Smart Photography Pricing from an Expert Entrepreneur

“What should I charge? How much is my time worth? Can I make a living doing what I love?” We tackle these photography pricing questions and MORE! (Featuring: KRISTY DICKERSON | Photographs by TURNQUIST COLLECTIVE)

Photography Pricing: Advice from an Expert Entrepreneur

No matter how skilled they are with a camera, photographers everywhere agree with one thing: photography pricing is complicated. So we reached out to Kristy Dickerson, an expert entrepreneur who developed her thriving photography business into a full-time career as a motivational speaker and CEO of START brands.

Kristy is deeply familiar with the challenges and rewards of entrepreneurship. Here, she shares her hard-won insights on how to establish your value, set your pricing, and gain the courage to charge what you’re worth.

A little girl in a pink skirt holds her parents hands in a field at sunset.
Photo by Turnquist Collective

Pricing: Photographers’ Biggest Challenge

ShootProof: What business aspect do you see photographers struggle with the most?

KRISTY: The biggest challenge in running a photography business is pricing. I know so many photographers who are having a really hard time running a profitable small business.

I asked my Facebook community what their number one struggle is, and pricing is what I heard over and over. For example:

  • “I have been photographing for several years, but I can’t seem to make any money.”
  • “Figuring out my photography pricing and marketing really overwhelm me.”
  • “I can’t seem to find my ideal clients.”
Black and white photo of a father holding his newborn baby close to his cheek.
Photo by Turnquist Collective

Photography Pricing Mistakes to Avoid

Setting a price is not all about picking an amount you “feel” is perfect for a product or service. Start by identifying some of the common mistakes photographers make when setting their prices.

Undervaluing Your Work

Underselling usually happens to beginners due to inexperience or lack of information about how to manage a photography business. 

Miscalculating Your Time

Professional photographers don’t always follow the traditional 40-hour workweek. A beginner or freelancer may only spend 20 hours a week, including client communication and editing hours. Don’t forget that the time spent on the job is valuable! You should get paid for the actual time you worked and the time you spent honing your skills. 

No Confidence

Many photographers tend to accept low rates because they think no one will book them if they charge more. Like any other job, you are offering professional services that require payment. Don’t let a lack of confidence deter you from charging what you are actually worth. 

If you act confident, clients will also view you as more professional and will likely be more willing to pay more for your photography services. 

Accepting Exposure as Payment

Sadly, there are people who think they can buy off photographers through exposure. Some photographers accept this as payment, but if you want to establish the value of your work, clients must know that your services have a monetary value. Besides, you can’t be sure if the exposure will actually turn into opportunities. 

Complicated Price List

Long price lists can drive away clients. For example, if you shoot wedding or event photography and have a long list of a la carte prices for every single thing you offer, a client would be instantly overwhelmed. 

If they had to do the math and add up how much your photography services would cost for 8 hours of coverage, a second shooter for 6 hours, a 75 mile travel fee, a 10×10 30 page album, and a 1 hour engagement session, there’s a very high chance you’d lose the booking.   

Keep your prices simple.

Modifying Prices Too Often

Changing prices too often is one of the biggest mistakes photographers can make because it creates confusion. Making changes once a year is reasonable. However, 4-5 times or more shows that you are not confident in the value of your services.

Confusing Packages

You’re the only person who can fully understand and memorize your packages. However, this is not the case for clients. If your client ends up needing clarification or asking several questions about your rates, this means something is confusing, or people think you are tricking them. One of the main reasons you may lose a booking is because someone was confused. Again, keep your prices clear and simple. 

Comparison With Others

It’s normal to check the prices of other photographers. Some may create packages based on the rates of competitors. While this move has pros and cons, you must take into account what you need to charge to survive in the industry. 


#ShootProofPRO TIP: Identify Your Target Market

Begin identifying your ideal clientele by strengthening your communication skills, enhancing your website, and developing a healthy creative community!


ShootProof: What do you say to the people struggling with their photography pricing? Especially when they have great work; their photographs clearly aren’t the problem!

KRISTY: Everyone’s photography pricing will be different depending on their location, genre, scaleability, etc. Also, a person making their booking decision solely on price is NOT your ideal client. You have to structure your business to have a few key competitive advantages in your market.

