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How to Price Your Photography – Q&A with Alicia Caine {Easy as Pie}

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Here is a transcript from the 1 hour Live Text Chat on the MCP Actions Facebook Page with Alicia Caine from Served Up Fresh {Easy as Pie} – pricing for photographers

You will see the question a participant asked, and then the answer from Alicia (AC). We hope to do another LIVE chat with her in early 2011. Remember the answers below are the opinion of one person. Your thoughts and opinions may vary based on your experiences, location, and business plan. If you have more questions for Alicia, please post them here and I will see if she can visit and answer a few as she has time.  Thanks!

Q: I just rewrote all my pricing for 2011. I have no idea how to “introduce” it properly without losing all of my client’s interest.

Alicia Caine: Introducing pricing is a lot simpler than we make it out to be- you just do it. it requires no fanfare- no mention. Seriously.

Q: I have decided that I want to make myself well known and get away from $100 CD. I did the easy as pie and I am scared to death this won’t work.

AC: Okay- look at it this way—- think of one company that announces that they will be having a price increase outside of the photography industry. And then, think of how they explain why they are raising prices.

Q: I am relatively new to the business and our prices are set, but how do you know if they make sense? I am afraid people will look at it and say forget her.

AC: You know, pricing consistency isn’t easy to explain….which is why I broke it all down in Easy as Pie – it makes a lot more sense when you see how it all flows together.

 

Q: There are other photographers around here who do amazing work and my pricing as followed in easy as pie is way higher.  Should I be higher?

AC: You have to just get out there and do it! I know it’s scary at first- everyone feels that way. But it won’t work if you don’t do it!  Sometimes you will find that you are the highest in the area— I was the most expensive in the state and let me tell ya- my clients reminded me about it constantly. But the reality of it is, I couldn’t charge any less. I couldn’t run my business to be the best for my clients and the best for my family by lowering my rates.

Q: I just wanted to know if you discount the CD image or books or whatever as well as the prints in a la carte when we build that discount in the collection.

AC: Yes, all my items are discounted if there is a % off with that collection. It’s why I make sure all my items are priced correctly so that I can do that % and it not kill profit on certain items.

Q: I’m wondering how much leverage should you give the client on editing requests before charging for extra editing?

AC: I don’t give any leverage to my clients on editing. I’m the professional. Editing is done ahead of time for my clients to show them my talent and how the final image should look. All additional editing requests are charged an additional rate as I find them unnecessary as I covered everything in the first edit that I presented.

Q: I have a Minimum Order Requirement, but am having a hard time getting clients to actually place their order in a timely manner! Some of them take forever! Any suggestions, Alicia?

 

AC: The best way to enforce a MOR (minimum order requirement) is photocart. I love it. It turns off the ability for them to order and their images go away. You can also charge a penalty fee for those orders that are past. You need to make sure that you have this in your policies. I actually have an article on Jodi’s blog about this: Online Ordering: How to Close the Deal.

Q: My question is about pricing prints. On your book you talk about the x4 pricing for mounted prints only. Do you not recommend selling large (over 11×14) un-mounted prints to clients?

AC:  4X is not all I recommend- the X increases as you increase your pricing based on your experience.  The mounting decision you make depends on how your clients are finishing their images. Most customer framers hate mounted images, believe it or not- it’s more work for them if they are adding a matting.

 

Q: What do clients like best a la carte or packages?

AC: MOST clients will go with packages IF they are put together well. If they are a clustered mess- they will go a la carte.

Q: What do you include in a basic edit?

AC:  All my basic edits are exactly how I want to see the image on the wall in a 30X45 canvas.

Q: Do you show each image completely edited to your client?  What if they don’t purchase it?  Isn’t that wasted time and money?

AC: Editing your images to perfection is not a waste because that is why you are charging the session fee. It should cover your time doing this. Your clients should never see less than your best. They don’t have the vision that you do- and this also opens the doors for special requests that are preventable.

Q: What about editing severe acne?

AC: Severe acne editing I think should be at the request of the client, do not assume. I once heard of a photographer that did this and the mother was very offended because she didn’t request. Some people are okay with the way their children look.

Q: I am just JUST starting out and still completing some portfolio building.  I am starting to put together packages and pricing.  Do you think it is reasonable to start out with “introductory” pricing?

AC: Absolutely, you can do a starting out price. I go over that in even more detail in EAP and how to do that. There is a very strategic way of doing this so that it doesn’t kill your business when you are ready to go full price. If done improperly, it’ll kill any future growth, or at least make it very difficult. as you become more established or your needs increase- your pricing should reflect that.

 

Q: IF I am still portfolio building how do I discount? And [packages] do I discount them too?

AC: You have to discount based on what works best for you. I suggest creating a full price sheet and then offer a % off when you start out- as you grow, lessen that % off until you are full price.

