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 ...
"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!