A small child leads their two parents and younger sibling along a boardwalk in a marsh surrounded by tall grass.
Photo by Turnquist Collective

#ShootProofPRO TIP: Develop Your Competitive Advantage

Your competitive advantage is something your competitors don’t have. This can be a unique product or service you offer, an outstanding brand voice you’ve developed, a style or genre in which you specialize… See how photographer Olli Sansom is has developed his competitive advantage, then learn how to identify your own!


ShootProof: What about all the new photographers who show up offering really cheap sessions? Aren’t they to blame?

KRISTY: There is a myth that this flood of new photographers is hurting our industry and our businesses. I say NO. The only person who can hurt your business is you.

A little girl wearing a rainbow t-shirt stands in an apple orchard.
Photo by Turnquist Collective

There will always be cheaper options for any product or service. Photographers who try to price-compete are spinning their wheels, and I guarantee you they are not running a profitable photography business. They will never be able to take their photography business full-time, and they may even give up completely.

When purchasing photography, customers sometimes think “Uncle Bob” could shoot their wedding or take that quick family photo. I mean, a camera is a camera, right? If your options, as the photographer, come down to losing the client or reducing your rates, I say: let Uncle Bob take the photos. That customer will quickly see the difference. They will get what they pay for in talent, quality of gear, editing, customer service, and so much more.

Two parents hold their toddler and kiss in a snowy field overlooking a Christmas tree farm.
Photo by Turnquist Collective

ShootProof: Many photographers feel like folks just don’t care. They get bad photos from “Uncle Bob,” and they’re totally fine with them.

KRISTY: It’s true. People allocate funds to what they feel is important. Photography is not important to everyone – and that’s okay. Vacations, clothing, home decor… these are all luxuries to which people allocate their disposable income. You want clients who believe photography is important, and that an investment in quality photography is important.

This diptych features two toddler siblings standing in tall green grass.
Photos by Turnquist Collective

Quit Thinking with Your Own Wallet

ShootProof: We hear a LOT of photographers say, “Oh, I can’t charge that much. It’s too expensive!” How do you convince a photographer to charge more when they, personally, feel like their rates are already too high?

KRISTY: When you’re running a business, you have to separate yourself from your business. This is not always easy! I sometimes have a hard time separating myself from my own brand.

If it was up to me. I would charge nothing and just walk around taking pictures for free! But my business couldn’t sustain itself that way, could it?

A little girl hugs her pregnant mom's belly.
Photo by Turnquist Collective

ShootProof: But there are so many cheap photographers out there. How do you know those cheap photographers aren’t thriving?

KRISTY: I took my son to get his hair cut one time, and there was a flyer on the counter advertising, “Mini Sessions, All Images, 20 Minutes, $80.” My first thought was, “That photographer’s rates are going to kill me!”

But here’s the thing: this photographer was NOT in the same market as me.

Out of curiosity, I went to that photographer’s Facebook page; they didn’t even have a website. I could tell they were shooting with a consumer-level camera – still learning and growing. There was no way could they were running an actual business: filing taxes, paying for insurance, investing in the latest editing software, etc.

Honestly, I wanted to email this person and give them a free coaching session, but the last thing I would want to do is hurt someone’s feelings.

I want to help move the photo industry forward. My goal is for you to be able to do what you love with people who value your work, and still be present for the most important things in your life.

A red-haired toddler holds and apple in the middle of an apple orchard.
Photo by Turnquist Collective

Photography Pricing 101: A Deep Dive

ShootProof: Okay, we get it. If you’re not charging enough, you can’t sustain your business. But how does a photographer get from the “learning-and-growing” stage to the “sustainable business” stage?

KRISTY: I’m going to back up a bit, first.

I shot my first wedding for $500, which included all-day coverage and the rights to all the digital images; and my first photography website was hideous – I mean, why didn’t anyone tell me it was ugly?!

What I’m saying is this: we ALL start with the figurative $80 mini session and no idea of how to pay taxes. But let’s talk about how we move from spinning our wheels to running a successful small business, because that is the goal. Taking a passion and turning it into a career is the goal.

A little boy in overalls is hugged between his parents in the middle of an orchard.
Photo by Turnquist Collective

#ShootProofPRO TIP: Successful Photography Pricing for Mini Sessions

Read our guide to planning, pricing, and photographing mini sessions the right way!


KRISTY: I’m going to break down the cost of an example mini session since that’s what we discussed earlier.

First of all, from your client’s perspective, a mini session has to have value. So let’s say your regular session fee is $200/hour, and you charge $65 per digital download.

