The Price of Prints: Part 1: Pricing Practices & Motivating Buyers

The Price of Prints: Part 1: Pricing Practices & Motivating Buyers

“It depends.”

That’s the very unsatisfying answer I always give to photographers after they ask me how much they should be charging for prints.

The truth is, every photographer is different. They each serve different markets, offer different products and services, and have different costs of doing business. As a result, the prices that a photographer should charge will vary.

Unfortunately, there’s no central print pricing database to tap into, so photographers are left having to figure this out for themselves. One very effective method is to ask other photographers how they figured it out, and use this as a rough guide.

To make this easier, I thought I would ask some photographers to reveal their secrets. Using PhotoShelter sales data, I made a list of photographers who are successful at selling prints – then asked them a series of questions.

The response was incredible. A majority of these photographers were willing to supply honest answers about their pricing and marketing strategies. I got so much useful information I decided to create a 4-part series, called “The Price of Prints.”

jill-gately-2.jpg

This wedding image, shot by photographer Jill Gately, is one of her best-selling prints.

Part 1: Pricing Practices & Motivating Buyers

Introducing my panel of photographers:

MARTIN DIGGS
A photojournalistic portrait and fine art architecture photographer based in the Kansas City-area. The bulk of his business comes via word-of-mouth, and his use of Facebook makes the personal referral process much easier.

TODD BISSONETTE
A full-time independent photographer for the past 7 years, he specializes in sports, weddings, portraits, and commercial work for smaller-sized companies. He has found that there is a potential for print sales from almost any assignment.

KRYSTLE MARCELLUS
After working as a photojournalist in Philadelphia for about 6 years, she moved her business to Maui, Hawaii, specializing mainly in freelance commercial work, documentary, portraiture, and sports. In Hawaii, she has branched out into other types of assignments, while bringing a photojournalist-style to everything she shoots.

PATRICK McDERMOTT
A professional photographer based in Los Angeles, California. For the past 4 years, he has been balancing assignment work while pursuing a degree in photojournalism. He specializes in sports and wedding photography, but his true passion is in documentary photography that focuses on the environment. Currently, he is spending four months in Asia working on self-assigned projects.

ROBERT FALCETTI
Working as a professional photographer for the past 23 years, starting with a daily newspaper in Florida when he was a senior in high school. Today, he’s based in Connecticut, half-way between New York City and Boston. His work mainly consists of both editorial and advertising assignments.

ERIC WILHOIT
A photographer based in Greenville, Tennessee — a small town about an hour east of Knoxville. He has been working as a photographer for almost 20 years, specializing in a wide array of subjects, including weddings, engagements, babies & children, sports, family portraits, dance, church directory photography and even pets.

PETER CARROLL
A photographer based in Alice Springs, Central Australia, has been working for 3 years as a photographer. He classifies himself as a “generalist” photographer, with an interest in landscape, concerts, festivals, documentary, and photojournalism. However, he doesn’t do weddings. :-)

JILL GATELY
A photographer based in Baltimore, Maryland, has been running her own business for the past 5 years. She spends most of her time shooting weddings, families, children, corporate events, on-location lifestyle sessions and some studio work.

STEVE McLAUGHLIN
A professional photographer based in Middletown, Connecticut. He accepts assignments and clients from all over New England and New York. Most of his work is sports-related, and he works freelance for several newspapers, colleges and universities. Most recently, he’s been busy shooting commercial assignments, portraits, basketball games, and even some one-on-one DSLR teaching.

KEN CHARNOCK
A freelance photographer based outside of Charlotte, North Carolina since 1989. The majority of his print sales come primarily from shooting sports, teams, and action photography – including youth/middle school/high school sports.

MATT CASHORE
A photographer based in South Bend, Indiana. He is primarily employed as the University photographer at Notre Dame but also does some freelance work. As the University’s photographer he shoots a variety of subjects, including editorial work, landscapes of campus, events, portraiture, sports, and some video work.

MIRANDA PARKER
A wedding and portrait photographer based in Alma, Michigan. She is a self-taught photographer who got her first dSLR in October 2008. She studied online, scouring the internet for as much information as she could find, and have been in business since July 2009.

