Most Photography Pricing Advice Is Wrong

If like me, you were told to work out your overheads, how many days a year you plan to work, and calculate your fees from this, you have also been pricing your photography work incorrectly.

There is a huge amount of free advice out there on the internet, but part of the problem with free advice is that no one is really there to peer review it. When I started out in photography, I took the advice that many were offering in order to calculate how I should be pricing my services. I then very quickly came undone when the model simply didn't work. 

In this video, I go over how I work out my prices as a commercial photographer. Although the work I do may differ from you, the general gist is the same. Since using this method for pricing, my business has been both more profitable and busier. Someone in my comments kindly told me that the method of pricing I use now actually has a name and is called target costing. 

The other benefit to using the target costing approach is that it makes the purchases of photography equipment far easier. Rather than worrying about which kit you should buy, you are left with a number that will clearly dictate this, so you kind of have to work with what it gives you. 

How do you go about pricing your work?

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Howard Barnett's picture

I do not agree with one word of this.

Adam T's picture

Forgot snobby locations. If your in places like LA and you don't show up with the latest and greatest it will look bad for your business, so renting is important.

Indy Thomas's picture

He makes a fair point.

Commercial clients who regularly buy photography have a very clear idea of market rates *at their level*.

That is key as inexperienced clients (usually smaller businesses) have little idea what their dream images cost. They (like most people) have an idea of the spend and will not go over that.

Some rock star photographers can get more but largely because their celebrity is part of the product.
Most of us are not that.

The interesting aspect of the fact that the clients set fees to an extent implies we are in a commodity market. While they don't believe that photographers are interchangeable, they do not also believe that certain photographers are indispensable.

Take home message: Get better clients and stop buying glitzy gear.

Lee Christiansen's picture

I always love it when the internet advice on pricing is: "Work out how much you want to make, subtract your overheads, divide by the number of days you want to work."

Ok then - I want to make oodles of £££, I have average overheads but I want to work just 2 days a year (because 1 would be lazy...) So my daily rate needs to very very high... Except of course, I probably won't attract any clients that way, so... oops.

Unless we're fortunate and we have clients that are so desperate to have us no matter what, (in which case, we're not asking what to charge), then we're most likely in the box with everyone else.

So there is a bracket of low to high fee structures that we most likely need to fit into. Where we fit depends on the client base we've secured as much as talent. I've been lucky enough to have attracted £1000 / hr, but only because my client had high budgets, and maybe I'm reasonably good, but the next client won't pay that even if they think I'm just as good. (And if I hold out for £1000+ / hr, then I'm waiting a long time for the next job).

When considering rates, I'm more interested in how much other people charge and the quality of their work as well as the client base they attract.

Matching competitors' prices is often a flawed approach and inevitably leads towards the bottom. But having a clear idea of the market place is a better strategy when deciding rates - if only to decide which end of the market to aim for and whether we think that market suits us or is available to us.

Alas though, the photography market seems to have an insane range of rates. I charge £480 for headshots with 3 retouched final images and a 90 minute session, but down the road there is someone offering unlimited time and 10 retouches for about £75. And unfortunately there's a world out there that thinks we're all the same. So do I drop my rates or work less for more money each time? I've discovered the latter works better for me - mathematically and mentally.

I find it amusing that rarely in questions on forums where people ask what the going rate is for particular work with particular types of clients and usage, the responses rarely offer actual £££ in their replies, choosing rather to have vagaries which start with "decide how much you want to live on... etc).

Jan Holler's picture

Very reasonable! I've been in business for more than 20 years as a self-employed person (not a photographer) and that's what it's all about: Keep your costs as low as possible and charge as much as you can for the quality you deliver. That's much easier said than done and of course there's much more to it. But it's the way to go. It works for both sides: You and your customers.

Steve Harwood's picture

I'm sorry--I'm completely distracted by the cat that never moves (in three videos no less!)... [grin]

Robert Taylor's picture

He is so right, years ago I shot weddings (on film) I charged about 1/3rd less then other self proclaimed professionals. After viewing my wedding portfolio and discussing price this future bride and groom said "you dont charge enough therefore you don't know what you are doing" I didn't get that booking. Mouths later this couple came back to me and wanted me to edit/fix their wedding pictures. I told them I couldn't do that due to copyright. After that slap in the face I went out and bought Canon's 1Ds MKii and set it on the table when in interviews and trippled my prices. The dumb thing was I got three times the booking. Crazy right? I no longer shoot weddings. Sorry for this long post but I just had to chime in and agree to what Scott is saying. Great post but most will still be in the dark on pricing Robert in London Canada