If you offer a 20 minute mini session with 15 digital downloads for $425, that’s a huge value for your clients. They’re getting 1/3 of the time of a full session (valued at $66.67), plus 15 digital images (valued at $975), making the retail value of a mini session $1042.

You can offer mini sessions at this reduced price, however, because you’re booking back-to-back sessions at the same location. (And for families, 20 minutes is usually plenty of time to get great photos of energetic kids.)

This diptych features two siblings dressed in fall colors skipping down a dirt road at sunset, then hugging one another close.
Photos by Turnquist Collective

ShootProof: So what are you actually earning from this hypothetical $425 mini session?

KRISTY:

  • ($140.25) – Say goodbye to a third for taxes.
  • ($25) – Account for this shoot’s hard costs (fuel, props, assistant, ShootProof, etc.)
  • ($60) – Remember: you have to pay yourself! You’ll invest at least two to three hours of work per mini session between booking, emailing, shooting, editing, and delivery, at $20/hour.

This is a step most people skip when running their numbers. Photographers forget to pay themselves!

Now you have $199.75 in potential profit for your photography business.

But wait: you have to allocate funds to marketing, equipment, insurance, software, website and email hosting, your phone… Of course, these expenses are fixed expenses, so their costs are distributed over all the sessions you do throughout the year.

A mother kneels in a corn field at sunset. She is surrounded by her three young children.
Photo by Turnquist Collective

#ShootProofPRO TIP: Speaking of Insurance…

Kristy recommends Hill & Usher for both liability and equipment insurance. “Insurance is something I think EVERY photographer should have before accepting money for photography services,” she says. We couldn’t agree more!


ShootProof: How does a photographer calculate their fixed expenses?

KRISTY: This is the gear I have in my bag during a typical mini session, along with just a few of the operating expenses necessary for running a small business:

  • Canon 5D Mark III – $3399
  • 24-70 f/2.8 II Lens – $2299
  • 85 f/1.2 Lens – $2199
  • 35 f/1.4 Lens – $1479
  • 50 f/1.2 Lens – $1619
  • Insurance (per year) – $600
  • Software (per year) – $300
  • Hosting, Licenses, etc. (per year) – $700

TOTAL: $12,595

A newborn baby sleeps swaddled in linen blankets.
Photo by Turnquist Collective

Now let’s say that you plan to photograph 75 mini sessions this year (which is a LOT!) If you were to purchase and pay all of these expenses during this calendar year, you’d need to deduct an additional $167.93 from each mini session.

I know most photographers do not acquire this much gear in one year, so this allocation could be greatly reduced (though you should always be saving for gear replacement and repair.) But we haven’t even discussed:

  • education and training expenses
  • travel costs
  • hiring a branding strategist and designer
  • marketing and advertising costs

Even without these unaddressed expenses, we now have $31.82 remaining from our $425 mini session.Your business has made a PROFIT of only $31.82 per session.

Two parents dressed in fall colors sit on a plaid picnic blanket. They are holding their toddler son upside down as he giggles.
Photo by Turnquist Collective

Factors to Consider When Creating a Price List

Before you start crafting your photography price list you must understand this comprehensive list of the components of your business.

Costs of Doing Business

Considering how your personal living expenses and extra payables will determine the costs of doing business. The idea is to make sure that you are meeting your income goals while covering your business expenses as well. 

Put it this way: are you okay with having less money to spend on your household bills to support your business? If you’re going to devote time and effort to being a photographer, you would want to bring more money into your household, right?

How much do you want to earn this year so that you can save toward retirement? How many days can you work in a month to sustain both your business and personal expenses? These are questions you must answer to determine how much you’ll spend in maintaining a business.

Overhead Costs 

Overhead costs can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t have gear, prompting you to buy all the necessary tools. Your gear, or lack thereof, can impact your work’s quality. 

You need basic tools such as cameras, lenses, speedlights, memory cards, batteries, chargers, and backdrops. Then you’ll need to invest in hardware like a laptop, external hard drives, and flash drives. Additionally, you must buy software licenses such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom, gallery hosting, and studio management tools. 

To include overhead costs in your structure, add up your expenses for the year, and divide the total by the projected amount of bookings for the year. Add the total cost’s percentage to a job, and you’ll eventually cover the overhead expenses.

