Are Your Charging for the Wrong Thing as a Professional Photographer?

Mar 25 08:33 2007 Kirstin Carey Print This Article

With the introduction of digital photography, the world of professional photography is changing rapidly. It's becoming more difficult to make money from selling photos, but that doesn't mean that you should close up shop and find a new profession. You just have to change some of the rules and reposition your method of making money.

From my experience in consulting and presenting workshops and programs for photographers, most are charging for the wrong thing and need to make some simple, yet dramatic changes to continue to excel.

Your Real ServiceBack before digital became so popular,Guest Posting photographers made their money on prints. Makes sense, right? Well now, dependence on selling prints to the client is the worst way to run a wedding or portrait photography business.

Your real value is in the professional vision you have that makes you different from every other wedding and portrait photographer out there. The thing that makes you better than the photography studio at Wal-Mart is how you choose to take the photo-not the photo itself. So, if your true value is your photography skills, then why set your prices on the actual print? The photo would be nothing if you didn't have the unique picture-taking skills you have.

You need to make a paradigm shift-for yourself and then your clients-regarding those things for which you are charging.

How to Make the Paradigm ShiftWhat I have found works beautifully for my photographer clients is a complete overhaul of their pricing strategy. The focus should be placed on the photo session itself, not on the prints.

The most crucial part of the photography session is capturing the images-not the printing of the images. Anyone can print an image, but not everyone can capture the perfect moment. It's the capturing of that moment that the client really wants, and that's why he or she is hiring you. Therefore, you need to focus on charging for the photographic process.

How Do I Charge for the Real Value?Sit down and decide the minimum you want to make on each wedding or portrait project. Then, set your prices according to that minimum.

For example, let's say you want to make a minimum of $5000 for each project; simply set your baseline there. Then, create three "packages" that your client can select. The $5000 becomes your price just to take the pictures. Each package selected from there is then a bit more.

Package A could be $6000, package B could be $7500, and package C, $10,000. While your clients can select the package they want after seeing the images, they should be asked to pay the $5000 up front. That $5000 acts as a paid credit toward the selected package.

Stop "Nickel & Diming" the ClientCharge your clients for value and avoid charging in ways that "nickel and dime" them, and they will actually pay you more! Really, we all know the expenses to make a 3x5, 4x6, and 8x10 don't really vary all that much, so why charge the client for a specific size? While some people don't value an 8x10 as better than a 5x7, they do value choosing what works best for them. Rather than giving them two 4x6 images, two 5x7 images, and one 8x10-inch in the package, give them the option of getting five images of their choice up to an 8x10-inches. This approach makes things simpler, and it shifts the focus from the prints to the value of choice.

Now, I know what I'm about to say next is quite controversial, but another way to raise value is to offer what most photographers wouldn't ever dream of in their packages-all the digital images (gasp!). You could, as part of your most expensive package, give the client the digital images to do with as he or she pleases. This will raise the value of your premium package option dramatically, giving the client incentive to pay even more!Really, if your focus is on your talent for capturing the right moments, then why not give the client every digital image should he or she choose to pay for it? It's an option few photographers are willing to offer, and one that would certainly make you and your packages stand out.

Also, stop charging for exact amounts of time or other "nickel and dime" items, such as dinner at the wedding. The client is paying you to capture moments. You shouldn't be charging them for your meals or your time. Refocus how you think about what it is you are getting paid for. Get comfortable pricing those services that the client values, and I promise you, the client will pay the bills.

Every industry has ups and downs, though it's during the down times that the smart businesses succeed. If you want to continue making money in this business, you have to make some dramatic changes in how you charge and for what you charge. Many photographers are killing their businesses by hanging on to the old ways of pricing or doing just what "everyone else is doing." Break away from the pack and start charging for what the client really values, and you will see an increase in revenue and an increase in high-paying clients.

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Kirstin Carey
Kirstin Carey

Kirstin Carey is the author of Starving Artist No More: Hearty Business Strategies for Creative Folks. Kirstin knows most creative professionals hate sales, contracts and discussing money. She consults photographers and other creative folks on the business side of creativity so they set better fees, make more money and get better clients. Get proven strategies and insider secrets guaranteed to help creative types like you get the business help you want at

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