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How To Price Portrait Photography To Make Money

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How To Price Portrait Photography? Words of Advice from a Professional Photographer

As a general observation, I am shocked at the low prices of a lot of portrait photographers – especially new photographers, and I hope this isn’t offensive to anyone, but what is more important than your photography, is your business skills when running a business.  This industry is completely saturated with under priced photographers – many talented.  Think of this — the stats are something like 95% of all photography businesses fail.  What makes you feel that you should be in that 5% that does not fail?

Business sense, that’s what.  Have you marveled at a local photographer who does really boring work, yet they are always busy and their prices are more than yours?  Why is that person a success and you can barely bring people in even though you are always hearing how everyone loves your work…  It’s because he/she knows how to run a business.

Everyone asks – how should I price my portrait photography?  So and so has $25 8x10s, so I can’t go higher than that.  Okay, so research all the local portrait photographers and find out what they are charging.  Use that as a guide, but understand, many photographers do not have their pricing on their site, and there is a reason for that.  You need to price yourself for profit.  If you are new and still portfolio building, something that is great to do is set your prices based on turning a profit (as I will describe below), then sure, discount your prices and be CLEAR that you are portfolio building.  That way, when you are done portfolio building, you can return to your already advertised REAL prices, and you won’t make your previous customers angry because they knew at some point you would move on to them.  The problem with starting too low is when you start realizing you aren’t turning a profit, and you start to raise them, you are going to be without business because people will get angry with you for raising them.  So be honest and upfront and clear about what exactly is going on, and you will continue to have clients who have built a relationship with you and understand what’s going on.  Don’t drop a bomb on them, by any means.  Once they have invested with you, they are invested, it’s a relationship, maintain it.

Another thing – if you do not need the money right now because your spouse is the breadwinner, now is a GREAT TIME to build an exclusiveness about your business.  You don’t need the money, so why not price yourself to make it well worth it.  So you get a few sessions a month.  You are PAID WELL for your time away from your family, and then as word of mouth builds, you are viewed as a higher priced, more exclusive portrait photographer – and that can be quite desiring for many crowds.

The thing about running a business – you have to take emotions out of it.  By emotions, I mean “I want people to still be able to afford me” “I don’t think I am good enough” “I’ve never done this before” “I can’t afford me (I beg to differ – how much did you spend on your living room furniture?  $3,000?  How much did you spend on that big screen TV with surround sound?  I have news for you – pictures last longer and are more important in the longrun.  Clients will not value your work, if YOU don’t value it.  News Flash:  WalMart’s a la carte pricing is $50 for an 8×10.  I’m not talking about the coupons.  I’m talking about for one of those crappy ugly 8×10 a la carte backdrop pictures of your child with a fake Christmas tree, where you only got 15 minutes to get your child to smile printed on substandard photo paper is $50.  You offer WAY better than that to your clients, don’t you?

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When I see some charging $200 and that includes all the digital files or even some of the files or even a $100 print credit with $20 8x10s, I cringe because that photographer can be making less than minimum wage and has no idea.

Do you have a reason for pricing the way you do? Do you just toss it out there and hope for the best? Or do you have concrete logical reasoning for why you are pricing the way you are.  You need to take your EMOTIONS out of this and think like a business owner.  No business owner should be making less than minimum wage. You really need to think about business management (classes would be a great idea).

So how do you price?  Work backwards to figure out what clients need to spend.  So many people want to skim over this because they are “arteests” and think it’s all about the talent, not about the pricing structure.  WRONG!  Artists work from emotions, and you better step outside of that for a moment and keep those emotions and business separated, or you will BE a starving artist who will one day look back and say “my kids are grown, where did the time go?  I sat in front of that computer for hours for less than minimum wage… I wish I had that time back with my kids….”  No one looks back and says “I wish I would have worked more away from my family….”

Ask yourself how much you want to make per year. My personal goal is always well into six figures, but I’ll back this down to a more reasonable goal for newbies.

Okay – let’s say you want $50,000 SALARY for a full time BUSINESS OWNER.   When figuring this out – what do you value your family time at?  $50 an hour?  $100 an hour?  $10 an hour (REALLY????  You may regret that one day years in the future – don’t set yourself up for regrets)  Don’t laugh – some people do this for $10/hour and then pay a babysitter $5/hour.  It boggles my mind.

Work backwards to figure out your pricing structure.

1.  Income desired is $50,000.  Again, you are a business owner, you don’t need to be working for pennies.  Add 35% to that (that’s for your taxes as a sole proprietor). Yes, you need an additional $17,500 to cover your taxes.  So now your income has to be $67,500 as you are going to owe Uncle Sam a nice chunk.

2. Add your expenses to your desired income – $67,500 plus $25,000 equals $92,500 -Don’t think $25,000 is a lot for business expenses. That’s not a lot at all. Last year alone, my expenses were $70,000.  Expenses means everything – gas money or mileage, office supplies (paper, ink, packaging, file folders, pens, pencils, envelopes, sticky notes, light bulbs, batteries, whatever….etc.), office equipment (computers, software, actions, mouse, keyboard, file cabinets, books, internet etc. etc. etc.), studio supplies and equipment if applicable, portions of gas and electric bills, telephone bills (if working out of home, it’s portions of this vs. full amounts if you have a studio) photography supplies and equipment (cameras, lenses, memory cards, lens cleaning supplies, flash, strobe, softbox, camera bags etc. etc.), packaging supplies (bags, boxes, bows, tape, labels, etc.), postage, props -yes, all those baskets, newborn hats, wraps, backgrounds, chairs, stools, etc., marketing supplies – print samples, business cards, etc. oh and your business insurance.  Do you have studio rent?  Then think much more than $25,000 as expenses.  The figure I am using is based on not having a studio – and I am being nice, most with even part time businesses have higher expenses than $25,000.

3. So you need to bring in $92,500 in sales every year to get your desired income of $50,000. How do we go about that? Okay, ask yourself – how many weeks per year do you want to work? Let’s say 48 weeks per year (don’t forget, you may have your kids home for spring and winter breaks, etc.. $92,500 divided by 48 equals $1,927 per week. You need to have $1,927 per week in sales.

4. How do you want to achieve that? How many clients do you want per week?

If you want 2 clients per week, you will have to have two sales of $963.54  (if you are selling albums/prints, make that $1,163.54).
If you want 4 clients per week, you will have to have four sales of $481.75. (if you are selling albums/prints, make that $681.75)

Umm… okay, why did I add the parentheses?  What are your COGS (cost of goods sold).  If you sell an album, some prints, and a canvas, you are looking at COGS of being around $200 per customer – factor that in.

A little note, how many hours exactly do you work for your client. Hmmm… An hour in transit, 2 hours in session time, 4 hours proofing/editing, an hour uploading and doing office tasks, 3 hours between phone calls and scheduling and emails and questions from client and client sale finalization, packaging, ordering etc.. So you did 10 hours for that client? (we didn’t include other things like marketing and bookkeeping and in person ordering, but I’ll skip that for now – challenge:  log in while you work on a client, EVERYTHING you do related to that client, I bet it will be close to 10 hours or more per client).  Well that’s not bad, that’s about $50/hour toward the business for option one, having two clients per week. That’s half of what plumbers make, though… and guess what, your PICTURES LAST LONGER! :laugh: … but option two puts you at about $25/hour toward the business. Not TOO bad either – but you SHOULD be making at LEAST $50/hour as a BUSINESS OWNER (although myself and others would tell you as a business owner, you should actually be making more like $100/hour because you don’t want to forget having retirement, college funds for your kids, etc. and as a business owner, you should accept nothing less in my personal opinion or you may as well just work a job for someone else that is less stressful than dealing with the public). I challenge you to plug in lower numbers in this equation as well – let’s say you only want to make $20,000 per year – I’ll touch on that at the end.  Although don’t forget, life happens, and you may find yourself in a pinch one day to where you may actually need an income to support your family on your own…. which begs to go back to – what do you value your time away from family at?  One customer takes you away from your family for 10 or more hours.  Is that only worth $250 to you?  Not to me personally…. but to each his own.

5. Back to what do you price?  I personally like to work by worst case scenario  so I figure at the very least, I know I will have 2 clients per week, even during slow time, so that means I would want to guarantee two sales per week at $1,164. So therefore I would price my work so that every client would spend at LEAST $1,164 which means my lowest print package should be $1,164 (or $682 if going to take on 4 clients per week).

Personally, this is just my opinion, but I don’t think a business owner should be making less than $50,000, but that’s just me.  You should network with some other local BUSINESS OWNERS (not photogs, but business owners) and see what they are making.   Want to work with lower figures?  “Oh I just want to do this part time for fun… $20,000 is plenty for me to have part time…”

Okay, let’s work with lower numbers.

Goal: $20,000 Add 35% to that for taxes equals $27,000

Expenses: Add all your expenses up – I’ll be nice and pretend you aren’t spending on all those group buys, trendy items, and you don’t have any SUPER expensive equipment, so let’s say your expenses are $15,000 per year (do you REALLY think that is high? I don’t – not at all – see above list and I challenge you to REALLY evaluate what you are spending every year – most photogs are spending at LEAST $20,000 per year in expenses if not much much more. So $27,000 plus $15,000 equals $42,000

So for you to make $20,000 per year, you need to have sales of at least $42,000

$42,000 divided by 48 weeks per year of steady work equals $875/week in sales without cost of goods sold factored in. You need $1075 (including COGS) per week in sales to have an income of $20,000 per year – so if you are only taking 2 clients per week, you need sales of around $640 for each client. Just keep that in mind…  icon wink How To Price Portrait Photography To Make Money

Also keep in mind, if you are taking on 4 clients per week so that your sales need to be much less HOWEVER when taking on FOUR clients per week – you are working 40 hours per week – that’s FULL TIME for $20,000 per year… umm… That means that you are working a full time job for $10/hour – your time away from your kids is valued at $10/hour? You are missing 40 hours per week of your kids’ lives for $10/hour as a BUSINESS OWNER.   Makes you think, doesn’t it?

I just challenge all new business owners to really look at their figures and use these simple concrete ways to project your income, to define your income, to price yourself out, and actually structure your business as a real business, and operate as a business owner who knows basic business management 101 now.  Work your business proactively with good reasoning behind it.   Remember, IF WE DON’T VALUE THIS INDUSTRY, NO ONE WILL.

Thank you to the incredible portrait photographer Jodie Otte of Black Horse Studio for this thought provoking answer to the question: “How should I price my photography?”

 How To Price Portrait Photography To Make Money

Jodi Friedman, MCP Actions

Jodi Friedman is the founder of MCP Actions. She designs popular Photoshop actions and Lightroom presets that make editing faster, easier and more fun.

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309 Comments

  1. 1

    [...] 1 votes vote How Should I Price My Photography? Words of Advice from Jodie Otte Thank you to the incredible portrait photographer Jodie Otte of Black Horse Studio for this [...]

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  3. 3

    Thanks for sharing. This really puts everything into perspective.

  4. 4

    Great article! Thanks for breaking it down!

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    Lori M. says:

    Oh Jodie (& Jodi)! Thank you! This couldn’t have come at a better time. Just the pep talk I needed to read this Monday morning! :)

  6. 6

    Jodie, thanks for your honesty and transparency. I follow your work and whatever you charge – you are worth every penny! :)

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    Tracy says:

    Stuff to think about!

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    Michelle says:

    Thank Jodi, for the very timely advice as I am still PB.

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    Alice says:

    Wonderful and honest post. Thanks for putting this out there!

  10. 10

    Thank you for sharing this! I’ve been looking into pricing lately, considering long-term impacts of what I do now in that area, etc. and this was very helpful. I don’t want to feel that I’m overcharging my clients, but I need to be reminded not to sell myself short either! Thank you!

  11. 11

    right on jodie. however, quality and talent definitely does factor in there too. love this post!! valuing you work. valuing yourself. HUGE!!
    deb

  12. 12

    wow!!!! This article was a huge reality check and amazing none the less. Thanks for taking the time to break it down for us! now I need an article on how to educate consumers on the importance of quality pictures that last forever and they need to look at quality and not just pricing ;)

  13. 13

    I freaking love this post! I want to send it to everyone in Utah that charges $125 for the session including the CD! We are worth more than that!

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    ttexxan says:

    Very nice article and breakdown. I will lump myself in with those who don’t charge nearly enough. We are major major busy, but really trying to get our name out there. Its working and plan on raising prices even more (last price increase month or so ago). Planning first of the year if not sooner : >)….
    It’s no wonder that only 5% are in business because that 5% have a hudge name and clients that must have deep pockets. My wife and I both have regular jobs and make well over multiple 6 figures, but I can tell you we would never spend 800-2000 on a photo package. Its hard for me to charge $95 bucks or $150 for an 8×10 when I wouldn’t even pay that. Most if not all my clients could not even come close to spending $600-1000 on photos so how would anyone get a minimal client order of $1600. Its possible because I know some getting $3200..However her clients are the Dallas Cowboys. Most average photogs are not going to have that luxury. Maybe I need different clients and consider the fact that we really dont need the money since full time job provides. As stated and I know this is horrible, but hard to charge the farm when I know I wouldn’t pay it.

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    Nina says:

    THANK YOU SO MUCH for this post. this is the most comprehensive piece on pricing i’ve come across. i’m in the middle of trying to figure out pricing for my photography services and it’s been nothing short of hair pulling and eating copious amounts of chocolate. thank you again!

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    Melissa C. says:

    I really needed to read this post!! I have decided next year to cut back to only 2 sessions per week because my family is missing me and I spend most of my time busy with other peoples stuff. I am definitely going to increase my pricing to at least make up the difference and was wanting to add more into it as well so it would be more beneficial to my and my family at the same time. My question would be, at what time is a good time to raise your pricing and should you give a notice of when it’s going to be in effect and what about people who have already made appts, should they pay the new pricing or be locked into the old pricing? If you are reading thru these and feel like answering some, I would love to hear your thoughts on when is it good to implement new pricing.

    Thanks so much!!

  17. 17

    Great food for thought…if only we could make this required reading for all photographers.

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    lisa says:

    This was one of most helpful posts I’ve read in awhile! Thank you for kicking my rear…and getting me to stop feeling bad for everyone having to pay for photos…that THEY LOVE! I know, that’s crazy. But I put so much work into what I do…you’re echoing my husband’s advice.;-)

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    Kathy says:

    I have to agree with “ttexan”. It is a very good article & I completely understand where you are coming from on it. However, I have a very hard time charging clients prices for photos that I myself would not pay. I do action horse-show photos and the occasional portrait session for friends. I charge $25 for an 8×10. Most show photographers I know charge $40 for the same action horse show shot, however I very rarely buy theirs–only at a special show will I pay that much. I know first hand the experience & equipment involved in such photography, but I am much more willing to pay $25 for a show photo than $40. I do a good business at $25/photo and an added bonus is that I get all the photos we want of our own horses in the show. And the reality is that there are many people out there that work for $10/hour or less. In today’s economy, it’s about putting food on the table for many families. My photography is a part-time job for me as my husband and I both have other jobs. And I agree, that as a business owner, it’s nobody’s goal to work for $10/hour but I just can’t charge what I wouldn’t pay myself for photos. If there are photographers out there that can get $1200+ for a photo package, more power to you & good for you!

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    JodieOtte says:

    texxan — a quick note (I’m between shoots). I photograph a lot of NFL players as well as other semi-famous, etc., and others from all walks of life, but I will tell you, the highest spenders are not the wealthiest. The highest spenders are your average middle class to upper middle class who VALUE the work. People are out there that value it.

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    JodieOtte says:

    …and the word “can’t” should not exist there. Have you spent a good six months (while overlapping a busy time – Christmas or Spring) at higher prices and marketed the entire time? If not, you can’t say that people won’t spend. People spend more than $25 for an 8×10 at Picture People, so how can you say people won’t spend? You need to figure out what makes you valuable. I can’t say I would spend that much for an 8×10 because I am a photog that doesn’t need to. What do YOU do for fun? Do you go on vacation? Do you eat out? Do you buy furniture? Do you have a new car? Whatever is a priority in a person’s life is what they will spend on.

  22. 22

    Really well put – I agree – my time away from my kids is not worth anything less – whether I do this job, or what I previously trained for. We pour our hearts and souls into this business which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be fairly compensated… now how do I explain to customers that this is why I charge what I charge while someone else charges peanuts?? :)

  23. 23
    Pam says:

    Five star article! Thanks for taking the time, sharing all that valuable information, and shedding light on something that has needed to be addressed.
    I’ve got some calculations to work on.

  24. 24

    Very informative article. This is a great tutorial for setting your initial prices, but does Jodie (or anyone) have any suggestions for those of us who realized a little too late that we were undervaluing ourselves? I realized about a year ago that I was *way* undercharging (though that seems to be the norm in my area) and have tried raising my prices, but without alienating clients it seems nearly impossible. I had clients who thought our products were awesome, but said our prices were ‘a little high’ when we had our ridiculously under-priced pricelist up ($15 8×10’s). I’m wondering if I shouldn’t end my current business and start over with a new name…and PRICES!! Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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    tracy says:

    while i TOTALLY, 100% agree with not underpricing yourself or the market… I think the costs illustrated in this article are way inflated. And maybe I am missing something, but you can subtract all of your business expenses before you pay taxes, which makes a huge difference in what you pay to Uncle Sam. And while I also agree that photog’s time is worth a LOT more than they often give themselves credit for, you can’t ignore that this profession is ALSO a major hobby for a lot of people who would be photographing things even without a business. Just my humble opinion.

