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Pricing Photography: Too High? Too Low?

Pricing Photography: Too High? Too Low?

Pricing Photography: How high should you be prices be?

Last week I ran across a photographer online who listed her prices in the sidebar of her blog/website. Her bio indicated that she was a “professional photographer” which of course is often used loosely in 2010. She said she had 5 years of experience shooting weddings, portraits and pets. In my opinion, her work did not appear to compete with many professional photographers I see daily.  Her prices: $60 for all your photos from a portrait photography session on a disk. The print prices were extremely low.  And that fee of $60 included the photo session too.

I not only questioned how this might lower the bar for photography as a whole, but how she could make a living. Then again… maybe she is not earning an income from photography.  She may be doing this as a “hobby” and just want gas money.  She also may not be a legitimate business.  And she may not be paying taxes.  There are so many variables.

I decided to post about this discovery on my Facebook Page thread. And the emotions, opinions and questions stirred. I know pricing is ultra controversial amongst professional photographers.  Some photographers develop their prices based on what they want to make in a year, figuring in expenses, taxes, and other costs. Many photographers start out unsure what to charge. These photographers may pick numbers out of thin air.  Many photographers research what other photographers in their area charge, and build pricing based on those numbers.

I would love to get a dialog going here on the MCP Blog answering these questions in the comment section:

  • Do you consider yourself a professional photographer?
  • How to you determine your pricing?
  • Do you feel you are priced too low? high? or just right?
  • Do you price yourself based on others around you?  Based on your experience?  Or based on what you want to earn?
  • How does it make you feel when you see someone charging $60 for all photos on a disc, including the photo shoot?
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76 Comments

  1. Lacey Martin
    August 8, 2010 at 6:22 pm —

    OK so I found this post during my research on starting a photography business and while I was reading the post I started to think about my current prices. I was with you all the way up until I started reading the comments.

    1. I do not consider myself a professional at this time as I am still learning.
    2. I have determined my pricing mainly on what it would cost me to do the photo shoots. I am registered with the state and have done all of the legal paperwork needed in my area. I am a legit business even if my experience level is not as high some or even most.
    3. With my current experience and training I feel that I am priced just right and have no regrets. I do not feel that by charging what I do takes away from the other businesses in my area as they have built up a reputation for their work. Most of the work I do is for friends and family anyway.
    Lastly, when I see someone charging only $60 for the while thing I think they must be in the same place I am. That they are just starting out or are only doing this as a hobby. Not to offend anyone but the idea of paying $200 for a session and not getting any prints or even the cd is a no go for me. I am not saying that your work is not worth that, because with what I have seen during my research it is very much worth that but I could not allow myself to spend that much on something and not get anything out of it.
    The main reason I posted a comment is because I was very upset by some of the comments on here regarding people who charge low fees. I can personally say that I do not charge the low fees to hurt anyone’s business nor because I want to get all of the clients coming to me. I charge my fees because I feel they are reasonable.
    Everyone has their opinions and that is perfectly fine but to say some of the things that have been said about those photographers (being one of them) I believe was uncalled for. Art is art regardless of your training or expertise.

  2. Karen
    August 30, 2010 at 3:23 pm —

    I’m working on building my portfolio and looking for advice on what to charge for a session! Or is portfolio building something that should be done free of charge??

  3. September 1, 2010 at 12:47 pm —

    Yes, I’m a professional photographer with a business and I’m also a full time art teacher. I’ve been struggling with how to price my work. I’m referral based and have started off with clients that were family and friends. Now I’m getting referrals only and my business is gaining momentum. I’m a mother of an 11month old and a wife to a stay at home husband with Crohn’s disease. I struggle with managing my time and single income but we make do. I would like to stay competitive but affordable. Currently, I feel that I charge too low for the amount of time that it takes to do the session and edit the amount of images that I’m giving to my clients. I’m only charging 200.00 for the session which includes 25 edited images on disc. I see area photographers who are comparable to my quality who charge so much more but I think of my current state and how, if I couldn’t take my own portraits of my son, I’d like to be able to afford someone who can produce quality artistic shots at a rate that I could afford. At the same time, I’d like to earn what I feel I’m worth and feel good about what I charge.
    I’m trying to develop a package that will allow me to earn what I feel is fair for the hours that are put into creating my images. I feel that as a professional I’d like to earn a professional rate. As a teacher I earn around 30.00 per hour. My goal is to get an accurate count of the amount of hours on average it takes to complete a session from start to finish including the time to photograph, upload, organize, edit, blog and post, and forward the images to the client. I’d also like to take into account the amount of money per year it has cost to purchase equipment. It doesn’t help that lenses and software can cost thousands of dollars but they make a difference.
    I think photographs are works of art and When I see that others are charging so little, I consider their quality work. If they are producing 60.00 “worth” of work and people are willing to pay for that then so be it; they obviously don’t appreciate a work of art. However, if their quality work is worth more than 60.00 than I feel sorry for the photographer and feel that they may be lowering the bar for photography (perhaps I’m doing the same). I want people to see my work and say it’s worth every penny but I’m considering many circumstances and variables.
    Honestly, I think that earning 300 per session would be fair but I feel that I’m worth more than that. However, I’d like to be available for the client who cannot afford more than that.

