For many, photography is more than just a craft—it’s a career and a business. There's so much time and effort that goes into every photography project, especially when using film, so as a pro you need to consider the financial aspect of what you do. And bottom line, if you succeed in your business then we succeed in ours—so Richard is here to help! If you have an inkling that it's time for you to raise your rates, here are five things you need to ask yourself...
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME I RAISED MY PRICES?
This one is a no-brainer: if you haven't raised your prices in the last year, then you are at bare minimum not keeping up with inflation. Which means you are getting paid less for the same work you were doing a year ago. And let's face it, inflation was way higher in 2021 than in recent years.
Meanwhile, you are probably paying more for the supplies and services you depend on to keep your photography business running.
HAVE I INVESTED IN MY CRAFT?
Did you buy new gear to create better, or entirely new types of, images? Did you pay for classes/workshops to learn how to improve your art or to better your clients' experience? Did you rifle through print products with a fine-tooth comb at a tradeshow to upgrade your offerings? If you invested in any way in making your art, your business, or your clients' experience better, then you should charge more than you did before because you are offering more value. This is especially easy to do if you have photos to back it up and market your services with.
Don't forget, all that photography equipment requires upkeep, too. Weatherproofing and maintaining your tools such as lighting, tripods, lenses, etc. takes time and money. These things are an investment, and you should not only know how much your equipment and supplies cost to own, but your rates should cover those costs—because the quality of your work depends to some degree on your gear being in the best condition.
AM I PRICED FOR MY "IDEAL CLIENT"?
Competitive pricing is important, but that doesn't mean lower prices (and lower prices might not always be the solution to getting more bookings). If you are, for example, aiming to shoot for luxury clients or travel to exotic locations, then your pricing (and branding) should reflect that you will live up to their high expectations, will provide a superior product and experience, and are worth the cost. People get what they pay for, and your pricing is an indicator of the level of services and value you provide when you capture their once-in-a-lifetime moments.
Concerned about your "regular clients" not being too keen on a price change? Developing good rapport with these people is essential, especially for those who have been there since the beginning. However, through the years, many things will have changed. The prices of your supplies and equipment have increased as the years passed. Your skills and knowledge have also improved from when you began. Clients who respect and appreciate your work will understand reasonable changes in your rates. You can prepare your old clients for the change by informing them in advance.
AM I TURNING DOWN JOBS BECAUSE I AM SO OVERBOOKED?
Supply and demand, baby! If you are getting so many inquiries and bookings that you don't know how to handle them all, it's absolutely time to raise your prices. This will not only mean that you don't have to take as many jobs to make the same amount of money, but you'll probably save yourself some time by avoiding any back-and-forth with more price-conscience clients by weeding them out to begin with.
This is also a great way to figure out your personal boundaries for what you kind of jobs you will or won't take. And by that we mean, if you are tired of shooting a certain type of event, a certain type of client, or at a certain location, but you continue to get inquiries to do just that... keep raising your prices for that thing. Then you'll see if people are willing to pay you enough to make it worth it again.
Image by Blenda Montoro
CAN I EASILY EXPAND MY PHOTO PACKAGES?
If you're feeling like you should raise your prices, but you're having a hard time justifying why, the answer is simple: add value with something easy. Finding a few small things to add to your photo packages that you can get a high profit margin from are a super fast and simple way to get paid more at every job.
Adding prints, like proof prints or a single fine art print, as a standard part of your package provides your client with a tangible deliverable that they can easily correlate to a higher price. It can also be the perfect segway to a conversation about buying even more prints (which means more profit). Or, try adding a little extra time/availability that makes someone feel like they're getting the special treatment when they choose you as their photographer—that feeling can be worth a lot to a potential client! This could be something like a 20-minute pre-shoot Zoom call to "coach" them on posing for their big day, or it could be promising a portion of time of their session to a distinct type of photo or location.
Always remember that the work you do matters. If you’re overbooked, overworked, and underpaid, it's about time to consider raising your prices. Photography can be a fulfilling career if you can earn and provide for your own needs while still truly enjoying what you do. After you've considered these five factors, we hope that you'll be able to come up with the right rates that will cover what you need—and help you achieve your longterm life goals.