    Now ALL that said, the article IS very informative and the point you are making is awesome and totally needed for a LOT of people.

  26. 26
    Melissa says:

    Great article. I know a couple people I should forward this too.

  27. 27
    Kelly says:

    What a timely article! Thanks for breaking it down – gives me lots of things to think about. I’m not in business yet (still skill-building), but would like to be one day…

  28. 28
    MCP Actions says:

    feel free to share it with your FB and Twitter followers by using the social bookmarking tools listed under the article.

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    Hilary O says:

    an eye opener. I was always told never sell yourself short. if anything, overprice. perception is everything. believe in your work. your time and talent is worth every penny.

  30. 30

    So, So, So good.

    I love that you break it down. I have actually not thought about the big picture. I am taking a month of to really break down my business focusing on pricing a marketing! I really appreciate you being so strait forward about this.

    Officially the most helpful blogpost I have read all year!

  31. 31
    Karen says:

    I am always mentoring someone and I swear this is the hardest thing to get across!!! I just emailed the article to the girls i am working with now. ITS SO difficult to get them to SEE! I love how you put it so plainly. :O))

  32. 32

    Excellent advice!!!

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    Amber says:

    Thank you so much for this article…This will be my first month to officially launch my photography business. It really does put things into perspective.

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    JodieOtte says:

    I’m going to be heading into another session today but for Xander – at this point, being that you are pricing so little, understand, when you raise, you WILL LOSE CLIENTS. I did this years and years ago and had to stair-step my pricing to get to where I needed to be. So you have a choice to make. Yes, you could start over with a new name, and that frankly, could be a way to go. This is what worked for me personally years ago. Work hard and really put as much savings in your bank account that you can. Raise your prices in stair-steps, a little here, a little there. Make your most significant raise of prices either during Christmas rush or during Springtime when things are busy – only raise during busy seasons so you don’t feel it quite as bad when you lose some of your customers. I’ve known people locally who have raised their prices for two weeks and then lowered them again in a panic. You can’t panic. You have to market yourself like crazy if necessary, but it can work and will work if you put the hard work behind it. Yes, marketing is hard work, but that’s what is necessary especially when you make a price increase.

  36. 36

    [...] on Pricing Your Photography Found a link to this on a Flickr group I belong to – GREAT read! How Should I Price My Photography? Words of Advice from Jodie Otte | MCP Actions Blog __________________ Susan H Canon 450D, Canon 18-55mm IS, Canon 50mm f/1.8 II, Sigma 70-300mm [...]

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    grace wolf says:

    wow- if that didn’t shed light on the subject. :) I was approached by a larger photog business that wants to contract me for freelance stuff- I may take her up on that one. :) I’m still in the PB stage, with pretty cheap equipt….. not sure if I want to take the BIG plunge yet.

  38. 38
    Alexandra says:

    Amazing post. So helpful!

  39. 39
    Lindsay Horn says:

    Thanks for all of the follow up comments as well. I think I am on the low side, not absurdly low, but I do want to raise my prices some, and I was planning on doing a stair-step approach. Here’s the question … do you announce an upcoming price increase as an incentive to book now, or do you just do it? I keep going back and forth over this one.

  40. 40
    Larry Reeves says:

    This is a great article…very business minded. One flaw in the math is the first calculation. If you want to make $50,000 you’ll need approximately $78,000 to pay 35% in taxes. You don’t pay the 35% on the $50,000. Ex: 35% of $78,000 is $27,300. $78,000 minus $27,300 is $50,700. So…to start, you’ll need to make approximately $103,000 to cover taxes and expenses and still make about $50,000.

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    Silvina says:

    Amazing post Jodie! I’m a huge fan of your work and I really appreciate the fact you took the time to break all this information down. I started my business this past March and I definitely lost some clients that had hired me prior while i was portfolio building, but I don’t mind. I’m looking at the BIG picture and I’m looking for clients that appreciate my work and the time I put into it. Custom photography is a luxury item and I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m not catering to the “Walmart crowd” or to people looking for a “good deal”. I know even in this economy there are plenty of women out there willing to pay over $1,000 for a purse, so why not pay that for photos of their kids that will last a lifetime?

  43. 43
    Susan P says:

    this is very VERY very helpful and major thanks to both of you for sharing such valuable insight with us!!

  44. 44
    David says:

    thanks for this great article! You hit the nail on the head when you say that sitting in front of the PC working for less than minimum wage which missing out on time with the family.

    I have very little time for photography and it’s all taking away from time with my kids and family, so I make sure I get payed well for what I do. 3 clients paying decent prices create more profit than 10 clients paying low prices even if the total amount is the same. The overhead of 10 clients makes it not worthwhile. That’s what I tell people when they justify low prices to get more clients. You don’t want 10 clients that only buy the minimum print package. You want value your work and are willing to pay for that.

  45. 45
    Marcie Glass says:

    Thank you Jodi! This information is very helpful.

  46. 46
    Connie Sithi says:

    Holy cow, this is a reality slap in the face. As I’m getting into this industry and PB’ing I realize I’m selling myself short and selling the industry short. My fear is falling into the Walmart photos category. I will do this no more! Thank you SO much for this very informational post.

  47. 47
    Alyson says:

    What a great post. Jodie – your breakdown is a nice dose of reality. I have been stressing over my print prices and never really factored in everything else. Time to go back to the adding machine!

  48. 48
    Stephanie says:

    Wow! Puts everything into perspective. Thanks! Something to think about.

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    amber says:

    OMG i swear you put this all together just for ME!!! you are a DOLL for typing all of this up! i am not a really low priced newbie but i’m probably lower than need be. i am in portfolio building stages and i do have my “real” prices on my site marked out w/the discount next to them. once i’m done PBing i want to offer packages along the lines you are speaking so i probably need to re-eval my ala-carte prices!

    thanks again!

  50. 50
    Simone Carter says:

    I just wanted to thank you for the ever-awesome information you continue to post on your blog – i really appreciate the time you take to do this. Excellent blog!!!

  51. 51
    kellie says:

    wow, full of great advice, thank you for that!

  52. 52
    pandatx says:

    Thank you so much for this. Great article. I disagree with pricing yourself based on what you think that you would pay for a service. You’ll work a lot harder for a lot less by doing that.

  53. 53

    Wishing there was a like button! Fantastic article!!

  54. 54
    Jay Herman says:

    Thank you soooo much for the perspective. I’ve been pulling my hair out recently at the pricing being offered these days. Many photographers do not realize the harm they’re doing to themselves or what they’re doing to the market and their peers. Peers that they may need to count on some day.

  55. 55
    Jay Herman says:

    whoops, forgot to mention…gorgeous shot!!!

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    Annie says:

    Super helpful, but how much does geography play a role? I live in rural central Minnesota, and I just can’t imagine people spending over $1,000 a session/order. Sure there may be a few, but to be able to get 2-4 of those a week is really going to be tough. Unless I travel to Minneapolis/St. Paul every week… which takes me 3 hours, and lots of time away from my family… Lots of give and take.

  57. 57
    Jolie says:

    FANTASTIC Article! Thank you SO much for breaking it down!

  58. 58

    Well said! I totally needed to hear that, and it’s exactly what I’ve been working on lately!

  59. 59
    Nikon Guy says:

    Certainly an informative article, but here’s a reality check for you. I’m a newbie hobby photographer. I have 2 young boys and my income is around $90k in flyover country (i.e. not on either coast). There is no way I’m spending $600-1200 on a photo session. Sorry. I appreciate hard work. I appreciate talent. I appreciate art. I appreciate how difficult good photography is. It’s just too much to spend.

    P.S. I’m not trying to be a troll, just trying to give some feedback from the customer side of the equation.

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    Jessie says:

    Awesome article. Very well explained!

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    Cindy says:

    Great informative post! I’d love to see a follow up with information on how to find these clients that will pay the money we want to make. IE marketing strategies, branding, etc.

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    Tracey says:

    Boy that is a cold slap of reality to the face! I don’t even know what to say about this article except I don’t feel motivated, I feel like, wow, I knew I had a long way to go, but I guess WOW- I have A LOOONNNNGGGGG way to go.

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    Nicola says:

    Excellent. Thank you!

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    joy stclaire says:

    This is awesome – well stated! Powerful! Thank you!

    The part about the Walmart 8×10 really will stick in my head!

  66. 66

    Very well written and desperately needed in our industry if some of the new talent is to survive their first 3 years. Most of them don’t realize low price equals low value and no respect…and no profit to buy that new camera with when the old one wears out.

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    Amy Lemaniak says:

    Thank you so much for this very very helpful and informative article. Even though I’m still in the early stages of building my business, it was extremely informative and made me think about a lot of things.

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    Chris says:

    @Nikon Guy –

    I see your point but you are just one out of millions in the US and there are people out there who will pay double what you listed for questionable quality.

    For those out there that wouldn’t pay what others charge so you charge less…see above but remember, if you don’t value the product neither will your customers. Your not just selling a piece of paper that just so happens to have an image on it, your selling memories, slices of time in a person’s life, their story, so it’s just like what the Visa commercial says….”Priceless”.

    Thank you so much for this article Jodie!!

  69. 69

    As everyone else is saying…this is a great article. A passion for photography isn’t all that’s going to get us by. Great info and it’s just s-m-a-r-t.

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    Teresa W. says:

    What an awesome post – seriously just what I’ve needed to hear as I’ve been stressing about my prices lately. Jodi has been my inspiration from day 1 – seriously your work is so stunning and really I credit you for giving me the inspiration to actually go into business for myself. Thank you so much for this generous article.

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    Kat says:

    Thank you so much for this insight…I am JUST starting to create a business plan for myself and you gave me so much to think about! I live in a low income area and have been struggling with this pricing issue as so many of the other photographers from the area are so expensive. You opened my eyes as to how that all works. I am a full time teacher who is looking for a nice supplemental income with the potential of someday making it a full time business. This helped SO much! Thank you!

  72. 72
    Ally says:

    Great article and perfect timing for me. The whole Walmart thing is what had me… Thank you!

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    priscilla says:

    Holy Cow!!! I was just talking to a friend of mine last night about this kind of stuff. I’m sitting down today and completely revamping the business side of my business! Thank you so much for the information…it is so helpful. :)

  74. 74

    I *heart* you, Jodie… I feel like I’m banging my head against the wall when I try to explain value and worth to other photogs. Thanks so much for the post! Now I shall just direct them here.

  75. 75

    Awesome post! LOVE It! The photography side of this business comes naturally to me, it’s the BUSINESS side that is HARD!!!! You did a great job explaining and simplifying the process :)

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    I think you wrote this article for me, lol. It’s as if you’re speaking directly to me and reading my mind. I’m going to up by prices right this second, which will still not be enough, but I’m afraid of going too high….I can’t thank you enough.

  77. 77

    This is an AMAZING and POWERFUL article!!! Thank you so much for posting this!

  78. 78

    [...] Starting a photography business is always a challenge, with the most difficult challenge being “What do I charge?”. The retail business model dictates that we figure out our costs and then work the markup from that to get the retail price. However, that doesn’t work for photography and businesses that are time heavy. I’m attaching a blog post by Jody Otte on the formula that she bases her pricing policies on. Enjoy this blog post. [...]

  79. 79
    s.u. says:

    Excellent read! Thank you!

    I think that while some of us would never pay upwards of $600+ for portraits, that doesn’t mean that others wouldn’t. We are not always our own target market.

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    Krista Lund says:

    oh my goodness..thank you for this. i am going to read and reread and reread this and then seriously think about what i am doing.

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    I’m so glad someone finally said it somewhere you don’t have to pay to hear it. I did a business course earlier this year and figured it out during the process, but as I look at my ‘competition’ it appears that they haven’t yet. Hands down, best blog post this year!

  82. 82

    great write-up for people who are getting started in the business. hope this helps some people out there!

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    rani says:

    THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH! I am just starting out and am so very green to all of this! I realized some very important things with this post!

  84. 84

    WOW! Gotta call my web geek STAT! Must raise prices NOW! Thanks!

  85. 85

    There is a math mistake in this article in taking into account taxes. She just multiplied 50K (desired salary by 1.35). That is WRONG! Why? Check this out. She got $67500 with taxes. Now calculate backwards. Take 35% out of it and you have $23625 not $17500! So you end up with $43875, which is much less then $50K.

    You should divide by (1-35%): 50/(1-0.35) = $76923.07. Take 35% out of it and you have your $50K.

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    Charisse says:

    Thanks Jodie for such a great article. It is so informative and for me alittle scary. I am new getting into the industry but have been taking pictures for a couple of years. I realize that pricing/time value is a real concern for me going into this business because as you said, every hour shooting, editing, marketing etc is time away from my precious kiddos. Actually, that very thing has kept me lingering back from jumping into business with both feet since I homeschool as well. My time is very tight already. I can honestly say that I did not give much thought to making sure that my pricing structure made it worth my time to be away from my family. Prior to your article, I gave to much thought to “who will pay that” if my prices are too high? Your insight has given me another prospective, however, If I am going to be occupied away from my family, it had better be WORTH MY TIME or what was the point. I can never get back the time with my family…but I can always start a business.

    Thank you again for such insight, frankness, and perspective. Now, I can start out priced right and take my time building a business that is worth my time and effort. If I wanted to work for minimum wage, I might as well keep taking shots of my kids. At least my time would not be compromised between them and something else.

  87. 87

    Well said!!! Well SAID!!!!

  88. 88

    [...] How Should I Price My Photography? Words of Advice from Jodie Otte | MCP Actions Blog [...]

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    Megan says:

    Fabulous post, you two. Thank you SO much.

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    Denise says:

    uhhh…were you reading my mind. Thank you! I needed this.

  91. 91

    I have so much to think about now! I was going to lower my prices because I was not getting enough jobs. Now instead I am going to work on getting my name out there more!

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    Alex Hinds says:

    Great piece. I’ve seen this sort of working backwards from your required total to get a rate per hour/day a few times. What you added that I really like is the concept of opportunity cost of all the time you put into your business, like time with family or simply working in a job. This concept does really help business owners to stop and ask themselves how much they are prepared to put into a business and to truely value their time. Having said that I am a big believer in the holistic value of doing what you want, even if it means you’re earning less than you could working a job elsewhere for example.
    Alex

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    Amy says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I needed this today. I’ve been worried my prices are too high because of feedback from friends who say they can’t afford me, but I after reading this, I know they are too low. Thank you for saving me from myself and telling me this before I lowered my prices!

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    Van Klimetz says:

    Hey thanks so much Jodie. Looks like I’ve got some work to do. Wish I would have had this sort of wisdom 3 years ago when I started my business Studio 3087. One problem I run into is that I have a business partner and we don’t agree sometimes. He thinks we have to have lower prices to get more people, I lean more towards your article but we are still way low in comparison. I will be sending him this article and hopefully he will understand better where I am coming from. Thanks.

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    Duncan Leung says:

    Thanks for the time posting this! It really helped to see how the breakdown should be calculated =)

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    JodieOtte says:

    Oleksandr, that’s odd. I type in 50,000 x .35 on my calculator and 17,500 is the answer. I can also type in 50,000 x 35% and it also equals 17,500. That’s how math has been taught here for years. I just double checked with quite a few people that also reached the same answer as me. Anyone else get a different answer?

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    JodieOtte says:

    Disclaimer: I don’t pretend to be the best math whiz in the world, so please correct me if I am wrong! LOL! When I figure out sales tax, I do the same thing. If something is $10, I will multiple by .06 to come up with 60 cents… so the total would be $10.60 – but either way, basically, this gives the gist of coming up with your figures. ;)

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    JodieOtte says:

    Sorry, this is amazing to me… I think I am getting what you are saying, Oleksandr – so if you work backwards, 35% of $67,500 is not $17,500 — I see what you are saying… well, it’s close – so it should be $19,423 instead of $17,500…. so there, add an additional approximate $2,000 to that figure and you’ll be safe ;)

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    Anne says:

    Great article, I just wish I could e-mail it to those who need to hear it! ;)

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    Tamara Hart says:

    THANK YOU! I’ve been on the brink of “going out of business” even though I’m constantly busy because the overhead is just too much and I don’t have enough profit to keep going. I’ve got “okay” equipment but I do need to upgrade and some times I feel like I’m working to pay daycare…THANK YOU…you just may have saved my business with this post!

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    As usual you are right on the “money” Thanks for sharing your knowledge based on successful experience.

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    JodieOtte says:

    and another – Jen Jesseph said…. It should be an additional $26923 you need for taxes if you want to make $50K. Think of X as what you need to make. If you take 35% from that, you are left with 65% which should be your desired income. So, X(.65) = 50000. Divide 50000 by .65 and it will give you X. Okay, my head is spinning, anyone else’s?

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    Thank You for this in-depth and blunt talk!!! The figures are awesome to really make us evaluate what we’re doing and why. I don’t consider myself a “business” at all, I’ve just started doing a few sessions for families but I want to price myself effectively in case I ever decide to pursue this further.

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    It is a great article Jodie, thank you!

