Pricing your photography is hard.
What do you charge for your service? How much is too much? How much is not enough? What skill level are you? Can you do the job?
There’s a lot of variables and even more possibilities.
However as you get better and better as a photographer running a business, you also become more and more confident with your sense of self-worth relative to the industry. You become more aware of yourself and your skills and your needs. After awhile, pricing becomes second nature.
For me when I’m pricing my photography, I think about three things:
- What I’m worth
- What the expenses are
- What the renumeration means to me
Understanding your worth as a photographer
This is perhaps the most important thing to know when you are pricing your photography services.
There’s two big things to consider here.
The first is trying to get a gauge of what your skill-to-job match is. If a job comes in with a specific brief, you have to ask yourself: Do I have the skills to do this job well?
If you’re just getting started, of course there’s the notion of fake it till you make it, and that’s totally fine, but whatever your level is, only you can determine how well you can execute on a job or brief.
The second thing is understanding your industry and where you fit in. The goal here is to really understand your industry better than anyone else.
If you’re a wedding photographer, it’s in your best interest to not only know every single wedding photographer in your local area, but to also know how much they charge, a rough idea of their process, and what deliverables they end up with.
When you know those things, you can place your skill and expected deliverables on a scale relative to what the industry rate is, and adjust up or down depending on the other variables coming up later in this article.
To sum up, when pricing your photographer services, you have to know where you stand. Determine your level, strengths and weaknesses relative to the industry so that you have a good baseline of what to charge.
The expenses (and hidden costs) of a job
Time is an expense. Perhaps the biggest expense.
Unfortunately in photography, the idea of how long a job might take is often misunderstood. Most people think that they can charge by the hour for a shoot and be done with it. The reality is that you’re selling yourself short if you don’t also consider things like:
- Overage allowance (in case the shoot has to go longer)
- Travel time to and from the location
- Any prep time - Organising models, location scouting, finding props, etc
- Communication time - Time spent talking to your team, finding information, etc
- Post processing
- Assistant's time
All of these things take time away from you, and you should be charging for them when thinking about pricing your photography.
The other thing to consider is defining the hidden costs of a job.
Be conscious about being out of pocket for things like:
- Studio hire
- Travel costs to and from a location
- Models and/or assistants
- Location fees
- Hiring equipment like lights/strobes etc.
Hidden costs are the worst. Make sure you charge for them ahead of time.
What works for me to cover all these expenses is block-based charging. I either charge a half day rate or a full day rate, never by the hour. On top of that, I’ll share projected “project expenses” with a client for all the hidden costs that I might encounter.
Pricing your photography in this way is a good method to ensure you give yourself financial space to do the job well.
What the renumeration means
This is just a fancy way of asking yourself: What does the payment mean to me?
Financially, do you need the money? There’s no shame in increasing your prices if you’ve got a full calendar and enough money coming through. The demand for your services is high, and your pricing should reflect that.
However, there’s also no shame in decreasing your prices if it’s a particularly slow month, or if the job has other forms of renumeration that come with it.
On that note, consider that renumeration actually comes in many forms aside from just putting money in your pocket:
- Exposure - Although you should almost never do a job just for exposure unless it’s massive, which it most likely is not)
- Relationship building - Is the relationship you build here going to be important?
- Portfolio building - Can this job help build your portfolio?
- Repeat business - Will you get more jobs like this in the future?
- Experiences - Does this job contain rare experiences that would cost a lot to do or are otherwise unavailable to the public?
- Brand - Is working for this client going to help get you other clients in the future?
- Charity - Are you supporting a cause?
Sometimes, non-financial renumeration actually outweighs the money that ends up in your pocket. That’s totally fine. As long as you’ve done the thinking ahead of time and deemed it worthy of pursuing.
Does it meet your goals?
Finally, when you understand your worth, understand your expenses in time and money, and you know what the renumeration means to you and your business, you can weigh up how much those things are worth relative to how much you need to make this year in order to succeed as a business or freelancer.
This part is important. In business, moving up and to the right isn’t the be all and end all of metrics. You need a goal and a destination to reach, and pricing your photography well will help get you there.
Find out how much you need to make this year in order to be successful (however you define success) and price accordingly. Play the big game - think longer term.
After all, your time is valuable. Price it as such.
Best of luck.
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