Finding out how much to charge for your photography is never an easy task, but it’s crucial that you get it right if you’re to make photography your career.
There are a handful of considerations to bear in mind when defining your pricing.
Different types of prints
Firstly, it’s important you understand what your product is, which is easier said than done.
As an artist, your photography is your artwork. Do you want to sell limited edition or open edition prints, or both? Whichever you choose will affect how you price your work.
Families and weddings
If you’re a small business photographing families and weddings, your pricing is affected by the amount of time it takes for you to get the photographs, which you may price into ‘sessions’ with some prints included – typically, these will be cheaper than art prints.
When you’re brought in by a large corporate to take headshots, for instance, it’s crucial that you can deliver many prints – sometimes upwards of 50 – that don’t cost the earth.
Capturing images that are to be published in magazines, for instance, falls into the category of ‘advertising’, which permits higher prices than family photography. You also need to think about licensing and how the publisher wants to use the print, which will affect what you charge.
Once you’ve determined what your product is, you must define your audience. Who’s going to buy your photography prints?
Collectors that see the value in an artist’s work and understand the market can pay thousands for a fantastic photograph, especially if it’s a limited edition print that’s signed by the artist and comes with a certificate of authenticity. However, if you’re targeting art collectors, you need to make sure your work has something to say and is going to stand out from the crowd of other photographers.
Dealers are interested in buying prints for re-sale, which means they need to be given a price that allows for a profit when they find a collector. The more established you are, the higher price you can command for your work.
‘Third party’ buyers such as interior designers, who purchase photography to then display in a client’s house, are like collectors. However, they’re much more concerned with how ‘pretty’ the photograph is. If you’re trying to sell to this audience, you must price competitively as interior designers have a set budget.
Individuals, couples and families
As a family photographer or wedding photographer, you are delivering a personable experience and capturing an individual, a couple of family’s memories, which you can’t then charge them through the roof for. These customers require affordable photography prints as they may want to purchase several to give to family and friends, too. The profit here is in how many prints they buy from you.
Corporations and publishers
Companies seeking lifestyle or corporate prints typically have more money to play with, however, they’re also a tough market due to the amount of competition. You must ensure the cost of your prints is competitive while making sure not to devalue your work.
Much like looking at your customers, you need to find out who you’re competing with. If there are dozens of family photographers in your town or city who’s prints are exceptional, make sure your pricing is in-line with what they’re charging. Similarly, if you’re the only photographer in your area, you can charge a bit more.
As an artist, you have more scope when pricing your prints are it’s not usual for there to be dozens of photographers doing the exact same thing. When people buy into art, they’re buying your work because they see something in it – however, if you’re trying to get into the interior market, you need to think competitively.
The cost of production
Many self-employed photographers rely on not only their time but also their prints to make a living, but it’s not unusual for a photographer to forget how much time they put into creating the print in the first place when determining pricing.
When pricing your prints, think about everything that goes into making them – from the time spent capturing the photograph(s) to your business expenses, including your studio (if applicable), software you use for editing, what you spend on marketing your business/services, the cost of paper, postage or delivery fees, and so on.
By understanding how much your business costs to run, you can get a better idea of how much money to need to make a reasonable living and price your prints, and your time, accordingly.
Your pricing model
The cost of your prints should vary depending on size, finish and, usually, the number of prints ordered. It’s common for photographers to offer ‘packs’ of prints – for instance, 10 prints of various sizes – at a discounted rate than if the customer was to purchase the prints individually.
As an artist, whether your prints are limited edition or open edition will be reflected in the price. Limited edition prints should cost more as you can print less of them, therefore making fewer sales.
Lifestyle prints, for instance, should be sold based on what they’re being used for. If a company wants to use your print for its advertising campaign, that would cost more than them using it for an article in a magazine, for instance. Price your prints appropriately.
Educating your customers
Never undervalue your work. Once you’ve decided on your pricing strategy, it’s up to you to educate your clients about what goes into making the prints, but never over-justify your pricing.
It’s advisable to price your prints in a way that’s flexible, sometimes higher than what you’d typically charge, to allow room for movement if clients want to negotiate with you. It will happen.
Your growth strategy
Over time, as you get more established, you need to up your prices. Keep that in mind when pricing your prints. If you’re new to the industry, make sure you’re highly competitive. Then, as the demand for your prints increases, increase your pricing to reflect your talent and growing customer base.