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    For eveyone saying “I wouldnt pay that!” I have to share some great advice I heard once. YOU are not your client. YOUR FRIENDS are not your client. Your clients are the people who WILL pay for your services. Price your services for what they are worth, then walk the walk and talk the talk. I also would not pay 30K for a diamond ring, but Tifanny and CO doesnt seem to be doing too bad, do they?

  108. 108

    Thanks so much for the article, Jodie!! I really need to re-think the way I price my work right now…I am not in PB stage anymore (or so I hope) and need to change a few things in my business now.

    However I urge everyone to think about the following – lots of photographers out there do not rely solely on photo sessions and print sales, they also create and sell PS actions (TRA, Kubota, etc), create templates for sale (websites, for example – Showitfast, etc), write books (Fast Track Photographer by Dane Sanders and so on), invent photo accessories/equipment (diffusers, tripods, etc) to ensure they will have income coming in even if they don’t have sessions scheduled or if they are on vacation (you gotta take vacation sometime, right? :), etc…

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    Lindey says:

    Brilliantly put! I am 1 of those people who began doing this for some fun mad money, however…after a disasterous financial year for my husband…who has always provided for us amazingly, we have HAD to rely on my photography.

    My lowest collection is 850.00 and I have a minimum print order commitment of 500.00 to weed out the price shoppers. There is another photographer right here in town that charges a $35 session fee and sells the 4×6 proofs for $1 each! She does good work, but undermines the industry IMO. She stays super busy (imagine that) but I can’t imagine she’s making nearly what I am putting in many more hours. PLUS she can not possibly be as attentive to her customers as I am to each of my clients!

    Since adding my minimum print purchase, I have many inquire but not book and while that may scare some, I put that in place to do just that :o) I am assuring myself of quality clients who value me and my work!

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    Thank you for sharing your wisdom, I am so tired of seeing new photographers in the business short selling themselves. It is a reflection to all of us in the business. Pricing yourself too low may tell your clients how you value your ability.

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    jodie allen says:

    Wow. I read this first thing this morning and my day has now equaled a massive meltdown. Our prices are in line, I think, but we’re still not seeing those big orders. Infiltrating the markets that can spend over $1000 per order is, for us, a long road it seems. And I think a lot of this, pricing issues, has to do with self-confidence. I tend to panic and feel like maybe I’m not good enough which is so stupid. If I believe my clients will believe.

    Such a great article Jodie, and so timely for me. Thank you so much for breaking it down and giving us an idea of how to break our own income down b/c at least right now, we fly by the seat of our pants and I’ll be damned if that causes us to be new talent that doesn’t make it! My goal tomorrow? Enter my books and figure this out! THANK YOU!

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    Laura Bruen says:

    Fantastic article that should help a lot of people! I shared it on my Facebook page. :-)

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    Wow! This article really got me anygry at myself. I am a semi-newbie that is really just giving my time and talent away. Even in PBing I need to make a profit. I’m starting to get calls on a daily basis which is great, but I have to stop being so soft. If you don’t want to pay me what I’m worth, then I’m sorry. No more compromising. Thanks Jodie, much appreciated.

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    jean smith says:

    jodie seriously ROCKS. i love her no nonsense approach and tells exactly how it is. thanks for breaking it down and making me really think about this.

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    Vanessa says:

    I agree with everything Jodie said, except…Walmart does not charge $50 for an 8×10. It’s $2 something.

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    Eleanor Caputo says:

    A great post and it is nice to see that people are getting what photography is worth. However, in my town of 44,000 people, they are not willing to pay $500 for a photo session and package. I don’t do any portraits because they don’t want to pay my prices. So I have abandoned even trying anymore. I know a company that has a $150 session fee, but you have to purchase a 16×24 wall portrait for $900 before you can purchase smaller prints. I would never pay that. But they do get people who will. I know a family that spend $4700 on family photos and were completely dissatisfied. they asked me to shoot their wedding and I told them it would be $4000 and they declined even after telling me how much they had wished they went with me as a portrait photographer and oh how great my work is blah blah blah. I can tell you that you do not want to spend an afternoon with screaming kids and difficult clients for $10 an hour. I have actually given up portraits. I was so tired of battling the price thing. people do not see the value in portraits any more. they get their little pocket point and shoots and take their own. Great article but there is no way anyone in Jackson would pay those prices.

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    JodieOtte says:

    Vanessa – so they changed their a la carte 8×10 to $2 from $50? When did that happen. So you can go in there without a coupon, and get one single 8×10 at their portrait studio after paying a sitting fee, no package, no coupon, etc. for $2? I really don’t think that is how it works. You may want to check that out.

  118. 118

    That was a great way to write down a bunch of great information. I’ve been at this for 4.5 years, full-time, having jumped in with no business experience, almost no capital, and right after being laid off from a hi-tech company. My expenses last year were over $22k (you were right!! Every new photog take notice!!) on $68k of sales. It has taken me this long to finally figure out that working 60+ hours a week, 52 weeks a year and only getting paid $42k is getting pretty old.
    Thanks for the encouragement!

  119. 119

    Finally!!!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’ve been going hoarse saying this over and over and I’m SO happy to see all the great responses.

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    alison says:

    thank you so much for a great article!
    As a consumer, I would totally pay top dollar for amazing photographs. And we are in the under 80 grand income group :) Like everyone has said-it is about what you value.
    I started out on the higher end (compared to some), mainly because of what I learned from other photographers (like Andrea, above!). Once I learned to value me & my time, I have seen my business grow & grow.
    thanks, again!

  121. 121

    Fabulous read! Thank you!!!

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    Ventego says:

    I really like your blog and i respect your work. I’ll be a frequent visitor.

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    [...] Jodie Otte’s absolute brilliant guide to pricing can be found {HERE}. [...]

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    Carolyn says:

    I love this. I definitely understand feeling like pictures are so expensive (from the consumer perspective), but I feel that they are SO important so it’s worth the money to me. As an accountant who wants to start her own business someday (not an accounting business), I think this blog post is perfect! It can be used for anything really – not just photography! :) Great thoughts. And thanks to Amanda for sharing it!!

  125. 125

    Hi All, I thought this was a great article. I’ve read a few of these over the last 20~ years and have to say as a whole- the photography business is still the cheapest service industry for customer satisfaction and lasting pleasure.

    “Customer satisfaction and lasting pleasure” is NOT something the customer will ever factor in and we can’t make it happen by force- that’s where branding comes in. Quality name recognition it your best virtue for combating the lacking value of lasting pleasure in our “Rate Card”.

    One last thought and something I’m starting to give way to is this little secret i’ll share with this group- it’s the faux pas grand daddy of photography- GIVING YOUR IMAGES AWAY W/O PAPER PRINT SETS… OMG… NO!!! Be nice, you can make serious bank here if you know how to do it and NOT loose print set or studio value!

    Okay, There’s the way to seriously capitalize on the aspect of photographer’s time -vs – dollars if we simply think outside the box, you’re an artist, so be creative in your branding, marketing aspects, product offerings. If you’re interested in a few concepts we use; for $9.95 I will happily send our DVD Branding Profile.

    Thanks all and Happy Shooting!!!

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    traci says:

    i only read the first few comments but i have to say thank you for posting this. so very true.

    to texxan why wouldn’t you pay that much for photos. i know that i spend $1200, at least, the first time i used a real professional photographer. those prints are priceless to me so the $1200 that i actually spent is nothing. does that even make sense. i love that i can see my kids photos around my house and watch them change. i feel bad for those kids who have parents that do not have them photographed (professionally or not). i photograph soccer teams and when parents say “oh i don’t want their photo taken” it breaks my heart. why not? is your kid not good enough for a print for $5? i have bought many bad photos of my kids, why, b/c they are my kids. usually these are team photos taken by other people or school photos to me it doesn’t matter.

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    Jill says:

    Thank you so much for this…I needed to read this TODAY!

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    Bunker says:

    I liked it. So much useful material. I read with great interest.

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    [...] 6. Price for success. Low prices may be killing your business. People may think your product is cheap. The people that are buying from you may be buying only on price– those are not the buyers you want to cultivate for the long term success of your business. See Jodie Otte’s How Should I Price my Photography. [...]

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    Emily Heizer says:

    I agree with this on principal, HOWEVER, what was failed to be mentioned here is that you shouldn’t be charging more than you are worth. No, you shouldn’t be de-valueing your work, but each photographer should be able to look at their work with a critical eye, compare it to local photographer’s of the same skill or style and figure out where they should fit in on a payscale, and that is what they should be charging.

    Joe Schmoe should not be randomly deciding they want to make $200,000 a year even though their work is only mediocre, and not at all comparable to the other photographers in that price bracket. You have to actually be worth that number. The critical eye is what should come first, not an income goal. It helps you become successful by being frank, honest, and striving to constantly improve and develop your own style.

    I don’t at all feel you on the “angry clients” thing. That seems really bizarre to me. I’ve never had a client say to me that they were upset because I had raised prices. That boggles my mind that anyone would be mad about it. It’s not their business. Also, if you are starting out at a lower price point, you are catering to clients in a certain income bracket. In my case, they were people who couldn’t have afforded a photographer at ALL if they hadn’t found me.

    As your skills develop and become more sophisticated, you move into a higher bracket of clients. Perhaps your initial clients can’t afford you anymore. That would be sad, however, I have found that the clients I had my first year are not people who would hire a photographer for holiday portraits, or for anything other than an event as major as a wedding, and even in that instance, they could only afford a photographer who was still trying to figure things out and priced accordingly.

    I raise my prices quarterly, as I see fit with regard to the quality of my work, and the local market. I started off charging $20/hour for anything. In three years that has jumped to about $300/hour for events. No one has come to be dissatisfied with my pricing. To the contrary, clients have told me I was worth more than I was charging. I take those statements as cues it’s time to give myself a raise. I’m very settled and comfortable where I am now.

    I also find the business expenses to be inflated. Here’s why. You are accounting in both business expenses AND taxes without realizing that the two can be partially negated. Putting money back into your business is a tax write-off. Therefore, the amount you would owe on your taxes should be deducted by the amount you are allowed to deduct for those expenses. You have listed them twice, which isn’t correct. (Or if you’re not writing off expenses you need a new accountant! lol)

    If you buy a new $5,000 camera for the business, that’s part of your business expenses, right? So you have to factor that in to your pricing. However, in that 35% tax rate, you can deduct out the $5k for the new camera that year. So you are inadvertently adding an additional $5k into your equation, causing it to be inappropriatly inflated. (What you can or cannot deduct or how much of a purchase can be deducted is something to ask a CPA, so this is PURELY an example and not necessarily what you would actually be able to deduct.)

    And remember, not everyone (actually MOST people) are not buying thousands of dollars worth of equipment every year. I think you should have equipment which is of the quality you need, and does what it’s supposed to do. You shouldn’t have to, or want to replace $10,000 worth of equipment (cameras, lights, computers, chairs, whatever) every single year.

    Next, I am part of the newer crop of photographers that does not offer any printing services at all. The service I provide is my time, my expertise, and my post processing skills. I don’t sell prints. I actually have a HUGE issue with those who sell prints, (which translates into this is my own problem, and no one elses, because I am in the minority on this issue :) ) because I think rather than charging up the wazoo for a print in order to get the profit you need off this client, you should be charging that amount in the first place. If you need to make $250 off this session (and you’re worth that amount), then you charge $250, period. Not, $150 sitting fee, and $150 in prints, minus the $50 cost of the prints. Also, if I were the client, *I* would not be willing to pay that for prints to begin with either. Surely, I would drop $4,000 on a great photographer, however, I don’t need them to sell me prints. I want to pick and choose on my own over time and create my own projects. I wouldn’t ever hire a photographer that didn’t allow me to do that.

    If that 5% success rate is really true, that’s totally crazy, and I feel absolutely privileged to have a booming business I built myself, knowing nothing in the begining…

    Very interesting, thought-provoking article Jodie. Great job for spurring on such an important dialogue with all of us photographers out there! It looks like you opened alot of eyes!

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    Emily Heizer says:

    @ Holly Paulson: Re you wouldn’t pay $30k for a Tiffany ring, but they are a successul business? For me, false logic. If I had $30k, I’d absolutely pay that amount for a product that was valued at that. However, even if I were a millionaire, I wouldn’t want to pay X price for prints. JMHO.

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    Great great article! Thank you so much for taking the time to write all this out – it can be so overwhelming at times that it’s great to see it in writing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  134. 134
    lorinphoto says:

    interesting to note that those who are negative about this article are those with a separate job that “pays the bills”. if you are truly doing this as a hobby and don’t value your work enough to pay for it yourself, than why charge at all? just do it for the love of it.

    whether you charge $25 for an 8×10 and don’t value photography enough to pay more, or you invest of yourself in your business and marketing plans and price for profit, you WILL find a market for what you’re charging/worth!

    when you realize that you are hurting your families by taking weekend sessions, working on the computer all night and having nothing to give back at the end of it, you’ll change your tune or quit.

    when you have a client that you just photographed pass away in a car accident and watch their family as they TREASURE the last portraits that you took – celebrating and cherishing those portraits, you may change your mind about the value of what we do.

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    Brandy says:

    Hello, first off to share with ya’ll, I am a photographer :) But I must say that I agree with Emily and I loved what she had to say. The truth is, that yes some people are willing to pay thousands of dollars for photos, but most people aren’t willing and most of them can’t pay that much! Maybe if I lived in a big city that was booming with rich people or people who lived comfortably, then maybe I’d be so lucky as to make that much money. I am sorry to say to that person who made that comment, that people are willing to buy big screen TVs and buy a couch for $3,000 or even buy a ring for $30k and so they can spend huge money on photos….um, most people can’t just pay straight up for those types of things and so they charge them to a credit card or make monthly payments to the store selling the item. I know that photographers have to earn money as a living just as much as the person who works at Walmart does. But what I don’t understand, is why do you say that we shouldn’t value our time away from our kids and spouse for just $10 an hour. That even a $100 wouldn’t be enough. What about all the rest of the world who works 8-10 hours a day in a office, or in a grocery store, or in a day care, or working behind a cash register, etc. and all they get paid is minimum wage, or just 9 dollars an hour? Are you then saying that they think less of their family because they get paid less then ten dollars an hour to work and miss out on time with the family? No!! We live in a world where most jobs that pay really super duper good are hard to find! Why then do some photographers feel they should get paid the big bawling bucks to use their skills? I believe we should charge a price that is fair and we should get paid for our time and talents, but why must some photographers think they have to charge thousands of dollars for their work? In my opinion, and I’m not being mean because I understand we all have opinions, but it’s not fair to those families who can not afford to pay that much and they have to use Walmart and pay $5 to get pictures that suck! Someone said something really mean in a comment. They said that they wanted clients anyways who could afford them and that they didn’t even want clients that could only afford Walmart. I thought photography was done mostly out of a love for it and for a love to see beauty captured in a photo. As with all jobs, our love for the job should first be of importance, then money (in my opinion anyways). To say that you don’t even want people who can only afford Walmart photos to be your clients is really wrong. That is saying they are no good. Maybe some photographers have clients willing to pay butt loads of money for photos but I am doing this because it’s a passion of mine and yes, I want to help those who can only afford Walmart photos. I can offer a $50 session fee and let them chose to have me develop them for alittle extra or they do it by me giving them a cd of their photos…and there’s nothing wrong with that! If all of us photographers started charging over a thousand dollars on our session fees and prints, guess what? It wouldn’t mean more people would then be willing to pay that crazy price because every photographer is charging the same high price! It would mean that more of us would be going out of business cause not too many would be able to afford those prices!! If we all charged high prices for our talent, then what would those who only made minimum wage do? How would they be able to afford a photographer? Or what about the single mom who is struggling and can only afford under a hundred bucks for her precious kid’s photos? Should she be told, “oh well you can’t afford me and my awesome talent so just go to Walmart?” No!! I love my 4 kids, I love having photos of them. But I would NEVER EVER spend a thousand or more dollars on pictures! Doesn’t mean I love then less then someone who would spend that much, just means I can’t afford to spend that and maybe I am wiser because I can use that money to buy their winter clothes they need and their christmas gifts, and even that doctor bill. So if you are getting paid that much, then that’s awesome! But just don’t get to a place where you feel your work is so great that those who can’t afford you are below you. Keep in mind that most people are living in a bad economy right now and are struggling just to pay the bills and keep their house. I live out in the country and most people around here can’t pay that much money for photos (how do you think I became a photographer? Lots of practice on my kids:) But they still have the right to find a photographer who will help them out and charge a fair, affordable price! So don’t get on to all photographers who charge only $50 a session or whatever, because maybe we are here to help those who can’t afford those who charge a leg and an arm for photography!! Thanks :)

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    Arsento says:

    Hmm… I read blogs on a similar topic, but i never visited your blog. I added it to favorites and i’ll be your constant reader.

  137. 137
    Brandy says:

    Oh and also….. just because I charge less then what some photographers feel I should be charging, doesn’t mean I think my talent is less then what it is or that I am being hard on myself. My work is awesome, I have creativity and talent. I value my talents and others do to. I just don’t think that I have to charge so much money for my talents in order to say that I value my talents and time. That is like saying that those whose work for far less then what they want to be working for at regular jobs, do not value their time and talents. Teachers are very valued in our school systems but they don’t bring home the big bucks I’m sure they wish they made, but yet I value them and so do others and they are very talented and skilled in what they do, REGARDLESS of how much they make. If you charge a lot or a little, your work is still talented. Period. And maybe, just maybe, those that can’t afford your awesome talent, will come to me instead to use my talent cause they can afford me!! :) Yea I’d like to make more money for my photos but around where I live I’m just blessed that people can afford what I charge now. God bless and the best of luck to all of the talented photographers out there!!! :)

  138. 138
    Jenny says:

    Great topic and explanation of details most don’t even fathom. I do however see one potential flaw in your pricing methodology. Would your COGS be already included in business expenses?

