There are continuous discussions on photography pricing. I lost several shoots recently due to “our director has a son who has a camera too, so he can do it”, because it is hard to argue with “free”.
But not impossible.
First, there’s the quality. Then, the reliability, the equipment, the speed of delivery, the options for delivery, and the list goes on.
But internally, there’s the decision of “how to price”.
So here’s four things you need to take into account when pricing your work.
- You cannot go up from being a McDonalds to an Exclusive Bistro with three Michelin stars. Trust me on that. McDonalds may try but it will not work. So if you start as a cheap photographer, that is what you will remain as.
- What is the regular competitive pricing in your market? You do not have to follow it but if you are far away from it, you need good reasons. Very good and clear reasons. If others ask $100 for a portrait, can you ask for $800? Only if you have those clear, good, valid reasons.
- What will the market bear? Contradicting the previous slightly (but there is overlap), if people want to pay $2,000 for a picture of pet poodle Fifi, because they love Fifi and want utmost quality, who are you to argue? There will always be a Rolls Royce, even though a Kia gets you from A to B just as snugly (well, almost) for about a hundredth of the cost.
- An important one: your real cost. As a photographer you are running a business, not a charity. Work out how much that shoot really costs you. Work out your true cost (including a new camera every three years; spares; driving and parking; heating and electricity; the works). Then work out how much you are actually getting per hour. Do you want to work for half of minimum wage? If so, go for it. But if not, don’t go there and set realistic pricing.
Notice I did not say “how you feel about it”, or even “how good you are”. If you are good enough to charge a price, you will get that price, If not, you will not. But do not second guess the market, The market is king, because your customers are king.
You need, therefore, to set prices that meet all the above criteria.
This may help:
- Price shoppers are not loyal. They will abandon you at a second’s notice. You want people who want quality, art, reliability: the things you supply.
- Compare yourself to a plumber, a washing machine repair man, or a dental hygienist. Are you placing yourself that much below them? I paid a repair man $100+ for a three minute fix, recently. Worth it to me because else I could not have done laundry. I pay a hygienist whatever it costs to clean my teeth.
- If you can convey the fact you are providing great value, you can ask for reasonable prices and you will be paid.
- Think “This is the price. You do not have to pay it!”.
- And finally: keep in mind what others charge, and do not go below it unless you are sure you can meet your actual, real, cost.
If you do all this, you will provide wonderful art at reasonable prices and you will have long term customers.
Good article Michael, I agree, if it was a “our director has a son who has a camera too, so he can do it” job, then it wasn’t a real job in the first place. No worries!