Basic Tips on How to Price Your Photography

One of the toughest things as a professional photographer is determining your pricing. A lot of times new photographers don’t really know how much time and money goes into making a portrait and so they undervalue what they are selling. However, over time they will figure this out and either raise their prices or ultimately fail as a profitable business. So how do we photographers figure out what to charge?

Let’s get bare bones here… How much do you want to make? Okay – be serious about this number. How much would you like to make this year – gross… that’s before taxes, before expenses, just total how much would you like to make? Let’s say you’re new and you’re thinking well $30,000 sounds fair with expenses and taxes.

Okay. Now how many sessions would you like to shoot? 20? 50? 100? For the sake of ease – let’s say 50 – that’s a session a week with two weeks off. Okay so take that $30,000 and divide it by 50. What do you get? $600. Yup – that’s how much you have to make on each of those 50 sessions in order to gross $30,000 at the end of the year.

Now that may sound manageable to you. Fantastic even! But let’s see what kind of expenses you can expect as a business owner. Every year you will have to pay for things like a website, hosting, and domain that usually runs about $80 or so. If you’re a member of the PPA (and you probably should be if you are a professional) that’s another $350. Let’s say you need to upgrade equipment – a new camera or lens can cost $2000 no problem. Need some lights – those can add up to $500 or more in a hurry. Props – try $50 to $80 a pop. Want to package your products so your prints are protected and pretty – that’s going to be about $8.00 per order minimum. And none of this even touches on sales tax for all the gorgeous products your selling, marketing expenses, internet, studio space rental fees, etc…

As you can see, all of these things can add up and it’s super easy to accumulate upwards of $6,000 or more per year. The more things you choose to purchase to improve your work or set yourself apart the more expenses you are going to accrue. That $30,000 can quickly become $20,000 before you’ve even given the government a cent.

So how do you figure out how much you need to gross? Well, take how much you’d like to make and divide it by (1 minus your tax rate – mine is.0675). This should give you a rough guess at what you need to make including what the government will take. Then write down all the expenses you had last year or think you’ll have this year. Include studio space rent, internet, website, marketing, equipment purchase, props, packaging,… Anything you can think of you may need to spend money on, write it and the amount down. Add all those numbers up with the previous number and that’s what you are going to need to make at the minimum. Then if you want to divide that by the number of sessions you can see what you’re going to need to make per session. So here’s an example:

$30,000 / 0.9325 = $32,171.58

$32,171.58 + $15,000 = $47,171.58

$47,171.58 / 50 = $943.43

So you can see how in order to make what I need just to earn the cost of living – I need to make a profit of $943.43. And that’s profit – that’s not including the cost of the goods themselves. But by having this number it becomes a lot easier to build packages around what you need to make. If you know you need to make $900 profit per session – you can use that number to help you figure out what products to sell and for how much in order to earn what you need to be a profitable business.

What it all comes down to is knowing your numbers. It only takes a few minutes to sit down and do the math to figure out where you need to be. The unfortunate thing is not many new photographers are taking the time to do this and it ultimately means they burn out and their business meets an early demise. But if you can take some time to focus on what’s going to help you be most profitable – you can not only survive, but thrive in this industry!