  139. 139
    Polprav says:

    Hello from Russia!
    Can I quote a post in your blog with the link to you?

  140. 140

    [...] or in a month? Mine aren’t consistent, anywhere from 0-5 full session/month which is not much. How Should I Price My Photography? Words of Advice from Jodie Otte | MCP Actions Blog __________________ Sarah BLOG :: My Recent Work :: Mommie to a Little Monkey who is now TWO! [...]

  141. 141
    Jennifer says:

    Wow! This was so informative! Gosh the first 2 paragraphs hit home for me! Theres another local photographer that charges a good $20 more than I do and her pictures SUCK to me and yet she STAYS busy and I have always wondered why the heck arent they using me..my pictures are WAY better and I am cheaper! I am slowly but surely learning more and my pictures are getting MUCH better so in January I am upping my prices at least by $30. I might consider down the road upping a little more but right now until I can work on doing better advertising I will leave it as is. I think thats how that other photographer gets business…she bugs the mess out of people and then of course people are gonna love the pictures because they are clueless as to whats good quality and what isnt. Any suggestions on advertising??

  142. 142
    Jen says:

    I would like to add that most people will invest into something that they can liquidate if the need be. Jewelry maintains its value, so if someone were to pay $30k for a diamond ring, and then need to sell it and make some kind of return on it, even if it isn’t what they spent on it they CAN get SOME money back. Where as portraits are only valuable to the family/friends. (unless of course you are famous) :p

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    JodieOtte says:

    Quoting Brandy “I know that photographers have to earn money as a living just as much as the person who works at Walmart does. But what I don’t understand, is why do you say that we shouldn’t value our time away from our kids and spouse for just $10 an hour. That even a $100 wouldn’t be enough. What about all the rest of the world who works 8-10 hours a day in a office, or in a grocery store, or in a day care, or working behind a cash register, etc. and all they get paid is minimum wage, or just 9 dollars an hour? ”

    Because those who are working behind a cash register, etc., do not own that business. They are an employee. As a business owner (a photography business owner), you are not an employee. As a BUSINESS OWNER, you should have retirement money, health care, you should be paying your own social security, etc. as far as taxes go. We are not talking about being an employee. As a business owner, you are managing an entire business, not just working for someone else. You are responsible for every aspect of your business, and you should be paid accordingly. I swear, this is one of the only businesses that people do not respect themselves as actual business owners. But then again, many photogs are not even legit businesses and aren’t paying their taxes, etc.

    Do what you may, talk to me in another 5 years if you appreciate being a business owner only making $9/hour just like the person who just has to dish out fries and burgers. Not downing them, I’m just asking where is the business owner mentality?

  144. 144
    JodieOtte says:

    Quoting Bandy again : “I thought photography was done mostly out of a love for it and for a love to see beauty captured in a photo. As with all jobs, our love for the job should first be of importance, then money (in my opinion anyways).”

    This is tell-tale that you don’t rely on the money, and that is fine… but that is why you feel strongly as you do. You need to understand there are many photographers who are in business to pay the bills. I am in business to give my kids everything that I didn’t have…. I want to be able to have my retirement padded so my husband with his retirement as well, can have a great life in our golden years. To not have to worry if something should happen to my husband or myself, that things are taken care of…. To not have to worry about money and instead, travel and spend time with my grandkids… I also want to be able to pay for my kids to go to college wherever my kids would like to go as well as help them to get even a step above what I have, a good head start with investing in land or houses. That’s not greed as you want to say it is. That is wanting to be a succesful business in order to have a successful and fulfilling life with my family.

    I have known business owners who didn’t take their business seriously and did it for “fun money” and ended up losing their spouses in divorce or death (one even had a husband who ended up disabled), and then had to learn the hard way how to run a business that is profitable because they had to all of a sudden support their children.

    You want to say it’s greed if we don’t do this just for the fun of it. Lots of photogs out there charge as they do in order to be a succesful business with staying power that can support their families.

  145. 145
    JodieOtte says:

    Quoting Jen “I would like to add that most people will invest into something that they can liquidate if the need be. Jewelry maintains its value, so if someone were to pay $30k for a diamond ring, and then need to sell it and make some kind of return on it, even if it isn’t what they spent on it they CAN get SOME money back. Where as portraits are only valuable to the family/friends.”

    And they can be invaluable! ;) When your loved one dies, those pictures are all you have left with your memories and then you realize how absolutely priceless those pictures are. I’ve had clients lose one of their loved ones and I have seen first hand how it affects them and how much those pictures mean to them.

    On another note – I know a plumber that can come fix your toilet for $100/hour. That’s some long-term investment right there! LOL ;)

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    Brandy says:

    Well obviously you didn’t really read my words right, because I never said you or anyone was greedy for money just cause they work for money……where did you read that at?? I know that people need money to buy things that they want, all I was saying was that with any job, we should love what were doing, so that means sometimes giving up a job that pays better to do something that pays less but something we love doing! My point was that we can’t be so focused on making tons of money that we forget that we are doing it because we have a passion for it. I never said nothing about greed. Also, I completely understand charging enough to pay your bills and saving some for the future, and if you are able to get clients that pay over a thousand dollars for your talent and time, then awesome!! I am happy for you! I wish I could live somewhere where I could have clients that were famous or wealthy and make more money off my talents. But my point is this: don’t diss us photographers who choose to charge less then you do. Here’s a quote from you: “I am shocked at the low prices of a lot of photographers – especially new photogs…..This industry is completely saturated with underpriced photographers – many talented.” Some of us choose to charge less then what you feel photographers should, because we want to! Maybe some of us are doing it mostly for fun and not for the money. Maybe some of us are stay at home moms who don’t really need a job but just wants to bring in a bit of extra money. And some of us just want to charge a price that people can afford because times are tough! We don’t have to all charge alot just because we are photographers. There are no rules that say we do. Another thing I will quote you on. “Because those who are working behind a cash register, etc., do not own that business. They are an employee. As a business owner (a photography business owner), you are not an employee.” And again, there are alot of people who own their own store or another business who do not make thousands of dollars a week and they still value their time with their kids as important! My whole point is that it is great if you live somewhere where people can afford you but just don’t think that every talented photographer has to charge as much as you think they should. If that was true, alot of families would have to go to Walmart with that coupon and get there pictures done there! Alot of people wouldn’t be able to afford a thousand or more for photos.

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    Rachel says:

    wise words, jodie! THANK YOU for promoting better industry standards!

    last september (read…BUSY SEASON). my computer crashed and died and my camera body was at the nikon factory for 6 weeks. count em. 6. i had to get up and running quick with a new mac and rent a camera for 6 weeks.

    you CANNOT do that if you have ridiculously low prices. price yourself so that these things won’t throw you under the bus. life happens.

    value your work and your time and give yourself enough cushion that you can breathe when things come along and trip you up for a while.

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    lindey says:

    i was just conversing in a thread regarding this issue on a private photography forum i participate in & came upon a comment that i have said many times myself.

    some women in this industry work for COMPLIMENTS not money.

    yep! those are often the one’s who justify their rediculously low pricing. (and i’m not speaking about someone just starting out who can’t justify anything more than a low price–but then you don’t take on the stress & responsibilty of a large production holiday mini session if you aren’t somewhat confident in your work, i hope)

    the lower their price the more people they have the opportunity to get a pat on the back from. and that’s fine, it does affect the industry, but i have been reassured that there is a high end market that values my work & appreciates the exclusiveness of having me as their custom photographer :o) those are the people i enjoy working with!

    for those of you who’ve commented saying thanks & you needed to hear this, i urge you not to let your excitement dwindle…get on it! come up with a plan, figure things out & post your new pricing now with the explination that you’re worth this now, but won’t be charging it until the first of the year ;o)

  149. 149
    Mike From Cincinnati Ohio says:

    I figure that after reading this, I should charge 2500.00 to 3000.00 per client. exclusivity plays a big roll in this. People in wedding want to put on aires for photo shoots, (keeping up with the jones’s) so, to me that means that I should charge way more than basic requirements to keep the lights on. Great article!

  150. 150
    JodieOtte says:

    Brandy – if you are truly doing photography for fun, have fun with that – seriously, have fun, and be happy. But if you ever consider doing this as a real business with profit, you would want to take a Business Management class or even a free business class at your local Small Business Development Center. You can charge low and still turn a profit – but you have to know how to, and that will require giving up the extras – and working as a more mass production based business with higher volume. 9 times out of 10, though, when a photographer complains about not having clients around that will spend, that is not the problem. It’s their business skills that are the problem. I personally live in the cornfields – yes, the cornfields… I don’t market to my area.

  151. 151
    JodieOtte says:

    Lindey – yes, many photographers work for the pat on the back. They work for the affirmation – whatever insecurities they have deep down inside that they need the pat on the back for little money or for free just amazes me. I have seen it countless times. There are photographers out there charging for workshops that don’t even have real photography businesses, they have just worked the internet to their advantage while seeking affirmation.

  152. 152
    JodieOtte says:

    and just a disclaimer: Just because I said that above about affirmation, I do not believe all lower priced photogs are seeking affirmation only… I’m just agreeing with Lindey that I have seen that weird phenomenon out there…

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    Georgina says:

    Jodie, this article and the replies have been a very interesting read. I’m aware of you and your work through ILP and your are very talented. I’m still in pb’ing stages and certainly going on your breakdown of pricings I am probably ‘working’ for nothing if I really looked at it. (Almost to afraid to do the actual costings I’m pretty sure I’d be out of pocket).

    One of the things I struggle with is that where I live (rural France) there aren’t many photographers around (you’d think that’d be a good thing) well no. The majority of the photogs that are around are not mind blowingly good, we’re talking portraits against fake sky backgrounds with clashing clothes, greasy hair and mininmal if any pp’ing done sadly that is not an exaggeration it’s almost as if Joe Bloggs just walked in off the street. I thought that I would be doing a lot better than I am for clients b/c I am better than that, but for some reason the locals are more than happy with that quality. I’ve seen first hand a set of wedding photographs that a local photographer did for a friend of mine (before I knew her) she is English the husband is French my friend hates her photographs she can see the awful quality of them but her husband and his family LOVE them I really mean LOVE them.

    So how can you set your prices to be what they ‘should’ be when you don’t get many clients when you’re practically giving yourself away? I’m my own worst critic too, I’m very critical of myself so I don’t believe I’m being big headed when I say that my work is better than that of the local photographer. I’ve tried to market myself to the Expat community as well but aside one or two friends that’s yielded very little. It seems like everyone loves to look at professional photographs and everyone wants them but NOBODY wants to pay for them. I don’t want to give up b/c I love photography it’s what I studied at college but I also don’t want it to be just a hobby taking images of my own children.

    I honestly think though in the area I live there is no way this could be a full time job I would be bankrupt before I even started (business costs, what you need to give the the government, in France are so high it’s frigthening)

    So I know I’ve rambled a bit and probably have made no sense whatsoever, and while I know I need to work on my pricing structure I really am at a loss of what to do, because with a session fee of 30 euros (for 1 to 2 hours) and 8 euros for a 10X8 print or a digital package of 75 euros inclusive and still lots of “wow you’re actually pretty good” comments and people MORE than happy for me to practice on their kids etc etc not very people are putting their money where their mouth is.

    I know I still have things to learn hence the pb’ing but I also know that compared the majority of the local photographers, and when I say local I’m talking in about an hours radius of where I live, I’m actually better because I’ve been basing my standards to those of an Englishman (I’m English) and am being mentored by an American so when it comes to custom portrait photography those standards are expected to be high. I just don’t know how to translate that to make it work here.

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    Margot says:

    ….BUT, what if the photogs in your area are low prices? Then what? Would you compare the costs and cut your costs to meet their pricing level?

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    You got to be brave…if you truly think you’ve got a better eye and product than your competitors, and if there’s clients with money in your area, then respect yourself and price your value accordingly.

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    what a great article – thanks for pulling together your thoughts and experience! i wish i had it about a year ago when i started my business! :) i particularly liked the quote “if you do not need the money right now because your spouse is the breadwinner, now is a GREAT TIME to build an exclusiveness about your business.”

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    Justyna says:

    Jodie, great article! Everything I have learned from other very talented photographers agrees with what you are saying.

    I think it is respectable if some photographers want to do it for free or minimum wage because they just want to have an outlet or whatever reason and can afford to live without an income. However, at the prices that are out there on the lower end, it looks like many photographers are loosing money. Spend more than they earn. That’s why the % of failed photography business is so high. The burn out rate among non-profitable photographers seems to be high as well, some people eventually get uninspired because they feel no one values their time. I’ve noticed they eventually feel guilty for their kids missing them. I’ve seen many photographers just quit.

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    Thank you so much Jodie and everyone for your comments. It was a very good read and one that I will revisit as I reevaluate things in January. One quick question… for an on-location photographer would you reccommend them taking a local business management class or a the SMS management class from PPA which is geared towards photogs. I know the PPA one is much more expensive and logistically woudl cost more, but just trying to figure out which is the best route. thanks so much again!

  159. 159

    I really enjoy reading How Should I Price My Photography? Words of Advice from Jodie Otte | MCP Actions Blog . It’s very interesting. Hope you will post something like this again.

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    [...] this How Should I Price My Photography? Words of Advice from Jodie Otte | MCP Actions Blog Some food for [...]

  161. 161
    Erin White says:

    Great article on pricing! I find myself in this situation often, thinking time away from my family should be worth more than this. Do you handle the accounting and entire business side yourself? or reccommend hiring someone for that?

  162. 162
    Michelle says:

    When I teach I battle this problem constantly! THANK YOU! AWESOME article!

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    kristen says:

    Thank you so much for writing this! So well written and to the point.
    As soon as I tripled my prices I lost all my whining, manipulative clients, and instead got clients who tip me, buy me thank you gifts, and actually treasure the photos they buy. They are nice people who value photography and are not bargain shopping. I make more doing 2 sessions a month than I did doing 8 sessions a month. I have more time to myself and more time for my family. I wish I had read this before I got started :)

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    [...] claim to be the cheapest photographers on the block. We hope to be the best. And when I read THIS article I realized that we are doing the right thing but also have a long way to go to actually [...]

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    Colleen says:

    Thanks for taking the time to post this well written article. Should be required reading at photography schools and for all those in business.

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    Megan says:

    I’m so glad I read this article. I’m a freelance technical writer and want to transition into photography. What you’re saying about pricing is what I had also discovered for my writing business, so it’s good that I can just apply what I already know how to do. I charge $130 per hour for my writing. Taxes are my biggest expense. I have very low overhead because all I need is a computer, a network connection, and an email account. I do very little driving or traveling. Even at that, I figure about 1/2 of my income goes to expenses (taxes and whatnot).

    My hourly rate is higher than that of many other tech writers, and some potential clients balk at the price. Which is fine. People who become my clients are happy, and become repeat customers, and that keeps me plenty busy. If I lowered my rate to please the bargain hunters, I might miss out on the chance to work for people who are willing to pay the price for my good quality work. I DO NOT compete with anyone based on price. I DO NOT try to get business as a cut-rate service. I am a premium service. I’ve had potential clients hire me, saying, “If you charge that much, you must be really good.” And they keep coming back. Half of it is because I really AM a good writer, and half of it is psychological. People value higher-priced things more than lower-priced things.

    Thanks for the helpful article, Jody!

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    Beth says:

    Great article! Well stated!!

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    Attila says:

    Hello,

    I think this is only half true.
    Yes, you should value your work etc.. as you wrote, however this is only work in certain cases.
    1. You must have a pretty big amount of $$ to start.
    2. You must live in a place where there are a lot of people and you have a lot of connections. (I don’t know anyone here and I have no family, kids, wife..etc.)
    3. Only if you want to do portrait/wedding photography as your main business. (Many people want to keep their original job as they have a good income from there, or they just like it) and many people photographers avoid doing portraits/weddings.

    I for example sell my photos at the hotel where I work and in a small local gallery.
    Not many because ppl are cheap like…. (I can’t find a word for this from the 1 mill English words).
    I sell 16×20 images, framed! for only $40 at the hotel (the frame is $45 but I buy it when it’s on sale for 25, add the print and I get almost nothing.).
    Normally when they hear $40 they run and only a few start to negotiate and offer me 20-25. Again it is framed – white, real wood+glass. If I don’t give it to them (and I do not :)) then they pick up their p&s cameras because the camera salesperson told them that with this they can do pro work, it has 12568 MP and shoot noiseless until 125000ISO :).

    Next day they bring the images to show me and expect me to tell them they are great, fantastic.. wow… Of course 99% of the time they have no details, they are noisy, blurry…etc.
    BUT! For the purpose – to have some images of their vacation – it is perfect. Walmart offers cheap 4×6 prints and they barely go bigger than 8×10 anyway.

