“How much should I charge for my photography?

Oh, this question. It’s probably the question that I’m asked the most; but. it’s also the most difficult to answer. Why? Because there are so many factors that go into pricing. I’ll share my pricing evolution and then some tips for determining your pricing.

PRICING FOR A BUSINESS:

If you want to price to run a sustainable business, there is a simple formula you can use to determine what you should be charging. Add up all of your expenses and divide by the number of shoots you want to do per year. Now you have your price per shoot if you want to break even. Anything beyond that is profits, so add that in and adjust.

What does this look like in practice? Here’s a simplified example.

COSTS FOR A YEAR:

  • Camera equipment: $3000
  • Advertising: $50
  • Website hosting: $100
  • Props: $200

TOTAL: $3350

Let’s say you’re a portrait photographer and want to do two shoots a month. That’s 24 shoots per year. This comes out to about $140 per shoot in order to break even.

However, what we didn’t include above is your time. Your time includes both the time spent shooting, as well as editing (which becomes the bulk as the time), as well as time spent emailing clients, setting up shoots, and other administrative tasks. I set an hourly rate for myself for shooting and editing and incorporate that into my shoot cost.

If you value your shooting time at $50 per hour and your editing time at $20, for a two hour shoot, you’d be charging $100 to shoot and $200 to edit (assuming 10 hours of editing). This is a total shoot cost of $300. This is the structure I used for awhile.

“WHAT IF I’M JUST GETTING STARTED?”

Credit: Kylie Nicholson

If you’re just beginning photography or just beginning to charge, you may not be adhering to the structure above, and that is completely okay.

My first photography mentor who is now a very successful photographer and entrepreneur shared with me that she shot for free for a long time, and charged $25 for her first paid shoots. I charged $50 per shoot for a long while.

When you’re just starting out, what’s most important is honing your craft, building up your portfolio and just as importantly, building up a clientele and happy customers who will spread your name via word of mouth. I’ve never spent a single dime on advertising—happy customers are the best advertisements for your business.

Credit: Kylie Nicholson

I recommend starting to shoot for free until you have enough demand that you feel you can start charging. You can start low, and raise your prices as you feel your worth increases (via the quality of your work increasing), and/or as your demand rises. If you’re shooting for $150 a pop and are booking more shoots than you can handle, it’s probably time to raise your prices. Likewise, if you’re priced high and aren’t booking, you might want to try lowering your prices.

Experiment. The only way to run a business is through taking risks and trial and error. You’ll always learn something. Take this new information and apply it to your business.

You can also try seasonal pricing. When demand is high, around high school and college graduation time, you can charge more for photos than in slower seasons. Sometimes demand determines your pricing, and that’s totally okay.

Credit: Kylie Nicholson

There’s much more to be said about pricing, so if you have any specific questions feel free to ask!

Photographically yours,

Kylie