Fixed Expenses

Fixed expenses include everything you need to make a profit, and not settling for a breakeven. Consider some of these common fixed expenses:

  • Equipment costs: Replacement when your gear gets too much wear and tear, as well as cleaning and repair costs.
  • Subscriptions and fees: Includes software subscription for image editing, association memberships, and business permits.
  • Studio/office costs: If you are renting a space, you’ll need to make sure that your profit can cover both your earnings and rental payables. If you are working from home, assign a rental value to that space.  
  • Internet service: You must have a reliable and steady connection all the time, especially when you have to sync files, use cloud storage, upload images to galleries, and send files digitally. 
  • Marketing costs: Think of the time, money, and effort you’ll spend in promoting your services, networking with customers, hosting giveaways, and building a portfolio.
  • Utilities: You’ll definitely consume electricity to power up lights, air conditioning units, and other tools.
  • Professional fees: Aside from your own salary, you must pay your assistants, secondary shooters, accountant, or any other professionals you hired for the job.   

Variable Expenses 

These cover expenses that depend on the kind of photography services you offer. If you are a wedding photographer, some bookings may require you to spend money on transportation, hotel, rental gear, and additional team members. Take this into account when creating your wedding photography prices!

Make sure that such expenses won’t come out of your own pocket. You won’t earn anything if you don’t adjust the prices to cover additional costs. Worse, you’ll end up losing money and wasting time. 

Cost of Materials

If you print your own photos, albums, or books, you must add the corresponding expenses to your photography pricing. Remember that aside from investing in a printer, you’ll need ink, photo albums, frames, paper, and other materials.

Buying in bulk is a cost-effective method of securing resources. Make sure you can use the materials, so they won’t end up as stock only. 

Cost of Labor 

When you love and enjoy your work, sometimes it’s easy to undervalue the time you spent on labor. You’ll be exerting effort from the booking, contract signing, photoshoot, post-processing, and delivery. 

Ask yourself, “How much is my time worth?” Whenever you’re on the job, you must get paid. Yes, even that one hour you spent waiting for clients to finish preparing because they arrived late at the venue.

Digital Expenses 

Selling your images digitally can significantly lower your expenses. Besides, some people prefer digital copies over printed ones. To sustain the digital aspect of your business, you’ll need to have hard drives, an online gallery system, and cloud storage. 

Cost of Goods Sold

This is the total cost of production of a service or goods, including the material and labor costs. If you are providing a photo album with printed photos, this isn’t merely the cost of the print itself. The costs of goods sold must cover post-production charges, packaging, and shipping expenses. 

If you’re also managing the photo editing or image retouching part of the business, mention the corresponding prices in your photography pricing sheet as well. Be sure to add all related fees associated with the final deliverables. 

Copyright and Usage

You automatically own the copyright of every image you take. When you give up the copyright, you lose the chance to make future income from the images through reselling or publication. 

With lots of competition in the market, there are photographers who are willing to give up their rights by selling their copyright. Meanwhile, some clients don’t want photographers posting their pictures because of privacy concerns. 

If you need to transfer the copyright of your images, make sure it comes with a corresponding price. This usually means 50% to 100% of your work, and you must determine the scope and duration of use. 

Taxes

Make sure that you include the appropriate taxes on the total pricing. This may involve hiring an accountant to help you file the annual tax return. 

Profit Margin

After figuring out the cost of running your business, it’s time to calculate your profit margins to determine your income. While the price may differ from one job to another, the profit margin must cover the hard costs, your professional fee, and other expenses. 

Clients will probably inquire with a few photographers about their rates, and this includes comparing prices. While you can set competitive pricing, lowering your prices in a bid to win customers can backfire. At the same time, underpricing your services can set a low bar and deprive you of ideal clients. 

Assess the quality of your images, products, and services. If you know that you have the experience and skills to provide high-quality work, it’s easier for you to set high prices. If you are a beginner, know that you can’t demand the same rates as professional photographers with more experience. 

How to Build a Photography Pricing Model 

There are several ways you can charge clients appropriately. With these cost and value-based pricing methods, you can determine whether you’ll earn or lose money. 

Rates Based on Image Use 

Usage-based pricing is appropriate for photography jobs where clients are looking for a few high-quality images of their subjects or products. This model works well for photographers who specialize in food and product photography, interiors, architecture, or corporate shoots. 

If a company needs a few headshots for an annual report, you can charge the client more if they will also use your shots in local magazine ads. This pricing model considers how long the other party will reuse your images. 