    The gallery owner adds 100% to it and sells it for $80. Bunch of people are commenting on my photos and go into the gallery because they saw them walking by, then they talk, talk and buy nothing or pick up some cheap mass printed stuff for $9.99. People come to a resort town for vacation, which means they spend their money on hotel/restaurants/drinks.

    I don’t know too many people and that’s OK with me, I’m not the type who likes to jump around strangers on the beach asking if they want a photo. I don’t know anyone else here either, and have only a handful friends. So no, this isn’t working for everyone. It was a nice “let’s march under the flag” moment but it could be a long long time until one will get a break and/or find the right customers.
    The question is, if you can survive until that day.

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    VanessaG says:

    I completely misunderstood. I thought the $50 8×10 was the one any customer could buy at the developing counter. I wasn’t thinking of the mini Walmart studio. Will check on that. Thank you!

  170. 170
    Jodi L says:

    Brandy,

    You said, “I know that people need money to buy things that they want, all I was saying was that with any job, we should love what were doing, so that means sometimes giving up a job that pays better to do something that pays less but something we love doing!”

    It would be lovely if everybody in the world could be doing a job they love but most people, especially in the current economic climate, will do whatever job necessary to support their families. Bin men, cleaners, sewage workers, road sweepers (to name a few) are jobs that I can’t imagine people are doing for the love of it. We work because we have to, whatever style of life we choose to live and if we happen to love the job we do then that is just the icing on the cake.

    Running a photography business entails far more than working a 9-5 job. I often (in fact nearly every day!) find myself sitting up in the early hours of the morning post processing “just one more” shot before I go to bed before I have to get up again just a few short hours later with my 4 kids. And that is on top of the normal working hours. My life is hugely busy and I have to do everything and pay for everything for myself, the electricity board don’t look at me and think “Aah! She’s a single mum with 4 kids so we’ll give her cheaper electricity”.

    But I guess everything is relative. Where abouts you live in the world has everything to do with how much you charge, particularly if you consider your immediate locality to be your only market. Obviously if you live in a rural area, the cost of living is much lower than if you were in a huge city and so your prices will reflect that.

    But in today’s ‘throw away’ society people don’t really appreciate cheap and tend to hold a greater value for something they have paid more for. I don’t mean charge city prices in the country but don’t undercut everybody else because you want to be affordable to everyone. If people want something badly enough they will usually find the money they need to pay for it. Are you offered cut price services by other companies because they think you can’t afford the real prices? Like for example by the plumber who charges 100 an hour to unblock a sink, or the accountant (who will really know what you can afford!), even your car insurance or fuel prices? No! What they charge is what they charge. But if you are willing and able to sacrifice yourself on a daily basis to make things financially easier for others then good for you! I for one can’t afford to do that!

    Jodie -THANK YOU SO MUCH for your fantastic article! It’s like you wrote those words just for me! Where do I sign up??? I will definitely be coming back for more words of wisdom! I can’t wait to read more.

  171. 171
    Kelly says:

    Thank you for this article. Until you decide that owning a photography business is a business, it just will not make sense. When you step out of the photography part, realize that is your product, then it begins to make sense. It’s not about passion, it’s about making a living. The best thing a photographer who wants to open a studio can do? Read business books.

  172. 172

    [...] – Charge what you’re worth. Don’t think that booking MORE equals more money or is something to brag about.  You want quality weddings, quality clients, and profitable weddings. Doing 20 weddings a year is manageable. But something like 60 weddings a year??  That is a nightmare. That means working every.single.weekend. of the year. That means missing out on family events, friends’ weddings, football games, barbeques and summer fun. And thos who value their work see that a photo straight out of the camera is not a “finished photo” and will spend the time on post-processing. You can expect about two weeks’ worth of work with each wedding. So, 60 weddings a year, with 2 weeks’ work for each wedding, ah! there’s only 52 weeks in a year.. so… you see what I’m sayin’? Forget about days off. Unless you want to work 80+ hours per week to meet deadlines and keep your clients happy, and have absolutely no personal life whatsoever, you need to charge more, work fewer weekends, and be the happy and relaxed photographer you want to be.  Undercutting your competition may bring you more bookings for the moment, but in the long run, it will not be profitable and after all, even if this is “not about money” for you, you don’t want to be a non-for-profit business.  What to charge is probably one of the hardest things to figure out.  Here is an article to consider about pricing  http://mcpactions.com/blog/2009/10/12/how-should-i-price-my-photography-words-of-advice-from-jodie-o… [...]

  173. 173

    [...] How should I price my photography? On December 28, 2009, In Pricing, by admin This is a fantastic article on pricing your photography. So many photographers who are struggling with their business because they are not charging enough. This is a must read for anyone that is struggling with their pricing or not making enough money.   After reading it, you may realize your barely making minimum wage. Read the article here. [...]

  174. 174
    Kate Kerr says:

    Great Article! Thanks so much!

  175. 175
    Megan says:

    Remember this also. If you are a photographer out there undercharging, you bring down the value of every other photographer around you because customers feel like they can get the talent and service elsewhere far cheaper and think your “well priced” prints and products are outrageously priced when you’re simply charging what you need to keep your business afloat.

  176. 176

    [...] is so very, very hard.  I know recently there has been a pricing resource or two here on MCP.  but one thing i can share in regards to pricing is that it is so discouraging and frustrating, [...]

  177. 177
    Heidi says:

    Freaking FABULOUS.

  178. 178
    Dustin says:

    In an ideal world this would work. But this assumes that the photographer has a constant stream of clients who are insensitive to your pricing structure. This assumes lots of people are desperate to have you squeeze them in to your always-booked schedule. If that were the case, why stop at $50K? Why not $100K? Why not a million? Pretty soon, in an attempt to be an overnight millionaire you are charging $100,000 per session!

    It’s not as simple as that. I know someone who took this approach during the beginnings of her fledgling business. She sought to be seen as the city’s premier portrait photographer and began by charging a premium for her services. Two years later she has a total of 5 portrait sessions under her belt…5! (that’s not 5 factorial for those who were debating the mathematics behind pricing :).

    Over-pricing is just as dangerous (if not more dangerous) than underpricing. The problem with “how-to” articles like this one is that they are written by people who have been in the business for years. What they seem to have forgotten is that when you’re starting out, you’ll probably have to work for $1.57 an hour.

    So…for those of you starting out, I haven’t forgotten. It’s not that easy, which is quite comforting. But eventually it will be close to this easy :)

  179. 179
    Lena says:

    I am a part time photographer, happy with not makeing this a full blown business but to make some extra money here and there part time, and have fun doing it.

    These are just my thoughts. I have to agree with some here that I know I should be charging more but do not feel that the majority of people in my area will pay such high prices, including myself. I remember haveing a customer turn me down last minute after booking because he found a package at Wall Mart for $10. I think this is the way that the trends are going in our times. But there is one place that wall Mart has not gone into, and that is wedding photography, and I am focusing in that direction now. Sports Weddings and Events. I believe that studio photography has for the most part been taken over by Wall Mart and other such places. There are some few customers who don’t mind paying more to get better quality, but unless you are seriously into the business in photography you probably won’t reach them. The advice above is good for those people who want to make it a business. I guess it all depends on whether you want to really get into the business or just make it a fun casual hobby that gives you some extra cash.

  180. 180
    Linda says:

    Wow! You hit HOME with this one. My best friend from H.S. just had her daughter’s Senior portraits done. The guy is PB’ing…he took over 500 pictures in a 2 hour session. He provided over 200 photos on a disk – full resolution, with photographer release…for $50.

    Not only did he not research the local pricing, but he seriously undercut every true professional out there. He’s not a pro (according to my friend), but he does this as a “hobby”. Based on the images I saw, he spent a LOT of time in post-process. There wasn’t an image that didn’t appear to have been largely altered…I’m talking several different actions and treatments. He likely spent a lot of time on each picture. He sold himself short. And quite frankly, I think he did a disservice to my friend and her daughter. The pictures were “okay”, I think my friend could have shot them just as well!

    He would do well to read this article and learn a few things…

  181. 181
    tanni says:

    Living in Orange County CA(one of the most expensive places to live in the country)it makes me ill when I hear of people charging $50 for a sitting fee. Granted I don’t know what their print pricing is but I don’t understand how they have a “real” business when charging these types of prices. I guess you get what you pay for and some people might think they do great work while others might think it is crap.

    Thanks for the break down.

  182. 182

    Fantastic article! Well said!!

  183. 183
    ds says:

    I doubt there are many photographers out there getting forced out of the business despite a full schedule and a large client list. The reason why 95% of photographers go out of business is the same as why 95% of all small businesses fail: they fail because there are not enough customers coming through their door.

    With photographers this seems especially true. A clothing store owner operating in the red might decide to upgrade their clothing line and cater to the higher end. In this case the clothing store can charge more for their goods because the goods themselves are higher quality. But for the most part, the quality of a photographer’s work is in their technical and artistic skill. A photographer cannot simply charge more
    for their services without also improving the quality of services he or she provides. And this is the reality for most of the 95% that go out of business. Whether right or wrong, the quality of their work is not competitive at a sufficiently high price point which will earn them a comfortable living.

    Its very nice and wonderful that the author makes multiple six figures. That puts her in the top 1% of all income earners in the United States. I am sure that she and many of her friends in the same strata appreciate the value of high-quality portrait photography and are willing to pay for it. But amongst the other 99% of people in the nation, there are simply not enough out there willing to pay thousands of dollars for portraits, and thus not enough opportunities for professional portrait photographers, whatever their pricing strategy may be.

  184. 184
    Photogirl says:

    Brilliant advice. I only wish I’d had this information when I started my business six years ago. I have a BFA in photography, but none of this was discussed at university. And it should have been. Because simply being an “artiste” does not pay the bills! Thank you for sharing, Jodie. I hope that photographers, and especially the newer ones, will take your very wise advice to heart.

  185. 185
    Joseph Strand says:

    I appreciate your sass. This article rocks, and the site is great!

    best.joe

  186. 186
    kylie says:

    this blog really helped me out. i keep making excuses as to why i only charge $50 for 1 – 2 hours of shooting. i pretty much have a “pack and play” studio. it packs up and i just set up in the clients living room so i feel like i shouldnt charge as much not having my own location. i dont know. but this inspired me to re-evaluate my prices and the fact that i cant even pay for a simple lens repair! thanks a million :)

  187. 187
    Laurent says:

    Thanks a lot for this article. As a prospective part-time photographer, it really helps to put things in perspective !

  188. 188
  189. 189
    Melissa says:

    This is brilliant! It is very hard to take your emotions out of the equation when you’re working with friends and family, however.

  190. 190
    Libra says:

    This is by far the best article on pricing your photography I have ever read. It hits all points of being in business for yourself, having a level of pride for your work, having no fear of charging what you are worth. It think this is the problem what a lot of small business owners. When you run your own business you are responsible for more that just bring home the bacon there are a lot of other cost are involved and this article showed it. By charging what you are worth your are also dictating your quality of living and this brings “Peace of Mind” which is PRICELESS!

  191. 191
    Jen says:

    I WISH I could have had this advice 3 years ago before I decided to blindly jump into business!!! I had no business knowledge whatsoever–went in on a wing and a prayer. Needless to say, I got so discouraged and so in debt that I had to close the business. I found out the hard way that while you may be able to do something creatively, doesn’t automatically translate into “knowing” the business side of things. I hope this article helps others out before they are too far in over their heads. Great wisdom!!!

  192. 192
    Libra says:

    I have read this article and the responses over and over and over today and have discovered one common thing among the Negative Nellys! They fail to realize that this article is relative to a persons knowledge and level of comfort with photography. All though the title does not clearly state that within the title but that is the one of the main underlying message that I am getting. If you want to do this full time then this is a suggested way you should price your photography services not the mandatory way. If you want a certain quality of life and certain quality customer base then this is a suggested, note I said suggested way of pricing your photography. Please stop beating and attempting to point prove the author of this wonderful article wrong. Take what you need, apply it to your needs and leave the rest.

  193. 193
    sylvia says:

    Thank you! This is one of the best posts on the subject that I have come across.

  194. 194
    Brittani Bowling says:

    Awesome advice that makes absolute sense. Many people don’t get into photography for the business aspect but it’s so important to remember that to be successful and have people value your work and the industry we work so hard at, business sense is a must. I really like the way you wrote this, the examples you used, and your good sense of humor! Thanks Jodie!

  195. 195
    David says:

    A year on, and this is such a timeless and great article.

    Pricing is important to business in so many ways, and it is a key foundation of our marketing and success.

    Those who found this article useful, may find the following online presentation on branding of value:

    http://www.slideshare.net/imootee/brand-masterclass-week-one

    If you think branding is about logos – think again.

  196. 196

    [...] fees and prices. Finalize your prices (Jodie Otte wrote a wonderful article: pricing your photography, and if you’re really stuck, consider the Easy As Pie guide to help you put together [...]

  197. 197
    Jennifer Walker says:

    This is by far one of the most helpful articles I have read! Thank you for your candor! Sometimes we are our own worst critics!

  198. 198
    Mandy says:

    This was a GREAT article on how to get started with pricing. It seems like common sense, but yet most of us are taking a shot in the dark with our pricing.

    Also, the area you are in does make a big difference in pricing. Some rural areas do not have a market for high priced luxury items.

    One thing I can say though, you say that we shouldn’t be making $10 an hour part time, as it’s not worth time away from our families. Well for me, I stay home with my kids and just need a little extra to cover our expenses. I shoot on weekends, but I edit at night when my kids are sleeping, so I don’t spend that much time away from them. So if I am in fact only making $10 an hour, then it is much better than working for more somewhere else and being away from my kids all day. That is actually why I got started with my business, so I can work when my husband is home and still be home with my little ones.

    Once my kids are in school I plan to make this a full time business, and I will be so glad that I read this article!!!

    Oh, and for the ones that worried that raising your prices will make you lose business – I raised my prices substantially a little over a month ago (I am still a little below the standard pricing for my area I believe), and I did not lose business. In fact, I have more business this month, and I am even booking appointments months in advance.

    Now I am off to see how much I am REALLY making an hour!

  199. 199
    Juli L. says:

    Wow, this is an eye opener! Thank you for the break down. It really helps me figure out my time what my time is worth and that I’m going to need to bump it up a bit.

  200. 200

    Love your work and I love this blog. I am thankful for this article as I was just pondering my prices. Thank-you!

  201. 201

    [...] Discounting Your Photography is Bad For Your Business I see a lot of people panic, wake up one day, and say, “I am gonna [...]

  202. 202

    Thank you so much. I am in the process of starting my business and am overwhelmed with the business part of it. So much to do. Pricing is one of my thorns. This article straightened me out a great bit. The most important thing to me I read was keeping emotions out of it. I am a bit nervous. What if they don’t like the pictures, what if none of them come out, am I really good enough (all my friends and family agree I am, but of course, I think they are prejudice). As you mentioned in your article, my husband is the bread winner so I can afford to take the time to build my business. I think I will get my photographs out and really look at how good they are. I can do this!! I’ve make a commitment to carry it through. I think I will make another commitment to absolutely value my talent and time, then price accordingly.

    Thank you again for the helpful input.

  203. 203
    Albert Rayl says:

    Any Professional photographer willing to settle for less than $250k a year just don’t want to work. There are easy way to make that kind of money charging REASONABLE prices. How about wedding 8×10’s at $9.95, but what about the digital memory book and the video. Do 2 weddings a week and only average $1500 per wedding and that alone is $156k per year. Add in Custom Framing, Portraits, AND ABSOLUTELY NO SITTING CHARGE, 2 – passport photos for $1.00 and I will teach you how to make at least $350k per year.

    • 203.1
      Jenne says:

      Teach me how to work my photography business please!

    • 203.2

      Please help me, I am starting my business as a wedding photographer. I want to jump to the next level.

    • 203.3
      Tiffany says:

      I’d love to learn from you Albert. I’m also trying to adjust my pricing to show that I value my work.

      Email me if you still get this: tiffanydawnphotos@gmail.com

    • 203.4

      Albert,

      Hi, thanks for your input. I see how a wedding photographer can make a ton of money. I am not a wedding photographer though, so I wonder how you apply this knowledge to portraits? I started doing business about 6 months ago. Please don’t knock me, but I did the photo’s for free for portfolio work and I charged $10 a DVD for 5-10 images. I did do the editing on the color corrections, levels, etc but no retouching on skintones, acne. Since then, I now have a pretty good porfolio up and I am starting to get some referrals and word of mouth advertising working for me. I am advertising on craigslist and facebook, and working on building my website and brand identity. I have lucked out and got some great deals on used equipment, so I can do photo’s outdoors or inside at a clients home. I have alot of great props and backgrounds, plus all the lighting set up. I have a few themes I can do for kid’s photo’s such as mermaid photo’s, fairy photo’s, baby in the washtub with the rubber ducky photos (still thinking of a name for that one), wicker chairs and tables, etc. I pretty much have everything I need to start my business and hit the ground running. My husband is in graphic design and he just finished my new logo and I have all my brand identity documents mocked up, just need some income to have them all printed.

      I have just booked my first big event, a reunion for a high school. I charged $300, and will bill at $50 for every 1/2 hr over the initial 2 hours. This is only for agreed upon group photo’s. No roaming photography and I can promote my business at the event. Hopefully I can get my brand identity documents (business cards, etc) printed prior to the event. I am only giving them a DVD and negotiated a copyright release so they could print the photo’s themself and a release from me so they could sell them. I weighed the options of them not selling a single image last reunion, and having to manage those photo’s for 10 years as a deciding factor to release the copyrights to sell them. I still can use them for promotional purposes.

