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 10 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 today!
Mistake #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.
Mistake #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.
Mistake #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 5 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.
Mistake #4 | Not Understanding What Each Client Costs
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.
Mistake #5 | Being Ignorant to Your 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:
- Business Insurance
- Software Subscriptions
- Cell Phone
- Car Insurance
- Canon Professional Membership
- Domain and Blog Hosting
And variable costs:
- Packaging Supplies
- Coffee/Restaurant Meetings
- Second Shooters/Office Assistants
- Car Maintenance
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.