  4. September 15, 2010 at 10:00 am —

    1. Yes, but it took me about 10 months to feel professional. Now I have a almost a year behind me of charging for sessions so I feel professional now starting now. LOL! I studied photography before digital came out in my 20’s, now in my 40’s I have retaught myself.

    2. I determined my pricing based on my lack of professional experience at first. My pricing was crazy low. my first sessions were about $50 for a session to build my portfolio. Then to $100, now about $300-400 on avg. for a portrait session.

    3. I think my prices are good, but need more time to determine if they are too high. Every time I price too low I get a lot of interest and book easily. Now that my prices are with in the market value, things have slowed. I need to get my name out there more, and I will be shooting my 1st wedding in a few weeks. After I have some wedding pics in my portfolio, I hope I get some weddings!

    4.I bought the Easy as Pie pricing guide for photographers and that looks at how much you want to make annually, and goes from their. I took from that book and I look at the other photographers in my area to see what they are doing and make sure I am competitive but still at a good market value. My mark up for albums is about 2.5 more then retail. In the future as I get better I will increase it until it is 4 to 5x more. Once I have a doz. weddings under my belt, I will look at my pricing in terms of annual income and price out from there. As well as keep my prices in line with my talent. I am not going to be able to command prices like the famous Tamara Lackey that has a studio in my town. That will take me many years to get to her level.

    5. All the dirt cheap photographers that I have seen have very little talent and it is obvious that they do not have the lenses to do the job right. It doesn’t bother me because I am working hard to present myself in a higher end market. The client that chooses me will be comparing my work to other photographers like me, and since my pricing is reasonable and my work is far better then the cheapo’s, I think most families and brides would choose me.

  5. February 24, 2011 at 11:08 pm —

    Jodi, great post! I’m jumping in a little late on this bandwagon but will jump in none-the-less…

    No, I am not a professional. I have a career in healthcare, but my passion has always been photography and have been photographing for 15 years. Before leaving for school, I worked with a photographer for one summer, so I could learn the ins and outs of a photographic studio. What I realized at that time, was that photography in South Florida was still a man’s world and women were not being taken seriously in this arena. This was back when film was in, right before the big digital break. I chose healthcare instead and financially it has been rewarding, but it sucks the creativity right out. Most days I feel stifled. It’s kind of hard to come up with something creative when you’ve been looking at sick people all day long! However, I continue to do it as a creative outlet and try to improve whenever I can.

    How to you determine your pricing? The little “business” I’ve had, has been friends and family, and they are people who would never, NEVER, EVER, pay for photography anyways. So usually they ask me it is because they know i have the equipment, I love to do it, and I’m always looking for models for stock photography (more about this later). However, when they’re friends have expressed interest I say $150 sitting fee. Yes I know what you’re thinking (“this is real cheap”) but in a city where everyone thinks they’re a photographer, it’s actually quite high.

    Do you feel you are priced too low? high? or just right?
    Do you price yourself based on others around you? Based on your experience? Or based on what you want to earn?

    According to the last few people who said “What?!? Babies R Us is charging $100 for unlimited prints AND the CD!!” I’m over priced. However, even though I only have one summer and one semester at the Art Institute studying photography, I would charge higher if I knew it would completely deter these type of people from ever asking (!).

    How does it make you feel when you see someone charging $60 for all photos on a disc, including the photo shoot?

    I think clients who are seeking photographers charging these prices, (are annoying yes) but they are also people who would never pay more than $60 regardless; and they are getting what they pay for! I don’t think that professionally educated photographers should lower their prices, because it’s the elite clientele your prices will attract in the end (if you have a good product behind it). An doctor’s house-wife living on the Key is not going to want to go to Babies R us for her photographs, she is going to want personalized service and want someone to come over and capture how beautiful her family and life is. Price will not be an object, she just wants to have better pics than her friends…:-)

  6. April 20, 2011 at 12:21 am —

    I still consider myself an amateur because I know I have a lot to learn. I’m honest with my clients and tell them I’ve been doing this for a few months shy of 1 year. I still charge based on what other photographers around the area charge though (about $50 less). I don’t want to have to raise my prices and lose my clients due to rising prices.

  7. Karen Elliott
    August 14, 2011 at 1:18 am —

    I am looking to go into business for myself. Right now I work for a big time wedding photographer. I travel with the studio I work for now… every weekend somewhere! It’s put some strain on my family so that’s why I wanting to go on my own and not just focus on weddings. I am having a hard time with setting prices. I’m not for sure what to charge. I want to do a few weddings a year and I have my prices for that. Pretty much the same as everyone else here in my town. When it comes to family, kids, babies….ect I’m not for sure how to price that. I have been shooting alot of kids to get use to it. So I guess I would say I’m a Simi Pro who has no clue what to charge 🙂 Yes! It does drive me crazy when I see someone charging way cheap prices. I know how much hard work and time goes into a session (before and after) Well if anyone had any ideas about prices please let me know! I have been guilty of doing a session for $100.00 with the CD 🙂 but that was family… Speaking of family… Do you charge your family, close friends??

