There are many myths and misconceptions about photography pricing advice.
Just like every Rockstar Photographer or trainer seems to have an opinion about how to market your business. There are many conflicting opinions on how to price your photography and products.
As with anything, no one way is right and none of them are wrong.
What Stage Is Your Photography Business At?
It all depends on you, what stage your business is at, the assets and resources you have. This includes your audience, reputation, skills in photography, marketing, and vitally important your objectives.
And it is this last one, objectives, that so few talk about.
There is a lot of pressure on photographers to charge higher prices, no matter what your skill or confidence levels are, without consideration of your objectives at that particular stage in your business.
A lot of photographers argue that lower pricing damages the market.
That’s absolutely not true.
Take a look at any industry, food, restaurant, cars, motorbikes, bicycle’s housing, you name it.
In most industries, there is a whole range of price points. This is normal, and the lower end of the market does not damage or de-value the higher end of the market. They sell totally different products aimed at a totally different segment of the market and photography is exactly the same.
But people seem to have lost sight of that in the photography industry as a whole. Which is why so much of the photography pricing advice does more harm than good.
Not everybody can serve the top end of the market.
There just aren’t enough people in that segment of the market for everybody to serve at that level.
It’s perfectly possible to serve the lower end of the market very well. To make clients feel good which is what a lot of photographers say is one of their drivers, along with creating their art, and be profitable whilst enjoying doing what you love.
You can do this without the high-end edit, where you spend hours of painstaking editing.
Instead, use presets and spend less time editing. Your clients are going to love the photos and it is still going to be professional quality. A quality that most clients couldn’t get themselves.
The other point that is often ignored, is that many photographers are technically competent. However, at the beginning of their professional career, they don’t have the skill and experience to deliver in all kinds of challenging conditions.
Be those difficult clients, time pressures, confidence issues, difficult conditions photographically or a combination of all.
People rarely take this into account with a lot of the photography pricing advice out there.
There is nothing wrong with charging lower fees whilst you serve your apprenticeship. Develop your skill and ability to deliver great photographs in all conditions, whatever the challenges.
Now that we’ve established that there is nothing wrong with charging lower prices, let’s look at your objectives.
Photography Pricing Advice Based On You and Your Objectives
If you are just starting out, and you still have a job, then in the short term, a large profit is NOT your best objective.
You want to build your experience, grow your portfolio with real clients (not staged shoots on workshops) as quickly and easily as possible.
Serve Your Apprenticeship
The easiest way to do that is to start with lower pricing so that you’re not self-sabotaging. Or avoiding booking clients because you are frightened that you are not worth your fees, or you won’t be able to deliver. (I’ve seen too many photographers do just that).
People sometimes compare photography to trades like plumbers or electricians, saying that you pay £60 an hour or more for their services, even when they are just starting out in business.
However, the vast majority will have spent several years learning their craft at college and served an apprenticeship.
Yet if you’re just starting out as a photographer, chances are you haven’t invested several years at college studying photography. You haven’t served a year or two’s apprenticeship. So treat serving the lower end of the market as your apprenticeship.
This is where you learn your real life skills. To deliver in any kind of conditions without the pressure of having charged someone a lot of money for a session and then being scared to go out and market yourself.
That actually happened to someone who had been a client of mine.
They went and put up their prices, following the usual photography market industry advice to base pricing on the cost of goods. Then for six months she avoided marketing her business because she was frightened to as she was scared of her pricing.
When she came back to work with me, we talked about her pricing, what was blocking her.
I could see straight away what was going on. She’s now gone back to her original business model while she builds her confidence. And she has a totally different mindset and is out there marketing the business again.
When Photography Needs To Support You and Your Family
Now if photography needs to provide an income to support you and your family, then you have a different objective – enough revenue to pay your wages and generate a profit is your priority.
(Your wages and profit are two different things – think of your wages as a business cost.)
You need momentum.
And the easiest way to do that is to start off with lower prices and increase them 10-15% every 3-6 months.
Think of it as a marketing cost.
You can still serve the lower end of the market. You just need to do it with a business model that’s more high volume and profitable and there are plenty of clients out there in that market.
There’s no shame in that.
Put your ego aside, that you want to be this great rock and roll photographer that everybody looks up to.
Forget about other photographers.
Think about your clients and your market and how you can give them value.
It absolutely does not harm the market at all.
In the car market, Daceas and Hyundai don’t devalue the Fords, the Volkswagens and Volvo’s. Which in turn don’t devalue the Mercedes and Audis. Which don’t devalue the Ferraris, Aston Martins and Bentleys.
Some brands serve a range of price points – the Audi A1 doesn’t devalue a luxury A8 or an R8.
Sure, a few photographers manage to launch their businesses at higher price points and quickly build enough momentum to live off their photography business, but they are the exception.
Because most photographers are more interested in developing their camera skills than their business and marketing skills.
However, there are diminishing returns on developing your camera skills. You will get to a point where charging higher fees is going to be more dependent on improving your marketing skills than improving your photography skills.
And, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t reposition yourself in the market because you absolutely can.
I have a friend who started off doing £500 weddings. Within two years her minimum fee was £3k a wedding and she was photographing destination and celebrity weddings.
You can shift your position in the market place or shift your business model by increasing your fees by 10-15% every 3–6 months depending on your client volume.
This way, you can build momentum with lower pricing and a higher volume, which also develops your real world experience much more quickly and then evolve to a lower volume higher fee business model.
So don’t believe anyone that wants to sell you the myth that you can’t shift your position in the market place.
They’re just trying to protect their own business and haven’t got your best interests at heart.
My photography pricing advice to you?
Your pricing needs to be based around your business, your assets, resources and your objectives. Then your fees evolve over time as your business and objectives evolve.