? CD? Prints? Canvases?

I’d love to hear all of your opinions!


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  • http://soblushed.blogspot.com soblushed

    I have been learning a lot with you. Thank you Alex, what a nice and complete post :)

  • http://www.alexbeadonphotography.com Alex Beadon

    Oh I am so pleased that you have been able to learn a thing or two :) It makes it all worth while! <3 Thank you for your comment!

  • Jill

    this post helped me out so much, thank you! even over a year in business, it’s still very hard to determine when to raise your prices and what to charge.

    one thing i’ve learned is to value yourself, and your work. you WILL get emails asking about your prices, to where they never respond back to you about moving forward on a session once you do tell them your price(s). this eats you up wondering if your prices are too high, if they don’t think you’re worth it. but for every 1 “no thank you” there are 10 more “yes please!”

    i just tell myself that i am lucky enough to have a nice circle of return clients that love me and love my work, and refer me to others in their circle. i’d take that any day over a bunch of brand new people that are not sure if i’m worth the money. i love working with people that are related to my first client somehow.

    what i really try to do to put myself above everyone else is to offer exceptional customer service. i answer emails within a few hours of receiving them. i always thank people when they leave me nice comments or feedback. i always include little freebies with someone’s shoot (even if it’s just a few extra 4×6′s). i even bring blow-pops for little kids as a treat, just so they associate their experience as a good one.

    i channel my creativity for other things into my business. i love scrapbooking, and wanted to make a unique disc sleeve, so i busted out my supplies and created beautiful one-of-a-kind disc sleeves made out of thick cardstock/scrapbook paper and some embelleshement. i can’t even tell you how much people appreciate little hand-made from the heart touches like that.

    i give every client a high-res image disc with their edited images with each shoot. i consider myself to be a service-based photographer rather than a product-based one, so i keep people happy in this day and age by allowing them the freedom to print their photos at their leisure. most people have at-home printers or use shutterfly or something to print photos, and this way they can see they’re getting a great deal. if they wanted sheets of photographs, they could go down to the mall and sit in their portrait studio.

    i ask myself if i would appreciate these things as a customer. i don’t care if i’m losing a couple of bucks by giving away prints or anything, i value my client’s and want to make sure they’re happy and have a good experience. i would do that for my friends and family, so i do that for them.

    sorry for the ramble!