Using this model, you can calculate the final price based on details like the licensing period, types of media, and the territory where the pictures will be used.

Flat and Hourly Rates

If you are an event photographer, it’s often better to charge a flat or per hour rate. Make sure to consider the time you’ll spend on preparation, travel, pre-production, the shoot itself, post-production, and the cost of creating any deliverables.

The good thing about charging per hour rates is that you get paid for all the time you invest in a shoot. Even if the shoot goes a bit longer, you’ll earn additional payment.This can work great for wedding photographer prices, for example. 

Portrait photographers can charge a flat rate when developing packages and discounts. More than that, you’ll need to add in costs relating to studio rental, backdrops, props, editing, printing, and other relevant services. With a flat rate, you can set the number of images or products, as well as the number of rounds of client feedback.

Day Rate

A Day rate is a traditional pricing method that some photographers still use. This is because some clients think that they’ll need more hours than usual, and a per hour rate doesn’t make sense. 

When you quote a day rate, you should consider the time spent working before, during, and after the actual job. If you give post-production time away for free, you’ll lose money and waste time.

Project-Based

This pricing method is smart if you provide multiple services. For instance, a company contacts you and requests 20 portraits, retouching, and prints twice a year. Rather than creating two separate quotes with the same breakdown, you can offer a single rate for the whole project.  

A project-based rate is beneficial for both parties since it guarantees you’ll get the second phase of the project. On the other hand, the company only sees a comprehensive breakdown of prices, rather than being bombarded with several prices. 

Rates Based on Experience

Experience is a significant deciding factor in how much a photographer can charge. This is also why you’ll see seasoned or pro photographers charging such a high amount for a two-hour event or a few images. Take a look at the photography pricing differences for various levels of experience:

Hobbyist

Some people have a natural gift for photography and just want to share their passion. They usually have little or no experience in the industry, especially since many have jobs in another or related industry. Either way, they practice by offering their services for free or at a lower rate with basic image retouching.  

Beginners

Those who fall into this group may have a basic understanding of photography and its fundamentals. However, they might also be the ones who tend to just point and shoot and aren’t interested in-depth image editing. Beginner photographers charge a much lower rate and are also the ones likely to accept low-paying customers in return for a basic photography gig. 

Students

Some students are eager to put their education and training to use. Since they have some form of training, they can ask for a slightly higher price compared to hobbyists and beginners. 

When they’re just starting out, students should keep in mind that they aren’t professional photographers with a business license. While photography may be in the scope of their career path, this is still the time in their career that they’re likely building their portfolio. 

Semi-pro

Photographers on their way to becoming professionals can start charging higher, yet reasonable prices for their services. While their skillset isn’t truly on par with pros or top-rated photographers, their shooting techniques and editing skills are better than students, amateurs, and hobbyists. 

Professional

With a well-curated portfolio and years of training and experience, a professional photographer can command a higher flat-rate. This means customers expect better image quality and overall experience. Most professionals consider photography their full-time job, and they’ve likely invested in their photography education, as well as equipment.

Top-rated

Photographers who’ve proven themselves to be among the best can charge top dollar for photography services. These professional photographers are the ones who have brand loyalty, recognizable styles, and followings in the industry, making them sought-after photographers. 

Freelance Photography Rates 

While freelancers have flexible working arrangements, unlike salaried photographers, some freelancers buy their own gear and cover other expenses. Meanwhile, others have varying rates and packages depending on the niche. 

They are usually more open to different kinds of customers, allowing them to negotiate and give discounts at freewill. This is why freelancers have a per image-based rate, hourly rate, flat rate, packages, or a combination of everything. 

Rates Based on Specialty 

Picking a niche is a smart way to earn a consistent income. Some photographers fear that limiting yourself to a single genre means missing out on opportunities. While this is true to an extent, those who choose to become specialized photographers can often place a higher monetary value on their work. 

Within each photography niche, there are different things to consider to determine how much to charge.

Portrait and Corporate Photography

Pricing may vary for each photo session. The rate depends on several factors like duration, location, number of people, styling, and deliverables. This can serve as a steady source of work and income, especially if you can land bookings with companies and businesses. 

Food Photography

You must identify the necessary number of shots, type of setup, and degree of editing. The price for a one-hour shoot with little to no editing should be lower compared to several hours of shooting with complete setup and assistants. 

