How to Price Your Work as a Professional Photographer
By Anete Lusina
Photography can be a financially and emotionally rewarding business. But, to give yourself a chance to succeed as a professional photographer, you need to make sure you have a well-thought-out pricing structure in place.
You may have heard others say you should "charge your worth." But, what does it mean in practice? We have the right steps to get you started if you need tips on pricing your photography work.
Calculate Your Running Costs
You may know how to take fantastic images, but you also need to make sure your business pays for itself and gives you a good profit in return. For that reason, you need to know all your current costs for running your photography business.
Knowing your expenses is essential whether you've started shooting recently or have run a business for years. You'll find it helpful to do regular audits on your business and keep track of all expenses, especially as some increase over time.
Start simple with a spreadsheet of everything you already pay as part of your business expenses. You can separate your costs into five sections:
Equipment, like your computer, cameras, lenses, lighting, and accessories
Recurring payments that cover the cost of your workspace bills, software subscriptions, equipment hire, legal and business fees
Professional service fees if you hire an accountant, assistant, second shooter, retoucher, or other professionals
Marketing expenses that pay for advertising online or in-person
Material costs that cover anything else you may include with your clients' packages, such as print products, mailing boxes, postal expenses, USBs, thank you cards, and more
Seeing all your expenses laid out, you can review what is beneficial to your business and what might be an unnecessary expense at this time. Depending on your photography business type, you may find additional costs that you need to include in the list.
Note the Hours You Work
Once you know the cost of running your business, it's time to review the hours you put into working with your clients from start to finish. Your skill and expertise deserve to be rewarded, so it's essential to include that into the equation, too.
For every client you work with, you'll spend time communicating, shooting, editing, and handling their products, like albums, prints, or online galleries. Don't forget all the backend work like admin tasks and accounting.
You may find it helpful to track your time using apps or browser extensions, like Toggl, Clockify, and My Hours. Doing so can help you see where you spend the most time and which tasks you could improve on or outsource.
Your time is valuable, and you deserve to be reimbursed. It's all too easy to forget the time spent on some tasks, especially if you're working away from your desk or using your phone to communicate with clients. But, be honest with yourself and note down where and how you spend time in your business.
Add Your Profit Margin
Once you know how much it costs to maintain your business and how much time you spend on it, you can add taxes and your desired profit margin. Doing so will give you a good idea of your minimum photography rate.
Although profit margin is a highly subjective concept and significantly differs between photographers, there are a few things you can take into account when setting your rates.
First, take a look at the perceived value of your service. Charging too low will put you in competition with others who rely on large numbers of clients while offering low prices.
Doing so can have a detrimental effect on how your clients perceive your business. You may also find it hard to get out of the lower budget range in the future if you start with low rates.
On the other hand, charging more gives an impression of higher quality service. Even if you don't have years of experience, you can create packages and services that bring value to your customers.
You may also find it helpful to look at the competition in your field. Learning more about what other photographers offer can give you a balanced pricing range to consider. But, remember that all businesses are different, and your pricing should reflect what you need to earn and your business goals.
Find Pricing Method That Works For You
Although you may have the numbers and know the minimum you need to earn, you still have flexibility in the type of pricing you offer. For example, you can charge by the hour, per project or provide a flat sitting fee with extra costs for photo usage. Or a combination of these options.
Don't forget your business is flexible, and so is your pricing structure. You should feel comfortable with the monetary value you assign to your services. If something doesn't work, change it up, and review the outcome in a few months.
Charge More For Premium Skills
As you become more skilled, experienced, and confident, you can steadily increase your fees. The same applies when you begin to specialize or niche down.
For example, you may start as an all-around wedding photographer but have a dream of basing your photography on shooting elopements in southern Europe. You know what skills and specialties you need to learn to achieve your goal. And, as your niche narrows, your fee increases.
Similarly, suppose you want to add services that complement your clients' needs, like faster turnaround, all-inclusive packages, or other skills like copywriting or design. In that case, your price should reflect the extra convenience and expertise you provide.
Automate Processes That Help You Earn More
For example, you might find client management software (CRM) a helpful tool to automate booking, payment, and communication processes. You may be shooting a wedding while the software sends out automated e-mails or booking information, helping you stay on top. At the same time, your practical approach gives clients a perception that you are trustworthy and professional.
Similarly, reducing the time spent on repetitive tasks like culling and editing — using tools like
Wand and JPEGmini — gives you a chance to focus on what makes your business stand out in the eyes of your customer.
Evaluate the cost of the product and consider the benefits it may bring your business. Remember, your goal is to increase the value of your work, not add too many expenses that don't align with your needs.