Portrait Pricing Guidelines with Steve Bedell – Part Three

Steve Bedell shares his thoughts on Portrait Pricing.

“As I reviewed my part 1 and part 2 of this pricing topic here on Successful-Photographer I was astounded that having so much knowledge I wasn’t worth about 27 million dollars! In any case, there was great response to the article about pricing in general and how to determine where you should be in it so now we continue with specifics.

Please note that much of this is my opinion but a great deal of it is what I’ve learned by PSTM (people smarter than me) so I stray from these guidelines at your own risk. With that in mind, let’s get going. Again, my mind kinda wanders all over the place so things may not be in proper order, but put up with me, the info is the same.

portrait pricing part 3 graphicONE: Should I have a printed price list?

OK, I’m not kidding here. I see in online groups people asking for all kinds of feedback on their price list. NOT the pricing, but how the price list looks. They’ll discuss fonts, layout, etc. They’ll look nice and pretty but does it really matter? We’ll come back to that but question two is related so let’s get to that right now.

TWO: Should I post prices online?

This one is MUCH easier to answer: NO!

Why? Because if someone goes online looking for a photographer and does a Google search and they see your 8×10 (the standard that they all know) is $195 and Joe’sSuckyPhotos.com is $29, which one will they choose? They’ll most likely choose Joe because they are just looking at prices and when you compare pricing in a vacuum you are looking at a commodity. If they visit your site and instead see your special booklet that tells them ‘5 Tips for a Great Family Portrait’ and lots of testimonials you have already set yourself apart from the bottom feeders.

OK, so now that we have a little background, should you have a printed price list?

I say yes, so it doesn’t look like you’re just pulling prices out of the air. But do you need to print up hundreds and send/email them to everyone who contacts you?


You only really need one, and that’s for you to use in the sales room. Don’t believe me? Bradford Rowley uses a SLIDE of the price list during the sales session and only leaves it there for as short as possible. You want people focused on picking the best pose and the proper size portrait, you do NOT want them sitting there with their nose in a price list.

A little caveat here. I am talking about a PRICE LIST, not a Product Guide. A product guide will show sample of the products and a starting price or price range. One of the best I’ve seen is by Megan Dipiero. We featured Megan a little while ago, you can see her guide HYPERLINK “http://files.megandipiero.com/product-guide/?page=1” \t “_blank” here.

THREE: When should I show the price list?

There are different schools of thought on this.
Some say don’t ever show it, just let them come to the order appointment, write up what they want, then tell them the price.
Others tell them pricing during the consultation when the session is booked.
I’ve used both methods, they both work. I prefer the up front method, it makes me and them more comfortable at the sales session, less like I’m holding the images hostage. Do what you’re comfortable with and what works for you. Previous to a consultation, always use a price range instead of exact pricing, like ‘Our gift prints start at $95 and wall collections begin at $1800’ or something along those lines. They’ll have a better idea of why you charge what you do during the consultation.

FOUR: Good/Better/Best pricing

This model has been around since the dinosaurs. Why? Because it works! I have my ‘paper prints at level 1, canvas prints at 2, and Gallery Wraps and metals at level 3. Decide size first, then finish. This gives you an opportunity to make more income on the same sized print. As an example, my 16×20’s are $600/$750/$925. This may seem very low to some and high to others. Also, don’t just call them finish one, two, three. Use names like The Masters, The Venetian, etc and include a descriptive paragraph  like ‘enhanced by our artist and bonded to natural fiber canvas’.

FIVE: Should I have a contract?

I read many posts where photographers sound like wannabe lawyers. I like to concentrate on the experience so introducing a contract into the mix just doesn’t work for me. You should have policies for payment but in 40 years of doing this I’ve had no need for a contract. Weddings, yes, portraits, no. It’s up to you.”

More to come as Steve brings the rest of this home in Part 4 on Successful-Photographer.

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.