 

Q:  1st -When you change your style and start doing some studio work, I know I will be doing a model search for one weekend offering a free session to the client, prints will cost to update my brochure. How do you recommend marketing that?  Should I stay with clients that I already have used, send out postcards, and if so should I offer a gift print?  I’m still not sure how gift prints work.

2nd – I’m wanting to change up what I do.   I will be photographing in my home for the first time.  Want to offer a “model search” for updating my brochures to the new line of what I want to work with How much do I discount? And should I use my client base as the ones I market this too, or use FB and postcards to branch out?

AC: If you are portfolio building and you are using the images – you should be doing this work for free – you aren’t trying to attract paying clients, you are using them to fill a need that you have.

 

Q: When I offer % off in the Collections should I also offer %off if order more?

AC: The discount depends on how high you created your pricing- there is no flat number…

Q: I am brand new in business.  Pricing in my area is all over the place!! Where do I start without being so expensive I alienate the mainly military family clientele I have?

You have to base your pricing on what works best for you.

Q: You mention you upload images to mpix for your clients. Do you do this under your own account, or create one just for them and then send a login, and do you ever give a CD?

AC: When I upload my client images to MPIX, I create an account for my clients using their e-mail account and then send them the password once I send it over to them. For my clients that buy digital files, I upload to mpix, give them a CD or an external thumb drive- their choice.

 

Q: I’ve read the old EAP, but not the new one yet, and if I remember correctly, you don’t address session charges.  Or am I completely missing the point, maybe you do NOT charge session fees at all?

AC: I cover session pricing in the new EAP- it was covered in the old Pastry School before which is now a part of EAP.

 

Q: How many hours do you spend in editing and how many images?

I usually show no more than 40 images, and then narrow them down. People were more satisfied that way.  I spend about an hour per session editing. Check out Jodi’s Photoshop speed editing class in 2011.

 

Q: I want to know if I should offer special pricing for that to draw clients in?

AC: Offer incentives where you can both win- Get a complimentary album with the CD and then you win by not losing a sale and they win by getting a bonus But, yes, you can discount….it’s really a question of if you SHOULD. And that needs to be determined by you.

 

Q: I’m in my first 6 months of business and re-doing my pricing for the new year. Do you recommend 4 packages? Or a certain number at all?

AC: I recommend 3 collections- anything more than that is overwhelming.

Q: Regarding what you said before about late penalty fees for ordering, I met with my client for an in home gallery, and then gave her 7 days as I do all my clients. On the 7th day, she needed more time to order her prints, now I made an exception for her because she said she was going to buy a lot and so far my highest sales was $1600 and she is very rich (bad to change for her  Iknow) and added 5 days and now 5 have gone by and she says she wants more time…what should I do now?

AC: You count that client as a loss. You will have people like that. If they don’t abide by your rules- you don’t want them as long-term clients. Sometimes it’s easier to lose time on a client than it is to lose a lot of money on products that someone is unhappy with. It stinks- but there are some times you will lose in business. No sure fire way to win every time.

 

Q: I’ve been very cheap, do you think that I’m going to run into problems when I go the EAP method?

AC: Yes, you will run into issues going from super cheap to appropriately priced- you will probably lose a lot of your clients. Not gonna sugarcoat it. But, you will also grow and you will profit It’s worth the tradeoff 🙂

 

Q: Alicia, how is your ordering done?  Is it only through a cart or do you also do in-person ordering?

AC: I use photocart online ordering system- it’s the best online system out there!  Proselect for in person.

 

Q: I’m a bit nervous about raising my prices, in fear of losing the customers I have drawn, but excited to be charging what I’m worth! Do you suggest in home sales?

AC: In home sales are more profitable if you have the right personality and time for it. I recommend them if you do. Hate talking to people and don’t have the time- do online

 

Q: How do you suggest setting a Minimum Order Requirement? Do you ever offer any special pricing at events?  For example, as a pet photographer I am involved with a dog group and sometimes set up a table at their events…would you offer any sort of “book today” type of discount/special offer?

AC:  I recommend incentives over discounts as you loose and your client wins and you are more than likely attracting a client that is holding out for a cheap deal.

Q: My business model is geared toward clients using photos for their home decor (big prints and canvases).  Should I still try the EAP collection recommendations for a year?

AC: Even if your business model is for wall prints- can you say with certainty that 75% of your clients are coming to you for wall prints? Sometimes you need to adjust your model to what the majority of your clients are needing and wanting otherwise you are carving a very very small niche out that might not give you longevity.

Q: I have 2 parts of my business: art prints and portraits. I charge a lot more for my art prints than for portrait prints. Should these be closer in price?

AC: It depends- I personally would print them differently to distinguish them one from another- art prints on a fine art paper or canvas only…something like that. Clients question printing when everything is on the same paper- but if you distinguish fine art from regular- it’s self-explained in the different pricing there and you can still price yourself consistent.