      On the side, I am scheduling people for outdoor photo’s, mainly family and children’s photo’s which is the focus of my business, and I am charging $30 for 5-10 images with a print release on DVD and they can order prints through me for an added cost. I don’t know what to charge for my packages. I am trying to figure that out now. I use Nations Photo Lab so that I can do the ordering in house for now without having to pay a lab any fee’s and so that I can basically drop ship the photo’s to the customers. I have done a few indoor photo sessions the same way, only I have charged $45 (setting fee), $25 (set up fee for lights) for a total of $65. normal price $85.

      Now that you have my history and know what I am doing in my upcoming events and clients. I am starting to get more business and it’s time to really sit down and think about getting my pricing correct and pursuing this as a business and a career. I am on SSDI for Multiple Sclerosis so I am not working and I receive enough money to pay the bills as is. I have all the free time I need minus the two kids and my husband needing time spent with them. LOL. You said that no professional photographer would settle for less than $250K a year. I don’t want to settle for less. I want to get off Disability and get my life back. I am 30 years old, I have plenty of time to do this. Please email me and give me your thoughts, opinions, advise, critiques, anything! I would appreciate anything you could teach me. My email is jenpritchard2011@gmail.com and currently my portfolio is at http://www.facebook.com/CTMFotography

      I know you have received a lot of requests on here, but if you could take the time to share some insight, I would be very grateful. I am having such a hard time figuring out how to price everything. I mean I have gotten everything I need to start for less than $2K, I probably have at least $20K worth of inventory at this point.

      I plan to focus on family photography. Primarily babies through seniors, family portraits, maternity, hopefully some newborns eventually, and I would like to do some kids themed photos. I want to start offering prints along with the DVD’s. I also enjoy doing the occasional event such as engagements, impromptu proposals, class reunions, prom photo’s, family reunions, etc. Maybe do some budoir as well. I want to stay away from wedding photography for right now. The market in Wichita, KS is oversaturated with wedding photographers, and they are very good. Anyway the competition in that market is stiff and I am not ready to take on the responsibility of doing someone’s wedding. Anyway I am going to sum this up, and I can send you anymore information in an email. I wanted to give you the basics up front so you have a basis to respond to me as.

      Thanks so much!

      Jennifer Pritchard

    • 203.5
      Paul Rhodeman says:

      Teach me…I want to learn! I love taking pictures, but I am SO not the business type and I don’t want to be a business that fails. Tnnaks to the writer of the article, i saved it to my favorites page so i can keep coming back for more wisdom!

    • 203.6
      Rainer says:

      Though in principle it is pretty much correct to factor your costs and what your work is worth in. How ever” One also need to consider trends, global hardship where there is a higher unemployment rate, an over supply of Photographers and WANNA BEES as is in my City. Then you are dealing and needing to consider these added dynamics as well. Not easy, believe me. I have factored in to reflect a reasonable price and to cover at least what I am worth to some degree in order to remain competitive. > But! When you are dealing with an over supply of Photographers in your region then even that makes it difficult hence reputable Businesses having gone out of business. So” Adding this little twist to Jodie’s already explained rationale makes it even more spicy to deal with. I have a full time Job that covers my living. I use my professional photographic skills to do mainly Weddings and other photography when a customer knocks on my Door to engage my services. There for it is not crucial to rely on photography to make a living. One also needs to be realistically look at their inner self. Why do you do photography in the first place? Is it because you want to make an easy Buck using an el cheapo Camera? Perhaps you are of a professional calliper but are too focussed on money making? Let me tell you. If that is all it is then your motives are in fact pretty shallow indeed. In the first instance you must have PASSION. There had been times where admittedly did work without adequate monetary gain. But I did not feel bad about it nor did I feel I undermined my skill set e.t.c. I did it in part because I am passionate about photography. So” Successful or not so successful. It all depends on how you measure success as in my instance it was also measured in a personal passionate sense and still got paid for it even if I would have liked more.

    • 203.7
      Sierra says:

      Tell us more Albert!

  204. 204

    [...] 04:34 PM How to Price Portrait Photography? Jodie Otte's Advice | MCP Photoshop Actions and Tutorials Blog fo… ————————— http://www.rabrownphotography.com [...]

  205. 205
    bobby says:

    Your logic is flawed because you start your pricing guide with “if you want to make $60,000 a year” and “If you want 2 clients a week” as if those things are under your control. I want to make a $200,000 a year and have 1 client per week. Does that mean I can charge $3,840 for each shoot?
    Charging $200 works for me because I don’t have the overhead you have and for a 2 hour shoot and 2 hour post processing, I still make $50/hour that pays for my hobby. The best part is I take better pictures than most of you guys and take business away from you AND I have my day job.

    You want to blame someone for losing business to us, blame yourself for picking a career that requires skills that anybody who can read a book and go out and shoot can pick up. Being a plumber, electrician, doctor, or other professions requires a license. Even a monkey with a camera can take a decent picture here or there.

    • 205.1
      Chris Davis says:

      Actually, yes anyone who can read a book can take decent pictures. Your logic is flawed on one point, its not about taking good pictures its about taking great pictures. That is where the art comes into it.

      • 205.1.1
        shawn says:

        it has nothing to do with taking crappy pictures or great pictures. it’s about running a business period. if you can manage your business properly an average photographer can make good money. and as far as saying anyone that can read a book can take descent pictures. well, I know a lot of people that can read but when I see their photos

    • 205.2
      Wendy K says:

      I disagree Bobby with your comment. How I don’t completely agree with this article and it’s author, I do agree that our work is valuable, much more so than someone with a snap camera. My work is worth more, my time, my trouble and the outcome is envied by most. If your work is good and above standard in quality and beauty, people are willing to pay your worth. The fly by night kitchen housewife photographers won’t last, so they price their work to make grocery money, let them be, who cares? If someone won’t pay me what my work is worth so they get less quality from housewife photographer and pay less…it’s their loss because years down the road they’ll wish those moments and memories won’t be near as nice to look at as if they’d paid a few extra dollars for something I could have given them.

      • 205.2.1
        Wendy K says:

        I mis-wrote something in my comment above…meant to say that years down the road they’ll look at those photos and wish they’d spent more to have someone like me take them!…lol….sorry about that.

        I want to add that I do appreciate the information you offered here. You took a LOT of time obviously to share information you have and to hopefully help those that can’t afford to pay for the information. Even though I don’t completely agree with “every” detail you suggested, I do agree with the majority of it and feel you are very intelligent and I appreciate your time and trouble here!….=)

        I shared some senior pics I took last month, the girl above by the old windows and the guy in this comment box….hope you enjoy them =).

        • scarlett says:

          Wow Wendy… are there even words to describe the way I feel about your comment. I don’t think attacking housewives who want to make a little money is really becoming of you. As a so called professional and member of society you should be a little more kind. Everyone starts somewhere. And honestly from the looks of the photos you have up you still haven’t made it out of the starting gate. seeing your pictures above I would never pay you for them. It looks like you took some crap pictures on a point and shoot and ran them haphazardly through a retouch app you would find for free on your cell phone. Get over yourself and deflate your head a little. Or better yet take a picture of it.

      • 205.2.2
        Lisa says:

        Wow that hurts, I have been a photographer for 15 yrs at least. I am one of those housewife photographers thank you very much. I taught H.S. art and photography for 6 yrs of that. Just because I can be the best mom to my kids and wife to my husband doesn’t discount me as a good photographer. I know my stuff! I think its people in the business that think they are superior are what really hurts us all.

        • Jeff Wright says:

          I prefer Lisa’s sample pictures over both of Wendy K’s; and I think Wendy’s attitude is part of what wrecks a lot of photographers. Lots of confidence is great as long as you aren’t rude about it.

          Attached picture was taken days ago, and is my first attempt at portrait photography. Taken with a 33″ reflective umbrella (strobe) setup from CowboyStudios in the middle of a very bright Texas afternoon.

          Everyone starts out as a “fly by night whatever”, but you have to start somewhere.

          I’m an 18 year old kid, but hard work pays off. You do what you can and progress as often as you can. The fact is, everyone who has commented on the original article read said article to get some advice because some of their skills are sub-par. Humility is key in a business over run by egos. -.-

          Sorry for bringing this year old post back.

          Awesome article by the way! It has really settled some questions that I have struggled with. [:

    • 205.3
      Maggie says:

      Hi Bobby,

      If your still there. Would you have the skills for medical photography? Or movie set photography? Anyone can pick up a camera, just like anyone can pick up a wrench. It’s what you know you can do with it that counts. I see plenty of people running a photography business and I can tell they don’t know how to control their camera.
      If you had to rely on your photog business and not your full-time job to rely on, you probably wouldn’t last long.

      • 205.3.1
        Cindy says:

        So true!!
        Let’s say you learn from a book how to cut the hair…You decided to make it a hobby but charge like 5$ the haircut.You do really nice haircut but you are maybe missing some techniques but overall that looks great.
        People if they have to chose between you and the hairdresser who charge 15.Who do you think they will pick?The cheaper…Logic
        But what is underneath the price of the hairdresser is her equipment that she change regulary,the chair she has to pay each month and her experience.
        If she’d do it like a hobby none of this things would matter!
        So if i follow your idea…Nobody should have their buisness…
        Same thing for photographers…Because we can’t compete with those prices.
        If it would be just a few people doing that i would be ok with it but i don’t know why,it’s kind of a trend everybody has the ”hobby” to photograph…So it’s harder…

    • 205.4
      Tracy says:

      Would love to see some of your photography! I’ve attached mine for you to look at (fair’s fair).

    • 205.5
      Victoria says:

      Oh wow, Bobby, you are a complete a$$ to say such a thing. I bet you don’t take wonderful pictures to be quite honest with that attitude. And I disagree, not just anyone can take amazing pictures. I know a TON of people who cannot take a creative, artful picture to save their life and even if they took a class it’d be all technical and lacking in the creative art. You cannot TEACH that side of the business, it is a TALENT. Just like playing a sport is a talent. You can learn the rules all you want, but if you don’t have the creative eye and talent you won’t be great at it.
      Plus, why are you so proud of the fact that you take away business from professionals that love their work and it is their full time career??? Why intentionally low ball pricing that hurts the true professional photographers that love their job but also need to make ends meet as this article clearly describes. I might make $200k a year on paper, but after all is said and done I’d be lucky to make a quarter of it in profit. However, your “day” job doesn’t require all that because your BOSS (owner of said company) pays for all the overhead which includes YOU. You just pay Uncle Sam and the rest is profit to you. You sir, are a douche.

    • 205.6
      Jackie says:

      The art of photography is a little more than “a monkey with a camera”. If you really have as little respect for photography and your fellow photographers, it always shows in your work. There are plenty of potential clients out there who will be happy enough; those of us who take photography seriously like to cater to a clientele who know the difference between a talented photographer vs. someone who read a book.

    • 205.7
      Heather says:

      You are seriously clueless and your attitude is what will separate you from those monkey photographers and true artist. See..you may can learn the technical from a book but creating art comes from within and not everyone is gifted with that ability ;)

      I don’t blame anyone. I have stepped aside and the clients that come seeking me see a value in what I do because it is not run of the mill what every tom,dick and harry ( or monkey as you say) is doing. See,while you walk around strutting and bragging you are surrounded by thousands more like you. If it suits you then so be it.

      Do as you wish but you obviously have no respect for the industry or the people who helped paved the way. Your attitude is the reason why people don’t value the industry. Thanks.

    • 205.8
      Denise U says:

      FINALLY..someone with a BRAIN posts! I COULDN’T AGREE more with you Bobby- I make hair accessories for like $3 a piece..and I am trying to apply this logic to that and think..soooo I should be charging $90 for a bow? No.

      I am getting into photography and I feel the same about it..people charge WAY too much. $50 an hour sounds good to me considering I don’t have a degree of any kind!

  206. 206
    Steve Freund says:

    Your article should be required reading for anyone considering professional photography. Those balancing another job and family time will realize that they are working for below their regular wage, actually working overtime for under-time wage.

  207. 207
    Marianne says:

    Maybe I would take what this writer had to say more seriously if they didn’t come off like a huge BITCH. I certainly wouldn’t hire them. Tone down the attitude for your next article, and maybe I’ll read uit.

    • 207.1
      Nicole Dawn says:

      This is a completely inappropriate comment. The article is well writen and gives a general understand on how to figure price… If you disagree, then simply state that or what you disagree with. If you are not a professional photog or plan on becoming one, you should find something better to do with your time. As she said, “To each is own.”

  208. 208
    Ritz says:

    Wow you answered every question I had like you were reading my mind. Very well written. Thank you for posting it free of charge!!!lol

  209. 209
    Linda says:

    Hi my husband and I oped a Studio a1 year ago and we are doing our taxes by our selfs. We don’t know the difference between supplies and office expensive. Where can we find ? Also we never marked down the milage for our cars. How do we calculate now? Thank you!

    • 209.1
      Lisa says:

      You are kind of out of luck on the mileage. The IRS requires pretty extensive records if you are to be audited. The only suggestion might be to log your on location shoots which and mileage to a store in which you have a receipt. The best method is to keep a log in each car. A simple calendar will work and write the starting and ending mileage and where you went. Total it up at the end of the year and keep that notebook for records. There are also several ways to write of this mileage. Either by % of total miles used on the car or # of total miles x the IRS amount. And as I read it, supplies, office equipment, camera equipment are all the same – an expense and can be written off as just that. Although, for some of your more expensive equipment you can choose to use amortization over the life of the equipment. Seeing as how you guys seem a little lost in tax department, it might be wise to hire an accountant. You will be sure your refund is filed correctly and probably get back more than you will on your own. And if the IRS comes knocking, which it does frequently with photog business, you will be much better off having someone else do your taxes. At least until you understand it better. Hope that helps!

    • 209.2
  210. 210
    vibram says:

    What is the stupidest thing you’ve done because someone dared you to?

  211. 211
    Deborah Kuykendall says:

    href=”http://mcpactions.com/”> Ok, this is my first time to blog here…So, here it goes! I have entered the contest, and would really benefit having the IPAD, as my husband is a Dissabled Army Vet, and I am at the hospital or clinic with him at least once a week. The IPAD would allow me to work on my art/craft, where ever I may be!

  212. 212

    I am in the process of seriously starting my business. I am in the later stages of photography school at a local community college but I believe my images are great even though I haven’t finished school yet. I haven’t decided if I will be renting a space yet or operating as a home based business. Your article really helped me. It was chock full of info and believe me I took notes and bookmarked it. I appreciate you taking the time to write it. This is more than a hobby for me and I intend to make a good living doing it. I am also signed up for a photography business class in the fall. Thanks again!!!

    • 212.1

      Hi, I would really like to know the name of the photography business class you found. I am looking to go back for my 2nd BS Degree and major in photography. That would be a great side class to take. I currently majored in web design and development. I took photography classes throughout high school as well and some mail order college classes for photography back in the day for a certification. Also, are you going online for the business class or at the community college? I am going to check our local college’s to see what we have available. All my courses I have taken were back in the day with film photography and I want to get some new education with the digital and studio lighting. Thanks for any insite that you share!

      • 212.1.1
        Paul Rhodeman says:

        question…are those mail photography classes any good? I’d like to take some on lighting and getting the courage to go manual on my camera.

  213. 213
    Sheila says:

    this just gave me a wake up call.

  214. 214
    Anthony says:

    Thanks so much for such a good break down of the business side of things. Pricing is hard. Especially for newbies. It’s so easy to fool yourself into thinking you’re doing okay and forget all the expenses and extra time you invest outside of what a client is paying you for.

    Many thanks for the article.

  215. 215

    I agree with the article. The problem is, is that how do you get two clients per week, especially ones willing to pay that in an over saturated market?

    • 215.1
      Fenix says:

      The sad part is you may not be able to. What the author isn’t saying so blunty is if you can’t bill enough to stay in business you won’t be. If your market is over-saturated or there isn’t a market for your photography you will fail.

      As she said, you need to be able to do $42,000 in sales just to take home $20K. You’d make $20K at the mall with a lot more sleep and time with your family.

      • 215.1.1

        When you really look at it, this is why so many people start branching in part time. Those part timers over saturate the industry and devalue the product. I think that from a business/marketing standpoint, the trick is to be the “Apple” of the industry. Focus on branding your business in a way that there is no mistaking who you are and what people think of when they hear your name.

  216. 216
    Jennifer says:

    I am a trained photographer, 10 years experience, and also shoot for magazines. I have moved AWAY from portraits for the mere reason that the ‘SamsClub Photo Kit club’ has priced me out of the running. I can try to explain to someone that I’ve just spent 5 hours editing their images after a 2 hour shoot with high end equipment and business insurance and licenses, and show them a portfolio that is miles above the rest, but honestly, People don’t want great anymore…they want ‘good enough’ at a cheap price. For instance, my latest competitor who stole a very lucrative client from me, charges $35.00 for a 1 hour session with a full disc of retouched images… WHAT?!?!?! I have been too afraid for too many years to state my worth, but by Gosh, I will NOT be settling to compete with these hack jobs. Oh, and I’m not even CLOSE to charging $1000 for a print package… Nope mine start out at $250 and I STILL cannot compete. Ridiculous.

