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Photography

How to Raise Your Photography Prices

I’ve written many other posts explaining how much work and focus it takes to build a full-time photography business. The market is increasingly competitive, there’s easy access to education online and beautiful cameras are becoming lower and lower in price. All of these are wonderful things! The barrier to entry should be low, it makes us all better as photographers and I truly believe there’s always room for one more. It pushes us to work harder.

However, it can be daunting to figure out how to make your photography business successful! Maybe you’re not charging what you’d like to charging and you’re working too many hours for too little return. I hope my photography story will motivate and encourage you in your pricing journey!

How to Raise Your Photography Prices

When I started my photography business, I was only doing family sessions. I had been using a few of my friends as models, getting familiar with my camera, my exposure and settings. Soon, I started visiting moms I knew and asking if I could follow their cute kids around the house with a camera. Everyone I photographed was willing to have their images displayed on my Facebook page, website and blog. (This was before Twitter and Instagram. Weird, right?) I launched a template website a few months later and listed family session rates on my website: $275, one hour session, including a CD of edited images. (CDs! So novel!)

setting your initial prices

Why $275? I honestly didn’t know at the time. I knew price communicates value. I knew I didn’t want to be a lower-level/beginner photographer. (Even now, I still see some websites where photographers seem to be ‘afraid’ of calling themselves photographers? ‘I’m new at this, so my prices are cheap.’ Own your legit prices. Own that this is what you want to do!) By starting at $275, I felt this price was fair to my experience level and work and I would attract clients who valued photography.

A few weeks after my website launch, to my surprise (honestly, I was pleasantly surprised) a sweet family with three young kids hired me for their family session! I showed up, did a great job and delivered the photos on time. That same summer, I worked with a photographer for two weddings and she was gracious enough to allow me to use the images in my portfolio. I went out on a limb, added these images to my website under a “Weddings” section and got back to work. (Don’t wait. Get back to work. Do portfolio-building shoots. Splash them all over your website/social media. Nobody needs to know this wasn’t paid. Look busy. Be busy!)

A few months later and a bride emailed me asking about her wedding photography. I was honest with her – although I had never lead shot a wedding by myself, I was confident I could do a good job. I showed my portfolio and miraculously, she booked. I charged $1000 for that wedding. It was 8 hours, included all the images and an engagement session.

you can start low… but aim high

No photographer can pay their bills on $1000 weddings. Literally. Even if you do 50 of these (very difficult!) you’re probably going to take home $25,000. It would be better to get a low-stress, 9-5 job… believe me. But I had to start somewhere. I was thrilled with the opportunity.

I interrupt this blog post to share about…. Knowing Your Numbers. KYN is an Excel/Numbers document designed to help you calculate your ideal prices for services and products. Using this tool, you’ll be able to see how much money you’re taking home at the end of every year. But what if your yearly income isn’t where you want it to be? Maybe you’re charging $1800 for a wedding and know it’s not sustainable, but have no idea how to even begin raising your prices. This is for you!

Between booking my first wedding and shooting my first wedding (six months) I continued to put my nose to the grind-stone! I photographed their engagement session and shared the images everywhere I could. I continued to do family sessions and other volunteer sessions. I networked with other photographers and wedding vendors. Miraculously (sometimes you need a stroke of luck with these things) I booked a handful of weddings for the 2008 season before ever lead-shooting one.

Ultimately, I photographed 11 weddings in the summer of 2008, the summer I graduated high school. And no, they were not all for $1000. (Eek.) My process was as follows – I was constantly striving to improve the look and feel of my brand on my website and blog. The first few years in business are a constant mess of asking, “Am I doing this right? Do I like this?” It’s natural. I would spend hours tweaking online presentation, website, meeting structure, email response, my pricing PDFs, my print packaging. Every time I invested a chunk of time into improving one of these areas, I would raise my prices. Especially when it came to new websites or blogs.

raise your prices strategically

My average wedding booking by the end of my first season was around $2400. Every few bookings, I would increase my prices by $400. And brides continued to book! I never publicly announced my prices were going to be raised (it seems kind of in bad taste to me, or a weird thing to announce) however I would use the price raise to my advantage internally. When brides would inquire, I would mention my prices would be increasing by 20% (or whatever your figure is) on the following date ____. (Two weeks in the future? Make it the same across the board. January 10 for example.) If inquiries lined up correctly, I think this was a great motivation for brides to book sooner and an easy way to make the price increase ‘fair.’

If you’re terrified about raising your prices, there’s no ‘easy’ button here. You have to try. If you want to be taken seriously as a full-time wedding photographer, $1000 weddings aren’t going to cut it much longer than a few months! Take a risk (business is all about risks… you could go back to your old job?) and see what happens.

As a reminder, don’t forget to actually do the correct math. How much do you want/need to make as a yearly income? How many weddings/portraits do you need to book and at what price, calculating your total expenses, to make that yearly income?

make sure you know the math

If math is not your strong suit, I would highly recommend Knowing Your Numbers, my excel document for photographers! Figure out your perfect photography service and product pricing in an hour’s time. Knowing Your Numbers also includes step-by-step video tutorials so you’re never left wondering, “How does this work again?”

