How Much Should a New Photographer Charge

Figuring out how much should a new photographer charge for his/her services is no mean feat because, in most cases, we are talking about self-employed people and a multitude of factors. The location, competition, quality of the work, type of work, and business renown all amount to a complicated equation that has no universal solutions.

This is by no means an industry-specific dilemma. All individuals who manufacture products or provide services that touch the realm of the subjective are confronted with the same problem: the impossibility of adequately quantifying their worth.

We are talking portraits, weddings, custom photo shoots, real estate and so on. Established photographers have numerous advantages, such as experience and a certain reputation, that allow them to set their own rates, within the tendencies of the said economic environment naturally.

how much should a new photographer charge

Trickier still is the impossibility of outlining a definitive schematization in a confined space, because of the walloping differences between the different states. Therefore, I will limit myself to rather general considerations on the main concerns on how much should a new photographer charge for weddings, portraits, photo-shoots, real estate, followed by the presentation of a deductive procedure that I found particularly eye-opening and which should be helpful for those of you who want to delve deeper into the matter.

The Crude Statistics

Do not paint a relevant picture, from my point of view. A chaotic aggregate of numbers encompassing the whole of the US is probably why some of the newbies are so confused to begin with. An attempt to break down these numbers is a something of a Herculean task.

Statistics from the Department of Labor state that a photographer makes about $15 an hour, for a median annual wage just north of $30000. This statistic may be helpful further along the way, for judging the average worth of an hours’ labor.

These figures, while characterized by a wide circulation on the Internet, do not take into account the different attitudes regarding the profession between, let’s say, Maine and Montana vs. California and Texas.

If you are a new photographer and do not wish to get a headache, my advice is to get a professional opinion from the academic or accounting fields, because analyzing data by yourself may point you down an erroneous path.

The point where these raw figures prove their worth is in the mapping out of trends. For example, projected data shows that photographers working in the media industry should expect a radical downfall in the number of jobs and their rates. On the other hand, those who ply their trade for scientific research corporations (especially aeronautics) are on the rise in median income, yet they should expect a stiffer competition in the near future.

Stats on Specifics

Those of you looking for instant gratification in the form of numbers for specific activities should take these amounts with a pinch of salt. The best advice on this topic is offering clients various options of personalization. Moreover, adjust yourself to the idea of trying your hand at many types of events, both for professional purposes as well as marketing ones.

A large survey has been compiled for 2015 over at smartshoot.com, that boasts numbers that are more than satisfying – the better part of the US states, rounded by countries with similar economic profiles from Western Europe, East Asia, and Mexico. Adjusting your rates for a beginner status is difficult, however, one should never make the mistake of underselling. The average numbers go like this:

  • Wedding Photography starts at $1000 for the four-hour, no assistant variation while the works (translating into whatever the bride requires) cost a minimum of $3000. As a side note, if you cater engagements, then halving the stated amounts should place you in a correct interval.
  • Portraits present the largest variation in price, with difficulties on attaching a tag. Modest, single portraits in natural surroundings go for a minimum of $150 an hour. On the other end, senior portraits that include equipment transportation commence at $1000 a day.
  • Real Estate shooting prices come at about the same delimitations as portraiture, an average of $200 for the hour and $1000 for a whole day.
  • Product imagery stands out in this survey, because of the apparently subjective taxonomy, with a median price of $300 for small shoots against natural backgrounds and going for as much as $1500 for very large affairs.

Blue Eyes on a monetary background

A Practical and Humanizing Approach

The most helpful take on the question of pricing seems to be that at sproutingphotographer.com. It is an approach that exhibits the author’s practical knowledge, topped by his perspective on economy as truly part of the social sciences. How much should a new photographer charge becomes a matter of balancing 5 factors and integrating them for a formula that transpires common sense.

The main, highly quantifiable ingredients of the recipe, are competition, cost-of-goods, and your own financial target. The last one works better if you aspire at being, or better yet already are a full-time photographer. This is because you have a good idea just how much is your labor cost, based on a sound history.

The cost of the goods, cost of labor, median price of your competitors and final annual target conspire into a price per minute (or per hour) coefficient that provides you with a clear-cut view in estimating every service you offer, regardless of the degree of sophistication or customization.

Now, we have arrived at the point where the subjective factors come by – quality of work, personal confidence and externally-perceived value (something I like to call renown). With these in mind, when you are new to photography as a business, you should come up with a figure (ideally between 0.75 and 1) by which you should multiply your first figure, the result of the so-called objective factors.

This method is actually a variation on concepts set forth in a book, “Pricing for Profit”, available on Amazon. Practical applications of economics are becoming easier to grasp and kind of fun.

Camera Shooting Dollar Bills

When it comes to approximating the value of your own work, you have to be able to successfully balance between the slopes of perceived arrogance and self-induced humility. A better understanding of the concept of opportunity cost (both as an economic term and philosophical thought) might aid you in this. The essential is that there are no golden rules to how much should a new photographer charge, just wide-ranging general guides.

Image Sources: 1, 2, 3

Price vs. Value: What Is My Photography Worth?

When you say “What is my photography worth?” are you asking:

What price should I be charging for my photography?

Or are you asking?

What is the value a customer would get by working with me and having one of my images hanging on their walls?

Aha. Two different things right?

If you look at price, you simple are looking for a number. And that’s when you get in trouble. That’s when you start looking at all the other photographers out there, and concentrate on the numbers they use in their own business.

But a number is a number.

Value is what changes it all.

Value isn’t a number. It’s an intrinsic assessment of what you have to offer. If you hang two portraits on your wall, one snapped by a seven year old child, the other by Annie Leibovitz, one would definitely argue the Annie Leibovitz has a lot more value to it.

Yet they are both portraits of you. What is the difference? [Read more…]

Do You Really Want The Help or Are You Just Making Excuses?

I had to laugh in an ironic sort of way.

Why is it that the people that need the most help often are the same ones with the most closed minds?

Let me paint you a story.

A photographer runs a business, yet can’t seem to understand why she’s struggling to survive. It’s not her fault after all. It’s the economy. It’s the industry. It’s everybody else. And occasionally she needs to confirm it in her mind that it isn’t her – it’s everything else. The odds are stacked against her and she’ll just have to wait it out until things return to “normal”.

So every once in awhile she does a little investigating to prove she isn’t at fault. She orders my Pricing Your Photography and skims it. Not reads and applies it. Skims it. Nothing new, AND SHE”S REALLY SHORT ON MONEY, so she returns it for her money back.

That’s perfectly fine with me. You see I’ve had hundreds of people buy my Pricing Your Photography, with only a handful returned (from people just like her). And the comments have always been overwhelmingly positive –

“I can’t believe how low I was pricing before. I’ve almost doubled my rates, and now I know why.”

“Now I know my business will be successful.”

“I’ve never looked at my prices like this before. You made something I used to guess at into a science.”

Yet I’m always intrigued when I hear the “nothing new after skimming it” that comes with a return. So I did a little investigating to determine how this photographer really is priced. And what I found didn’t surprise me – its definitely what I expected. [Read more…]

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…]

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…]