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photography-pricing-tutorial Business Tips

When Are You Ready To Raise Your Photography Pricing?

By Max Bridge on May 26th 2016

“When am I ready to raise my prices?” is a common question I hear. The thing is, the short answer, is people are often ready to do so far before they decide to.

Many of us are pre-programmed to a be a little more self-deprecating than we ought to be, and we end up creating our own glass ceiling. In some cases our perception may be correct – we are not ready to charge more – however, more often that not, if you’re asking the question, you’re ready. The purpose here is to highlight and remove your self-imposed glass ceiling and give you a couple tips to help you decide on your photography pricing.

When Are You Ready To Charge What You’re Worth?

As odd as it may sound, your mental attitude plays a big role in your photography pricing. It’s obvious when you think about it. Some people are a million times more confident than others and an unintentional result is to have a higher self-worth. Or, at the very least, they are more likely to see their work in a positive light and charge accordingly. The sad thing here is that there are droves of photographers who undercharge based on their personality, not skill.

It’s difficult to remove our emotions from our business, but hopefully I’ll help you with that today. One of my first suggestions is to look at your competition; don’t look at their pricing, just look at their photography. Being as brutally honest as you can, try to figure out where you lie. If you look at ten photographers, where do you rank? It may be valuable to grab a friend (an honest friend) who can give you an unbiased opinion here.

We typically have no idea how successful our competitors are, which is why looking at their photography pricing has little value. What is needed is an honest assessment of where your skill level ranks you. Are you toward the top or the bottom? If you are toward the bottom, you’ll need to start thinking about how you can add value to your service while, at the same time, improving your skills as a photographer.

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Challenging perception, Yours And Your Clients’

When assessing your value, it’s important to remember that you will view your photography, and the work of others, differently than your client. As photographers, we naturally look at the techniques displayed, leading you to think things like “I can’t do that” or “how have they done this?” Those thoughts can quickly become, “I’m not worth much”.

On the other hand, your clients are balancing up a number of things, not just the photography. The quality of the photography will be a very big factor but where you may perceive vast differences in quality and skill, they may not. They will also be thinking about price, professionalism, turnaround time, ethos and so on. More often than not, if you have a solid grasp of photography and decent images to go with that knowledge, that’s what your client needs. They don’t need the complicated photographic techniques, not to mention the accompanying price tag which those photographers could be applying.

Think about your photography in terms of what your clients want, not in terms of specialist photographic skills which will take a long time to attain. So long as you can nail the basics, you’re ready to charge for it, and to charge accordingly. You may not be charging the same as the photography master whose portfolio you drool over, but that doesn’t mean you have to charge peanuts.

[REWIND: 3 IMPORTANT TIPS ABOUT PRICING YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY BUSINESS FROM SUE BRYCE]

The Photography Pricing Reality Check

If photography is your only source of income, then you need to charge enough to be able to live. It almost goes without saying, but your photography needs to be of a particular standard before you even contemplate making it your sole income. That said, once it is, you should do some simple calculations. Start with how much you want to earn (be realistic), figure out your average profit per shoot, then extrapolate how many clients you need per year, month, and week. This will give you a very good idea of whether your current pricing works. After all, there’s no point putting in all this work if you won’t be able to live. We all need to live!

Side note – there are loads of calculators available online which will help you factor in all sorts of costs associated with your business. Knowing your costs is a crucial step to being able to decide how much you need to make from each client. Click here for a decent ‘cost of doing business’ calculator.

The other part of this reality check – and this is the big one – is that the quality of your photography is less important than your skills as a marketer. Most of us will not achieve dizzying heights of social media notoriety, not ever. Clients will not be banging down your door because they have seen your photos online. You WILL need to devise strategies and find marketing techniques which will draw people in. Ever wondered why there are so many successful bad photographers? Don’t be shy; I know I have. It’s because they are great marketers. These photographers sometimes charge huge sums of money and have lots of business, but it’s not because their photography is the best. Remember, they may also have other elements which add value to their service and make them attractive to clients.