Ashley Ham, a fellow photographer, shared with me about Knowing Your Numbers:

I am recently 100% full time and I can’t say enough good things about how this has helped me set goals financially. I highly recommend this tool to anyone who isn’t a numbers person, like myself, and also looking to get more organized with their business!”

‘How to Raise Your Photography Prices’ take-Aways

  1. Everybody starts somewhere. It is okay to have a ‘portfolio-building’ price in your first year of business. But you need to work to raise your prices, quickly. And work hard to do so.
  2. Price truly does communicate value. Keep this in mind when choosing your initial photography rates. Even with the same level of experience, clients will value a photographer who charges $275 for a family session much more than one who charges $100. And this will allow you to move your prices up to a sustainable range, quicker, as your client referral base isn’t jumping from say, $100 to $600. You’re already at $275. (For example. None of these figures aren’t meant to be gospel.)
  3. Always be working. As soon as you’re done client work (sessions or weddings) get back to the marketing brainstorming board. How can you get more work in front of more people? The more inquiries you have coming through, the more demand you have. The more demand you have, the quicker you can raise prices.
  4. Ultimately, if you’re terrified of raising your prices but not happy at the level you’re at – you just have to try. Try for a time. Raise them $300 a wedding collection. Attempt it and if you’re not happy with the results, no big deal. Lower them back down. Nobody is checking your website every month making sure your prices are the exact same. It will be okay!
  5. If putting together a handful of spreadsheets clearly laying out your business’ financial story isn’t your thing, you need Knowing Your Numbers.  Knowing Your Numbers is a step-by-step workbook to help you price your services and products profitably. The spreadsheets will help you present your photography prices with confidence to potential clients. Sell beautiful albums and products… at a profit that works for you. Make an annual plan for your finances and say goodbye to ‘off-season anxiety!’ Practically work towards achieving your dream salary! You can start today with your instant download.

Entrepreneurship

How to Price Photography

5 Pricing Mistakes to Avoid in Your Photography Business: Plus Free Bonus E-Book and Income/Expenses Calculator!

Determining what to charge for your services and products as a wedding and portrait photographer isn’t easy… actually, it can be down-right overwhelming. When I started my photography business almost nine years ago, I wish another photographer had sat me down and taught me how to price my photography. Although I can’t sit beside you and be that photographer for you… I want to do what I can and share 5 Pricing Mistakes to Avoid in Your Photography Business.

1. Undervaluing Your Work

When you’re starting out as a photographer, it’s easy to charge a lot less than you’re worth. Making $1000 for “one Saturday shooting a wedding” sounds like a lot of money to somebody with a hourly-wage mindset. What we fail to understand is the costs involved in shooting and delivering a wedding. A large portion of your $1000 fee needs to go towards covering overhead expenses and your work before and after the actual wedding day.

2. Having an Hourly Mindset

Which brings us to Mistake #2, having an hourly mindset. You’re a business owner – not an hourly employee at a company and until we have a firm grasp on the difference, we won’t succeed with our pricing. There are hours of time involved in running a photography business. Here are just a few tasks that are not related to a specific job but need to be completed for a successful business:

  • writing blog posts
  • updating your website portfolio
  • designing a welcome magazine for your brides
  • meeting with potential brides and grooms
  • location scouting
  • cleaning and maintaining gear
  • dropping welcome packages to your brides off at the post office
  • designing documents for your pricing and products
  • answering emails and new inquiries
  • brainstorming new creative ways to package
  • bookkeeping and accounting
  • writing newsletter updates
  • scheduling/writing social media updates
  • researching the best album or print companies
  • attending conferences to up-level your skills
  • reading business books to improve understanding

It is impossible to calculate an hourly rate for all of these tasks. Instead, we need to price our products and services in a way that we can make a ‘full time income’ from our workload – and spend some of our days on the above tasks.

3. Comparing Yourself to the Competition

Observing the photography market in your city isn’t always a negative thing but it’s important to realize not everyone else is doing it correctly. If you see a photographer charging $2000 for weddings and including an engagement session, album and 3 canvas prints in the price… I guarantee she’ll be out of business in a couple years. (Unless she’s superwoman and shooting 65-80 weddings a year. Then maybe you could make a living doing this.)

Set yourself up for success, even five years down the road. Set profitable prices that work for you and your market. If you’re in a small town where the average photographer charges $2000 – $6000 may be out of reach for the market. However, by providing ridiculously gorgeous images and an amazing customer experience alongside, you could charge $3500-$4500.

4. Not Understanding What Each Job or Product Costs You

I have good news – pricing isn’t magic. It’s math. You don’t have to choose numbers out of the air and hope for the best. For your average wedding collection booked, make a list of every item included: second shooter, online gallery, client gifts, wedding album, engagement guestbook.

