How to Price Your Photography Services 3

Pricing Your Photography Services, Part 3: How to Price Your Sessions

How to Price Your Photography Services 3Welcome to Part 3 of our How to Price Your Photography Services for Success series! If you haven’t already read the first two parts, you’ll want to go through those first (Part 1 here, Part 2 here). In this post, we finally get into pricing your actual services!

Few subjects seem to confound and fascinate photographers as much as how to price their products and services.

We all love to find out what other local photographers charge for their wares and then unscientifically calculate what we will charge based on our findings. The big mistake with pricing like your competitors is that you’re assuming that they know what they are doing and are making the kind of money that you are planning on making.

Before you jump in, there’s a few points to consider!

Photography is an art form and we all like to think of ourselves as artists. We should all strive to improve our photographic skills and to develop a style that reflects our vision and way of seeing the world. The goal is develop a recognizable look that will resonate with our clients and potential clients.

However, if we were to lay out the work of five working professional photographers would the public really be able to see much difference? Probably not.

That’s where an important factor other than your actual photographs comes in.

Photography is an interesting business because we provide both a product and service.

That’s why the service portion of the equation is so important. When your clients feel a connection to you they will be much more thrilled with their final portraits.

It all starts with their first phone call, through the fun they have at the session, to the viewing of their images where you guide them through the selection process and to the delivery of their beautifully presented portraits.

Just as a night out at a fancy 4-star restaurant is about more than just the food, so is a photography session!

When customers look back, it is the entire experience that they will remember.

It is a big event for most mothers to select a photographer, plan the perfect outfits for the children, and even get their hair and makeup done. They want to know that they are in good hands and that their fears will be diminished and their dream images realized.

When pricing your services, it’s important to first consider how premium of an experience you’re going to offer. If you can provide a four-star experience, you can charge a whole lot more than an in-and-out photo studio.

As a note, at our studio, we explain to clients that the session fee is to reserve the time that we will spend together creating their beautiful images at the location of their choice. It does not include any portraits or digital files. (Don’t get me started on selling the files! That’s a topic for another day.)

When I first began almost 20 years ago, the session fee needed to cover the cost of film and the processing so people for the most part understood there was some expense incurred by the photographer. Now with digital, those film costs are gone, and some people think there isn’t any cost to us.

But that of course is not true. There is actually a bit more work involved now, including downloading images to the computer, backing up the images and sorting through them.

Also, there is the chance that after all your time and effort with a client, they do not purchase anything, so you want to make sure that you were at least paid well for your time. Now that is an extreme circumstance and why it is so important to know your ideal client and market to them.

Costs to consider: factoring in intangibles

Retakes: Keep in mind that if your client wants a retake you will have to perform all the listed activities again at no charge (if that is your policy,) so you want to build a cushion for that into your price.

Weather: Another factor with outdoor sessions is that you are at the mercy of the weather. You may travel to a beach and then get rained out or find it’s just too windy and have to reschedule again. Which means you have to unpack, repack and make the trek again. That’s why we charge at least double on the outdoor sessions versus indoor sessions.

Travel: One last thing to consider is that if you are in an area of the country where towns are far apart, I would think about adding an additional mileage fee for travel over whatever number of miles you feel is reasonable. If you’re driving for hours rather than spending your time photographing sessions, you are not making money.

Costs to consider: primetime and more

Primetime: Another consideration is prime-time bookings; weekends, evenings and holidays. Some studios will charge more for these slots just as the airlines and hotels do.

Large groups: Another circumstance to think about is large groups. We will charge an extra $25 – $50 when we are booked to photograph large family reunions or large groups when there are going to be 15+ people, as these events require a lot of extra work.

Can I use these prices when I’m just starting out?

If you are just starting out and don’t really have any clients,  it is okay to just breakeven with your session fees so that you can build experience, your portfolio, and a following. As you begin to grow you can bump up your fee a bit each year or even twice a year until you get to where you should be.

However, the wisest technique for pricing when you’re starting out is to determine what your regularly priced rates would be, as any experienced photographer would, but to then let your first clients know that you are offering them a Special Portfolio Building Price (for example, half off your regular rate). This way, they are not surprised if they come back to you in a year and your fee is higher. (We have a whole article on how to do this – you can check out the post on Portfolio Building Pricing here!)

This method also makes it a lot easier to charge higher prices early on, since you can just offer smaller and smaller discounts as your portfolio grows rather than gradually bump your price up (which can be a stressful process for many business owners!)

I hope this exercise has been helpful! I realize you’ve got a LOT of information to consider from this series of posts and that it is MUCH more fun to take photographs than to think about business and marketing…

…However, mastering the business side of things is what will separate the successful photographers from the starving artists.

It takes a lot of hard work to create a successful studio (and to shift your mindset to start thinking of yourself as an entrepreneur as well as an artist), but the rewards and freedom are worth the effort.

Wishing you great success!


Next Steps:

Once you’re done with this post, be sure to check out our wrap-up article to help you implement your new pricing!

Here’s the links for the rest of the series & resources:

I want to hear your thoughts!

In the comments below, please write: are there any questions you have about the service pricing process? What are the key takeaways you’ve learned throughout this Photography Service Pricing for Success series?

I’ll be here to write back to each of your comments. 🙂

Want a shortcut?

pricing-course-3DGet access to our entire step-by-step plan for creating profitable pricing! Includes 8 video lessons, our automated Excel Pricing Workbook (no hand-written calculations needed), the actual Pricing Guide we use at my studio and more!

Click Here to Learn More!