Is My 16×20 Print Worth $200 or $6,000?

“This has always been a MAJOR problem for me. And namely, it’s articles like this that say “sell it at it’s real value” or “charge what it’s worth” or other such statements and then don’t go on to say what something is worth. I have no idea if a 16x20print print is worth $200 or $6,000…Where do I get THAT information? NO ONE EVER GIVES THAT INFO. Should I charge by the hour? Or per project? Why would charge $300 for a regular portrait session but double that for a glamour session where they’re essentially the same thing? How do I decide to sell my basic wedding package at $4500 instead of $1900 even though nothing has changed?

The lack of this sort of information is what prevents a lot of photographers from charging accordingly. If you go to a bodyshop to get work done on your car you can expect to pay around $75 an hour for labor. If you go grocery shopping you can expect to pay around $4 for a gallon of milk (4 litres for those of us in Canada). But photography [prices range SO much, no one actually knows what to charge and that’s the biggest problem I ever have; knowing what to charge AND justifying to my clients why I charge that much.

If only the industry could work together to make things more even on the playing field it would probably help a lot.”
~ Dave Wilson

I received this comment a day ago, and as I sat there typing up a response, it got longer and longer. I knew this is probably something more than one of you have had questions about, so I decided to make it today’s post.

Hi Dave

Thanks for your comment. Now lets dive in and let me share with you why giving you an exact price is impossible. (Don’t get frustrated yet, I’ll share a lot to help you out!)

If you go grocery shopping and buy a gallon (or 4 litres) of milk, you will pay around $4, depending on your area. The reason you do that is milk is a commodity. It’s a product. Grocery store A pretty much sells the same milk as grocery store B, hence the reason its always around $4. You may pay $5 if you run to a convenience store, but you expect to pay more because its convenient. Likewise if you decide to go organic, you will also pay a bit more because there isn’t the same demand for it and it has a higher value. But milk is milk. Nothing makes one gallon of milk better than the next.

Likewise, if you go to a bodyshop, they pretty much all do the same level of work. Your car has a scratch or a dent, and they simply have to make it look like “new”. If one worker doesn’t do a good job, or doesn’t show up for work, they can hire another one to replace him or her immediately. Yes, there is some skill. But it is a learned skill; one you can teach anybody quickly. Which is why from bodyshop to bodyshop, they pretty much charge the same amount. They have parts and labor to account for when coming up with their pricing structure.

Now we move to photography. If we treated photography like milk or like a bodyshop, we would train photographers to place people on an X in front of a backdrop, take the shot, move them to a computer for showing and selling, and send them out the door with photos in hand. The only training for the “photographer” would be to roll down the right backdrop, insert the appropriate prop on spot X, place people on the appropriate spot X, push the trigger, and do a little computer work. And yes, if this sounds familiar, its because these types of studios exist all over the world. Big box stores saw the opportunity and jumped on it.


But look at those images. Those are the photos that are the “cheesy” images. They are the ones that get placed in those “awkward photos” books and sites you see online. There is nothing magical about them. They are simply snapshots tracking a moment in time. [Read more…]

3 Reasons You Should Be Raising Your Photography Prices This Year

Think people don’t have money to spend on your photography?

Think again.

The marketplace is a dynamic entity, always changing. If someone doesn’t have money, its because the money has moved on to someone else.

Which means if your clientele isn’t spending or doesn’t have the money to spend on your photography, its time to move to a new demographic.

And if someone else is buying – an entirely new demographic – you can’t market to them the way you always have. They have their own characteristics. Their own demands. Their own wants and desires.

The person you now want to have as a client will change.

So you must change your marketing along with it.

Yep, don’t think for a minute there is no money. Its just not true. The money is there.

But you have to figure out how to make it move into your pockets. And when you do, raise your photography prices and start reaping the rewards.

1. Think Like Disney

Ask anyone in the entertainment industry, and you will soon find out times are tough. Movie theaters offer all kinds of deals – $5 Sundays and free movies for the kids on Tuesday mornings all summer long. Our local Six Flags has been dropping prices every year and finding new ways to package what they have – family of 4 season packages include free parking and free concerts this year.

Yet one place isn’t lowering their prices. They are raising them.

Disneyland announced last week that they are raising the price of a ticket to $87, a 9 percent increase. The premium annual pass that includes parking increased by 30 percent. All to take affect immediately; which means they will be earning even more this summer as the vacation season is just beginning. [Read more…]

8 Lies Newbie Photographers May Fall For

Is your client lying to you?

When you are new to the business world, its easy to want to trust everyone that walks through your door. Unfortunately not every client will live by the same ethics you do. Some clients are strictly out for “the deal” and will think nothing of trying to get everything they can.

Unfortunately, “lies” not only will take away the solid income stream you are trying to build to keep yourself in business, but it can also take away your self-confidence as a business owner, wondering who you can trust down the road.

Watch for these 8 lies you may hear from time to time. And if you hear these words coming from your client’s mouth, move forward cautiously.

