During a recent coaching call with a student of my Essential Marketing And Sales Strategies For Photographic Storytellers course, the photographer asked a question that I hear more often than any other:
What business tips can you give to help me develop a price list I can live with? When I set out to become a professional photographer, I had no idea that pricing would cause me so many headaches!
It’s definitely fair to say that pricing photography causes a lot of frustration for professional photographers.
Like trying to read in the dark, headaches are inevitable if you can’t see where you’re going wrong when it comes to creating a workable price list.
In answer to the photographer’s question, I thought it would useful to make a quick post with a few business tips on the subject of photography pricing.
Why Does Pricing Cause So Much Trouble?
Your confidence in your worth as a photographer is usually based upon how comfortable you would feel about paying your own prices.
I’m sure there have been times that you’ve looked at your own prices and caught yourself thinking something like, “I don’t believe my clients will want to pay that much…”
While totally natural, this type of thinking seriously undermines the survival of your photography business.
In fact, you must do everything in your power to prevent thoughts such as this from affecting your judgment.
6 Photography Business Tips For Better Pricing
To help you achieve that goal, here are 6 quick photography business tips.
You can put these into practice to create a price list you can believe in for your photographic products and services:
- Be aware of all of your associated costs (including your time)…
- Create tiered pricing with 3 or 4 levels…
- Collections or packages usually sell better than a la carte…
- Know how many units you need to sell to support your lifestyle…
- Remember that you are not your client—don’t reduce your prices out of fear…
- Believe in yourself and the true value of your products and services…
#1: Know Your Real Costs
This has been said so often that I don’t know why it still gets ignored.
Understanding your true costs should be the starting point for any realistic price list.
Despite this, I still see too many photographers who ignore their costs in favor of basing their prices on what they see the local competition charging.
The only way you can charge the fees appropriate to you and your photography business is to base your prices on what it costs you to do business.
If those calculated fees come out too high for your liking, then you have two options.
You could try to lower your overall costs in some way, or force yourself to become a better marketer and seller of photography (the preferred option).
#2: Tiered Pricing
Tiered pricing systems are everywhere, and for good reason:
They’re very effective!
For example, the concept of “small“, “medium” and “large” can be found in a vast array of products and services from fast food restaurants to concert halls.
The psychological basis of tiered pricing is to capitalize on the natural human tendency to go for the middle option.
“Medium” presented on its own has no perspective, but it’s easily compared to its siblings.
In that sense, the main purpose of “small” and “large” is to highlight the “medium” option and make it more attractive.
Ideally, you should price your “medium” offering to be more than the average you expect to gain from your overall sales, with the “small” option being closer to your expected average sale (see also #4).
#3: Collections And Packages
A la carte or collections?
This is another question that I hear quite often, and there’s no definite answer to it.
My advice would be to offer both.
Collections, by virtue of their cheaper pricing, seem more reasonable when compared to the a la carte prices.
On the other hand, for those clients who prefer a little exclusivity, a la carte may be a more attractive option.
#4: Base Pricing On Your Sales Targets
This is actually a corollary to #2, in that you want to create your collection or product pricing based upon what you believe your average sales should be.
This can be based not just on your operating and product costs, but also on the kind of business lifestyle you would like to have.
For example, say that you determine the average price for a wedding, based on costs, to be $3,000.
You realize that, in order to have a decent lifestyle, you need to sell 40 such weddings per year.
However, you only want to actually cover 25 weddings per year, so your average price should really be more like $4,800.
With these ideas in mind, pricing can become as much of a strategic decision as it is a tactical one.
#5: You Are Not Your Client – Don’t Lower Your Prices!
Imagine how difficult it would be to sell something so expensive that you were forced to convince not only your client, but yourself as well, that the product is worth the price you’re asking for it!
This is the very problem many professional photographers feel they’re facing on a daily basis.
Too many of them respond to the challenge by making the mistake of reducing their prices, usually to levels they themselves feel more comfortable with, but which can’t support their business in the long term.
Don’t be tempted to lower your prices just because you’re having a hard time selling to your clients.
The problem is more likely to lie in the sales process itself, more than the price you’re asking.
#6: Believe In Yourself And Your Photography
It is absolutely essential that you believe in the value and benefits of what you’re selling, and you must be confident in the prices you ask for.
This means that there must be no doubt that your fees represent good value for your client.
Some of this comes from experience, and some from being confident in your abilities, skills, talent, and passion for delivering the best product and service you possibly can.
Your clients look to you first for validation of the real value of your photography.
If they can clearly see that you believe in what you’re doing, then they’re more likely to invest, especially if you’ve worked hard to create a relationship with them based on mutual trust.