A Few Words About Pricing

We get a lot of questions from photographers on how much to charge for an album. There was a recent phone call where the photographer was sitting with her client and repeating the prices we were giving her.  Oy.  People, this is a business.  A favorite Christine-ism is, “It’s not a customer if you can’t make a profit.”

So let’s start there.  You need to make a profit.  Profit is neither a four-letter nor even a slightly bad word – it’s what keeps business going.

I get the feeling that many photographers are afraid to say the price, afraid to charge what they are worth.  The comparison to Craig’s List guys shooting for $595 is often heard.  Another favorite saying is, “there is always someone who can make something a little worse for a little less money.”  It’s impossible to be the cheapest – someone will always beat you.  Stop trying and stop worrying about it.  Some brides get their dresses at the David’s bridal $100 scratch and dent sale – they are probably not your customers.

That said, we can now start to look at where a fair price should fall.  This involves math and some real effort to think about your time and your very real costs.

First you need to know your cost of goods sold per event.  Everything from the album to the print sharing web site you use.  A favor, a gift bag – it all counts.

Next you must factor in your overhead.  So add up all the association dues, the seminars, workshops and conventions you attend, insurance, your samples, the bridal shows, advertising, rent (and all that goes with it) if you have a commercial space.  Your accountant is taking depreciation on your equipment, factor it in.  Gas, work clothes, wear and tear on your car – All things that need to be considered.

If you expect to shoot 20 events in 2012, then divide your overhead number by 20.

Enter the value of your time, which comes in several forms.  There is the time spent keeping up your social media contacts, writing a blog, attending bridal shows, networking with your peers, working with vendor contacts, handling inquires, meeting with clients, creating your brand identity and planning your advertising.  These are marketing expenses and are worth more per hour than paying bills, but not as much as shooting.  Keep track of how much time is spend on these items (not enough I’m quite sure) and assign a dollar value to each hour.  Add it all up and, again, divide by 20.

You deserve to get paid more for skilled time such as shooting, editing, retouching, post processing, and album design.  How much time does each wedding take?  You know this number so assign a dollar value to it.  Add this to each of the three dollar amounts above.

Now, drum roll, write down how much money you want to make in a year.  Do you need $30,000 or $100,000?  Keep in mind shoes are going up in price.  Divide that number by 20 (or expected number of events).  Compare how much you need to make to the total costs of doing the job.  Yes, some of that is wages but every business owner makes wages.  If you worked for someone else, you would expect to get paid, so expect to pay yourself.

My guess is there is gap.  You are not charging enough to cover all the costs plus make a profit.  By doing this you know what you have to do to obtain the goal you set.  Complicated?  Yes.  Worth doing?  Absolutely.  It’s like making a “where do I want to be in one year, five years or ten years list”.  Not enough people make the effort, but those who do are well rewarded.

You can’t price by what the other guy charges.  It’s good to be aware, but it’s not the benchmark.  The “other guy” may have a very different set of costs associated with doing the job and might have a completely different set of expectations.

Stay tuned.  I will discuss how to price and package your work as well as how to price albums.  I had to start with the big picture so that when we get down to the small parts the numbers aren’t so shocking.

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