Lie #1 You’ll Get A Ton Of Exposure From This

This has always been one of my favorites and I’ve probably heard this the most. People want the world given to them even when they don’t have the resources to pay for it. And since you’re just an “artist”, you get that, right? So why don’t you remain a “starving artist” and give me images for free. Then I’ll pass along your name to everyone I know and tell them what a great job you did. The problem is most people won’t follow through on telling their friends. And even if they do, chances are they will throw in a sentence or two about what a deal they got. Then any referral will also expect the deal when they visit you.

Lie #2 You’ll Have Plenty More Work In The Future

You may hear this one a lot in the commercial industry. A new company wants great photos of their current products, and expect to build on their success in the future. So they want a deal today, promising you their future projects – annual reports, model shoots, catalog projects and more. These clients mean well and you have to appreciate their big dreams. Yet in many cases these dreams simply won’t materialize. You have bills to pay. And because they are also a business owner, they should realize that too. If they want to commit to future projects in a contract, you may negotiate a pricing structure built on several shoots. Otherwise stick with your original pricing. [Read more…]

Should I Take $1,000 For This Photography Session?

Laura is a wedding photographer. Her bottom package, and bestseller, is a $2,000 coverage. She set her prices at $2,000 because she feels this is her bottom line. Anything less, and she won’t be making a profit, won’t make enough to cover her expenses, and would be working “for nothing”. Yet she routinely has people walk away saying they love her work and style, but simply can’t afford her. She’s had more than one person this year ask her for the same package at $1,000. So many in fact that she’s beginning to wonder if she should move her bottom package to $1,000. At least it will bring in $1,000, which is better than nothing.

I found a video put out by Pictage that also showcases a variety of “Laura’s” that are feeling the same things. And I know they are not alone.

So the question becomes, “Should I take $1,000 for this photograph session?”

My answer is no. And here’s why.

Lets return to Laura for a moment.

Let’s say for $2,000, she spends 6 hours on average at the wedding, photographs unlimited coverage, provides an album layout, and a variety of prints included in the package. Add in meeting and production time as well.

Now she decides to keep the same package, except lower the price to $1,000.

If she normally photographs 25 weddings per year, her $50,000 business was just sliced in half to $25,000.

Ah, but you say she wouldn’t have booked the 25 weddings this year anyway at $2,000, isn’t $25,000 better than nothing? (Providing she could book 25 at $1,000.)

Nothing other than price has changed. Meaning nothing other than profit has changed as well.

Laura will now look at those clients differently, approach photography differently, and have a completely different mindset as she’s shooting. It’s a negative place to be, and it will reflect in her work. If she is constantly grumbling to herself that she should have been paid more, she’s not giving it all. And isn’t that why you went into photography in the first place?

What should happen instead? One of three things. [Read more…]

People Will Spend Thousands On Your Photography, If …

My typical morning starts out getting up early, and reviewing my social accounts. I also head over to my Google Reader, and check out new posts on some of my favorite blogs.

Right now I have over 200 feeds into my Reader. Yep, a lot, and I don’t look at all of them every day. Instead, I have categorized the blogs, and I usually head to a category, depending on what I feel like that day.

Today I visited a blog I hadn’t been to in awhile – Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You To Be Rich. He always has a wealth of information, a lot of great ideas, and many things that will make you think. I started reading his post 5 fascinating perspectives on money, and loved the different articles and links. But one really caught my eye – his link to an article about lavish spending by blogger Jesse Mecham.

In it he talks about spending $9 on a bag of chips, and loving them so much he’d be willing to spend $20 or more on them too. Sounds a bit extreme, right? Until you read his lesson:

Spend lavishly on the things you love, and cut costs mercilessly on the things you don’t.

Great advice. Yet very difficult. Most people don’t think about what they spend, and make the distinction so they can cut where they need to, and still save money overall.

As I read further, another paragraph caught my eye.

I’m remembering the example Ramit gave about having a newborn baby where you’re picking between two photographers. One takes pictures of everything (and does a great job). But this other photographer, his whole site has great pictures of newborns. Every single line of copy on his site talks about photographing newborns — about the different nuances taken into account…all of the details he mentions (that you didn’t know you cared about until now)…

The specialized photographer makes the sale nine out of ten times. And you know that’s true!

So…with the photographer pricing for people that know they really, really want his service. Or for the bag of chips that is remarkably delicious… doesn’t price become basically moot?

Yep. Every time. Whether it’s a great economy, and money is flowing freely. Or we’re in a deep recession, and every topic in the news is on cutting spending.

We find what we love, and we’re willing to spend anything on it … if we feel it’s worth it.

So as a photographer, your goal isn’t to shoot like everyone else, present like everyone else, and charge like everyone else.

Your job as a photographer is to find your niche. Find what you love, and do it so well people start talking about you. They can’t believe what you cost, but you must be worth it because so many people trust you and use your services. They save for you. They splurge on you. And they talk about you to everyone in their circle of friends and family.

The Value Of Your Photography

Who’s value system are you selling by?

One of the biggest reasons photographers fail at business is because they never learn the golden rule of a photography business.

Price it at its true value.

I’ve heard all kinds of excuses.

“Money isn’t important; I just love to shoot.”

