How much to charge as a photographer
This question used to haunt my dreams at night in the early days of my photography journey. Was I charging enough? Too much? Was it even relevant to what my current photography goals were?
I didn’t know the answers for a long time, but when I found them, my business started to grow at a rapid rate.
Pricing your photography services matters A LOT and it’s not something you should take lightly, especially if you are building a business!
Photography Pricing Mistakes
There are many mistakes to avoid when it comes to pricing your photography. Some you might have already encountered, but if not, keep these in mind so that you don’t fall victim to them.
1. Pricing your work based on your talent
Talent is subjective, we should all know this. When I first started my photography business, my clients LOVED their images – enough to hire me again and again. But looking back at those photos now? It’s a little embarrassing to say the least. Talent was not my strong suit and based on that alone, I probably should not have been charging anything at all.
What matters is your time and your expenses. If you aren’t even making ends meet with either of those, then what’s the point?
2. Pricing your photography based on the photographers in your area
This is a double edged sword. On one hand, it’s useful information to know what others in your area are charging (and what their clients are paying), but pricing just like everyone else can be the death of your business.
If you charge the same as everyone around you, then how do you expect to stand out in a crowded market? When you price yourself just like everyone else, you are making it much harder on yourself because you are INCREASING your competition. But when you charge a bit different than others in your area, you are decreasing your competition and making it easier for potential clients to find you.
3. What you would pay for your work
Talk about bad ideas here. YOU ARE NOT YOUR TARGET CLIENT. It doesn’t matter what you would pay, what matters is what your dream client would pay. Do they REALLY want to be spending $100 on photos or do they equate higher dollars to premium quality? Untrained eyes don’t see quality near as much as we might think, so that means that there are people who do see higher dollar as better – and there’s many people who want to pay it.
Now, this is not me saying that you should charge thousands and expect people to pay it. You need to be logical & honest with yourself. If you want to charge higher prices, then the value of your product must be conveyed and met along the way. Nobody is going to pay you hundreds or thousands if you act like a $50 photographer.
This is where a stellar customer experience comes into play – which is another topic for another day.
What should a beginner photographer charge?
Back to pricing and the most important question to answer for yourself.
As a beginner, what should you charge?
There’s a lot of conflict about this in the photography community, but here’s how I see it: your time is valuable and you deserve to get paid for it. You may not have the experience under your belt yet, but you still deserve to be paid a competitive rate!
Now if you don’t feel comfortable charging that much yet, you could dip your toes into photography with model calls while you beef up your portfolio and experience.
What’s a model call?
A model call is essentially a session that you plan and “hire” models to work for you.
Some model calls will exchange money for the model’s time, but it’s also acceptable to exchange photos for the model’s time.
It doesn’t matter what your photography niche is, a model call can be the perfect way to build your portfolio while gaining the experience you want in order to charge full price in the future.
But, you don’t have to give away everything but the kitchen sink when you plan model call sessions. There’s actually a fun & easy way to plan these sessions WHILE getting compensated for them. Here’s a bit more information on that.
Once your portfolio is well-established, you are ready to price your photography services and get paid!
Read Next: How I made $2,800 from 1 model call
Photography Pricing Formula
How you price your services can be easily boiled down in this simple formula:
Cost of materials and expenses + cost of labor = Total cost
Total cost + Desired profit = Final Price
This formula is 2 steps for a reason. First, you MUST know how much it costs to run your business. All of your expenses and overhead needs to be calculated into this equation before slapping numbers together. You also want to consider what is a fair amount of pay for your labor (it helps to know how long it takes you to travel, shoot, and edit your photos to determine this price).
Photography expenses might include camera & lenses, memory card, computer & software, presets, lighting equipment, insurance, contracts and legal fees, websites and hosting galleries, advertising costs, etc.
I recommend writing all of this out on paper to determine how much you are spending on your business/hobby and then divide this number by 12 months. This will make it much easier to set a price point when you break it down monthly.
Decide your desired monthly income
Let’s say that your income goal is $5,000 per month and it takes you $500 per month to run your business. You need to bring in $5,500 (not considering tax) to reach your desired income. So that means you’d need to earn $1,375 per week in order to reach this goal.
Next, you’ll have to determine how many jobs that will require. For some who sell prints, that could be 1 session (or less!). For others who charge less, it could be several sessions.
Just keep in mind when you price your photography, the more sessions that you need to book, the bigger client pool you need to have in order to sustain it. This means that you will need to have a solid marketing plan in place to attract new clients every month.
Read Next: 6 ways to book more photo sessions
Keep in mind that this is not a “one size fits all.” Every business is unique and every photographer will have to figure out their expenses and totals differently.
Here are some more resources to help you get started:
Income & tax spreadsheets for photographers. Input all of your data for simple & painless calculations so you can keep better track of your business finances. It’s easier to stay the course of your desired income when you know exactly what your numbers are.
Model Call Strategy & Magical pricing formula. This workshop is dedicated to help you plan your next Model Call seamlessly while getting paid. Learn exactly HOW to “hire” the best models and gain a profit at the same time.
Fully Booked Marketing Program. Swipe my entire library of booking formulas. This program was designed to help you lay the best foundation in your business so that you can become a fully booked photographer. Step-by-step