Intro to Pricing for Photography

Cost of Doing Business Calculator

In a recent post, I talked about some legal and tax issues to consider when starting your own photography business. I touched on pricing and want to dive a little deeper into the subject. There are a ton of resources out there; some paid, some free. So while this post is not meant to be exhaustive and comprehensive, I want to give you a starting point.

The first thing is knowing your cost of doing business; your overhead costs. The NAPP has a great on-line calculator where you enter all of your expenses and how much you want to earn and it will calculate how much a day of shooting will cost you.

I find the calculator most useful for helping me think of things I might have otherwise overlooked. Retirement, for example, or how many days a year you want to work.

Think of it this way: Your current 9-to-5 job provides you with X-amount of dollars a year. That salary pays all your bills, including health care and retirement. You also get 2-days a week off and 2-weeks a year for vacation. So if you quit tomorrow to start your own photography business, would you make enough to keep your standard of living?

People wonder why photographers charge so much when all we do is take pictures. The calculator above puts it into perspective. There’s marketing (a later post), postage, gas, software, equipment, taxes, etc.

Last week a blog post caught some traction on the web. It was from a photographer who commented to an upset bride-to-be who complained on Craigslist about “expensive” wedding photographers. The reply summed it up nicely. You can read the response here.

Another good resource is this 15-minute tutorial offered by Mark Wallace. I really can’t say it any better so just watch it.

There are books and software dedicated to helping you figure out how much to charge. But there is no one-size-fits all solution. You have to know how much it costs you and then figure out the quality of your work compared to the competition. If you’re just starting out as a wedding photographer, can you compete with the 3-thousand-dollar-a-wedding guy? Maybe not, but that doesn’t mean you should try to undercut the 3-hundred-dollar-Craigslist guy either.

Your price has to be fair to both the customer and yourself.  I am perfectly happy to negotiate, but I am equally happy to let a client walk away if we can’t agree. I would rather lose a hundred dollars one day than to work for less than what the job is worth. I know I’ll make that hundred and more from the next client who is willing to pay what is fair and reasonable. Don’t price yourself out of business.

I’ll leave you with a great blog post Zack Arias wrote a couple of years ago: “Cheap Photographers Only Kill Themselves, Not the Industry.”