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Small Business Tips

How to set pricing as a photographer

Manasa Reddigari

Self-employed photographers call all the shots for their business. That doesn't only mean choosing which camera lens and angle to use during a shoot. You will also need to set prices in a way that grows your business but doesn't gouge your clients.

Click through to learn all about pricing for photographers.

Goals of pricing your photography

The optimal pricing for photographers:

  • Allows you to cover costs and turn a profit. You can't sustain a  business by breaking even forever. You need to pull in more money than you put into your photography. Consider using the cost-plus pricing model when getting started. The price you charge for a job would be your total cost plus planned profit at the very least.
  • Factors in time investment. You should earn more for a two-hour photo shoot than for a one-hour shoot.
  • Consider your experience level, skills, and value. A seasoned shutterbug with a high perceived value commands more than a neophyte. Primarily, because of the experience and reputation he or she brings to each shoot. Your photography pricing should reflect your tenure and perceived value in the business.
  • Syncs with market demand. Are the type of services you provide in high or low demand? If the former case applies, you can command more than a photographer in the latter situation. Are you up to your ears in work or usually scrounging around for new clients? Once again, your rates can go up as your workload increases.
  • Caters to your chosen clientele. Do you plan to do shoots for average Joes or the well-heeled? The type of customer should influence your price ranges.
  • Aligns with standard market pricing for similar services. Photographers with sky-high popularity might have the luxury of naming their price. But unproven photographers should stay within the bounds of market price ranges.

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Comparing your pricing to the market

You don't want to undersell yourself or price yourself out of the market. Research competitor prices. Also, research local market rates for your niche. You can do this by reviewing prices on the websites of local photographers.

You'll find that some competitors have above-average prices. The goal isn't to copy their prices. But competitor and market prices should sync. has an algorithm that uses BLS price data to help you figure market rates in your area and niche. Let's take a look at an example. A graduation photographer in Denver makes $400 for a two-hour photo shoot. According to Snappr, pricing for photographers in Denver is on par with the U.S. national average.

What expenses should I keep in mind?

The cost-plus model sets sales price at total cost plus planned profit margin plus taxes. So it's important to assess all costs to establish the pricing for photographers right. Total cost should factor in:

  • Overhead costs. These are the operating expenses associated with running the photography business. Cameras, lighting and office space are examples.
  • Material costs. This dollar amount is what you invest in materials to produce a work. The cost of high-gloss paper on which you print photos is an example.
  • Labor costs. This equates to the sum of wages paid for regular and overtime hours. It includes the cost of benefits and taxes.

 How to finalize pricing

If using the cost-plus pricing model, the final step is to calculate the sales price. To do this, multiply the total cost of performing a job by your desired profit margin to arrive at a selling price.

Let's say your total cost for a one-hour photo shoot is $200. To turn a profit of 20 percent, you would need to charge $240 for the shoot. Plan to sell prints from the shoot? If a single print costs you $25 to make, you would need to sell each print for $30 to make the same level of profit.

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