BENJAMIN COOK
Is a fine art and editorial photographer based in South Carolina. He has worked as a staff photographer at a studio; as a wedding photographer; worked freelance and now considers himself to be “a hobbyist that is lucky enough to sell a few photos.”

JON van WOERDEN
A travel, sports, and commercial studio product photographer based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. His sport work is primarily motorsports and international soccer, motorsports event photography (shooting car club rallies, concours & track driving events.) His print sales customers are generally car club participants and motorsport enthusiasts who purchase images of their cars at events.

Question #1:
How did you come up with your print prices? What factors influence the price of a print?


MARTIN DIGGS

The only factor for me, right now is being reasonable. I want people to have the images I have created. I have to make a living, so I make sure I get a little something out of the print prices, but my strategy has always been to charge higher rates for the session and my time than for prints. What good are shots I have shot of your kids, if you can buy them all. Sell the prints and get grandma and grandpa to get some as well.

TODD BISSONETTE

I have tried many ways of figuring out print prices. I think the best thing is to try and know your clients, what they will be looking for, and how much it is worth to them. With more and more people showing up at events and taking there own pics, you have to show them that you can offer something different than they can produce, but I also think they are beginning to understand that they may have to pay a premium for it.

Some factors that influence the price are; Is the base of customers for the event repeat, or will this be the only event they might see from you. For instance, I shoot a lot of events that my kids are involved in, so it is the same potential clients each time. I may price these images less, because they will be repeat customers, and also because they know there will be more down the road. If the prices are not economical enough, they will just wait until they see that one great shot that they want.

KRYSTLE MARCELLUS

I use different print pricing profiles depending on the event that I am selling. For the action sports photos that I am currently selling I had to put a lot of factors. I had to research what the photographer the year prior had charged for prints, factor in how much time I was going to put into it and then factor in how much my cost would be.

So the previous photographer sold 4×6 prints for $5. Many customers told me that this is what they were willing to pay which worked out because it is a bread and butter print size that has very little cost and brings people to my site. Once at the site, I hope that people will purchase enlargements. I have found that many will just by bulk of 4x6s, but either way they are at the site and making purchases.

Now say I was working with a wedding client, it would totally depend on what contract I worked out with them. I often take a flat rate and offer mid resolution downloads as part of a package.

I also refer to John Harrington’s books when working with bigger clients. I first heard his business class about 6 years ago at an NPPA Northern Short Course and have attended, his same class over and over again because as I improve and my business grows, I learn new things from him. He is a guru of business.

PATRICK McDERMOTT

Prices… Before switching to PhotoShelter for my wedding photography I had used Pictage to fulfill my print orders. Based off the average prices for the Los Angeles wedding market and the ones I had used on Pictage, I came up with my wedding print prices. Not to high but not to low either.

ROBERT FALCETTI

My prices are all over the place. I’m trying to standardize them now, but it really depends on who my client is and what their perception of selling prints is. Most of my print sales are because it is a value added item I offer to them.

As far as setting pricing, I try to ask a lot of questions of other photographers in my market and get a feel for what others are charging and what the market rate is. I’m speaking only for myself here, but I don’t think there is a perfect solution. I have to many variables across my client base to have one-size fits all price. I do have minimums for general print sales from my archive, but those prices are not for every client. I don’t rely on print sales and prices as part of my overall business strategy for my bottom line like some photographers do. If I did, I would base my prices on how much time I averaged on toning each image, etc., etc.

But there it’s all-relative as well. I may value my computer toning time at $200 hour where someone else may feel it’s worth more or less. If you used my calculations, we would all have different price points. That’s why it’s important to talk to your peers. Share the information. It can only help us all. I’ll start. I get $35 for an 8×10. Is this the right price? Who the heck knows. It is for some and for others it is to much. I’m still playing with formulas but I’ll repeat this I know, for my clients and me, one size doesn’t fill all.

