How to decide what to charge, pricing for photographers.

Nov 24, 2023 | Business

“Show Notes”

There are several different models for how to decide on a price for your services.
We talk about some of the main ones in the show.

  1. Charge per hour.

With this approach you decide what you want to be paid per hour. Then work out
how much time the whole process takes and work out a price accordingly.

  1. Look at your competitors

Look at your competitors websites. If you are feeling a little cheeky, phone another
photographer and pretend to be a lead and get a price

  1. Value pricing
    What is the value of your work? This is hard to define. You have to think what value
    are you providing to someone with your service. For example what is the value of
    someone having that wedding album for the rest of their life and having had an
    amazing experience on the day.
  2. Cost of business model

For this approach out you work out for your business how much everything costs,
including paying you the rate you want to be paid. Then work out how many jobs
you will do a year. Then divide the total cost by the number of jobs and that is how
much that photo-shoot costs.

Marcus mainly follows the value based system for his branding photography. But
for event photography Marcus just charges on a per hour basis. And then on the
rare occasion he does weddings he generally looks at others in the market and
charges a similar amount.

New businesses almost always charge too little.

Almost all new businesses charge far too little for their services. Often new
businesses can easily double their price and still have a good price. But when you
do this you may initially lose customers as you move from the bottom end market
into a higher level market. Sam suggests that almost everyone with a new business
can increase their prices easily.

Should you display your pricing?

This is a big debate and everyone has a different view on this. Marcus uses the
“My prices start from” approach. It is helpful that leads get a ballpark figure. Sam
thinks if you have a subscription service these should always be clearly priced. He
also suggests that having some packages and pricing them is a good idea. Just
make sure your package is not really comparable to other photographers. That
avoids direct price comparison.

Subtly showing pricing

The way your website and marketing look already gives subtle ideas about pricing.
The customers shown the way it looks already gives leads an idea of how
expensive you are.

Stick to your guns

If you give a price do not negotiate. Stick to the price you have offered. If itis too
expensive for them offer them less for a lower price. But don’t just drop the price.
If the price goes down what they get also needs to go down.

Working for free

Marcus suggests this is a good thing to do if there are specific things you need.
For example you need photos for your portfolio if you have a new business. But
ensure that if you do this you make it very clear what you want out of the process.

“Show Transcription”

Marcus: Hello, Sam. How you doing?

Sam: Excellent, Marcus. And you?

Marcus:  I’m brilliant, thank you. And, of course, let’s not forget our listeners. A big hello to all you wonderful people out there as well. So here we are with another episode, and we’re going to be handing the reins over to Sam because today he’s going to be covering the very what’s the word? Divisive subject of pricing. So, Sam, over to you.

Sam: Thank you, Marcus. So, yeah, today I thought we’d talk about pricing. It’s a thing that we all, in almost all industries have challenges with, spend a lot of time thinking about don’t always get right, especially as a new business. So I thought I’d talk about pricing. I’m sure Marcus will have lots of questions, and if you’ve got questions afterwards, send them in and we will talk about them. So, yeah, we’re going to talk about things like how do you actually price for your work, should you advertise your pricing? All sorts of different things like that. So I think the first thing to think about is how do you come up with a price? So where does that come from? If you’re going to price your work, a wedding, a photo shoot or whatever it is, how do you price it? Because that’s quite challenging. And I think there’s three different ways. I’m going to ask Marcus maybe in a bit, which he does. I think there’s three ways. So, first of all, you could take the per hour approach, and you could go, okay, I think I should be paid 30 quid an hour, 50 quid an hour, 1000 quid an hour, whatever you decide. And then you go, okay, how long is it going to take me to do this photo shoot? Obviously, you’ve got to think about travel. You’ve got to think about the time there. You’ve got to think about the processing time and all the communication with the client. So it’s not that I’m at the place for an hour, unless maybe you’re charging 1000 quid now, then, but you got to think of all that time, what’s that worth? And that’s one way to do it, is you just go, right, I want to be paid this much an hour. It’s this much for the photo shoot, but ding, job done. Obviously, you won’t be paid that much per hour because you also have business work to do. So that’s not going to be a poor hour pay for every moment you’re working. So that’s one approach, and then we can do combinations of these approaches. Another approach is to look at your competitors. So go to some other websites, see what people are charging. If you’re feeling really cheeky, phone them up and pretend you want a photo shoot. If it’s a bit embarrassing, phone somewhere a Long Way Away. Don’t phone somebody locally. You might meet them. But yeah, there’s no harm in asking your competitors. It’s good to get some ideas. So what are your competitors charging for a similar thing? And that’s easier for some things than others. A wedding is a very defined thing, while maybe a brand photo shoot or some other things are a bit more elastic as to what’s included, there’s quite a lot of variety. There is, I suppose, with weddings, in terms of how long they’re there for and stuff. And then a final approach, which I think probably is a more mature approach, which people come to, I think, later on, is value pricing. So what value are you providing? This is why a solicitor will charge you 100 quid to sign a letter. They realize it’s not 100 quid of their time, but the value that they’re providing to you by signing that letter allows you to do other things. So it’s value pricing. What value are you providing? But then it’s hard to put a pin on that. Obviously. What is the value of them having that wedding album? That’s hard to pin down, but that’s what we’re thinking about. We’re not thinking about what’s? My time on the day. We’re not thinking about. Well, what does the guy next door charge? We’re thinking about what’s the value of me being there, making their day great and them in 40 years, still having that album, being able to look back, remembering the day and being able to go through that with the album. So it’s quite a different approach and a different one to think about. Marcus, do you want to tell us about your thought process for your pricing?

