How to price "Photography Services"Written by Sukla Malavalli Chinnappa
If you’re wondering, “How much should I charge for my photography?” then keep reading. Pricing can be a complicated topic but can be made simple when you’re just starting out.
With amateur freelancers offering services at unsustainable prices, it's all about communicating the value of your service to your potential customer.
- So what is a sustainable price?
- How to communicate effectively the value of your service?
So what is a sustainable price? How/What to Communicate with a potential client?
Before we get into those details, let us first understand what it takes to be sustainable as a photographer.
Depending on your experience/end use of images the workflow & deliverables could vastly vary and clients can make unreasonable requests.
What does any gig involve ??
- Getting a lead and time spent on closing it (cost of getting a lead/maintaining a website/time spent on it etc)
- It is not very uncommon to be called for a gig with no/minimal information like "just the name of the event". In fact, most clients who find a good photographer expensive are not even aware of the "necessity of planning" for any shoot.
- Start Communicating by asking questions, and how your planning/equipment changes as per those requirements (in turn the pricing)
- Events could be straight forward, but for other shoots - start planning at least a rudimentary mood board. Include time spent on these activities in your pricing.
- Getting your client/projects
- Even after you are an established photographer, only a portion of your projects are through referrals and you still need to market yourself.
- Website, Social Media and updates at regular periodic intervals, engaging with your followers.
- This is a cost that is hard to determine. Some projects could be of value, but very few have a concept that justifies a full TF, some may not have a commercial value.
- Lead Generation apps, that is the biggest pitfall in today's market.
- Apps share leads with the first few (5 to 10 or even more) vendors, leading to a war for the lowest price.
- When customers find you directly, you are more likely to compete among similarly talented peers than a freelancer/amateur who is underpricing.
- Cost of Equipment, Software, Insurance, Rentals
- Professional Cameras are definitely built to last and last several years.
- Lenses could outlast several generations of cameras.
- Accidents mean, costly replacements well ahead of the expected lifespan of your equipment.
- Recurring Cost such as
- Cost of Electronic Equipment Insurance
- Electronic Equipment Insurance
- Computers do tend to have a shorter life (3yr)
- Upgrades ?? as you get better, and you need better equipment.
- Sit down and do the math on this, it is not a surprise if your daily cost in the hundreds to several thousands.
- Postproduction, Delivery, Backups, rework
- Time spent on post-production?
- Ever skimped on equipment & ended up spending more time on post-production.
- Spent no/less time on planning & struggled with delivery?
- This may sometimes be the longest part of your workflow. Do estimate this well.
- A clear sign of you missing delivery deadlines/clients behind your back for delivery is most likely you not having estimated this cost well.
- Backups are really important, though the failure of Memory cards/hard disks are far apart when they do happen are a really costly affair (a client suing you for losses for lost memories is going to cost more than the price of the gig)
- Estimating total time & cost
- Based on the above points you need to calculate your average operating cost.
- Estimate the time you get to shoot/work (could be anywhere in the range of 10-30%). Now adjust your pricing to this average
- example you have shoots for 10 days in a month. It is an average of 30% or close to three in a week
- note, there are also months where bookings are almost non-existent for events. So do pick the right average.
- Anything more is more likely compensated by unexpected purchases, contingencies in life etc.
The above are pointers/indicators to come up with a minimum base price, the next step is to compare your pictures with someone who works in that price range.
- Check if your photographs matches / exceeds the quality (in terms of composition, art, skill, consistency etc)
- If you lag behind, it would not be the right time to enter the business, work on practising/improving the quality of your work (go back to learning)
- Ideally, you need to be able to exceed your competitor. As you start off you might have no portfolio or a very limited range of work to show a prospective client and have less bargaining power to dictate your pricing.
- Here is where you start communicating value to your clients. Starting at a price that covers your costs your cost of operation.
A part of being able to command a good price for your services is to deliver value to your customers, doing things professionally, building your own style in photography, which are all that will help you stand out in a crowd.
Some pointers from what I frequently come across
- Affordability for customers. It is also important to plan and execute a project well and have them understand the costs.
- It is important to understand their requirements and give an offering that matches their requirements.
- With new businesses, budgets could be tight, instead of aiming for a low bid, it is more productive to match requirements while keeping costs as low as possible (ex. Get 80% of the look at 60% of the price ... instead of aiming for 50% quality at 50% of the price)
- Event photography can be a one time things, but referrals from clients are secret for you to succeed. The same holds for commercial clients - they could mean a minimum consistent amount of work year-on-year.
- Do help your clients succeed (relevant to commercial clients), this is where clients getting a brief "on how things are done" comes in.
- And why some projects can get expensive, this allows them to anticipate and plan rising costs
- Ex. Someone starting off instead of full-time models (a way of cost optimisation - ok for smaller projects, but not suitable for bigger projects)
- You can practise some styling for smaller shoots (instead of spending for a stylist)
- some of these are what you can do while starting off (the learnings are invaluable as you progress in your career.)
- Sticking to just one genre of photography
- when things get tough, it does help to get as much work as you can.
- It also helps to have alternative skills for rough times / to aid in photography
- Knowledge of art - styling etc
- Business degree ?? -- photography is just 20-30% marketing takes up a fair share it does help.
- Science, electronics, math - a better understanding of your camera.
- This article is still a draft and I may plan to update it over time.
- Do drop a line in the comments can help me to expand this article.
- There will be no "formula' the points above are to help you to make your own
Do lookout for the exclusive session on pricing and making a transition from an amateur/freelancer to a professional photographer from my upcoming photography workshops here.
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