Next to each item, list your cost. Add the total cost of items to find your Cost of Goods Sold for your wedding collection. By subtracting this from your retail price, you’ll find your Net Profit for each wedding. You can apply this same way of thinking to your products! You can’t set accurate prices until you understand your costs.

5. Being Ignorant to Your Business Expenses

Every business has a break-even number: a specific amount of income you must generate every year to cover expenses.

There are fixed costs (Mortgage/Rent, Internet, Business Insurance, Software Subscriptions, Cell Phone, Car Insurance, Canon Professional Membership, Domain and Blog Hosting) and variable costs (Advertising, Packaging Supplies, Coffee/Restaurant Meetings, Independent Contractors/Office Assistants, Education/Conferences, Branding/Design, Car Maintenance, Gasoline.)

I recommend having a written list of your fixed expenses (which won’t change) and a list of your estimated variable expenses (over-estimate your costs, as these could change!) By adding the two numbers together for the year, you’ll determine what you need to generate in income to break even in your photography business for the year.

Did you know 1 in 2 entrepreneurs who start small businesses fail within the first five years? I want continued success to be the story of your photography business. You may have a passion for your work and incredible talent to go alongside… but unless you are confident in the area ofknowing your numbers you won’t succeed.

I want to share an incredible resources for photographers called Knowing Your Numbers! KYN is a step-by-step workbook to help you set profitable prices for your photography products and services. Read more Knowing Your Numbers right here.

FeaturedSocial Media

How to Use Instagram for Business

Instagram is an awesome platform for sharing your brand and business with the world. It’s simple, it’s clean, based around great photography and easy to use. Best of all, unlike Facebook and Pinterest, every single one of your followers will see your posts in their feed. It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of Instagram and the power it has for your business.

Curious about the proper way to use Instagram for business? Read on!

How to Use Instagram for Business: A List of DO'S and DON'TS for Instagram success! PLUS: Watch a FREE video tutorial on editing iPhone photos!

But where’s a business owner looking to dominate on Instagramm to start? Let my list of ideas for How to Use Instagram for Business guide you below!

[Update] Due to the overwhelming popularity of this post in the Pinterest and Google world, I’ve developed a Grow Your Biz with Instagram Course! It’s currently closed for enrolment, however, you can join my wait list for my free 3-part training by clicking here.

I’ve been on Instagram for years but it wasn’t until one year ago that I started ‘analyzing’ my online presence. What was I sharing and why was I sharing it? Did I take notice of how certain images looked in my feed or did I simply post whatever I wanted? I’m not saying we should “perfect” our lives by any means, however, it’s important to understand how our feeds represent our business and what we share (photos and content) does matters.

Social Media

Using Pinterest for Business

Pinterest is one of the fastest growing social media platforms lately, with estimates of almost 100 million active users monthly. Since the launch of Pinterest, the majority of users have been female but we are seeing a shift in the demographics of new sign ups. One third of users signing up for Pinterest now are male, a huge increase, which means new opportunities for many small businesses that aren’t solely female-focused.

If you’re ready to start using Pinterest for your business, let’s get started!

Using Pinterest for Small Business: a complete how-to guide! BONUS DOWNLOAD: The 10 Pinterest Boards Ever Pinner Should Have! http://jamiedelainewatson.com/using-pinterest-for-your-small-business/

Regardless of your industry, there is an opportunity for your small business to be on Pinterest. If you’re not on Pinterest (or you are, but don’t have a Pinterest strategy) you’re missing out.

But don’t fret. It’s okay! I used to be one of those people. I had a Pinterest account, I used it to pin inspiring words or photos but I didn’t really know what I was doing and certainly not how to use it for my business or my blog. I pinned a handful of times a month and that was that.

Since making a few key changes to my pinterest strategy, 25% of my blog visitors find me on Pinterest. The best part? 86% of visitors from Pinterest were new, meaning they had never been to my blog before. WOW. That’s some crazy results.

Entrepreneurship

Learning Fixed and Variable Small Business Costs

Most creatives start their own service-based business because they love what we do and hope to make a living doing more of what they love. Very quickly, they discover 90% of owning a successful business is working on the business and only 10% is working in the business. One of the major parts of the “90%” is dealing with your company financials.

Learning Fixed and Variable Small Business Costs in Your Small Business! Plus a bonus download to help you figure out your costs! http://jamiedelainewatson.com/learning-fixed-and-variable-small-business-costs/

Blogging

How to Write a “Start Here” Page

When new readers first arrive on your blog, do they know where to start reading? Sure, you might have an about page, maybe you have a bio image in your sidebar and a little blurb about who you are and what you do… but I don’t think that’s good enough anymore. Readers have short attention spans. Don’t blame them – you do, too. Are you grabbing your readers’ attention from the get-go? And if not, how do we solve this? A Start Here page.

How to Write a Captivating

Start Here vs. About

An About page is a more personal look into the author behind the blog, written more as a mini-biography. You can include: how you became a blogger, why you love blogging along with personal facts about your life and family. On the other hand, a Start Here page must be no-nonsense, no-fluff, straight to the point. It’s all about your reader – not about you.