Photographer’s Pricing Guide Series: Overview of How to Price Photography

by Jamie M Swanson

Free Pricing Gudie for Photographers from the Modern Tog

It’s confession time: I think that the majority of pricing guides for photographers are lame.

That’s not to say that they don’t work, or that they aren’t worth the money that people sell them for. It’s just that most of them have some major flaw that makes them not nearly as effective as I think they could be. It’s for this reason that I decided to create an easy and straight-forward photography pricing guide for photographers that shows you how to price photography.

Most pricing guides rely upon a multiplier that you have to come up with on your own to price your products. That multiplier is one of the major flaws that I see. While this works very well once you’ve established your business and have a strong foundation in where your prices should be, it can be frustrating to determine what you need to set it at in order to make the profit you desire when you are still establishing your business in the market.

Not only that, but no pricing guide did an decent job of determining business prices when your business offers both weddings and portraits or any other types of shoots. While some guides discussed this issue briefly, they simply lacked the depth and flexibility to take a business model with many types of shoots into account and weren’t always appropriate for people just starting out in their business.

So I set off to create my own method of pricing that took various types of shoots into account and didn’t involve some random multiplier that I had to come up with. I’ve got a degree in mathematics, have worked a full-time job helping to set insurance base rates, and I am a master at Excel so I felt comfortable attacking this project. This pricing guide is what I use to help determine my own prices in order to make the amount of profit I desire at the end of the year.

How the The Photographer’s Pricing Guide Works

The main idea behind the guide is to figure out how much money you’d like to make at the end of the year. We’ll look at your expenses, the amount of time you want to work, the number of shoots you do, and your tax rate in order to determine how much you’ll need to charge per shoot (for all different types of shoots combined) to make you that much money. We’ll also discuss packages and a few other things to take into consideration when setting your prices.

Let’s be honest. This is going to take a lot of work – accurate pricing always does. But my goal is to walk you through each step of the process in detail so that you can feel confident in the prices you charge. If you want to save yourself a ton of time or if you’re not good with numbers and would like to buy the Photographer’s Pricing Guide Workbook that I use to do my own calculations, you can purchase it here, but all the information about my method will be available here on the blog for free.

So let’s get this show on the road! The next few posts will look at each of the following topics in more detail:

Part 1. An Overview (you’re here right now)
Part 2. Pricing for Profit
Part 3. Business Expenses
Part 4. Business Plans and Calculations
Part 5. Product Pricing
Part 6. Creating Packages
Part 7. Pricing and your Market

Are you serious about running a profitable business? Get my exclusive insider tips here!

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Jamie M Swanson is a Madison Wedding Photographer with her husband Brandon. She enjoys photography, loves the business side of things, but truly comes alive by helping others grow their own businesses. Connect with her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

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Darcey Rojas March 1, 2011 at 11:18 am

I can’t wait to get started on this! My biggest difficulty with pricing is exactly as you say…I haven’t been in the photography aspect of my business long enough to have accurate numbers to plug in as multipliers. There are also certain things that I need to factor in for future products that I wish to offer, but that I don’t currently have, such as: specific COGS on some items and an accurate assesment of the time it would take to create the product. I want to add these things into packages and my marketing materials, but I need #’s first. It’s difficult to have ALL of those numbers availabe to you within the first year or two of business.

Jamie M Swanson March 1, 2011 at 1:18 pm

I agree! I’m actually planning on writing a post about how to figure out how much time things actually take, so stick around and you’ll see that in the near future. :) Hopefully this will be helpful to you in creating a profitable business.

Darcey Rojas March 1, 2011 at 10:10 pm

Sounds great! I think I need to take a day off my marketing/album designing just to go through your entire guide =)

Xanthe Roxburgh March 1, 2011 at 5:54 pm

I’m going to devote a day this week to reading through your guide, Jamie!

Jamie M Swanson March 1, 2011 at 8:03 pm

Great! I hope it helps you as much as it helped me!

Jeff Cleveland March 6, 2011 at 8:43 am

Rather than re-inventing the wheel, how much is your spreadsheet and where can one get it?

Jamie M Swanson March 6, 2011 at 10:36 am

Hey Jeff! I’ll be releasing it really soon. It’ll be $47 but I’ll be sending out a discount code to all my email subscribers once it is ready to use, so sign up that way and you’ll know right away when it is ready.

Jeff Cleveland March 10, 2011 at 11:19 am

Thank you. I’m looking forward to it.

Corey Nelson June 11, 2011 at 8:17 pm

Love love love this pricing guide!!! Worth every penny.

Jamie M Swanson June 11, 2011 at 8:52 pm

Thanks Corey! :) I think so too!