    • 216.1
      Lisa says:

      I agree! I tell my people, if they want less go to JC Pennys. I’m moving more towards Seniors and Wedding Photography. I feel those are 2 areas in life people are willing to pay for the high quality I offer!

    • 216.2
      Gene says:

      This is not an article to help you determine pricing – local compatitn des that!
      This is an article that helps you determine if you should bother trying toget into photography locally. If you can do $100k a year in your area, maybe it’s not worth getting into the business. Keep photography a hobbie and find other better paying less compettitive work.

    • 216.3

      I am new and starting out, so I am guilty of doing what you hate. I am not trying to outprice professional photographers though, just get portfolio work so that I can get as good as all of you wonderful photographer! I have spoke with many great photographers in the last few months and they all have the same complaint so I have upped my prices because of that. They complain that anyone with a camera thinks they are a photographer and they are killing the market with these prices. I agree. I don’t want to knock you guys out of business, I aspire to be as good as you and to be able to charge as much as you do. I hope one day I will be. Please don’t give up. Yes there are going to be those cheap people that don’t want to pay for quality but those are not the clientel that you want to attract, am I right? Obviously they are the low income population that can’t afford quality and probably couldn’t tell the difference until it smacked them in the face.

      I was hoping to learn something from photographer’s like you about how to charge or even ask the prices that you do for sessions. I feel that I am a little scared to ask for a higher price. But, another photographer told me that if you don’t respect yourself and your work, and you are charging below average prices for the work then that’s what people expect of you. If you charge more then you are likely to gain thier respect and business. I was also told to always take the money up front before even scheduling the appointments and that alone will bring in a higher clientel. They have something invested at that point.

      For your person that’s offering retouched images, they are probably not really retouched. That term is used losely. I bet they have just edited and cropped photo’s. Plus I bet they haven’t even formated them correctly for printing. After a person gets those photos they will hopefully see the difference in the work of a professional. I know I can! I guess I am responding because it’s dissapointing to hear that you have quit due to a few newbies oversaturating the market. People are getting sick of places like Portrait Innovations, Walmart, Etc. People see that they are spending $100 plus for one pose, and a package of pictures that don’t suit their needs, so they are willing to now go with a professional photographer. The industry is going to change.

  217. 217

    [...] to auctions or something of the like to soothe that desire. Here’s a great article on pricing by Jodie at MCP Actions….“Their photos are so much better than mine!”It’s true – there are many, MANY talented [...]

  218. 218
    David says:

    Thank you for taking the time to outline this info. Some common sense, and some great “wake up call” items. And for Marianne who said you came off with attitude, I think she may have been hearing herself think while reading this great, free information. You didn’t come off that way at all. She, on the other hand….

  219. 219
    Sangeetha says:

    While I think no one should under price their work, Charging $600 for 1 8×10 and 2 5×7 after 1 hour photo session shooting at least 10 different poses is ridiculous. There should be a balance

  220. 220
    Derek says:

    I’m so glad I stumbled upon this, it really made me think. I just started my own photography business and I always struggled with what to price. Starting high is a good choice so you don’t have to raise your prices on people. Thank you for posting this.

    _Derek

  221. 221
    Craig Adler says:

    I just have to tell you THANK YOU! So much for your incredible advice. I’ve been a hair stylist/airbrush makeup artist for over 35 years and now have decided after working for photographers, I can do it to. I’ve come quite a long way, learning photoshop techniques and lightroom3. My skill with the camera are improving everyday. I have been frustrated about how to price out my work without giving it away. So when I saw your site, it just makes sense and I thank you for how you’ve designed the blueprint for the inventory of expenses to everything. I will be visiting again time and time again, sincerely thank you again, Craig Adler

  222. 222
    Lisa Johnson says:

    I agree and disagree with some points this photographer makes. Charging for your work is based on the area you live and competition, as well. If you price too high, you lose money or too little and you lose more money/time. Some money is better than none, but what to sacrifice? Create a pros and cons list about your work and fees. Compare with others and then make a decision. I find it hard to believe with this economy a freelance photographer could make anywhere close to what she has stated. A full time studio,perhaps but you have all the extra costs that go along with it. Many photographers that I know work from their home studio or only on location. Competition is high for the best picture and price. The comment to leave emotions out of it cracks me up. It makes me think of this famous quote, “NOT PERSONAL! That is my WORK, my SWEAT, and MY TIME AWAY FROM MY KIDS! IF THAT IS NOT PERSONAL, I DON’T KNOW WHAT IS!” Erin Brockovich:

  223. 223
    Kim says:

    This article was both scary and enlightning for me… While going through my PB stage, I charged 50.00 per hour. I’ve sense grown tremendously, and have more than enough to show people on all subjects. Now, I’m getting some comebacks, and I cringe to tell them I’ve increased my prices even though I made it very clear to them before that I will increase them after my newbie stage… I’ve completely gone through my savings (money that was given to me after my fathers death) and 95% of it was simply to get business started… New equipment, computer, software, studio lighting, backdrops, lenses, packaging materials ect… Now I’m lucky if I get 2 clients a month…. I love how people swoon at my photo’s but can never commit to a date when I ask when they’d like to do their own… At a meezly 100.00 per hour for the session, but countless hours sorting, uploading, editing, and burning… I’ve spent almost every penny I have, and am so tempted to charge 20.00 per session to get SOMETHING in my pocket….

    • 223.1
      Lisa says:

      I stuggle here too. I have found Senior pictures and weddings people are willing to pay for so I am moving there!!! But I will say where this article is wrong is that every market has its own Market Clearing price. Mine, here in Memphis is much lower than say Dallas where people generally have more money. YOu have to figure that out to find your price!

    • 223.2
      Anne Hutton says:

      One word — MARKETING! We are photographers, artists, office managers etc. etc. but we are nothing but a secret if we don’t market! Now you have learned the photography skills you need marketing skills! I have had my portrait business for 17 years, I consider it a success. I’ve been through all of the changes in the past decade — some good and some bad. I have learned to keep it fresh, keep evolving, keep competing…you have to stay on your toes all the time…I market constantly. I feel I have a good product, I am high end in my pricing but my success is due to marketing! It’s easy for me because I am passionate about what I do.
      This was a fabulous article. It may not be exact for your business or location, the numbers were good examples, the message is clear.

  224. 224

    It is in reality a nice and helpful piece of info. I?m happy that you shared this helpful information with us. Please stay us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

  225. 225
    Backgammon says:

    fabulosa capara mi fluista te vimosedil dista emeje. chimo te ranhadaca rapuv nos colamo o respro eisidamer afusco bien.

  226. 226
    Kimberly says:

    These are great ideas and tips. Thank you very much for sharing.

  227. 227
    CSigars says:

    From what I’ve read, there is a lot of good information for up and coming photographers like myself, but for those complaining and bickering about the small stuff and think you’r better than everyone else. I just want you to step out side of your box and realize there are bigger things going on in the world than you. I’ve just spent over a year in Afghanistan working with the Military and talk about an eye opener. People need to realize how good they have it and no matter what they do in life, understand that it is not worth doing unless you enjoy doing it. So what ever you may price your work at always remember every day is special so live to make yourself happy as well as your client and you’ll never have any issue with wealth.

  228. 228
    Lisa says:

    Great article. I will say the one thing you did leave out is market clearing price (the top price in which your market will tolerate before you start loosing business), which significantly flaws your argument. Every market will handle a different price. Yes I can say I want to charge $500 for a sitting fee all day long, but here in Memphis times are tough and getting harder. I have to charge way less than if I were to live in Dallas with a much more affluent population. Yes, I agree that I need to value my time and set my prices to make a profit, but in an area in which I live and there is a low market clearing price, I need to watch my expenses and make myself more efficient in order to turn a profit rather than just raise prices and find myself out of work all together!

  229. 229

    Thanks a bunch for sharing this with all of us you really recognize what you’re speaking about! Bookmarked. Please additionally seek advice from my site =). We may have a hyperlink exchange agreement between us

  230. 230
    A.S. says:

    How can I view the other comments?

  231. 231
    Saul says:

    Does it always has to be Right or Wrong, is there a way people can get some education in regards to tolerance? The fact that any of you disagree is just a difference on opinion not you nor the author is right but we have to respect the fact that the author took the time to write this article and it may give many of us the lead on how to deal with this. Now for you Mr.. 250k, if you were doing that amount of money you would not be wasting your time with us in this forum and with the 350K give me a break there are more divorces than weddings now a day. Let’s give an applause to Jodi Friedman for the nice article and let’s think each of use how to use that information properly.. Now if you want to say how to do it, go ahead take the time and effort to make an article like this one and don’t be the minus factor where we have people trying to bring pluses!

    Have a nice day!

  232. 232

    This is great! Thank you for sharing. I forwarded it to 3 former assistants/interns who are starting out in the field, and I think it will help them a lot. Thanks for making it so easy to understand!

  233. 233

    This is all true and not many teach it. The best place to learn this is at the Texas School of Photography in April. In a class taught by ANN MONTEITH. Remember that name, she knows how to teach this and teaches it around the country as well. the website for Texas School (people come from all over the US and the World for that matter! Including Italy, England and Australia!) http://www.Tppa.org Its so important. I know several photographers who got overly eager and didnt follow this and bankrupted their families and wound up divorced. Its easy to do, and once your prices are low, its hard to get them up. Price for Profit from the start or start now to keep from being in that 95% that fail.

  234. 234

    Thank you for this article, it was just what I needed! Remember the scene in “Moonstruck” where Cher slaps Nicolas Cage and yells, “Snap out of it!”? I think this was the “snap out of it” that I have been needing when it comes to figuring out my pricing and taking the emotion out of it. I think I can now sit down and write out my prices and feel confident that I am charging a fair price for my vision. Thanks again!

  235. 235
    Christen says:

    Amen! Thanks for sharing!

  236. 236
    Jes says:

    This was great! I live in a small community and put way too much emotion in my pricing. Now a year later and I am kicking myself big time! I am going to have to navigate the tricky price change; if I don’t all my work is for not. “sigh”

    Sound advice- thank you.

  237. 237
    Frank Butler says:

    Hi Jodie,

    Just read your advice and I would just like to say that you could not be more correct and you are a very cleaver and smart busIness woman. I am not a photographer I run a chauffeur driven business and I charge what is a fair price and the price reflects my service and my time plus the expence of running a high end business. Just like a good photographer if you don’t want to pay top dollar don’t call me!!!

    Kind Regards
    Frank Butler
    Butler’s Chauffeur Drive Ltd

  238. 238
    Arno says:

    Nice article, but your 35% tax math is flawed. If you want to end up with $100 after taxes, you need to charge $100/0.65 = $154, and not just $135.

    • 238.1
      G says:

      Funny, I was just wondering why expenses were not taken off as tax deductable. Maybe that’s the difference. Most people in other jobs quote their income before tax, which is the opposite of the article.

      I like the discussion … exactly why I keep photography a hobby. I don’t see how I could match my day job income.

      As someone having a neighbors services pushed on me, I would say the market is saturated. Don’t expect to make 100k+ your first year.

  239. 239
    V says:

    I really like this article, but at the same time, I have to question it. In my area the average price of a good photographer for portraits is about $100-$250 a session. And even then, I’m not entirely sure what they include with that. I’ve recently started my business and it’s nuts in my area. There’s a bunch of people with DSLR’s doing poor work and it’s hard to compete because people see it, and like someone previously stated, “it’s good enough” so why spend more?

    I do have to say though, some of you who are posting your photos… I’m not trying to sound better or condescending, because I to am still growing with my photography, but you guys have a LOT of work to do. I don’t mean to offend anyone, but you speak about other photographers as if your very own is fantastic, by which case, it is far from it.

    I can easily pinpoint several issues with each photo that has been posted and ways to improve it. I know I’m not the best (yet), but I’m not going to sit here and down talk about “over night photographers” if my work isn’t on par or better. For the simple fact, I was an over nighter. I’ve been shooting less than 2 years, not the best equipment, but I’ve studied my brains out to the point of obsession and my photographs clearly show that I know what I am doing (and it’s not just setting up shop and snapping some shots).

    I’m just trying to bring some reality to the table, because so far, the work I see in this thread is NOT worth $200 a session.

  240. 240
    Yasmine says:

    I have just reopened my photography business full time after having my pricing structure all wrong previously. In fact I was working long hours and making negative sales. This article is extremely helpful and I now know how to price my work.

    Thanks a million!

  241. 241

    I am try to photographs plz teach me

  242. 242
    Jalexa says:

    You are such a lifesaver! I’ve been going back and forth about what to do, searching the Web, asking around…and lo and behold you’ve had this article all along. I should have known better and just come straight to your site.

  243. 243
    Diane Murphy says:

    Thanks so much for the article! My daughter wants to be a photographer for a profession, and she seems to have a good eye. She’ll be heading off to college in a couple of years, and I do hope she’ll include business courses while pursuing her degree, to understand the financial portion well enough to make a good profit! It’s a real eye opener to consider ALL of the costs, personal and monetary! Here’s a shot she took of my new grandson!

  244. 244
    Barry Perhamsky says:

    Here’s how you should charge. First, deal with a reliable photofinisher. One who’s been in the business for awhile, and doesn’t plan on going out. Talk to some serious photographers as to a good lab. Get their price list and charge accordingly. Back to this in a minute.

    Second, how do you work? Well there’s two ways. First there’s a photo session. This should be 1/2 to one hour. With this I would give them one high quality 11×14 canvas plus two 8×10’s. I might charge $175. The lab charges me $35 for the canvas, and $5 per 8×10 That’s $45 total. Then you have to think about expensices like batteries, etc. Any additional is of course extra like buying frames for the 8×110’s. And if you take the time to do a very well lighted and posed portrait, well it’ll be worth the $175. If you make $100 or $125 prophet, that’s ok. Now remember you have expensices like rent and gas and electric. So you need to do X amount of portraits befor you make a prophet.

    The next way to do portraits is what we call bread and butter pictures. Now here you’re going to take say photos of babies. parents want a nice picture of their baby. The baby is 0-1 They literally can walk in off the street. For this you again have package deals. A nice 8×10 framed with 2 5×7’s one for each grandparent is $75. again you give them a high quality picture, but you don’t spend any length of time. So you might make $45 prophet on that. But you’re taking alot of pics. You may do 10-20 in a day. That’s $450-$900 If you do that.

    So you set aside times to have sessions, and days to do bread and butter shots.

    Of course you’re going to have the people come in, talk with them, decide on clothing,etc. what type of portrait…perhaphs geans with no shoes sitting on the floor and some wooden boxes, etc. When all is discussed, you’ll need a downpayment, then the rest when the pictures are delivered. Now also you need to let them see the proofs and decide on what pics. Different poses and different sets. But don’t take these stupid pics of a kid in an eggshell. But it depends on your clientel: different strokes for different folks.

    Barry Perhamsky

  245. 245
    J King says:

    Well, there’s a whole lot of good and bad advice throughout this thread.

    You have to determine what type of photography company you are. Are you content to always be a one man shop? Do you want to franchise?

    We currently have four studios in two state and are opening two more this year. Plain and simple, price to the market. Our studio in Dothan, AL is priced almost half of the one in Destin, FL. That being said, anything under $300 net is a slap in the face. If you can do that with a shoot and burn on location setup, more power to you and I wish you would call me and give me some advice. If you have a studio setup you should factor in your cost of goods and about $100 for overhead. You end up around $450 for a shoot. Unless you are in a wealthy market. Then, charge whatever the market will bear.

  246. 246
    Frank says:

    Just starting out and been researching pricing. Awesome article! Thanks.

  247. 247
    Jamie M says:

    I’m a poor college student with a diploma (couldn’t afford a degree at the time)in photography but I live in a town with a thousand and one rich suburban soccer moms who went to best buy, bought a DSLR, threw it into auto and now are getting paid for “photography”. I’ve done exactly one photo shoot for my best friend and I just cannot compete because no one cares that I take my time, edit my photos on something way more advanced than picnik (which i just found out is now ribbet). So how can I possibly market myself when everyone around me is suddenly a “photographer”?

  248. 248
    Virginia says:

    I am so sick of all of these ppl leaving comments on articles like that talking about “momtographers” and housewives who need grocery money so they go out and buy a baseline DSLR and then undercharge for what they call “photography”. I am NOT one of the photographers – but I am writing this because WHO CARES?! Stop insulting other people, and just worry about your own business. It makes me sad to think that so many photographers who comment on things like this seem like bitter people who are not humble human beings and just want credit for where they are in life even if it means insulting other people. Leave the mom’s alone, let them do what they do and then you do what you do. Again, no i am not one of these mom’s – i am just saying this because i am so sick of reading comments from over-entitled, mean people.

    • 248.1

      I agree – when I asked this question on facebook it was interesting to see the two sides to the story. I present this as what others dislike. I hope it did not come off as these are my opinions for the whole piece. It was a survey.

    • 248.2
      Amber says:

      THANK YOU for this post! I am a housewife but I also have a true passion for photography. I am struggling with how much to charge my clients because of the simple fact that “I am housewife.” It makes me feel like my time and effort isn’t worth as much as any other photographers is that doesn’t have children…

  249. 249
    Stu says:

    Great info and awareness of expenses and potential income. Most people don’t work backwards as you suggest and most see photography as a hobby to make money at, not as a business.