Marcus: Yeah, Gladly. I’ll do that some. Just before I go on to it though, there is another model that I have seen really doing the rounds that seems to be very popular and it’s called the cost of business model. I don’t know if you’ve come across that. Yeah, it’s basically you work out what you need, you work out your cost, and then you think, okay, I’m going to charge this. And it seems like a really oh, you come up with a figure and you think, yeah, okay. That’s what I’m going to know. X amount of money. And I’ve seen this being touted around quite a lot recently, but I didn’t know if it really worked. Sam because that’s not taking to account the three things that you’ve mentioned there the market, the value, or an hourly rate. It seems to be almost like saying, oh, I want to earn six figure income, therefore I’m going to charge this amount of money no matter what I do, and I’m going to get it.

Sam: I guess so. Yeah. I guess you could sort of combine it with the per hour because it’s almost like depends, I guess, how much you include in the salary there. But I Guess You Could Like, well, this is the power hour and then this is the amount I need my business to run. But you’re saying it’s more than just my business to run. You’re saying it’s my business to run, including your salary at whatever you’ve decided your salary rate is. So it’s not just the cost of your zero subscription and your LinkedIn premium, whatever you’ve got. You’re saying it’s including your pay effectively.

Marcus: Exactly, Sam. It’s basically what you think you want to earn. It’s a rather sort of furious figure. I want to earn this amount of money, therefore that’s how much I’m going to charge. Which to me is really not really? It’s almost like a wishful thinking, isn’t it? I just wonder people put this out, this idea, this model, just because to get people to sign up to coaching courses and whatever.

Sam:  Maybe. But I mean, in some ways I can see because one of the things I was going to mention next is most newish businesses, and even some have been around a while, charge too little. And in some ways I can see that approach of going right well, how much do you know? Let’s look at the big picture. How much do you want to bring home here? How much do you want the turnover of your business to be? Right, okay. You’re a wedding business. I use weddings because it’s nice and simple. You got what you’re going to do, 20 weddings a year because the mainly going to be in the summer. So how much do you need to charge per year? What do you want as your take home pay plus your business cost divided by 20? Bang. That’s the cost of a wedding. And that’s going to be, I suspect, a lot higher than people who are going to do well. I want 50 quid an hour. I’m going to spend 100 hours on a wedding. How much will it be? And I suspect that way people will come with a higher price. Because what I find one of the things is, especially with new businesses, people always don’t value themselves enough and they put their prices too low.

