One of the most difficult things as a photographer is pricing your photography services. You want to find the right balance between pricing low enough to get the most assignments while maximizing your profit.
All that while being comfortable with the prices you set.
So, in this guide, I’m going to share with you a couple of the best pricing strategies to use, and how to convince your clients that you’re worth your prices without feeling guilty.
Let’s do this!
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Why Photographers Feel Guilty Charging For Their Time
When I just started out, I made it a point to never work for free although I was a beginner.
So I charged a small fee every time someone wanted me to take pictures, even if it was just $50.
As you might imagine, I had tons of guilt about charging a fee as a beginner. (Even though I still think it’s the right thing to do)
But even when I got better and became a pro I struggled with charging what I was worth.
So why did I feel this way? Why do we feel guilty charging for our work?
In my experience, there are 3 main reasons photographers feel guilty charging (enough) money for their work:
- You think you’re not good enough because you believe you need more experience or skills.
- You don’t realize the value of your skills to others. In other words, you have a talent and just say “it’s nothing special.”
- You’re afraid of charging friends (or friends-of-friends, or family) will damage the relationship. (In that case, read this)
How can you turn this negative thinking around and start charging for your work? And how can you charge even more money and maximize your profit, knowing you fully deserve it?
Let’s see how you can justify your photography prices to yourself and your clients, and explore some of the best pricing strategies you can use.
4 Ways To Justify Your Photography Prices To Yourself And Your Clients
Whatever pricing strategy you’ll be using, it’s important that you’re confident in whatever pricing you decide.
This will also make it easier to convince your clients that you’re worth your fee.
So here are 4 ways to communicate your value when you’re trying to bring in an assignment and to justify your pricing to yourself.
Realize That You Help To Create Value
One of the best ways stop feeling guilty about your prices and to convince clients is to understand the problems you help solve and the value you bring.
- If you shoot events, you are helping a business market themselves on social media, magazines, and everywhere else they’ll use your images. And if you shoot weddings or other personal events you’re providing them with lasting memories to cherish for years.
- If product or fashion shots are your focus then you’re helping a brand be more professional and sell more products.
- If your main thing is shooting professional portraits, you’re proving your clients with professional images to help with their branding, look more professional and sell themselves better.
- If you sell your prints you help people decorate their house, providing a warmer and inspiring home.
So even if your photos don’t directly lead to revenue for your clients, it can still help them. For example, are people spending more time on their website? Are your clients getting more customers?
Maybe try talking to a couple of your clients about their goals and distill some metrics in which you can express your influences to other potential clients. Something like: “My images resulted in 50% more click-throughs on social media for client X”.
Just remember, value isn’t always expressed with a dollar sign.
Recognize That People Are Buying Time
For every one time is finite, so it’s one of the things people value most.
That means that many business owners will hire you if it means that they’re able to use that time for something else.
Maybe they could take the images themselves (or so they think when you tell them your price), but that would rob them of the possibility to do something else, or enjoy the event themselves if it’s a wedding or something else personal.
So if you don’t generate direct income for your clients, use the angle of time and how much they will be saving of it. It’s the one thing they can’t afford to lose.
Know That People Value More What They Pay For
Do you remember the last time you got something for free? Maybe it was a free sample, or some good advice, or a goodie bag.
Chances are that you didn’t really use or value it, even if it was worth quite a bit.
Now think about the last thing you bought and had second thoughts about. You probably started to come up with ways to justify buying it, and even started to defend it when others had some critique.
This is called Post-Purchase-Rationalization and can work to your advantage.
Most of us value what we pay for over what we get for free, and justify purchases we have doubts about. So do your customers.
Another example: As a huge exception I recently shot some images for the business of one of my best friends, because I owed him a favor.
A couple of weeks later I asked him how he used them.
He didn’t do anything at all with my images I gave him for free. This while my other clients would have paid around $1000 for the same assignment.
So, when money is involved, clients automatically value the result more.
A Little Is A Lot More Than Nothing
As we saw above there are many reasons why people struggle with pricing their photography or charging for their work, especially beginners.
So they think: “I’ll just do it for free this time.”
But how long will “free” pay your bills?
When you charge nothing, you’re undervaluing yourself. If someone has a problem and you can provide value and a solution with your photography it’s fair to ask for money.
Even when you’re just starting out it’s important to at least ask for something. Charging $1 is better than doing something for free.
As a beginning photographer, I suggest that you ask for at least $25/hr.
Then, gradually increase your prices as you become more confident, gain more experience and you can provide more value to your customers.
I started out with asking $5/hr (shame on me). Now my average price is $200/hr depending on the assignment.
That’s an increase of 4000%!
Guess what happened?
- More assignments.
- Higher-quality customers who appreciate what I do more.
So if you’re feeling guilty or unsure charging for your work, just start small and increase your pricing as you grow.
Pricing your photography can be confusing, complicated, and scary. But now that you know why you should charge what you’re worth, here are some great ideas and strategies to use when you’re figuring out your photography prices.