ERIC WILHOIT

My print prices have been a work in progress over about 5 years to get to where I am now. I think the prices I charge are average to high end but by no means the most expensive option in the area. My decision came after some clients of mine, that had used other photographers, told me what they had to pay. After that comment I ask them how my work compared to my competition and they said my work was just as good if not better than the highest end photographer charging nearly 3 times my price. After several random customers told me the same thing I started to change my business structure and pricing.

PETER CARROLL

I find pricing the most difficult aspect. A few factors lead to pricing. Part of it is you must value your work for it to be valued by others. I have also researched pros who have many years experience with comparable work. Rightly or wrongly I factor in my time in the profession, but it mostly comes down to demand. It is a juggle and pricing will change until I find the right balance. I am new at this.

JILL GATELY

I tend to be even with the industry standard. Although some photographers charge double my print prices, some photographers also charge half of what I charge. So I am definitely average.

STEVE McLAUGHLIN

I surveyed the competition and looked at what some of the big time event shooting companies where charging and then took a step back and tried to determine what was fair. I’m still a little fuzzy on why a 4×6 is $5 and a 5×7 is $10. So I tried to price by the square inch but then a 20×30 came out to $126. So, I started at $5 for a 4×6 and went up from there. These are print prices for personal use prints.

Rights managed images are a whole different story. The Rights-Managed calculation method is one of the best features on PhotoShelter. Although I’ve never ended up charging the suggested price but it’s a great place to start.

KEN CHARNOCK

Prices for prints are a bit fluid, meaning they do change over time. The prices are based on several factors (printing cost, local competition, and business overhead). I typically do not have much direct local competition, I try to eliminate as much as I can by what and how I shoot and what products I offer.

MATT CASHORE

Sorry, not very creative here–some accounting and management types at Notre Dame made a spreadsheet with wholesale costs and a desired profit margin and came up with prices from that. Roughly, it’s based on $40 per square foot. For my personal sales I use that as a rough baseline but might adjust pricing if it’s a custom order or a batch of signed prints or a large quantity.

MIRANDA PARKER

Before setting my print prices, I researched other area photographer’s prices. I wanted to be comparable for the area I live in. As I grow in my knowledge and talent, my prices have risen.

BENJAMIN COOK

My print prices are based on what I would pay for a digital download or print that was available or marketed broadly, where exclusivity was not factored into the price.

JON van WOERDEN

It’s tough in this economy, but in general I strive to meet the prices most track and event photographers offer with their onsite services. One of the major factors influencing print pricing is that if the most customers are just looking for a few memorable images for an office wall or brag book and you don’t want to drive them away with elevated prices for the smaller prints, but if an image is considered worthy of a large print or canvas wrap the sale price should reflect its value to the customer. “That shot is awesome, so I really want to show it off… big!”

matt-cashore.jpg

This image, an aerial shot of the Notre Dame campus, is one of Matt Cashore’s best-selling prints. Cashore is a staff photographer for the university.

Question #2:
What strategies or incentives do you use to motivate customers to buy prints?

MARTIN DIGGS

If someone has taken a while to order prints, I will let their gallery expire. I will contact them and tell it has expired and tell them I need the space back for other customers.

I have also started using the coupons that are offered on the site and plan to use them a lot more next year. If I want to get people to order $100 in prints I can drop a coupon for 15% off or a free 11×14 with a $100 minimum order. It’s so easy.

TODD BISSONETTE

I have started using the coupon option of PhotoShelter and have found that can really boost sales. If you offer a short term coupon for a percentage off, it will entice people to go look at the galleries, and also get them to purchase quicker.

Example, I have been the official photographer for a local production of the Nutcracker for five years as my daughter performs in it. I have offered images for sale every year with very little sales. This year I offered a limited time 15% discount on photos from this year as well as the previous ones and have grossed over $1000 in print sales!

KRYSTLE MARCELLUS

Making initial connections with customers is important for driving them to your site. I give out a lot of flyers with my site to initially get people online and looking. Working in Maui is a challenge because this is not a computer friendly community. So it has been a challenge getting people to initially get to the site.

