No More 8x10s for $20 Please

While I have been working my endless nights revamping my new business brand and website, pricing has to come into mind. How much should I be charging for services and prints? As my business and skills go up I'm asking my self "Do my prices have to go up too?" Well, yes, they do. For many years my prices have been at or even below fair market value (at least I think so). I can even go so far as to say that I have even been told  by just about very client how I actually charge too little ... they feel like they got me for a steal ... they were so lucky to have gotten me at that price ... I can't believe you are practically giving your services away ... you should be charging more ... your work is worth waaayyy more ... I would have happily paid double ...

The list of raves over my past pricing is endless. Or at least until now. With the upcoming new website which will be mobile friendly (can I get a Yippie!!) a new pricing structure must follow. For many years I have charged a modest flat rate for my services and offered a CD of the full sized JPEGs to go with them. Easy peasy .. sometimes I might even take in a small print order for a few 4x6's or perhaps an 8x10.

I shoot. You pay. I burn. Your done.

And that was that. The problem, however, came to light after the CD & prints were delivered. The families loved the images. Boasted and bragged on Facebook for a few days, hopefully a full week, and then POOF ... all the magic was gone. The modest session fee was already used up in running this business with no hope of residual income from the shoot. Besides, why should I have hoped people would order their prints from me? Most people are not print purists like me and will not recognize the difference in quality prints unless they were specifically shown it. They are happy to have a mediocre quality image on their walls just to full the space. (the horror!) But in all honesty, most of those CDs of images just end up getting thrown in the top drawer of a desk or in a box and all that beauty and hard work gets suffocated and the eventually forgotten about. (Ghasp) So at the end of the month I'm struggling to figure out why we are broke .. again ...

So lets consider some things .. and lets do some math together. I found some great articles on pricing for profit (yes, I said for profit! It is not a four-letter word if this business is intended to pay my bills, put food on our table and get the kids through college). One great article is on How Much it takes to Start a Photography Business. While I am not a start up business like that article talks about, the final numbers that they come up with are a fair evaluation on how much I put into this business every year .. actually, I think the $13,981 – $17,776 numbers are on the low side of how much I spend .. but that's for another post.

Now lets talk about prints and the all elusive cost of doing business. In the past I was happy to sell my 8x10s for a modest $20-$25 (along with many other photogs out there) and I was happy to be charging that. We all know the average cost of this popular size print and so like many other photographers I was happy with that fee ... or was I? At the end of every month I'd sit down with my hubby and look at our business finances and ask "Why am I still putting money into this business? What happened to the profits from that last shoot? What is going on here? Where has all the money gone?"

My husband and I spent many of sleepless nights doing research and talking about this very topic. And overwhelmingly I kept running into the same blindingly bright truth. If I want to make a living on this business and be serious about it then I have to start charging serious prices. Period.

Lets consider that 8x10 ... (If you are an aspiring photographer that wants to make a go at this business the I suggest you bust out your pen & paper pad ... this is important

I found a posting on a blog called The Photo Forum, and it was the shortest and clearest explanation I can share with ya ... I'm paraphrasing a bit here but the posting goes on to say that the place to start is first to consult your business plan, figure out what your costs are. What does it cost to do a session? (We already went over that earlier in my post)  Including wear at tear on gear, web hosting, labor, including yours. Then figure out your cost to produce the products, Let's use a standard 8x10 print for example.

1/2 hr retouching @ $40 hr $ 20.00 (If only I did pay myself $40 an hour!)
1 8x10 print from lab $ 2.00
Packaging for said print $ 3.00 (my pro lab charges more than double that but we'll just go with this for now)

So direct item costs perhaps $25.00. Now add in your fixed costs, phone, rent, electric, insurance, everything else, divide by the number of sales/session you expect to get a fixed cost of doing business per sale, let's say $16. Ok, so producing that 8x10 print for sale costs me $41, now add a typical retail profit, perhaps $20, so round it off to $60 ... hopefully more ...

Yes, you read that right ... $41. It's no wonder why I was still sinking money into the business every month if that $2 8x10 was COSTING me $41 each time ...

Like many of you readers I used to look at other photographers sites and see the much higher prices they were charging and I'd say to my self that they were crazy for charging so much for an 8x10 (some prices I have seen are in the mid-three digits). Why would they be gouging folks for a product that only cost $2.00? 

Well, now we all know that the $2 notion has been thrown out the window. I look at things now and think to myself how can I NOT charge more if I want to support my family? Heck, how about 
"How can I not charge more if I don't want to take away money from my own bank account every time I just give away a print?" because just looking at the math, that $20 8x10 was being GIVEN away and I was even PAYING my clients to take it form me! That's just crazy! No wonder my bank account keeps dwindling down!

If you are an aspiring photographer thinking that the $20 8x10 was a great deal, things are looking a little different right now aren't they? Suddenly that phrase " I can't believe you are practically giving your services away" is starting to ring true isn't it. Not only was I giving my business away (and then some) I was taking away from my family. Taking my time and their money away. Well, no more.

Sorry to have gotten on a tangent here and I apologize for being so long winded but I just needed to clarify a few things with my readers and loyal customers here. While I have loved working with each and everyone here and I have equally loved offering my services and prints at what I thought was fair and profitable prices I felt that it was only fair to you all to explain the upcoming pricing changes that will be included with my new web page launch. It is my strongest desire to be a serious full time photographer again and quit my J-o-b in the near future but with that goal some serious changes must happen too. There will be some noticeable changes in my pricing structures for sure but you know one thing that wont change? My quality of work and my wonderful customer service. Sure, I might be pricing myself out of the marked for some clients and I'm sorry for that, but for those others that truly value quality and want heirloom quality images that will be passed on from generation to generations (can't say the same about that $2000 sofa can ya?) I will be here with camera in hand, ready to make you and your family look fabulous!

So until then, keep you eyes peeled for that new website and I can't wait to shoot you soon!!

Hugs, E.