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PPA Today: Photography Pricing Archives

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By Lisa Sharer

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It's happened to all of us. Probably more than once. Someone asks you what your rate is, and when they hear it, they are appalled. You start to feel a little flush. You start to think, maybe I went too high. You start to want to back into the nearest bush.

We're here to tell you to kick that bush to the curb! Part of becoming a professional photographer starts with confidence. If every photographer folds, then no one gets paid. By demanding a solid rate, you're not only helping yourself, you're helping all the photographers that come after you.

Here's a recent, completely real, interaction that we applaud:

A photographer is out and about taking pictures. He is approached by a gentleman who notices him:

Gentleman: You take pictures? 

Photographer: Yes

Gentleman: How much do you charge?

Photographer: It really depends on what you want.

Gentleman: Just walking around downtown with you taking pictures of me.

Photographer: My portrait sessions start at $$.

Gentleman: (Laughs) Oh, come on, man.

Photographer: (Without hesitation) This is my full-time job, and I'm really good at it. Here's my card. Check out my portfolio, and let me know if you're interested.

If you believe in yourself, your clients will believe in you. Set your prices, stick by them, and above all, do NOT be embarrassed by them. Remember that you spend many hours--collective portions of your life--perfecting your craft and building a business. You have every right to charge fairly for your service, and you should never be ashamed of it.

"Listen up photographers. Know what you're worth. State it with conviction. Know when to bend, but know that bending should be the exception. There will be clients that will see your worth and pay your fee." -Aaron Coury, Photographer.

If you would like more help on how to sell yourself and your service, check out PPA's See The Difference® resources. PPA members have access to a plethora of sales and marketing tools to assist in promotion and in-person sales. If you're not a member, you should join today!


By Tristin Vaccaro

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Having to justify your prices to clients is always nerve wracking, but why should it be? You work tirelessly to ensure quality service and you already know your worth, so don't be afraid to help others see the value in what you do as well! Yes, it's unfortunate that you should have to justify yourself in the first place, but when the inevitable conversation comes up, remind clients of these very valid reasons for your pricing structure. 

1. The Quality of Your Work: Your photos speak for themselves, and the quality of your photos should be the number one factor clients consider before even thinking about price. Your portfolio is the purest reflection of you and how you, specifically, capture people's fondest memories. This is really your chance to show off and explain to clients what you can do for them. Showing clients your previous works and describing their quality should be your go-to example of the value you bring to the table.  

2. Testimonials: Word of mouth and customer referrals can play a huge role when validating your pricing to a potential client. If every one of your customers enjoys working with you and loves the photos you've provided, why not brag about it? Consider adding a "Testimonials" page to your website or ask satisfied clients to leave a five-star review on your Facebook page.

3. Education: There's nothing wrong with being a self-taught photographer, but there is something to be said for an individual who continues their education in the photography industry. Whether you have a Bachelor's degree in photography or participated in PPA's Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) program, higher photography education shows clients your dedication to the craft. Let your clients know about your photography background and how those experiences have made you a better photographer. 

4. Personal Investments: Those questioning your pricing probably don't think about all the investments you've made yourself. The expensive camera equipment, editing software, and gas to and from locations probably cost you a pretty penny. Not to mention all the time you've spent researching the client, replying to inquiries, creating the images, and meticulously editing the final photographs. Your time and money are valuable too, which may help you explain just some of the costs of doing business. 

5. Differentiate Yourself:  It's easier to justify your prices if you can explain why, exactly, you're different from your competitors. Perhaps it's a fresh perspective or your use of exclusive equipment that other competitors simply don't have. Whatever it may be, find out what makes you different from others and effectively communicate this with your clients

6. Final Products: It's a basic economic fact that people will pay more for something that looks expensive. If you have nicely matted, high-quality prints or beautifully bound albums to physically show potential clients, the products will speak highly for themselves. Also, consider taking a second look at your website and ask yourself if there is anything you could do to make it more professional, elegant, clean, etc. The quality of the little details in all aspects of your business could make the largest difference. 

7. Confidence: All of the above methods to justify your pricing don't really mean anything if you don't believe in your pricing in the first place. You know that you are worth the money because of your skills, dedication, and personal investments. The key here is getting others to see your worth. Communicate your value effectively, politely, and with confidence. Never settle for less than you are worth just because someone wasn't able to see your value. Not everyone is your "ideal" client and it's ok that price turns some people away.  YOU ARE WORTH IT! 

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Written by guest blogger, Kameron Bayne of Fotoseeds.

