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Thursday, 13 February 2014

Professional Photographer Column: 2013 Special Issue


For the first time since launching my business I actually have an answer to this question.  Shocking isn’t it.  But I am not alone – for some strange reason portrait and wedding photographers have generally shied away from actually charging appropriately for their time.

Pricing is the question I get asked about the most when I am training.   People want to know how to price themselves.  This should be a relatively straightforward question – but no – it is not.  Back in January I decided to research the UK lifestyle portrait market in order to review my pricing.  I was fairly shocked to see that 90% of my ‘competitors’ were charging between £75 and £195 for a shoot.  Sometimes this included product  - anything from one print to a disc of high res images but most of the time the idea was to upsell following the shoot. 

This is exactly the model that I was using give or take and I had issues with it.  I am not a salesperson (and I hate being sold to) so it’s really not the ideal method for me.  I also couldn’t predict an average sale with some clients spending an additional £400 and some more like £2,000.  The final invoices were not a reflection of the quality or standard of the images either – they were about the money that my clients were prepared to invest in photography.  A figure they would have had in mind when they booked me.

Regardless of the client I put the same time into my portrait shoots and sometimes an extra mile of effort if it’s a particularly tricky session.  I take the same care and attention over the post production and I use specific products because they reflect my brand values.  So why was I feeling a bit frustrated with the total sale following some shoots?  Because my pricing was not positioning me strongly enough in the market – I was basically working with some clients who could only just afford me. 

It is worth mentioning that I have had a crazy year; business is up in all areas which is fantastic but I cannot cope with the workload and am working ridiculous hours.  Clearly the only option is to put my prices up.  Whilst this sounds great the reality is that I am only just beginning to charge what I am worth.

This pricing revolution began with my weddings.  I took my Studio Manager Becky out for a well deserved lunch and then we sat with laptops and calculators for hours on end - working out exactly what it costs me to book, shoot and deliver a wedding.   The biggest change is that I am now able to say to potential clients that I am being totally transparent with my pricing and that the most important thing they are investing in is actually my time.  Which we all know is the truth because it takes a lot of effort and skill to make beautiful pictures.   Across all genres I now provide an hourly rate for shooting and an associated hourly rate for post production.  On the same ‘a la carte’ pricelist are costs for albums, prints, frames, assistants etc.  All of these get bundled into cost effective packages based on my experience of what the average client wants. 

What this means is that if you want a boudoir shoot with me ‘a la carte’ you pay for 4 hours shooting and 4 hours editing.  And then you can buy a single 10” x 8” print for all I care because you have paid me for my time.   Most clients will book a package of course but the choice is theirs.

I feel huge relief.  Being so honest with pricing is hugely liberating.  And revealing - I have already not heard back from a number of enquiries and I am FINE with that.  Others have written straight back to me and said that I am out of their budget and I am also fine with that.  I give up too many Saturdays and midweek evenings to not be paid properly for what I do.  I’m also not fazed in the slightest about what other photographers are charging because I don’t need very many clients to keep me in business – I just need the right ones.

2013 has been one hell of a year and my learning curve remains steep.  Next year must be about maintaining profitability whilst regaining some work/life balance.  All I want for Christmas?  A rest and a D4.  I doubt I’ll get either!


  1. Good to read this! I had always struggled with pricing, when I finally got the right one and I was busy with worked well paid, we moved,got pregnant etc...and now is like starting from 0 with also limited time in the whole marketing size :( lots of photographers ( some good some not so much) are charging so little around this area! Is a constant question for me!

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