Product Photography

This can be monotonous because each shot requires attention to small details. Photographers need to invest in a lightbox, macro lenses, backdrops, and editing software. Since the photos might be for commercial usage, you can charge additional fees for the copyright. 

Sports Photography

The pricing may depend on the hours of a game or number of players who need to be photographed. You should consider boosting the pricing if you’ll be asked to give up rights to all photos. 

Event Photography

For event photography, it’s common to have a per hour pricing structure. Consider including a minimum number of hours that clients have to book you for (such as 4 hours) in order to make the coverage worth your while. 

Newborn Photography

Pricing must cover extra efforts and measures you are taking to ensure the baby’s safety, along with the various props you’ll likely buy for the shoots. Not everyone has the patience to do newborn photography, especially considering the risks involved.

Maternity Photography

Maternity sessions might be done in a studio or on location, depending on your business structure. Typically, these sessions last about 1 hour, so coming up with a flat fee can be the easiest way to structure your pricing model. 

Family Session

There are a few ways to set up your pricing when it comes to family sessions. Sometimes, photographers charge a flat fee which includes a certain amount of shooting time and a certain number of edited images delivered. If the client wants a full day shoot in three or more locations, with multiple wardrobe changes, then you should create a pricing model that includes per hour rates, day rates, or packages.

Wedding Photography

Weddings are high-pressure jobs and have plenty of pre and post work, making the wedding photography price you charge super important. As a wedding photographer, can you set up pre-determined pricing packages or choose a pricing model that is focused on selling products and services a la carte. 

Fashion Photography

Your rates must cover the expenses of tools, time spent, location setups, assistants, and other rentals. It’s typically better to create a pricing model focused on hourly or day rates. 

Real Estate Photography

Your prices depend on the location, travel expenses, lighting equipment, assistants, and post-production photo editing. You can raise rates if the clients require additional services.

Commercial Photography

This can be one of the highest paying niches if priced right. Your rates can go up depending on the level of retouching you’ll do and if you’re selling licensing rights. 

Drone and Aerial Shots

Some drone photographers offer hourly rates with unlimited shots, while others set a maximum number of images they’ll deliver per session. There are locations that require professional drone operator licenses, so you’ll need to consider the funds you’re investing in equipment, training, and permits. 

Prices Based on Incentives

Event, corporate, and top-rated professional photographers often use this structure because it enables them to offer a bonus incentive when a customer hits a particular price point. For example, if the client buys the edited digital files for $600, they also receive an 8×8 leather bound album. 

How to Include Discounts in Photography Prices

Discounts entice some customers to book you. In other cases, it can be a form of thanks to loyal clients. If you want to offer discounts in your photography pricing, here are key points to consider: 

Introductory Discount

A “new client” discount can help you get new customers, giving you more work to add to your portfolio. Although this may not guarantee a quick profit, you can benefit from the connections and relationships you’re going to build. Make sure the offer is attractive and only available for a couple of days to encourage people to book immediately. 

Special Offer

Provide a discounted rate for customers who want to book you, yet aren’t ready to pay the full price. For instance, create mini sessions where clients get 2-3 professional headshots in 30 minutes. Offer this for one specific date only! This way, even if you’re offering a lower rate for each session, you can maximize the studio space, time, and equipment to still make it worth your while.  

Bonuses

It’s not always about lowering your prices to offer an incentive for clients to book you. Instead, provide a bonus product or service to the package. For example, you can offer a free canvas print, an additional hour of wedding coverage, or 10 additional family portrait photos with retouching included. All of these items cost you and your business very little, but they can add more value to what your client receives.

Online Pricing Calculators 

Online business calculators help photographers compute their prices and packages. While you don’t have to follow the exact total that the calculator will show, you can get a general idea of your possible prices. Here are some free and paid pricing calculators you can consider using:

  • Nick and Signe Adams: This tool from Nick and Signe Adams uses a questionnaire to assist photographers in placing a reasonable value on goods and services based on your costs of doing business. While it doesn’t cover all situations for photographers, it can provide an estimated baseline that you can adjust.
  • NPPA Calculator: Developed by the National Press Photographers Association for photojournalists and visual journalists, the NPAA tool calculates the minimum amount you must earn to reach your desired rate or salary. The results will show the total annual expenses, the weekly cost of doing business, and the overhead cost for each assignment day. 
  • Modern Market: The calculator from Modern Market optimizes a triangle strategy to calculate precisely what you need based on your goals. The results show what you must charge per session or for different print sizes. It will even provide three sample collections to give you an idea of what to sell based on your current prices.   