    As a photographer, minister, and hypnotist, I try to balance what I do and keep the goal (income) in perspective. In the past I did however borrow from Peter to pay Paul sort of speak in that I would take income from one venture to pay for another or do freebies to be nice.

    Now I treat it like a business and thank you for your insight.
    Brilliant article

  250. 250
    Lacey says:

    Great Post!!! Gave me a great idea on different options. It doesn’t mean we need to do the exacts. Just gives us an idea of how the layout works. I liked the other post by Barry Pahamsky as well. Just to give you a sense of what different ways you can appoach your sales. Thank you for all the time the factual comments took!!!

  251. 251
    Lacey says:

    an image to go with my post

  252. 252
    Ady says:

    Hello I would just like to say thank you for this article. It has really helped. I have been learning and developing my photography over the past 6 years. Studying all the features of my cameras, working with light, posing models, building rapport and taking photographs, being creative and basically everything to do with photography. I have won a couple of competitions and feel that my work is starting to get there.

    Due to recent let downs in my main career, I have now started considering the option to go self-employed. Therefore I have been leaning more towards the business aspects of photography. Going to business workshops, learning about tax and national insurance, marketing, networking etc etc.

    One thing that I have found difficult to find advice on is the pricing. I don’t want to be a shoot and burn photographer. I don’t want to spend my life struggling to put food on the table and to pay the bills and I certainly don’t want to be doing a dead end job that I have no interest in.

    My passion is photography. I love creating art and I love even more that I could potentially be my own boss. I am not naive and I know this will not be easy but I literally have nothing else to lose. I’m in the process of updating my portfolio, website and online presence in order to aim my work at a different market. A market that will know the value of art hanging on the walls in their homes instead of a CD collecting dust in a drawer somewhere. A market that is not interested in getting the cheapest price for the most images but one that is willing to pay for something unique and different, something that is of high quality. There is nothing worse than a starving artist.

    I have learnt a lot from this article and I hope to be implementing some of this into my pricing strategy. I want to make my passion for photography into a career that I love.

  253. 253
    Lisa says:

    After years of researching/reading about/listening to professional photographers about how to price your work, this article really helped make it all come together. I painstakingly put together a pricing package for a mom who wanted me to do her son’s high school senior shoot. I’ve been a serious amateur for years and am finally ready to crank it up a notch by actually *gasp!* charging money for my work.

    Considering the value I put on my time, I came to $400 as the price for this shoot which included a decent print package, unlimited locations within a 20-mile radius, unlimited outfits, and a DVD of the electronic images that they ordered as prints.

    Imagine my shock when I was reprimanded via an e-mail, saying she couldn’t believe how expensive I was. She said the photographer who took her other son’s senior pics charged $250 for EVERYTHING — the session, all the prints, yadda yadda yadda — so now she’d have to rethink everything and “get back to me.” What the mom doesn’t realize is how generous I was being at only charging $400. You just can’t win.

  254. 254
    MichaelL says:

    Well done Jodi, well done.

  255. 255
    Ady says:

    Lisa – I think a lot of people have the same problem, I suppose the only answer would be to market your work towards people who appreciate art and are willing to spend what it costs to get it, without trying to undercut you for what you are worth.

  256. 256
    Jen says:

    Wow, this was very informational and helpful. I appreciate the way you broke it down. Thanks so much!!

  257. 257
    Mal says:

    ok so now that you have what your average sale should be at the 50,000 a year how do you ad you time to that

  258. 258

    [...]  Hi Karla… before you start charging $20 a session, you may want to read this article>http://mcpactions.com/blog/2009/10/12/how-should-i-price-my-photography-words-of-advice-from-jod… And there are tons more, with wonderful info and insight for people just starting out in the biz [...]

  259. 259
    NatashaRose says:

    Omgosh my head is spinning! I am cheap! Laugh now Cry later is what I feel like right now… I really need to get my prices together, thankfully I moved to a new state, so now I have new customers. Thanks for throwing the real numbers at me.

  260. 260
    Nickolette says:

    I am new at this whole photography business and I found this very helpful! I will admite I did the whole pay by the hour and I did not make any profit. So by reading this has helped me come up with ideas on how I should charge. Thank you so much!

  261. 261
    Veronica says:

    Thanks so much for this article. I have really been struggling with the emotion aspect (“I am a new photographer, I shouldn’t charge as much as xyz.” “What if I don’t get business because I’m too expensive?”)

    I have been looking for something like this for awhile and am grateful to have stumbled across this page. I am the photographer who has been portfolio building and working practically for free.

    I appreciate the intuitive words!

  262. 262
    Connie Miller says:

    I really like the input on here. I have been doing photography as a hobbie for years. I now want to start doing as a side job. I have been told my professionals, friends and family I do great work. I have an eye for not just taking the photo but the art of it. Let’s hope they start paying me-LOL. I will be doing this from my home to start. On location shoots, when need be. I like the CD’S idea but have a few questions. I would like to have it as an option to buy with a package purchase. How do I price this? How do I find a good processor for my prints? Any suggestions would be gratly appreciated.

  263. 263
    Galya says:

    Reading your article was like you were standing and speaking in front of me. Thank you for this eye (mind) opening article.

  264. 264
    Jim Raison says:

    Thank-you for this enlightening information. The business end has been formost on my mind and what I need to charge for my work. I can see this is going to take much thought and research to make this detemination. I keep dealing with the fact that I live in a small town and know many people. When I do start, will probably have plenty of work initially. Many of these people can’t afford much and I keep thinking about this, but as you said “take out the emotions” good point, so I’ve got a lot of work

    I am currently an amatuer photographer and attending classes at Valdosta State University for a certificate in digital photography. Once completed, have all the equipment necessary to start and I can be validated by 2 professional photographers, I will start a business.

    Jim Raison

  265. 265
    Ian Frank says:

    I have noticed a lot of negative comments on here regarding this post but the one who have posted them don’t seem to add any of his or her work…. Hmmm, I wonder why. I went back to photography after a long stint in film and video and I find it to be a very relaxing and comforting transition. This article is spot on and I thank the author for taking the time to write it. The ones who take heed and apply it will take full advantage of profits and the others…. Oh well, it just makes more room for the professionals and the hobbyist who lover his or her craft. Thank You again.

  266. 266
    unclebob says:

    If your passion is photography… My advice for those wanting to earn extra money is to become a competent photographer and earn money as a second shooter to an established wedding photographer. Earning $150-$200 a day for nothing but shooting is gravy. In time, a reliable and valuable second shooter can advance over the years and work under the umbrella of the pro and make $500 per wedding. All of this without the burden of editing images, running a business etc, and allows you to focus on your passion. The business side will drain the life out of the weekend warrior and his/her family. As somebody who is successful in business, I was shocked at how badly my moonlight photography business failed. Shooting was a luxeery, but created a viscious cycle of editing, time away from family, to the point in which everything eroded away and it became a nightmare. Don’t kid yourself… if you place little value on your product, neither will your client. A lab owner told me years ago to shun digital and shoot B+W medium format film and cater to rich clients. Did I listen… nah! I hear that siren call again. With a fresh perspective,the plan is to go forth on a totally different route, shoot to my enjoyment, soup the negs, sell fiber prints, and charge 20X what I was willing to accept before. But I have a day job and now have a life and could care less about the $250 client or photographer. Good luck!

  267. 267
    oliver says:

    Hi Jodi,

    Thanks for the article, well done! I’m running my own business as well although it is town planning and not photography.

    You may add a few additional expenses: Insurance, medical and sick leave! You’ll be off-duty easily for a week a year with colds, flue or other ailments. Furthermore, as a self employed you’ll have no income during statutory holidays. These amount to another week or so, depending where you live. Combine that with your annual leave and you’ll have to assume some 5 to 6 weeks without income annually. This is further compounded by non-billable time (client acquisition, billing, accounting, equipment maintenance, etc)

    For me, all inclusive with workspace rent, insurance, equipment and other expenses US$ 100 per hour is just about right. These number, however have to be adjusted in accordance to the place you live in: NYC will be more expensive than rural Alabama. Of course also the hourly charge moves with location. I’m in a fairly expensive place (Hong Kong) and my expenses are mostly impacted by the crazy property prices we have here…

    Best Regards,
    Oliver

  268. 268

    I LOVE this article and I struggle with this everyday!! Loving your work and understand that it is great is important. Great times about what you are wanting to make per year which I never thought of!! Is their a certain website you all recommend for offering prints? I am struggling with this as well. Thanks again for sharing!!

  269. 269
    Jessica says:

    I recently moved overseas and I am living on a military base. I am stumped because now my market is only military (we are in Japan). I am used to having a much larger client base and charge about $100-200 a shoot in general. I do packages for $250-500 for boudior and usually about $400-700 for small weddings. My question is – how do you handle a situation like mine? Most military members cant afford professional photography. They just complain about the pricing. I try to keep it simple as possible for them and charge them less, but I dont want to sell myself short. I’m about to open back up over here – any suggestions on how to price for those that can’t afford much?

  270. 270

    Thanks for the info, as a business owner it sure puts things into persective.

  271. 271
  272. 272
    Eric Smith says:

    Wow! Incredible! I am an upstart. I specialize in Northern Lights Photography but am interested in starting Portrait, Wedding and children photography. I have noticed something else that I did not see mentioned above and that is that a lot of photographers do is perceived by others very differently. Photography is a form of art and therefor subjective in many ways. I know that there are certain rules that are good to follow and that in each field of Photography some of those are more important than in others, but I have experienced personally that it still very subjective. As an example: I shoot the northern lights up in Alaska. I have seen the work of other photographers, some of which have thriving businesses and have been at this for 30 years and wouldn’t buy their work, it is hideous, but that is my viewpoint. Others $500 for one of their prints. I know many (not friends) that see my work (I have been at this for 4 years) and they say they would pay that much for one of my shots. Of course the northern lights are very different than Weddings but I have seen some tutorials from professionals that I would not have hired for my wedding but they make good money.

    Another thing, every client is different. I did a wedding in Alaska for a couple and when we met to discuss their wedding the bride said that she would be happy if just got some disposable cameras from Wal-Mart or used my iPhone. I nearly had a heart attack! The world is changing, and that includes peoples perception of way is beautiful and artistic and exceptable.

    I personally appreciate all of your points of view except for GOD up there that destroyed everyone else with a lightning bolt, that was just incredible! But thanks to the rest of you for your insights. And keep up the good work.

  273. 273
    Chris says:

    What about the guy who does this on the side like me? I don’t need clients, and I don’t need the money, but I do charge what I think I’m worth and love to hear all the full time photogs piss, wine, and moan about how guys like me are “ruining the industry”. I feel you are aiming your article at newer photogs starting out but yet your product of selling actions are for people with poor photography skills and have to make up for them by using a bunch of actions to correct their mistakes. What you should be saying is that photogs should be charging more to afford your actions. If they just learned better lighting techniques and a ton of free tutorials in Lightroom, you’d be out of a job!

    • 273.1

      Chris, I disagree. Actions and presets can save an image – sure. But actions can also do artistic things not achieved in camera easily. Can you build a storyboard with 5 images in your camera? We have actions and presets for that. Can you easily add certain hazes, decrease acne or get rid of jaundice in camera? Nope.

      We have both beginner and advanced photographers that use our products. Likewise, whose to say whether buying expensive lighting gear or using an action to add fill light is the “right” choice.

      Thanks for adding your thoughts.

      Jodi

  274. 274
    Kim says:

    Thank you so much for the article I am just starting off and I am struggling with my pricing. I was not far off but now I see I need to increase it just a bit. As I have gotten more serious about this I have become more critical of my work and I hope improved. As a single om I am doing this on my off days with the hope that I can make it my full time job very soon. I would love any advice that can be given. I have included a sample and I think you can really see the improvments. Thank you
    Silverlioness17@yahoo.com

  275. 275
    ruth says:

    Thanks Jodi! You certainly made things a lot clearer for me. I just got back into photography, and I was wondering…what should I charge? And you are correct at all of the calculations you’ve made, after all, I do plan on making a living off of this business and I’m not getting any younger.

    I also disagree with Chris. Chris if your photog is flawless, than you should charge for quality just as much as a photographer would for editing because that is a rare talent.

    Jodi, I love photoshop, paintshop and other editing software, it makes photography much more interesting as well as fun.

  276. 276

    […] read this article on the MCP blog about pricing your work, and what you’ll need to earn/how many sessions per week to get the […]

  277. 277
    Craig Inzana says:

    Really good article. I’m in the process of taking business management and marketing classes and this is all very accurate. EVEN FOR NEW PHOTOGRAPHERS. I raised my prices and started getting a lot more business a few months ago. Enough that I quit my part-time serving job (hopefully that wasn’t a mistake).

    The only thing about the article is that not all of us are family men & women; our time is valued a little differently. I’m okay with making 12k a year minimum the rest is all going towards paying student loans off anyway.

  278. 278
    Nance says:

    I’m a housewife photographer. I dedicated my life to be a care taker. So no I can not bring the income like others. My work sells because I have the drive, talent, skills, and people are willing to work with my schedule. My advice is price your work comparable to other businesses. If your photos are like sears and target then price it like them. Honestly I believe the more photos you take and you dedicate yourself, you should become a better photographer. Ask yourself, am I better? Worst? Just as good as others? I believe in myself. The cheapest rate I have is $100 per hour. No photoshop, no prints, just a cd or online proof. Before I started charging, I took free photos of my friends. I photoshopped their photos, posted it on their facebook, and now I’m getting phones calls. Work hard!

  279. 279
    Jay says:

    Good article who need to take it as a business, especially a full time job. I have a good full time job and this is a passion for me. But I am hoping to get paid to cover my hobby / expenses once I am confident and consider my pictures are good.

    One thing though – most of the photos posted here by business owners or by those who think they are good photographers, are SUB PAR. No proper lighting on portraits, washed out edges, burned back grounds, poor framing… so on. You need to develop your skills before you start, that’s is what I am trying to do.

  280. 280
    Cindy says:

    Seriously,
    It’s the same here…I’ve seen some people asking 40$ for an hour session with all the digital of the hour on the CD. How people who are serious about it and want to live of photography can compete!?It’s driving me nuts.lol
    I think there should be a law about it asap.Like you can’t go under … and then when people are really gonna pay the full price they will go see the one who has the real knowledge and spent some years of their lifes learning it…I don’t want to be mean and say that people who havent studied it have no talent.That would be false but at least they should learn that fixing those kind of price makes the other ones straigth to bankrupt.

  281. 281
    Jacki says:

    This information is helpful, though I’m looking to start out part time because I do have so much going on right now (college, another job, kids etc..) but photography is my passion and I’d like to try maybe one client a week or less. I figure if it does work out and grow then I could set aside my day job and make photography full time. I also live in an area where most people are low income. Any suggestions on pricing for this?

  282. 282

    […] its something, we love we underprice! Well, no more. Yesterday I read a fab article, find it here Portrait pricing What I realised is I use my heart and not my head when pricing portrait photography. I love […]

  283. 283
    Jen McLeod says:

    Cost of goods sold is a business expense (so it should probably not be added on after business expenses) and taxes are charged as x% of the total, not 35% on top of what you make.

  284. 284
    Katherine says:

    I want to applaud you for this realistic slap of reality that is needed by many, and I mean that in as positive a way as possible.

    This is a great article full of truth for the photographer that is doing photography as a full time job and trying to be a small business owner. I am concerned however that the number of people who are declaring themselves as “professional photographers” is sky-rocketing. The self proclaimed professional with little to no business experience, photography experience/education and editing experience but still advertise their professional level work… the ones who invested in the generic DLSR, took a few backlit photos of trees, kids playing, and their dog…. and decided that they are of professional quality and their service is worth paying for. These people are not licensed or insured, and only see their new found “skill” as a way to pocket some cash.These people troll through the internet conversations and forums of photogs and build some sort of false photographer ego that only stems from the idea “charge what you are worth.” Well to them, their work is worth ___amount of cash___when in reality it is not even in the same ball park as a real professional photographer. These are the people who do not charge a lot because they do not have the business expenses, but still want to make six figures in the photog field. ( I am not knocking new photographers, everyone has to start somewhere. There is no shame in building a portfolio and offering cheaper work as an aspiring photographer or a hobbyist, just don’t put a title up there that wasn’t earned, it creates confusion and chaos. Why is this pro charging $500 and this pro is charging $5000 for the same thing?)
    To make the kind of money that you mentioned in the article, the aspiring photographer needs to have the credentials to back up their title. I see a lot of people promoting the need to “respect the field.” It is the work of the “fauxtographer” that is the most disrespectful and harmful. They are giving the impression that “it is easy, any one can do it, there is no need to pay an arm and a leg for photos” when in reality it takes an uncanny amount of skill and knowledge to produce quality work.
    I am a huge advocate for photographers who have a formal education in the field, who have spent quality time shadowing other photogs and being a secondary, who know their gear in and out on the manual settings, who don’t use pre-made photoshop short cuts, who have a business license and insurance ( not just a FB page) … the photographers who not only seek betterment of their work, but self improvement as well.

  285. 285

    If my expenses were $70,000 a year and my only revenue stream came from family portraits, you’d better have the absolute BEST business plan going. What were the expenses? A RED camera + new Jaguar? Hahahaha.. there’s a funny comment up there.

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