Once they have signed up, it is much easier to encourage a sale. I make use of the coupon codes. I give those who buy prints a coupon code that would be good for a month or two out from when they made their original purchase.

Also, once my customers have signed up in a cart, I send everyone a welcome letter. And if they have not purchased but have items in their cart after about a week, I will send a coupon for something like 10% off or $5 off $30. Something to get them to make the final order. I am still experimenting with what promotions are the most successful.

PATRICK McDERMOTT

As a wedding photographer, I make sure to post the photographs online as soon as possible after the wedding. I have found that sales increase the sooner the photographs go live after a wedding. Other than that I make sure the photographs I post are the best possible ones.

ROBERT FALCETTI

Value Added – Because my pricing is client specific and because my business is not based on print sales alone, I can do whatever I want with them. Print sales were not even an option for me two years ago. Well, they were, but it was such a hassle, I didn’t want the bother. Neither did my clients for the most part. That is why one of the strategies I have used is to offer it as a value added service to my clients. They don’t have to deal with the aggravation of prints. I deal with it for them. It’s easy to create a separate gallery, set the price, send an e-mail and see if you get a few dollars deposited. Ok, it’s a little more involved than that-but not much. It doesn’t cost me anymore because 99% of my clients get their pictures directly off my PhotoShelter archive now anyway so they are already uploaded, captioned and waiting. I have a billing solution in place for that service so any print sale is just bonus.

Coupons- Wow. Genius thing. I should have figured this out and offered these earlier. I love discounts. Other people do to. I just recently did a fundraiser type thing. I wasn’t expecting a whole lot out of it except some goodwill for my business. Anyway, I decided to offer a coupon for 10% off if people went to my Facebook fan page, became a fan and then sent me an e-mail. Once I got their e-mail, I sent them the coupon code.

Wow. What a response. I think my largest single day of print sales was something like $450.00. Not bad. I had hoped to basically break even on the event, and truly didn’t know what to expect from my little idea for the Facebook offering. I figured it was a good way to get people to view my work and grow my social media presence.

Now, are these folks possible future customers? Sure. Even though I don’t run a traditional portrait studio, I have now exposed them to my other work and they may be interested in a print. Even if they don’t order a single thing from me, there is a very good chance they will look around my site, click on some images, get me some page views for my SEO and maybe, just maybe, link my site to a webpage or share their gallery.

These were all public galleries but not viewed on my website publicly by the way. Images and galleries were keyworded to try to maximize any SEO up-tick I might get. Think marketing as well as print sale. At least if you only can muster a 5×7 print sale at least you got a few clicks out of it.

ERIC WILHOIT

Most of my customers are chomping at the bits to order because when I am taking the photographs I show them some of my favorites while they are there. In my opinion this peaks their interest enough to help the ordering process along. This doesn’t help with all customers so about every quarter I run a special giving my clients a percentage discount that runs for a 2 to 3 week period. I have been amazed of how many clients jump on this just for the little discount they are saving.

PETER CARROLL

I am not a salesman that is for sure. Apart from following up with emails to everyone who signs up on the site I do very little. I offer discounts for multiple buys. I like to assure any enquiries that I am involved with the process the entire way to ensure quality.

JILL GATELY

After a photo session and the client pays the sitting fee, they have two choices on how to get the most from their images.

They can a) buy the cd of all the hi-res images a la carte, or b) order enough prints to warrant getting the cd.

For example they can buy the cd of the images for $400 (hypothetical figure, it’s based on the type of session) or if they order $500 worth of prints I will include the cd with their order). Most clients go with option b.

STEVE McLAUGHLIN

Ok, here’s thing. I don’t have any strategies or incentives other than creating images that parents can’t. Quality is my strategy. And creating demand is my motivator. I don’t really market or advertise so the second half of this exercise is going to be a challenge.

KEN CHARNOCK

I’m embarrassed to say, not much. I rely more on the event and my images.

MATT CASHORE

95% of my sales are to people who are connected in some way to Notre Dame–students, alumni, parents of students, faculty & staff looking to decorate their offices.

