portrait pricing guidelines marketing monday with steve bedell

Portrait Pricing Guidelines – Marketing Monday
with Steve Bedell

This article is from EPhoto Newsletter, a free bi-weekly newsletter for professional photographers. To subscribe for more great info contact Steve at smbedell@gmail.com.

 Pricing

If you’re like me, you belong to more than a couple of Facebook photography groups. At the end I’ll even list some that I feel are the most valuable.

Reading the posts in these groups is both an education and a frustration. The same questions posted over and over, and then 68 responses from people who may or may not be qualified, but they’re going to chime in anyway.
With that in mind, that brings us to part one: what should your prices be?

I find it hard to believe that people just go on these groups and ask prices like, ‘Hey, how much should I be charging for an 8×10?’ More surprisingly, people will answer something like ‘I charge $45’ or ‘I charge $195’. Wrong answer.
But perhaps my favorite is ‘First, you need to figure your Cost of Doing Business (CODB).’ It used to be that no one took the time to do a few tedious calculations to figure that out and while I can applaud the fact that more people are aware that you actually have to have some kind of idea of what your numbers need to be?

I find it hard to believe that people just go on these groups and ask prices like, ‘Hey, how much should I be charging for an 8×10?’ More surprisingly, people will answer something like ‘I charge $45’ or ‘I charge $195’. Wrong answer.
But perhaps my favorite is ‘First, you need to figure your Cost of Doing Business (CODB).’ It used to be that no one took the time to do a few tedious calculations to figure that out and while I can applaud the fact that more people are aware that you actually have to have some kind of idea of what your numbers need to be in order for you to generate the income you desire, that is NOT the FIRST question you should be asking yourself.

pricing graphic

Mistake one: The first question should be ‘Where do I want to position myself in the market?’

You see, all that other stuff is fine but how can you set prices until you define your market and your brand. Do you want to sell unique 30×40 painted portraits for $20,000? Do you want to do school photos for $25 a unit? Do you want to sell prints or files or both? Are you seeing why it makes no sense to figure out COGS and CODB until you define your niche in the market?

You see, all that other stuff is fine but how can you set prices until you define your market and your brand. Do you want to sell unique 30×40 painted portraits for $20,000? Do you want to do school photos for $25 a unit? Do you want to sell prints or files or both? Are you seeing why it makes no sense to figure out COGS and CODB until you define your niche in the market?

With that taken care of, let’s go ahead and address some other pricing issues that make my head boil every time I see them.

Mistake number 2: Starting out at a low price to get business and raising it later.

Big mistake. Later won’t ever come unless you move to another city and start with new clients because you’ve already branded yourself at a certain price level. Work for FREE until you feel your work commands the price you want and then start charging. It’s far harder to dig out of a hole than to start out where you want to be. If you need to do another job or earn income some other way, do it.

Mistake number 3: Selling files, or selling files and prints.

OK, I expect some will disagree with me here but hear me out. I know MANY successful photographers who make a great living selling wall prints and other print products. While there are probably some, I don’t know any who make a great living selling files.

Here is the part I don’t understand. If we sell artwork, we can command a decent price for it. And we can sell many copies of it. I had a client a couple of years ago for an extended family portrait session. She bought $4500 worth of 5×7’s! And I ran into her at the beach one night while I was doing a family portrait and she was there with some family members in beach clothes and she asked if I could take photos of them when I was done with my family. I said sure. She ordered another $2200 worth of 5×7’s from those super casual beach photos!

That’s almost $7000 worth of 5×7’s from 2 files. Imagine if I sold that file for $300. I’d have $600 instead of $6700. How much more work would I have to do to sell files to make that amount? What if I gave them the file with each print they ordered, like some photographers do? I’d still be WAY under!

More from Steve next Monday!

Steve Bedell has been a professional photographer for over 35 years. He has done weddings, portrait andsteve bedell head shot commercial work but now restricts his business to portraits only.

 Steve holds the Master of Photography and Photographic Craftsman degrees from the Professional Photographers of America and is a PPA Approved Print Juror.

He has been named the New Hampshire Photographer of the Year a record 8 times and in 2011 was awarded the New England Photographer of the Year title. His specialty is natural light portraiture.

He has written hundreds of articles for photo publications, taught classes and workshops nationwide and produced several lighting DVDs. His private newsletter, EPhoto, reaches over 2000 photographers. Steve was a regular contributor to Shutterbug magazine.

 

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