“I pay $xx for an 8×10, how can I charge my client THAT much?”

“I hate sales.”
You probably have said something similar along the way.

Last night I was watching a travel show on Tokyo. One of the highlights was on the new malls being built throughout the city. They showcased a variety of products being sold to consumers, including fruit picked at the peak of perfection – and being sold for hundreds of U.S. dollars. A cantaloupe with perfect skin with zero flaws or marks, and just the right amount of sugar density was on display – and of course could be yours for several hundred dollars. Really?
[Read more…]

Is Your Photography The $50 Assembly Line Product, or the $5,000 Original?

Photo by Timothy Marsee

Have you ever seen the show American Chopper? While I’m not much of a television watcher, I have seen a little of the show here and there. The bikes they make on every show are truly unique, and are more than a motorcycle – they are an experience. When you see a bike that they produce, you know instantly its value. One of a kind body styles. Chrome that sparkles. Every piece of the bike is custom made and hand produced.

Compare that with a starter bike – a Honda or a Yamaha. Those bikes are created by zipping through an assembly line, each piece being manufactured by a process, and finally put together through a process. No one takes pride in creating one finalized product – instead a person simply has a job, and they do their one job in order to create the finished product.

Custom made versus mass produced. Neither is right or wrong; its simply a different perspective.

Now let’s turn it to photography. [Read more…]

How To Stop Justifying Your Low, Low Prices

How To Justify Your Photography Prices

I’ve been writing for years now, and have posts and articles all over the web. Every week I spend some time finding things people like, and reading the comments they place on some of my content. Some posts definitely bring in the comments more than others. Take this one for instance:

Wanted: Wedding Photographer with The Credentials of Annie Leibovitz and the Price Tag Of Wal-Mart

This one still stirs up the emotions in photographers. I’ve found everything from:

“Thanks – you’re right on target.”


“No way. People love me because I charge reasonable rates. I could never charge high prices for my photography, knowing what the final output costs me.”

So let me ask you a question. Is it okay that a surgeon makes hundreds of thousands of dollars every year?
[Read more…]

Are You Pricing Your Photography To Stay In Business?

“I’m new at my photography business. A friend asked me to photograph her wedding. Because I didn’t know what to charge, I found a few sites online and used their packages to build mine. Then I lowballed it because they have been at it longer and have portfolios in place, plus a website and other marketing. So I have a couple of packages in place, but I’m not sure if this is the best method. What else should I do to come up with my pricing?”

I get questions like this all the time.

When you head into a store to buy a new pair of shoes, the store doesn’t guess at its price. The price is established by looking at: materials, expenses, production, marketing, and business expenses. It’s a refined process to make sure that every time a pair of shoes sells, all costs are covered AND the store makes a healthy profit as well.

Without a profit, there is no way a business can stay in business. And if you don’t plan for it upfront, you’re on the road to failure.

Guessing or using another photographers numbers won’t work because you don’t have the same variables as that photographer. You have to take into account many things, including:

  • Where you are located
  • What your competition is doing
  • What your clients expect
  • What you expect

You see, everyone has a different purpose for running a photography business.

Some people want to make a little extra cash to pay for a new lens, and bring the family out to dinner on Friday night.

Some people want to replace the income they lost when they faced a layoff from their companies.

Some people want to be incredibly successful, and be one of the best photographers in the world.

Each of these people will have different goals and structures to their business models. And they will approach their photography in many different ways.

So the only way to truly price your photography is by knowing up front what you hope to accomplish with your business.

Where do you see yourself 5 years from today?

If you’ve always struggled with how to price your photography, you’re going to be excited by my latest guide, Pricing Your Photography: How To Set Your Prices To Build  A Six Figure Business. I’ve kept this guide short and easy to read, yet powerful to walk you through an easy way to determine exactly what you should be charging for your weddings and portraits. I cover:

  • How much you should truly make as a professional photographer
  • Determining what the right price really is
  • Creating packages that sell
  • Setting up wedding packages
  • Setting up portrait packages

And a whole lot more.

My goal has always been to help 1,000 photographers break into a six figure income level. Now with Pricing Your Photography to help you develop the perfect package for your business, you’ll be one step closer to achieving your goals too.

Visit Pricing Your Photography: How To Set Your Prices To Build  A Six Figure Business today.

How Much Do I Charge For A Second Photographer?

Every morning I sit down at my computer and spend the first hour or so out on social sites answering questions and sharing information with my followers.

Today as I was out on one of the many photography forums I visit, I started answering a question:

If I add a wedding package that has a second shooter, how much should I charge the client?

There are actually several issues to this question.

First, there is a big difference between an assistant and a second photographer.  

An assistant is your “gofor” – they go for this and go for that. In other words, they are there to carry your bags, make sure your cameras are ready for you, help set up the family shots, gather groups for photos, etc. They may shoot, but only as an added bonus. And only if things are slow and it’s the best use of their time.

A second photographer should be capable of shooting the entire wedding by him or her self. You should be able to leave them specific duties, knowing full well their images will match your quality.  You can place them in an album next to yours, and the client will never know which photographer took the image.

[Read more…]