Marcus: Yes, obviously that is not a good thing to do. But just going back to your question. Yeah. The model that I follow for my branding photography is more of a value based system. I’ve been doing it quite a long time now. I know what it cost me, how much time it is, how much effort it is, and also how unique my product is. So I tend to go for the latter one. But for example, if I’m doing event photography, which I do every now and then, that I do charge on an hourly basis because that’s a very competitive market, really. The client knows what they want. All photography is going to look very, very similar. So basically I do know that they’re just going to look at your bottom line figure per hour, how much is it going to cost me, so I just keep it simple. And that seems to work for that type of photography. When I do a very occasional wedding. Very occasional, yeah. I do look at the other market and what other people are charging, because I’m not an expert in that. So to answer your question, I use all of those different models you mentioned.

Sam: Brilliant. That’s really interesting, Marcus. Interesting, you’re saying, with the events and that’s per hour. Because I think one of the ones in things with pricing is to try and avoid price competition. And per hour, per hour, you do end up in price competition, don’t you, if you’ve got your bottom line and then other people do, it’s instantly comparable. So, in fact, I was going to talk about that later. Let’s bring that in now. So what I was going to talk about is, should you display your prices? Should you, on your website, on your marketing, on LinkedIn, show your pricing? Do you do that?

Marcus: Yeah. That’s a massive one, isn’t it? I have never seen I could listen to so many different podcasts reading material. I can never find any definitive answer that whatsoever. And of course there isn’t one. What I do is I’m a bit sneaky and I sort of go in like a middle ground and I do my prices start from this.

Sam: Okay And that’s a good idea, because there’s a balance, isn’t it? If there’s no price at all, people can sometimes stumble around, can’t they? And they need to get an idea. Yes, but yeah, I think the direct comparison is bad. So I think some prices are good to put, like you say, a guide can be good. It I think if you’ve got something like a subscription and you have a subscription, I think subscription prices are fine because subscription is a relative. There’s a whole podcast on that. We’re not going to talk about that. But subscriptions are A, relatively unusual and B, everyone has slightly different subscriptions, so they’re not directly comparable. So I think if you’ve got like a monthly subscription and you do them for Photoshoots, yeah, great, put those prices on. And I think packages can work well. So I package a blah, blah, blah. It includes this. This is what you get from it. And the key for me about a package is make it so they can’t compare it. Don’t make it the same as everybody else’s package. So it’s an incomparable thing and often you might not even sell that package. But like you said, with the prices, starting from it just gives people an idea if you’re at all affordable for them, gives them a ballpark starting figure in their head. Yeah, obviously don’t have a package price that’s 1000 and then you charge 10,000, but it gives them a ballpark idea, doesn’t it, without that per hour whatever. So, yeah, I think that’s the prices to avoid is those directly comparable prices. My per hour rate for an event is bang. It’s just instantly asking for price comparison. And I think anything asking for price comparison is worth avoiding. And the other thing.

Marcus: I agree

Sam:  Is the look and the feel and the context to all of your marketing and your website and the way it looks. So if you’ve got a really premium looking website and you’re showing portraits of people stood outside their mansion, you’re already giving an idea of price. Yeah, if you’re doing a wedding, if you’re a wedding photographer and you’ve got a pretty basic website and you saw some average shots at a registry office and a few group shots and go look at my great value wedding package, people will instantly see those two as very different, will instantly start to put a price in. So you can subtly put the prices in that way. Is this premium top end, is this bargain basement, is this somewhere in the middle? And just everything you say and everything you put across visually will give an impression linked to that.

Marcus: And for me, Sam, that’s the guideline that I mean, you know, with your help on my website, I’ve hopefully got it up to it’s looking really sharp and premium, as you say. And I think when people do go to my website, they do totally know that I’m going to be rather expensive compared to others, which is fine.

Sam:  Yeah, that’s it. Which I remember because my dad used to do wedding photography and I remember him saying this is a long time ago, him saying he was charging a lot more than he thought he should do. But actually, he got less booking if he charged less because people didn’t think he was good enough.

Marcus: Well, that is a strange phenomenon, isn’t it? The more you charge that whole luxury market, tiffany’s, Mercedes, whatever, the less people question it and the more they want it.

