by Norman Phillips Published 01/06/2005
If I were to have one pound for each time someone asked me at seminars and presentations how much I charge for my portraits and wedding photography I might have enough to for a down payment for something really valuable. When I get these questions I tend to be a little reluctant to lay out my price list for my work. This is because every market is different and what may be the optimum rate in one area may be a no-go in many others.
Additionally, what you are able to charge for your work will be determined by your reputation, the quality of your work and how you market your services. When I first opened my studio I always sought the highest price and tended to test the market to see how high I could go. While this is relevant in terms of marketing it is not the soundest method of pricing our services and products.
The first and most important consideration is our pricing must meet our economic needs. Secondly, we need to be bold enough to value what we do as irreplaceable works of art or records of moments that will never be repeated. This goes also for our portraiture because even if a client goes from one photographer to another, each session is a one-time event. None of us can repeat what one of our colleagues has previously recorded. All we may do is create another one-off event. So, in many ways what we create with our camera is unique because our style is also unique. No two photographers can shoot in such a way that their images will look the same, even if they work in a multilocation operation.
I assume that each one of us is producing work worthy of our name and reputation. Quality is crucial to obtaining the best price. Also, the experience in the studio has to be memorable and enjoyable. The client must walk out in anticipation of being excited with what we are going to show her.
Now that I have set the table on pricing, what is a sound method of setting the price? Our bottom line is the guide to all our pricing.
The old method of charging a base price and seeking reorders to make a profit is totally flawed. Providing a service and product that uses up valuable time and cost of production that simply breaks even is an invitation to disaster.
Even if you are successful at building reorders from an original wedding or portrait session your bottom-line ration is less than makes good sense.
Another method used by many photographers is to mark up the cost of the lab charges by a given number. Common in this method was to mark up between two to five times. I recall one incident when a colleague visited my operation and saw that one of my orders was priced 20 times my lab cost. His reaction was that I was excessively charging my clients. What he did not appreciate was that I am not a retail store with product off the shelf for sale. In fact there are many retail operations that mark up between five and seven times the cost. Then when they have a sale at 50% off they still show a gross profit over cost, but not necessarily a net profit.
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