When it comes to setting the price of your photography services, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all rule. The amount you charge for a shoot depends on a myriad of factors, including:
- Where you live and work
- What specific services you offer
- Your experience and training
- And the equipment you own and use
Pricing your photography services can be fairly hit-or-miss, especially if you’re just starting out. Thankfully, guidelines exist to help you determine how to price your photography services at every stage of your career and business.
Calculate Your Cost of Doing Business
As a professional photographer, you’re running a business first and foremost. You need to consider the cost of doing business when figuring out how to price your photography services.
The cost of doing business can also be called your overhead. It’s the combined cost of all your expenses, including:
- Studio or office rent
- Equipment costs and maintenance
- Service costs (web hosting, software fees)
- Licensing fees
- Continuing education costs
- Subscriptions and dues
- Advertising and marketing
- And more
For example, consider the cost of mailing a client a CD or flash drive full of wedding photos. You’ll need to spend money on not only the CD or flash drive, but packaging and shipping as well — not to mention the time spent editing and selecting which photos to transfer to the CD or flash drive.
Including the cost of doing business in your pricing ensures you’ll continue to stay financially solvent — in business. If you’re not pricing your services at a high-enough rate, you could very well end up losing money simply by running your business.
CODB calculators can be incredibly helpful for figuring out your cost of doing business. Plug in your annual expenses and desired income, then let the calculator work its magic. The result will give you a solid idea for how to price your services and what mark-up you need to set to meet your expenses and desired income.
Determine How Much Money Your Time is Worth
The phrase “time is money” may be cliché, but it’s still true. As a professional photographer, you’ve invested hundreds of hours into learning your craft, whether or not you’re self-trained or college-educated. Your pricing needs to reflect the effort you’ve put into developing and honing your skill.
Each time you’re hired for a shoot, you’re not just spending time taking photos. You’re also setting up equipment, finding the right angles, and, later on, spending time in post-production. During the shoot itself, you’re relying on years of training and expertise to take the best photos you can.
After all, anyone can grab a camera and take a photo. What you bring to the table is knowledge and skill. Keep that in mind when you’re setting the price of your services.
Research the Market and Your Competitors
Staying informed about the market rate and the prices your competitors charge helps you stay competitive. If prices for photography services fluctuate within a given range in your area, you’ll have an idea as to the average acceptable price local clients are willing to pay.
In the same vein, you’ll know how far under or over your competitors’ rates you can charge.
Bear in mind that, to many, the cost of services is indicative of a professional’s quality. If your prices are too low, clients might assume your skill level isn’t high enough to command a better rate.
You may also choose to have higher prices than all or most of your competitors. In this regard, it’d be a branding decision. Perhaps you want to position yourself as an exclusive or boutique photographer.
Study the market and your competitors and apply psychology to influence how you set the cost of your services.
Don’t Forget Taxes
As a self-employed photographer and small business owner, you’re wholly responsible for paying taxes — there’s no employer withholding taxes on your behalf.
That means you need to keep your tax obligations in mind when pricing your photography services. If not, you’re likely going to need to dip into your profits to pay your taxes when the time comes.
Adjust Your Prices as Necessary
Once you’ve set the price of your photography services, do some experimentation to figure out if they work for you. Are you covering all your expenses and making a decent profit? Or are you spending too much time on a shoot for too little pay?
If you’re not happy with your prices, go through the guidelines again to adjust what you charge. Eventually, you’ll settle on pricing that’s not only fair to your customers and clients, but respectful of your expertise, knowledge, and professionalism, too.