Karen C July 7, 2011 at 6:58 am

Oh wow, thank you so much for sharing this! Can’t wait to start digging through the material. Just starting out, so this will be a huge help. :)

Jamie M Swanson July 7, 2011 at 8:36 am

Oh good! It will hep you get ahead SO much faster than if you just price by your mood or something. Set some time aside to work on it – you won’t regret it.

ginnydodson July 20, 2011 at 8:21 am

I am sooo looking forward to sitting down and chewing this UP….thank you!!!

Jamie M Swanson July 20, 2011 at 9:36 am

Oh good! I hope you find it as helpful as the many other people who have used it before you. :)

Astrid Pardew September 2, 2011 at 6:12 pm

I think its very generous of you to share. Free or not! Thanks and best of luck with your new venture.

Jamie M Swanson September 2, 2011 at 6:15 pm

Well thanks. I hope to equip photographers to be profitable and achieve their business goals. You can’t do that if you don’t know how to price. Glad you found it helpful! :)

adrian January 26, 2012 at 6:05 pm

really enjoyed the site. it proved lots of help in some areas in which I had some questions regarding pricing. kudos to you on a great site…. i will definitely share your site.

Thanks again!

Jamie M Swanson February 15, 2012 at 7:42 pm

You’re welcome! :)

Amy Nieto February 15, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Truly thank you for being so generous in sharing this with us. I’ve been on and off in the business for 3 years but never had an effective pricing plan and so my business has not quite flourished. I am confident it will , and this new pricing will be a factor in its success. Thank you so much!

Jamie M Swanson February 15, 2012 at 7:43 pm

You’re welcome! Knowing your numbers gives you confidence and freedom to really grow. :) Glad you found it helpful!

Anna Carter April 4, 2012 at 4:40 pm

Thank Goodness I found you and this website! I am so thrilled to read the content very soon. I feel like I have pretty much giving away my time, talent, and work for free, or extremely cheap, because I have felt in the past not that confident, and now I know being confident is half the battle! Also, I keep getting low budget clients, if I set my standards high, perhaps I will get higher paying clients that appreciate my photography as art!

Thanks so much!

Jamie M Swanson April 4, 2012 at 7:22 pm

Hi Anna!

Glad you like the site! You can get there, but at some point you have to charge appropriate prices or you’re bound to go under or burn out. Best wishes to you as you really move forward with this.

Barry Perhamsky July 10, 2012 at 11:34 am

What to charge for portraits? First, there are three types of portraits: Sessions, walk-ins, and on location.

With sessions, you spend a half to one hour with the client(s). There you take many pictures…the number of which veries. With some it may just be 10; with others it may be 15,20, or even 30. Before the acual session, you have a pre-session consultation. There you get to know the client and find out what THEY want. Although you’re the professional, it’s what they want. But however, you’re there to guide them. At the consultation, you find out what kind of family they are, their likes and dislike, etc. Then you come up with an idea…how should the lighting be, and so on. You are trying to make a beautiful photograph that documents and illistrates. Why do people have portraits made? Just to have a picture of themselves to hang on the wall and look at? NO! A portrait should be more then just a mirro image. But on the other hand,some photographers are so artistic and creative, that it looks stupid and unreal. When do you ever see a baby asleep on a horse saddle? Personaly I think this is a bad photo. You may get the technical parts right, but the image doesn’t click with me. Two young brothers, or even their sister sitting on an old pier fishing is more like it. That’s if they indeed go fishing alot.

So what to charge? $250 and up. If you’re a real photographer and take real pictures. For a session , an 11×14 canvas, not paper…framed. You get $75 down during the consultation, and at the viewing of the proos, the additional $175

Now this is just an example. You MUST deal with a reliable lab. A lab who is serious. A lab who knows the business and won’t be here today and gone tommorrow. Talk to some serious photographers who have been in the business for awhile and ask them what lab they use, and go from their prices.

The second type of portrait is the walk-in. You may have this one,two, or three days of the week. This may be all in a row or seprate days. For this you have a standart lighting set up. You take just three shots. This is ideal for babies. Parents just had a kid who’s 3,6,9 months old and want a nice professional picture. For this you may charge $60 and get 1 8×10, 2 5x7s, and 8 wallets. If you make $40 or $45 prophet, that’s good you may do 8-10 in a day.

Jamie M Swanson July 10, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Hi Barry,

Some good thoughts on different types of models. However, prices listed don’t necessarily take your expenses, desired income, or market into account, which is where this pricing guide is meant to step in and help out.

$250 in one market may be crazy low, or crazy high, so it’s not advisable to just take some random number and call it good. It may be perfect for your goals, expenses, and market, but not necessarily reflect the business and market of other photographers.

Thanks for sharing and commenting!

Dina September 7, 2012 at 3:23 am

I want to thank you alot about ur ebook
5 mistakes to loose a business , I found so many great advise there .
Thank u

Jamie M Swanson September 7, 2012 at 9:46 am

You’re welcome!

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