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One of the most frequently asked questions I hear from aspiring photographers is “How much should I charge for my photography?” This is a question I’m constantly asking myself, even after I’ve worked through multiple formulas, watched countless CreativeLive courses and tried several different pricing strategies. The fact is, there’s no simple answer to this frustrating question. Through the years I’ve gathered several resources that may help you figure it out though.
For Beginning Portrait Photographers
The simplest formula for figuring out how much you should charge is to calculate your expenses, add your desired income and divide that sum by the number of sessions you want to do in a year. Sounds simple, right? If math is not your thing, grab this free 5 Minute Pricing Calculator from Photo Bacon. Simply enter in your expenses from last year and your desired yearly income and the formula in the spreadsheet will do the rest. The number it comes up with should be your middle package or average sale – and of course, this is a guideline.
But what if you’re just starting out and don’t know what your expenses will be? You can guesstimate with a little research and go from there. Here’s a great free expense calculator from NPPA with a list of typical expenses a photographer will have. Fill it in based on your projected expenses and it will calculate your costs for the year.
I’ll warn you, if you’re honest with yourself about this, the results will shock you. I know it did for me when I figured out my projected monthly expenses for WorkStory are $6000+ per month. Crazy, right? And I need to make a profit on top of that. So, after figuring out how much you need to bring in every month and you’ve decided you still want to be a photographer, you can start to create your packages and figure out how to market yourself [Gulp]. You’ll quickly realize selling a disk of 100 images for $50 is a bad idea and that it’s a good idea to offer tangible products and use perhaps an in-person sales strategy especially at the start.
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For Wedding Photographers
Pricing for wedding photographers is somewhat different than for portrait photographers, and there are several different schools of thought on the subject. Those I know who are most successful have a full coverage rate and then add-ons for albums, wall art, etc. You’ll use a similar strategy for calculating your rate, just consider you’ll likely only be able to shoot 1, maybe 2 weddings per week and sometimes only in warmer months, so your price per wedding would obviously be higher than for a portrait session.
Check out the wedding workshop available with your SLR Lounge Premium Membership for specifics on how to price yourself as a wedding photographer, and how a profitable and high-performing wedding business operates. Coming from Lin & Jirsa, one of the most exclusive and successful wedding photography studios in the United States, you know they are offering you solid advice and education.
Related article: WHEN ARE YOU READY TO RAISE YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY PRICING?
For Commercial Photographers
Pricing for commercial photography is a totally different ball game. You can choose to charge per hour, which I did at first, but after some trial and error I have chose to charge per image. You’ll want to take usage of the image into account as well; If a mom and pop store is using your image on 1000 brochures you’ll price it differently than if a large corporation is going to use it on 500,000 promotional flyers, a billboard, their website and magazine ad. Giving a royalty free usage license is also worth more, since the company will have unlimited usage rights.
The best explanation and argument I’ve found for pricing per image is on Rosh Sillars blog. He explains why pricing per image rewards you for doing your job well, offers a low-risk service to your clients and ultimately makes your work more valuable. He offers a free calculator for figuring out how much to charge per image based on various factors, including the end usage. Check it out by clicking here.
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Were these tips helpful? If you’ve already got a solid pricing plan that works for you, I’d love to hear about it in the comments. If not, what have you tried that didn’t work? How could you change it up, based on what you read in this article?
Photographs by Tanya Smith are copyrighted and have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.