Photographer’s Pricing Guide: Product Pricing

wedding albumThis post is Part 5 of The Modern Tog’s Photographer’s Pricing Guide series. Here’s the link to Part 1 of the Pricing Guide in case you missed it.

There are many different ways to do pricing for your products that vary based upon what kind of business model you are using. For this pricing guide, we’re going to use the amount of time it takes you to place an order to help determine how much you should be charging in order to make it worth your time.

The benefit of doing it this way is that you are not wasting a bunch of time placing small orders and only making a little bit of money when you could have otherwise have been using that time to shoot more sessions at a higher profit. This makes sure you’ve priced your products so that even small orders are profitable.

We’ll be looking at how to set your price both for A la Carte items as well as items that are offered together in a collection.

Individual items: A la Carte list

Let’s look at the individual items that you would offer on an A la Carte pricing list first. Consider each item individually as if it were the only product ordered. If you do not offer an A la Carte pricing list, you can skip to the next section where we discuss product collection pricing.

For each product you offer, determine how much time it takes you in hours to deliver this product. You need to take all of your time into account – time spent taking the order from the client (this may be automated if you use a photocart of some sort), time doing additional editing or sharpening, time spent ordering the product, packaging the product, and dropping the product into the mail. Any time you spend working on the order should be included.

Next, list the total cost for that item only. You’ll need to take into any fees paid to your proofing gallery, what it costs you to buy that item, shipping costs, packaging costs, minimum lab charges, and any other costs that may apply.

Save this list – we’ll come back to it in a few moments.

Product collections

Because the time it takes to order a single print verses ten prints is not terribly different, you can offer collections of prints for a lower cost.

If you’re using a collection strategy from something like Easy as Pie (affiliate link), this is where you are able to change the prices for the various collections that you are creating.

List out the product collections that you offer. For each collection, determine the total amount of time and cost it takes you to prepare and deliver this collection just like we did above for the individual items.

Determine your final price

To find your suggested retail price, take your non-shooting hourly rate (computed in the prior post) times the amount of hours it takes you to place the order for each item on both your A la Carte list and your list of product collections. Then add on the costs that apply to that item. This is your suggested retail price.

If you’re using the Photographer’s Pricing Guide Workbook, you can enter your A la Carte items and collections in the list in column A of the Product Pricing tab. Put the total cost in column B, the time (in hours) in column C and your suggested retail price will be computed in column D automatically.

Using the number you just computed, select the retail price that you will use. Whether you stay near the suggested price or stray from it will depend on the business model that you decide to use, so this should be used as a guide for making sure that you are charging enough to make it worth your time. At the very least, I’d take the suggested price and round it to the nearest whole dollar (or nearest 5 dollars if it’s over $100). You’ll enter this in column E of the Photographer’s Pricing Guide Workbook. This is also where you’ll adjust your prices for upper collections if you use the Easy as Pie model.

Photographer's Pricing Guide Screenshot

Finally, you’ll need to compute what I’m going to call your “Retail Less Cost of Goods” amount. This is simply your selected retail price minus the cost of goods. So if you are selling a print for $100 and it costs you $20, then your Retail Less Cost of Goods amount is $100 – $20 = $80. We’ll use this in the next part of the pricing guide when we talk about packages. This is computed automatically in column F of the Photographer’s Pricing Guide Workbook.

Things to consider as you select your final price

Similar items on the A la Carte list may have suggested retail prices that are very close to each other. This is because the time it takes to order them is about the same and the cost difference between them is very low. For example, your 4×6 print may have a suggested retail price that is within a few dollars of the suggested retail price for an 5×7 print. For this reason, I charge the same for all prints 5×7 and smaller. This way if they order a 4×6, it’s because they really want a 4×6 and aren’t just trying to save some money.

You may also feel that small prints are overly expensive, but this is what you’d need to charge if only one single small print was ordered to make it worth your time. If you’d like to lower this price, you may consider applying a minimum purchase amount to A la Carte orders. If you do this, you can select a lower price to charge since people will in effect be creating their own custom collection.

If you think that the savings gained on collections verses what their cost would be if ordered from the A la Carte list is too high, so you may want to increase this price as well. Or you can simply select a nice round number near the suggested retail price and know that you’re still making enough for the order to be worth your time.

In the next post, we’ll talk about how to set up photography packages for the various types of shoots you offer and how to change them around for different business models.

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16 Responses to Photographer’s Pricing Guide: Product Pricing

  1. I love to take photographs, even though I cannot afford a Camera. I use my mobile and take some pictures that my friends find surprising that it was taken with a mobile and not a camera. I read through several articles on your blog and I’ve learned something new today.

    I like the way you write, I hope to one day get a camera and my hobby would one day become a profession.

  2. Hey Jamie – thoughts on packages vs incentives? For weddings I like packages because most people will get some version of shooting, album, digital copies and gift prints. But for portraits since there are so many print options (canvases, metals, prints, albums, holiday cards, splits, clusters, etc). I’m leading more towards incentive levels ($750, $1500, $2500 and $3500). Thoughts?

    • I give incentives in my in-person ordering sales when they meet certain levels, but I don’t publish them before hand. I like for them to feel like an extra gift or something special, and it works really great. I think it’s a good move, but then again I do mostly weddings so take that advice with a grain of salt. 😉

      • Today I have two sales/viewing sessions where I’m doing two new things – incentive levels (ranging from $750-$3000) and pre-made family albums. I figure with the holidays coming if I can show them exactly what their family album would like like, then there is a greater chance or selling albums (and hitting those higher levels). I’ll give an update later.

          • Went well – $1400 for one sale (about ~$400 in COGS). And was close to a $2k sale for the second but the husband was sick and never saw the photos. Next time I know not even to start the viewing session and just reschedule. They will buy something but I would be surprised if they do the full $2k that we discussed. Pre-designed albums were tricky – no one bought one so it was lost hours in that sense but they were closer to buying an album then any other customer I’ve had. I figure if I can get one our of 3 clients to buy an album then the design time is justified.

            • That is awesome, Joey. Thanks for the report back. I’ve found people either have no interest at all in an album or they completely love them and want one. Do you bring a sample? That seems to make a lot of difference as well when they can see and feel it. All in all, great sales, though! :)

              • I do bring albums – but I need to create a full flushmount family album. The press printed ones just don’t have the pop to get me excited about selling them. After all anyone can get a press printed book through iPhoto.

  3. I’m very interested in this topic, although I am a bit confused. Your site assists people by starting blogs and posting pictures for money? Or do you take pictures and send them in to a company?

    Please send me details. Thank you :)

    • Nope, my site helps people run their own custom photography businesses, where people come to them and pay them to photograph themselves. I don’t really speak to other photography models (like stock photography) at all. Sorry! Hope that helps!

  4. I LOVE this lesson (actually all of it!) because I’ve never understood how in the world people came up with prices for print products. It seemed like such a ridiculous mark-up and I didn’t consider MY time into that equation. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! It’s making SO much more sense now.

    • Aw, thanks Dianne! Your time is the most valuable part for sure, since it’s so limited. Glad it’s helping you see how profitable prices are created. Go rock your business!!!