Sam: Yeah, that’s it. One of the things with changing pricing, though, because I think, like we said, for a lot of people at the beginning, they charge too little, and then if they charge more, and often, to be honest, new businesses, no matter what, whether they’re photographers, accountants, often they can double their prices and they’re still too cheap. People go in often really cheap when they first start, they’re worried about charging. But what can happen is when you put your price up, you will, to start with, lose a bit of custom because you’re suddenly in a different market. So if you’re putting your price right at the bottom, you’re getting the bottom of the market, but as you put your prices up, you’re going to start to move away from the bottom of the market. But that means you need to find new people who are willing to pay the higher prices, and often they’re easier customers. Those people who are really looking for the bargain basement prices often also want the world and are often some of the most awkward customers.

Marcus: That is so true. That is so true. It’s a strange thing now, but that’s definitely how it works. I mean, obviously there’s things to consider market forces and market forces are always changing constantly. Inflation, economics, they could come into it. But certainly and it’s pricing, Sam, is just an ongoing struggle, really trying to get that sweet spot. It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight.

Sam: No, that’s it. And I’ve just the same in my business. Yes, you pitch one thing and they react. And you can clearly think, I could have pitched that at twice the price and they would have batted an eyelid. And you’ll pitch the same thing to somebody else and you can hear that they’re groaning and it’s way beyond them. And you live and you learn and you adjust. But I think another thing that’s really important and we’re running out of time, so I’ll make this a final point, is trying to stick to a price. So if you’ve said to somebody, okay, this portrait session with your dog is going to be two grand, that’s what it’s going to be. And if they’re negotiating my take on price is not negotiating, it’s slightly different with the website, because if I said, okay, this website is two grand, and they say, oh, I can pay 1500, I say, Great, which bit don’t you want? And we can chop it out slightly harder with a photography session because there’s a person and a dog and you’re taking a picture, it’s hard to chop bits out. But I suppose you could do it for less time and stuff, but yeah, I think it’s really important the price is the price you’ve given and yeah, you might be able to do it for less if they get less, but I wouldn’t negotiate on the price.

Marcus: Yes, very true. Good words of advice there. Any sum up on that there, Sam? Can you cover quite a lot there?

Sam:  So I think think about how you price, how did you decide to price and yeah, like we said, there are different ways of doing that. You can look at per hour, you can look at your competition, you can look at the value providing and as you say, you can look at your business as a whole and what you want to gain and work it out. But in the end, realistically, it’s always going to be a bit of a combination of all of those, isn’t it? I think the value is the one to really head for but it’s also the one that’s hardest to quantify.

Marcus:  Yes.

Sam: Which makes it challenging. Beginners always people beginner people starting out in business always charge too little, so if you’re early on in your business, I just put your prices up, you’re almost certainly it’s almost universal. Everybody, when they start out, has their price right at the bottom, move up and don’t be scared that you will lose some people and people say no because you will then move on to customers who can afford the level that you should be charging.

Marcus:  Exactly, yeah, exactly. Well done. So that’s very good. I think I just might mention sometimes, if you really want to work with the client or it’s going to be beneficial for your portfolio or for future business with somebody else, I would really consider working for free as well. If it’s something you really want to do and you can get something out of it, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Sam: Yeah, it depends where you are in your business, doesn’t it? If you’re brand new in business yeah. And it’s like you’re wanting to get into a new market yeah, certainly you’re not doing a standard, but you’re right, if you’re a brand photography and you’re wanting to get into a wedding photography, you’ve got no portfolio, then yeah, you need to do something, don’t you? And you could do it for free, like you say, or offer a big discount or whatever it is. Yeah. If you’ve got very specific reasons.

Marcus: I would do it for free. Some I think doing it for a discount means I think if you say look, I’m going to do this job for free, but I want complete artistic control over it.

Sam: Yeah.

Marcus:  Then you’re going to get some great shots out of it. But it’s going to be my ideas and my lighting and it might take a little bit longer than you’d normally have, I think. Then you’re going to get shots that you can going to be portfolio worthy.

Sam:  That’s it. Yeah. So, yeah, when you’re starting out, I think, yeah, you’re right. If there’s something if you need that portfolio, it’s essential, isn’t it?

Marcus: Yeah. Good. Okay. That’s brilliant. Thank you very much, Sam. Thanks for watching that’s. Good pricing. Without pricing, we won’t be making any money, and you can’t do what you can do. So. Yeah.

Sam: Good summary, Marcus. Brilliant. I will see you next week, then.

Marcus:  See you next week, Sam. Bye bye.

Sam: Bye.