  8. December 4, 2011 at 10:20 pm —

    OMG.. great article Jodi!
    In reference to the questions….
    – Do you consider yourself a professional photographer? I do .. for some many reasons.. I am very responsible for my work ethic and How I make other photographers look via my work and style….

    – How to you determine your pricing? My work, Hours. professionalism, unique style… and competitive marketing in area where I offer services….

    – Do you feel you are priced too low? high? or just right? They are fair.. and very competitive.. and right for my work at this time…

    – Do you price yourself based on others around you? Based on your experience? Or based on what you want to earn? All of the above, and most importantly… on how I do and treat my clientele.

    – How does it make you feel when you see someone charging $60 for all photos on a disc, including the photo shoot? Cheapened, somewhat.. who will take you seriously???? really????

    🙂 {{ Thank you for this brain Teaser!}}}

    Allie

  9. Naomi
    January 27, 2012 at 11:38 pm —

    -not a professional photographer. A hobbyist.

    I am on the other side of this coin. I make my living as a psychologist. I don’t ever intend to make my hobby (photography) my job…. (plus I don’t think I could ever make the money I make as a psychologist). The difficulty is… that I do not charge anything (nada, nothing) for session fees. I do it as a gift (for friends, for birthday presents, for wedding presents, for family members). Sometimes I even give it as a gift to complete strangers who are encountering a difficult life circumstance.

    I am a perfectionist, and so I purchase quality equipment, and I spend huge amounts of time getting educated! This is a life long passion for me! I have had SEVERAL local semi-pro or pro photographers in the area approach me to 1. ask me to charge 2. and to express their discontent toward me for damaging their business.

    I am saddened by this. I know it is very competitive out there right now… but blaming me isn’t helping their business. For people that come to me looking for freebies (I am very selective about who I give this gift to) I actually refer them on to the other local photographers!! It is troubling. I don’t like people angry at me (and I have considered charging just to appease). However I always go back to what I need and want from photography. I can’t lead my life around what other people do or say.

    This might not fit your criteria perfectly, but I thought I would offer the flip side.

    • March 5, 2012 at 2:52 pm —

      I don’t think anyone is blaming you its just a double edged sword. I mean, what if someone came into your practice and did exactly what you did, maybe better maybe slightly worse, but didn’t charge the clients. Its hard to feed your family/earn a living when the person next to you is providing the service for “fun”. Also, there becomes a sense taking away value when products or services are offered for nothing.

      You probably take amazing portraits and there is great value in that just as there is great value in your paying job. We are just asking the hobbyist to help retain the value in the art of photography.

  10. Erica
    August 14, 2012 at 3:14 pm —

    A certain Portait studio chain nationwide charges around $60 for the cd (non released copy right) of the whole session and offers huge print packages at around $10. Their clients have gotten used to these prices. I can see someone going off that and charging the same. This studio however runs like a fastfood chain.. and doesnt have the passion or creativity that I’m sure every photographer has on this blog. Unfortunately this company has brought down the value of true photography and change most clients perspective. Their work doesn’t compare but is good enough for someone just wanting some photos

  11. Erica
    August 14, 2012 at 3:23 pm —

    A certain Portait studio chain nationwide charges around $60 for the cd (non released copy right) of the whole session and offers huge print packages at around $10. Their clients have gotten used to these prices. I can see someone going off that and charging the same. This studio however runs like a fastfood chain.. and doesnt have the passion or creativity that I’m sure every photographer has on this blog. Unfortunately this company has brought down the value of true photography and change most clients perspective. Their work doesn’t compare but is good enough for someone just wanting some photos.

  12. Csaba F.
    March 24, 2013 at 5:19 pm —

    Hi, Jodi.
    Just for reference, a lot of hungarian PRO-s (info from 2013. Wedding Shows) charge for a full wedding, 2 photographers, Photo Book, Usage rights, all images on Personalized, printed DVD Disc + Cover, some other extra items included) are between $650 – $1400 (rate as of 24 March 2013).

    There are a lot of self proclaimed “would be” photographers and MWAC’s that charge between $120-$340 for the whole wedding, some will also give almost all the above items, some will only burn a DVD hand written – and be still asked for due to being cheap. Many will do it for “reference” free.

    The other issues raised here is that most of these, and even “PRO”-s will hand over disastrous work and when asked how they are not alike the ones on their sites will say: the weather and the place was not right, could not bring out more of their camera. Mostly these people will have images like pro’s on their sites by going to cheap photo sessions and shoot what the session holder sets up, or if there is a person who will actually tell the models what to do and how to pose (1-2% of 100% here) will quickly snap it before the one setting it up and use the best ones showing as “moments from paid sessions”.

    Some will succeed to take some images by shooting 20-25 photos per minute. We have seen Double DVD handed over with >6000 images.As this is done frequently, customers think high number should be a demand as referenced as “standard” by others who already had their weddings…

    Quite sad.

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Pricing Photography: Too High? Too Low?