Photographers are often asking themselves (and other photographers) "what should I charge?"  It's a foundational question that raises worry and doubt over the survival of our profession.  There's an ocean of information out there with endless waves of differing opinions.  With so much information, it's easy to just go with the current tide until we're lost far at sea. I think part of the confusion comes because asking "what should I charge?" is really two questions in one. Let's take a closer look.  The underlying issues are 1). how do you price your work to be sustainable and 2). what are your potential clients willing to pay for it? One question is about your business' cost/profit ratios and the other is about the value you offer to others. If you try answer the second without answering first, you'll most likely base it on these common pricing myths.


  • What Other Area Photographers Charge. Don't fall into the trap of basing your prices on what the other guy is charging. Why? Because you have no idea what his actual costs are, which means you don't know if he's making money or losing it.  It's also quite possible he doesn't know either, especially if his prices are based on some other photographer too.
  • The Level of Your Work. If you base your prices on the level of your work, it gets sticky real quick.  Who decides when you're good enough? Your clients? Other photographers? Most likely it's based on how you perceive your work-or worst, how you perceive what other people must think about your work. That's a self-inflicted headache.  If you're always growing as an image marker, the truth is, you probably never feel as though you've "arrived" because there's always room to grow.
  • What You Would Pay. Another mistake is to forget you are not always your client, and start asking yourself what would you pay for your own work?  This can be an especially subtle and damaging trap because it preys on the natural bent of dissatisfaction in one's own work. I call an epidemic of self-abuse within the creative and artistic community. The roots of which are intertwined within our hidden thought patterns and how we feel about ourselves as human beings (see the upcoming post: Identifying the Patterns of Artistic Self-Abuse).

Pricing for Sustainability

  • The first step includes an in depth and brutally honest look at what it costs you to produce a final product for your client.  The primary factor of a healthy business is that it makes more money than it spends.
  • Under PPA benchmark research, the average photographer's salary is 20% of his or her gross income.  In very simplistic terms, this means if you charge the client $100 an hour, you only make $20.
  • That other $80 enables your business to sustainably function by covering the raising costs of products, albums, computer upgrades, equipment, maintenance, education, healthcare, etc. If you don't have these costs built in, guess where they come from? That's right, they come out of your 20% slice.
  • Once you honestly and thoroughly crunch the numbers, you'll know without a doubt where you need to set your prices.  You'll have a bare minimum you'll need to charge for your business to survive without stealing from other areas of your life.
  • It can be an overwhelming process to go down this road, and so I understand why most people never start.  But it's like someone saying they may be worried about being seriously sick so they don't want to go into the doctor.  The truth might confirm your worries, but it can also offer you an opportunity for a real and exciting solution.  You can get the help you need.
  • Here are some tools to help you get started: the PPA Benchmark Survey, Expense and Pricing Templates from PPA, and Stacey Reeves' Pricing Guide.
  • We are available on an individual basis if you need help applying this information to your specific circumstances. Contact us here for more information.
With that said, what your potential clients are willing to pay is a completely separate issue that deserves a post all to itself.  More to come later...
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Dear PPA Member,

Lemonade stands--does that phrase bring back memories? They are often the first entrepreneurial adventure for many a kid. On a hot day, you could make a quick buck or two (or more than that if you were lucky!) and then head out to the corner store to grab an ice cream cup. You didn't have to worry about pricing for profit. Or expenses. Or factoring in your labor costs. (How much do you charge for stirring way too much sugar into a pitcher of weak lemon water?)

But you're not running a lemonade stand anymore. You're running a photography business. If you want to be successful, you've got to be profitable. This week's Vital Signs will have you dropping your wooden spoon and picking up a calculator, so you can afford more than ice cream at the end of the day.

Cheers!
Christel Aprigliano
Director of Member Value & Experience

P.S. We've got a new Extreme Deal from ImageQuix: PPA members get one year of Unlimited Uploads with ImageQuix for only $99 when they sign up by September 9 (a $249 savings).

Dear PPA Member,

What price do you place on the value of your work?

You could get all philosophical and say that your work is, like the Mastercard ad, "priceless." But when it comes to having your clients pay you for the services you provide, you have to have a price in mind. After all, those new camera bodies and lenses don't grow on trees. (If you do have one of those trees, I'd keep that a secret.)

Whether you're an established commercial photographer or are looking to branch out into commercial work, this week's Vital Signs covers the considerations needed for effective commercial pricing. Even if you're not a commercial photographer, don't miss the information on valuing usage rights, something all photographers need to understand.

Sea Monkey (thumbnail)Cheers,
Christel Aprigliano
Director of Member Value & Experience

P.S. Remember last week's Vital Signs introduction, where I compared my sea monkey experience to testing the waters with a new vendor? Well, Scott Kurkian, PPA's CFO, was so moved by my admission that I was given this.




About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries in the Photography Pricing category.

Photography Marketing is the previous category.

Photography Sales is the next category.

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