Q: How and when do you introduce your pricing to your clients? Is there a way to reduce sticker shock?

AC: If your clients are finding you online- you can give basic pricing information on your web-site. If they can’t afford you- they don’t need to call you to find that out. You don’t need to post your entire pricing though.

 

Q: I am just starting to charge people for my work. I am wondering if I should try this for a time before I officially start up a business or if I need to get the legal parts set up first?

AC: If you are accepting money- you MUST do it legal from the get go- the government does not care if you are accepting $100 or $10. They find no exceptions!

 

Q: What is the best way to allow for credit card payments? Do you have a machine or do you use some sort of online service?

AC: I personally have used paypal.

 

Q: How do you suggest setting your MOR?

AC: the formula for your unique business and your unique money needs is covered in EAP- It takes a little bit of math— but it’s easy.

 

Q: Do you do most of your ordering sessions at NIGHT or day? What time generally?

AC: I did my in person ordering sessions with what worked best for both me and my clients. Most of my clients preferred on-line.

 

Q: I notice seniors spend less than families. Should there be collections for that market that differ from the regular family/children market?

AC: I think seniors spend less than families because most people charge too little for all those wallets and CD 😉 I’ve seen some fantastically profitable senior photogs.

 

Q: How do you go about figuring out what to put in your collections? Do you offer special incentives to each one for it to look more appealing?

AC: Again, covered in EAP… there is a science behind it.  I promise I’m not being vague on purpose! It’s just that there is so much more to be said about why we do what we do than I can put in a chat! lol Sorry!!!

 

Q:  I took a Kevin Focht course that stated we need to figure out what we wanted to make our money in – session fees or prints.  I chose session fees. My business is insanely busy and my editing is a million times better than when I started due to tools, training, equipment, etc.  Therefore, I need to raise my prices.  I know I do! Would EAP be able to help me figure out a combination of making money in mostly session fees, offering the images for sale at a price acceptable to both me and the client?

AC: Kevin has a very different mentality than my approach- I guess I’m not familiar with it. My method is based on a psychological method of what people respond too. Getting the money in a session fee is hard to do as most people aren’t willing to invest in you up front unless they are a longstanding client- it’s a big investment that you could run with their money.

 

Q: I try to be consistent in my editing, making the color ones all pop the same and the black and whites look similar (thanks for this tip, Jodi)! I run into clients saying “Can I have #13 in color and #22 in BW, and also # 12 in BW and maybe 8 in color???” It is a HUGE PAIN to go back and re-export and re-edit.  I do not just click “Black and White” in Lightroom and be done.  I do 99% of editing in Photoshop Is it just EASIER to give them a select number of images in color AND BW?  And just choose less images to edit?  Or do you suggest doing a good mix?

AC: I present all my images in what they will look best printed in- some will come in both b&w and color and others will be just one style. It is what it is very a specific reason- no special requests.

Thank you to Andrea Harrison of Original Andrea for collecting all the questions from the Live Chat and putting them together in a Question and Answer format. Your time is appreciated!

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No Comments

  1. EBPitcher on December 21, 2010 at 10:21 am

    WOW – this was fantastic! Thanks to you all for posting this!

  2. Kim-Marie on December 21, 2010 at 11:52 am

    As far as being afraid to raise your prices is concerned, you just have to get over that consumer mentality. You need to stop thinking as a shopper and start thinking as a seller. You need to charge what your photos are worth and not sell yourself short — you have an investment, in your equipment, your education (or continuing education) and your talent. Our studio has adopted a mantra from that little movie on MCP a few weeks ago you’re “just that frickin’ good”. Keep that in mind and stop second guessing your clients motivation for using you. Being known as the cheapest is not the accolade you’re looking for. You want people to come to you because you’re known to be a great photographer, not a cheap one.We changed our pricing model almost a year ago after going to Imaging USA and listening closely to what experts in the field said and adopting what the successful people have done. It’s made a huge difference in our numbers. Sure, we’ve lost a few clients, but people who shop solely on price are not our desired clients any way, so it was okay, there’s no need to beg and grovel. If you look at the really successful people in the field, they are what they are and don’t apologize. Not everyone who comes to you is going to be your client.Kim-MarieStudio Manager

  3. Tammy on December 21, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    I am loving EVERYTHING I have purchased so far—you take some of the mystery out of post processing for me….I would purchase the 18-200 Nikkor lens….and I have shared your facebook page with EVERYONE I KNOW!!!!!!!!!! THANK YOU JODI!

  4. ~marci on December 23, 2010 at 11:56 am

    Thanks so much for the repost~ MUCH easier to follow and I picked up a couple of things here that I had missed in the chat. Thanks!!

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