#ShootProofPRO TIP: How to Sell Prints and Products

The mini session example Kristy shares above is a digital package, but you may prefer to charge a booking fee, then sell digital images separately along with prints and other products. “Show print samples so your clients can see the difference between an image from Walmart versus a hand-retouched print crafted by your professional lab,” Kristy advises. “Clients have to be educated, and your selling process should provide that education.”


You CAN Become a Profitable Photographer

ShootProof: Numbers like these are probably overwhelming to a lot of photographers. Can you share anything, well, hopeful?

KRISTY: Being a profitable photographer is not easy. But you can do it!

Gear is expensive, time is limited, and training is not cheap. You see that my example photographer is going to have a hard time growing her business if she never adjusts her photography pricing, because there are no leftover funds for growth.

If the person above sounds like you, or if “marketing” sounds like a foreign term, invest in a couple of business books! If someone said to me, “I want to be a photographer when I grow up,” I would advise them to get their degree in business – not photography.

A serious looking child sits in a grassy field with their chin in their hands.
Photo by Turnquist Collective

Pricing Takeaways

Don’t Be Afraid to Show Your Prices 

Oh, the age-old question: Should you reveal your prices on your website? 

Don’t be afraid to share your prices on your website. This can immediately deter price-shoppers from contacting you, just to find out you’re way out of their budget. When displaying your prices, don’t feel like you have to share everything – give people a starting price so they know what to expect. 

By letting potential customers know what your photography services start at, they can decide whether or not it’s worth contacting you. Additionally, when prospective clients reach out to you, you already know that they’re aware of your pricing. Once you have started emailing or chatting with them, you can send them your pricing guide that dives into your various photography services and collections.

Create a Visually Compelling Pricing Guide

Let’s be honest – talking about how much you charge as a photographer with a potential client isn’t fun. Clients can push back on your pricing based on how much other photographers charge, and it can sometimes be hard to convey why you’ve established your unique prices.

One way to really help with this is by creating a pricing guide that is aesthetically pleasing and on-point with your brand. If you send potential clients a boring PDF that looks like it was thrown together with a few prices scattered throughout it, it can negatively impact their buying decision. 

Instead, if you take time to create a well-designed guide that clearly displays your services and prices, walks clients through the benefits of various services, and showcases your best photos, you’ll give clients a much better buying experience. 

Try Weird Numbers

Have you bought something for $199 instead of $200 even if there’s only a dollar difference? This is because our brains think that $199 is cheaper in the sense that it’s still around $100 rather than $200. 

Remember, price tags without extra zeros seem smaller to consumers. For instance, write $149 only instead of $149.00. This mental pricing effect is influential in photography pricing, especially for beginners, where the goal is to attract as many customers as possible. 


#ShootProofPRO TIP: Stay Focused

Photography is an art form, but your photography business is a business. Take responsibility for learning how to brand, market, and grow your business, as well as your artistic skills. If you plan to retire one day, you’ll be glad you took the time to build a healthy, sustainable business!


Increase Rates By Percentage

With inflation and rising costs of goods, it’s possible that last season’s rates won’t sustain your current needs and goals. Modifying and raising your prices is smart, as long as you can assess the right amount to add. 

One of the best ways to do it is by increasing your rates by percentage. Let’s say you review your annual sales report every first week of January. From there, use that information to see if you need to raise prices by 5% or more.

ShootProof: How do you know when it’s time to increase your photography pricing?

KRISTY: Over time, I honed my prices due to the simple reality of supply and demand. As demand went up, I increased my pricing.

Eventually, I reached the point where I wasn’t adjusting my prices by much. But I made sure I was running a profitable business by providing services and products that exceeded my clients’ expectations.

This process didn’t happen overnight. It happened over time: learning and growing as a photographer, acquiring gear, establishing my business workflows, and – most importantly – investing in my own brand and marketing.

Seriously: YOU CAN DO IT!

Two parents stand back-to-back at sunset, each holding one of their toddler children against a forest backdrop.
Photo by Turnquist Collective

What photography pricing questions do YOU have? Leave them in the comments below!



Written by KRISTI KVENILD and ANNE SIMONE | Featuring KRISTY DICKERSON | Photographs by TURNQUIST COLLECTIVE


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