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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.

How to Raise Your Photography Prices and FREE Pricing Guide for Download

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.

Between booking my first wedding and shooting my first wedding (6 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.

FeaturedPricing

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 would love to recommend an incredible resource 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.

Pricing

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/

Pricing

Working With Non-Refundable Retainers

How to Work With Non-Refundable Retainer Fees in Your Photography Business by Jamie Delaine

Hi everyone! We’re still away in Haiti… but I wanted to let you know about a new video for wedding photographers on my YouTube channel: “Working With Non-Refundable Retainer Fees.” In this video, I’m chatting about my process for collecting a 50% retainer fee for every wedding booked. Some of the questions I address include:

– Is the 50% negotiable?
– Why do you need a retainer?
– What happens if a wedding is cancelled?

Let me hear from you!

Did you find this video helpful? Is this something you’ve struggled with in your business?

P.S. 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 of knowing 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.

How to Work With Non-Refundable Retainer Fees in Your Photography Business by Jamie Delaine

Pricing

Should You Display Your Photography Prices on Your Website?

Pricing your small business services can be difficult! We’re confident in what we charge for the value we deliver, but every year, we deal with doubt: will I have another full season of bookings? How do we convert a first-time website visitor into a paying client?

Should You Display Your Photography Prices on Your Website?

One of the most talked about issues in the photography world (and perhaps in your industry, too!) is the question of displaying your service prices online. Today, I’m sharing my take on the matter and what’s been working for me.

Today’s Take-Aways 

1. There are three options for displaying your services prices on your website: A) Don’t show any details at all, only a number or email to contact you for more information. B) Show a starting rate, “Wedding collections start at $4000, please contact me for more information.” Or C) Show all of your available services with detailed pricing.

2. There are pros and cons to all of these options and ultimately, you should experiment and find out what works best for you. With A) You may receive an abundance of inquiries that are haphazardly written just to receive a number. You could have clients emailing you with budgets between $500 and $10,000. There’s no way for them to know if your budgets line up. With B) You’ll receive less inquiries but hopefully more quality inquiries. However, a con would be the potential of ‘scaring’ someone off with the $4000 price tag. If they had a great meeting or conversation with you, perhaps their $2800 budget could be adjusted when they fall in love with your work. With C) There is complete transparency with your potential clients but it could be ‘too much too soon.’ You should always be honest and yourself on ‘a first meeting’ but you wouldn’t share every detail about yourself too soon! 😉 Let the client get to know you in person or at least an email back before your share all the details, in my opinion.

3. It’s up to you to experiment! In different seasons in my business I’ve shared my starting rate only, or taking the pricing off entirely. Experiment for 30 days, or a set amount of time, and compare how many more inquiries you got and if the increase in inquires changed bookings or simply made more email work for you.

Talk to Me!

I’d love to hear what YOU do for displaying your small business services prices (not just wedding photographers!) Share below in the comments so we can learn from each other.

Are you struggling with deciding what to charge for your wedding or portrait services?

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 of knowing 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. Angie shared the following about her experience with the Knowing Your Numbers workbook:

WOW! I don’t even know how but I stumbled across your website last week and was blown away! I purchased the Knowing Your Numbers spreadsheet and OMG it all makes sense now!! You honestly should be charging more for this spreadsheet hahaha! I’m sharing the link with all of my photog friends so hoping more folks take advantage of it. Gosh I wish I would have found you sooner!”

Pricing

Managing Your Photography Business Income

Good morning, everyone! Happy Monday!

Today I want to share a few words of wisdom about managing your business income. When I began my business as a sole proprietorship and started talking with other small business owners, I discovered a few crazy practices. I’d hear things like, “I keep everything in my business account and when I need to buy something like groceries or pay the mortgage I’ll transfer the money.” Another thing I’ve heard? “I just booked a wedding, so there’s another $1000 retainer fee I can use this month.”

There are two problems with these statements.

1. Your “Business” and “Personal” earnings should be kept separate.
2. Retainers are just that… retainers for future events. Not income… yet!

Let’s solve these two issues.

1. Create Bi-Monthly Paycheques

As mentioned, I started my business as a sole proprietorship and eight years later, I’m still registered as a sole proprietorship. No, I haven’t incorporated yet as the “cons” outweigh the “pros” right now for me. Sole proprietorship = simple. However, what being an S.P. means is my business equals me. If my business makes $30,000 I make $30,000. There is no separation. You can physically “leave” money in your business bank account, however, you’ll still pay taxes on that income as you and your business are one in the same.

So if we’re the same, why even have two bank accounts at all? Because a business needs to be treated like a business! How is anybody supposed to budget if you’re paying for your groceries, night out at the movies, packaging supplies for your albums and second shooter fees all in the same account?! It makes me panic just thinking about it. If you’re a registered business in your province or state, you can open a bank account as a sole proprietorship. Mine says “DBA (Doing Business As) Jamie Delaine Photography.”

Next, at the beginning of the year, I’ll look at what jobs I have booked and estimate my rough yearly income. I’ll divide this income by 24. I like to pay myself on the 1st and 15th of every month. For you, you may prefer every other Friday. (If so – that would be 26 pay periods.) Whatever the number is, find your average paycheque. If you estimate you’ll make $30,000, each paycheque on the 1st and 15th of every month should be $30,000/24 = $1250.

Boom!

Whether you make $10,000 (say, in a month like August) or $250, say December-March, you’ll be paid the same amount, just like a, what’s that? REAL JOB. Budgeting stresses be gone! It’s so nice to know what you’re bringing in and how to budget for expenses like rent, groceries and movies. 😉

2. Set Aside Retainer Fees

This is another really important note. Retainer fees, although described to my client as non-refundable, cannot be spent in advance like they ARE non-refundable! What I mean by that is – yes, if my client cancels their wedding or decides they’d like another photographer (the first has happened, the second never, thank goodness) – I am not obligated to return their retainer. We have a contract. However, what if something completely unforeseeable happens. A disastrous family emergency, one that will last for months. An unexpected pregnancy, one with lots of complications. A severe accident! Nobody likes to think about these things and we certainly don’t need to dwell on them but we do need a plan.

Always, always, keep track of how much money in your business bank account are retainer fees. I book weddings a year in advance, so it’s not atypical for me to have $40,000 in my bank account that “isn’t mine yet.” If an emergency happened to you today – do you have X amount of dollars to refund all of your clients for the entire year? Don’t spend your money until it’s earned. Until that wedding day is photographed, that money needs to be treated as temporary. I hope both of these tips helped you today! If you have any questions be sure to ask them below.