This post is the final installment 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.
If this is the first time working through a pricing guide, you may be shocked at how much you need to charge to make your desired profit. If you are just starting out and still building a portfolio, you may not feel like you have the experience or quality to be charging that amount yet, or maybe you simply do not believe that anyone in your market would be willing to pay those prices.
Let’s tackle these issues one at a time.
I’m brand new at this – I can’t charge that much!
We all have to start somewhere. My own personal journey started with lots of photos of my kids. Then one day a colleague of mine saw my photos, raved about them, and asked if I would take photos of her kids. She insisted upon paying me, but I had no idea what to charge. I finally decided on $50, and at the time I still worried that she would think it was too high.
It’s amazing how much I’ve changed and how much more confidence I have in our work and our pricing now.
The one regret is that I didn’t have a better handle on my photography prices right away. As my experience progressed and my work improved, my prices increased dramatically and I lost many of my early customers who got some pretty amazing deals and weren’t willing to pay my new higher prices.
Here’s what I wish I had done differently. I wish I would have done a pricing guide like this, realized how much I’d need to be charging to be profitable, and then priced my work at that level but offer a “portfolio building discount” to people as I built up my business. That way when they returned in the future for more portraits, they would be expecting my higher prices and wouldn’t have been so shocked.
A word of warning: Discounting cuts directly into your profits, and it can de-value your work in the eyes of the people buying it. It’s also far too easy to fall into the trap of “I just need more shoots!” and keep discounting WELL beyond when you should have stopped.
If you do this, have a plan and stick to it. For example, start at 60% off. Then decrease the amount of discount for every shoot you do after that. For example, the first shoot would be 60% off, then the next would be 55% off, then the next would be 50% off, and this would continue until you’re charging your full prices. Then stop discounting. By this time, you WILL be worth your prices.
Tell this to your customers so that they know that they are getting a special discount that won’t last forever, and if you mention that it’s decreasing over time then they will be more likely to tell their friends to book you soon so they can also get a discount.
There’s no way people in my market will pay that much
Quite frankly, you may be right. But generally people feel this way because they are not in their own target market and have a hard time charging a price that they themselves wouldn’t pay when there are plenty of other people out there who think it’s completely reasonable. Let’s explore this a bit.
Who is your market? I am pretty sure that we’d price myself out of business if we were charging $10,000 for a portrait package in the small mid-western town that we live in. But maybe our market isn’t located here in our town. Maybe we’re targeting high-end clients who are willing to fly us to their private island and take lifestyle photos of their family for a weekend. Then $10,000 may seem completely reasonable.
Just because you’d never pay $10,000 for a photo session doesn’t mean that you can’t target a market that would pay that much.
Determining your market is incredibly important. If your prices are high, you’ll need clients who value your work enough to pay that price. This means that many of your friends may think you are too expensive and not come to you for photos. It’s okay to say no to your friends if they don’t value your work enough to pay your prices. I give you full permission! Instead, find ways to get your target market in the door.
Let’s say your target market isn’t willing to spend as much on photos as you’d like them to.
You have three options.
First, you can give your current prices a try and see where it takes you. New photographers are often surprised at how much more people are willing to spend on beautiful images of their family. We often under-estimate this.
If that doesn’t work, there’s always the option of lowering your prices. But if you do this, you’ll need to shoot more sessions to make the same amount of profit. Do what you have to do, but know that you’ll have to work harder or expect to make less.
Third, you can choose a different target market. Find the people who do value your work enough to pay the prices that you charge.
I want to know more!
We’ve barely scratched the tip of the iceberg on this subject, but we’ll be talking more about pricing and marketing in future posts. The best way to make sure that you don’t miss any posts is to subscribe to our blog via email.