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Adding Value To Raise Your Photography Pricing

Thus far we’ve addressed that the quality of your photography is not the be all and end all, that your perceptions will differ to your clients, and that you need a clear picture of your target earnings. I’ve also touched upon the idea that, even if your photography is not the best, you can add value in other ways. When a client books you as their photographer, there will be many factors that go into that decision. Therefore, you can find ways to increase your perceived value beyond your photography. For example:

  1. Providing home visits at convenient times. Holding your meetings at a location and time which works for them.
  2. Providing a personalized service: Asking questions and finding out what’s important to them so you can produce something tailored to their needs.
  3. Becoming an expert in products: framing, prints and so on. Helping them to figure out what to do with their photos – an excellent way to increase your profit too.
  4. Having a philosophy that resonates. For instance, with my family photography, I strive to capture natural emotion. I talk about my method for achieving this etc.

Those are just a few examples which could raise your perceived value. The point I am trying to make here is that there is much more to your business than simply the photographic product. Even if you rank yourself low when assessing where you fit amongst others, that does not mean that you need to charge very little. Add value to your service in other ways.

[REWIND: SAL CINCOTTA ON PRICING YOUR WORK | A GOOD LOOK AT THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE SALE]

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Summary

Your level of competency as a photographer will evidently be a large factor in determining your pricing, BUT it is not the only factor. Despite this, I feel passionately that we should always strive to improve ourselves. Education is the only way that we elevate our photography. If you feel that your work is not up to scratch, or you want to add another string to your bow, check out all the education on offer at SLR Lounge and for our store, click here.

So, what have we learned today? What should you take away from this? And, when are you ready to raise your photography prices and charge what you’re worth?

  1. So long as you can nail the basics, you are ready to charge accordingly.
  2. Clients view photography differently to you.
  3. Marketing is, to an extent, more important than your skills as a photographer.
  4. You must have a firm grip on your numbers or all of your hard work will be for naught.
  5. Constant education will raise your photographic ability.

I have purposefully left out giving any specific advice on how much you should charge, as this will be different for everyone. However, please, stop putting yourself down, stop setting your own glass ceiling, realize that there is more to your business than just the photography, and charge an appropriate amount for your work.

[REWIND: SIMPLE PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS | 5 TIPS TO FRAME THE PERFECT PHOTO]

About

Max began his career within the film industry. He’s worked on everything from a banned horror film to multi-million-pound commercials crewed by top industry professionals. After suffering a back injury, Max left the film industry and is now using his knowledge to pursue a career within photography.

Website: SquareMountain 
Instagram: Follow Author

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Karen Borter

    I am completely in this demo … I lack confidence but people I have shot for are loving the images. I still have a full time job, but every spare moment is learning about photography and putting that into practice. It’s time for me to start modestly charging and I am working on that model right now. Thanks for adding the “value added” portion to the article. Some of the stuff I shoot is cosplay photography. There are a lot of people out there that do it for free, but I plan on charging. My value add is that I am familiar with the characters (and often movies) they are portraying therefore I am able to bring out emotions that encompass those characters and have gotten some pretty epic shots. Again, thanks for this article, it couldn’t have come at a better time.

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  2. Jim Johnson

    This is what I tell my students (university level): Once you have established your price, there are certain benchmarks on which you raise your overall base level asking price (high profile client, fully booked, added services, etc). Otherwise, if you are always shooting and nothing else changes, raise your prices 5-10% every 9 months to a year just to keep up with inflation and your increase in skill.

    This is an arbitrary time frame and amount, but it is important to have a pricing strategy rather than just prices.

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  4. William Irwin

    One way to know when you are ready to go up on your pricing is when you get too busy that you are not able to handle all the bookings. At that point its time to re-evaluate your pricing structure and nudge up enough to keep a steady flow of work while offsetting the loss of bookings. In other words, your pricing will go up, but bookings will go down and you will have more time to devote to those who are booking you still.

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    • Alex Petrenko

      I think it is the main test, the rest (quality of work, service level etc) are too judgemental.

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    • Max Bridge

      Very true guys. The main aim for this article was to encourage those fairly early in their careers who unnecessarily devalue their work.

      I definitely agree with you though. Your market and work level should dictate your pricing as well.

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    • Andy & Amii Kauth

      Well put, Max. Great bit of writing!

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  5. Michael Poteete

    I am just now starting to dip my toes in “paid for” or professional photography. I certainly suffer from the “I am not that good” syndrome and have struggled to determine what my work is worth. Thank you for the article Max.

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