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Tips & Tricks

How Much Should I Charge? | Kelly Brown’s Photography Pricing Formula

By Hanssie on April 10th 2015

One of the most difficult things for me when I began my photography business was figuring out how much to charge for my work. It doesn’t help that I have an aversion to anything math related (much to the chagrin of my culture), but coming up with that magic number to make it worth the drive to Timbuktu to traipse through rattlesnake-filled fields lugging a too heavy sofa for a photo session and then going home to spend another late night editing in front of the computer, it’s a labor of love, especially when you are first starting out.


So how do you know how much to charge? There are a few considerations, beginning with what niche you are after? Are you going to be the Wal-mart of photography studios, where you offer your services for bargain basement prices or more of a boutique style studio, which prices you higher? A major thing to consider is how much do you need to make to pay your bills, put food on the table and finally leave that day job? The answer to how much you should charge isn’t a one-size-fits-all, which makes it one of the most difficult parts of starting a photography business.

For me, I asked some close photography friends to share their pricing with me, sat down with my math-savvy friend and filled a steno pad with numbers. It was painful. There are pricing softwares, workshops, and specific calculators you can use, but here’s an easy method to figure it out – and it only takes some simple math.


In the following clip from CreativeLive, newborn photographer, Kelly Brown says that figuring out what to charge is “actually very simple.” She shares her pricing formula beginning with her cost of doing business. Actually, Kelly admits that when you start, it is easier said than done as she points out the numerous costs of doing business. After you come up with that number and how much you want to pay yourself, you have to think about how often you want to work. With all these numbers floating around, you then divide the first and the second numbers and voila, you have THE magic number of how much you should charge. Then you bang your head on a table and cry. (Just kidding).

It actually is fairly easy, so go grab those calculators (and some chocolate) and get to work.

To see more from Kelly, watch her CreativeLive class (last day is today!) here.

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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Donald Jones

    Solid advice

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  2. Lester Terry

    Good info

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  3. Carla Evans

    Love Kelly Brown! I purchased this class within the first few days because it had so much great information

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  4. desmond chislom


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  5. John Cavan

    Many years ago I read a book on entrepreneurship and one of the points that the author kept driving was the need to pay yourself. It’s all too common a situation where small business owners (which many photographers are) only take inconsistent and random payments from the “profits” of their business not realizing that the business hasn’t actually made a profit and may not even be viable as a consequence.

    The business world typically operates on the concept of margins. The margin being the difference between the cost of goods sold (COGS) and the revenue that comes in from the activity. When revenue is greater, then you have a positive margin (profits) and when it’s reversed, you have a loss. When you exclude from the COGS the amount of money you want to make personally to live comfortably and happily then you have no idea what your margin is and, as result, no idea how your business is really doing.

    The model that Ms. Brown is suggesting is effectively a not-for-profit model, she’s built a $0 margin formula that presumes no business growth plans in the process, but then you also need to constantly refine the numbers as time goes by in order to keep it at $0 margin as inflation hits your variable costs. It’s also worth noting fixed assets depreciate over time and you need to ensure that the COGS accounts for appropriate asset replacement over time. For example, it’s not uncommon for business computers to depreciate over a 3-5 year period and so you need to have that formula account for it. This is why many businesses have near-term budgets, medium term goals, and long-range plans.

    So, I absolutely agree with her essential premise and her very strong push on the “pay yourself a salary” concept, but I did feel that she pretty casually glosses over the complexity of determining the cost side of the equation. She does make it _seem_ simple, but it’s still got some complexities around it.

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  6. Andrew Merefield

    Great to see Kelly mentioned on here, she is in my opinion one of the best presenters I have seen and also an incredibly open and sharing person.
    I have no real interest in photographing in photographing newborns but I learned lots from her that could be applied to many different businesses.

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  7. Rafael Steffen

    Thanks God Creative live has finally addressed the most hard photography question out there.

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