Strategies And Tricks To Price Your Photography & Charge for Your Time
Pricing your photography is at the same time art and science, and includes a lot of psychological factors as well.
There are many strategies you can use, depending on what you offer, your experience and your clients.
Below I’ve listed some of the best ways to determine the price of your photography, from more basic beginner tactics to advanced tricks.
Go try them out!
Bonus: Get my “evil” pricing strategy that I used to triple my clients and double my price per assignment.
Basic Pricing Strategies
These are some common and easy ways to price your photography, great for when you’re just starting your business.
Charging An Hourly Rate For The Hours You Work
The most common pricing strategy for photographers is an hourly rate.
It’s also the easiest to get started and gives the client a good idea of the price he’ll have to pay.
The hard part is figuring out what that rate should be.
One way is to start from the yearly salary you would like to earn (or your previous salary).
Let’s do some math:
- Your goal: $70000.
- Work weeks per year: 50 (You deserve some vacation).
- Working hours per week: 40.
This means that to earn $70000 dollar your hourly rate should be $35 dollar (=70000 / (50×40)).
However, this simplified situation doesn’t account for a couple of things:
- The above assumes a 40-hour workweek. Especially in the beginning, you’ll struggle to find enough assignments to charge 40 hours a week. Or maybe you get sick and can’t work.
- Unlike when working in a company, you’ll have to take care of your own benefits like health insurance and things like that.
So adjust your pricing accordingly.
You can double or even triple the rate above for example, or just make your own calculation with the number of billable hours you expect to have during a typical work week:
- Hourly Rate = Goal / (Billable Hours Per Week * Week A Year You Want To Work)
As I said, an hourly rate is an easy way to pricing your photography and ideal if you’re just getting started.
Intermediate Pricing Strategies
Instead of getting stuck with an hourly rate, you can also price your photography based on the end result or the value you’ll create.
Of course, you’ll need to have a pretty good idea of the result you can provide for your client.
- You agree on a fixed amount of images to deliver.
- You estimate (or know) that a client will have a revenue of about $10000 dollar when he uses your images.
For the last case, you can also create your own rates based on what you think the value of a certain use is. Maybe you determine that a client posting your images on social media will generate $5000 for him, a publication in a magazine $10000 and when used on packaging $50000.
When working like this I mostly charge %10 of the value I think (or know) my images will create. Of course, keep in mind your client. For a big company like Deloitte I’ll double that, and for a local bakery this might be lower.
So to start billing project-based try to figure out: What value do you create?
Just like we saw earlier, this value doesn’t have to be expressed in dollars. If your client saves 10 hours by hiring you, that could mean thousands of dollars of saved time to them.
A word of warning: Make sure you also have a good idea of the time it will take you to complete the job, and create clear agreements with your client about what happens when you’ll have to go over that because of him (clients often change their mind halfway).
Advanced Pricing Strategies
Selling your photography services as packages is one of the best ways to level up your pricing strategy.
Bonus: Get my “evil” pricing strategy that I used to triple my clients and double my price per assignment.
Mostly used by wedding photographers (and sometimes portrait photographers) but something every photographer should experiment with because there are some great benefits:
- Package pricing helps your clients decide and thus, makes you more money. Many psychology studies show that people are very bad at knowing what they want (often leading to not buying anything at all), so giving them a couple of defined options helps them choose and know exactly what they’ll get.
- Pricing your photography as packages helps you reach a wider audience. Different price points cater to possible clients with various needs and budgets. Once a client “tested you out” with a lower pricing package he might move on to higher paying packages later on. Make sure to read The Curve or get my book notes from the book to learn more about this.
So although there are some great reasons to use packages in your photography pricing, it’s not easy to get right.
That’s why I’ve created this small guide:
Step 1: Determine the basics included in every package.
Start with choosing the things that every client will get, independent of what package they’ll choose.
- Free call or coffee meeting to nail all the details and give some advice.
- All images delivered digitally via WeTransfer.
- A turnaround time of 2 weeks.
If you’re not sure which things to use yet, don’t worry. As you become more familiar with client needs, you’ll be able to adjust as needed.
Step 2: Add additional unique benefits to each package.
I recommend you start out with at least 3 packages.
The first and cheapest one should just include the basics we determined above. The, add new benefits that clients value to the other ones, increasing the price with each.
Benefits could be:
- Faster turnaround times (3 days instead of 2 weeks).
- More hours of shooting.
- A print or album.
Of course, higher packages can also just mean more or larger images, different licenses, or anything else we’ve discussed in this guide.
Step 3: Present them visually clearly showing the differences.
The last step is to present your packages in a nice format that highlights what every package includes, and the difference between each.
Most often you’ll see this displayed with pricing tables.
There’s a reason why just about every online service advertises their plans using this format.
It’s been proven that pricing tables put the focus on the created value and benefits instead of the underlying cost. And it makes it easier for a potential customer the weigh the pros and cons of each package.
Of course, there are other options for presenting your packages, and we’ll talk more about them later in this guide.