ND alumni are very widely scattered all over the country and the world and they don’t get to see campus as much as they’d like so they enjoy having nice photos of campus to remind them of special places and times. There’s a built-in demand–we didn’t have to talk people into wanting images of Notre Dame! The challenge was getting the pictures in front of people and getting the word out that we had a website to view and purchase photos.

Recently we’ve been better about embedding slideshows on websites, in electronic newsletters and Facebook and print sales have really spiked. The ease of turning galleries into embedded slideshows has been a big help.

MIRANDA PARKER

I offer discounted prices for buying more than one print of the same pose. For example, 1 4×6 print costs $10, but 4 4×6’s of the same pose, costs $30. I am able to upsell this way and my customer is saving some money.

BENJAMIN COOK

I market my website in places where I know my work is appreciated from past experience. As well, I use PhotoShelter’s “Coupon” feature to motivate the customer from browser to buyer.

JON van WOERDEN

I’m lucky on this one, as I prearrange the availability of prints and digital files with the car club offering them a selection for their use, for which they provide a bulk mail reminder to the participants upon my uploading of the completed galleries. I also utilize the club’s Facebook presence and in the future I plan to increase the galleries exposure with additional blogs and Twitter posts.

krystle-marcellus.jpg
This image, taken from a youth football game, is a best-selling print from photographer Krystle Marcellus.

Do you have print pricing-related tips to add to this post? Please add them using the comments area below.

“The Price of Prints” Series:
The Price of Prints: Part 1: Pricing Practices & Motivating Buyers

The Price of Prints: Part 2: How To Avoid Pricing Yourself Out Of Business

The Price of Prints: Part 3: 14 Ways To Increase Print Sales

The Price of Prints: Part 4: Advice From Expert Printers



PhotoShelter recently launched the new Print Vendor Network. Now PhotoShelter photographers may sell prints and products via their websites while handling fulfillment through any participating print vendor, anywhere in the world (in addition to our 4 large fully automated print vendors.) It’s free for printers to join the network too, so photographers may invite their favorite printer anytime.       



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There are 9 comments for this article
  1. Jeff Colburn at 2:55 pm

    Pricing is tricky. I researched the local photographers and set my prices accordingly. For a print, it’s $50 for an 8.5×11 and $100 or a 13×19. I also sell prints in a local gallery, both matted and framed. These prices are higher due to the framing. I plan on going into another gallery soon. It’s more upscale, so I expect all of my prices to at least double, and possibly triple. I can’t be too much higher or lower than the other photographers in the gallery. I also offer Gift Certificates so that people can give my images as prints, without worrying about which image to select. Have Fun, Jeff

  2. Natasha at 7:28 pm

    Pricing really is a hard thing these days for photographers. I have a hard time in the studio when someone is thinking that they are just buying the photograph…. So Ive spent more time developing the whole experience they share with me from beginning to end so that they realise that I dont just point and click. I put real work into it. With events they get standard pricing £5 for 6×4 is fair and they get a beautiful memory to take away. Natasha

  3. abu dubai photographer at 6:55 pm

    I’ve been a photographer for years and I have to say that I’ve been struggling with the pricing of my photographs for the entire time that I’ve been a photographer. It’s interesting to know that I’m not the only one that has difficulties with this. Araman

  4. Benny at 11:35 am

    Yes price is always hard. So many photographers are under bidding driving photo prices down. I now try to offer instant onsite printing photos at events to try to sell better.

  5. Marko Susla at 10:57 am

    I would be interested in hearing thoughts from established Fine Art photographers that have relationships with galleries or galley representation. I currently print giclee’s for gallery exhibits using a Master Printer who specializes in Fine Art Printing for museums, galleries and artists. My cost for a print is higher then what many people are selling their prints for at retail. This does not even consider framing which I do to archival standard.

  6. Jon at 11:21 am

    I feel very strongly that the price of print should never be less than the price to display it. So if a typical frame job, with a nice mat and glare free glass, etc is $500, your prints should be sold for no less than that price. In a perfect world, the art would be more than twice the cost of framing, but we sure don’t live in a perfect world. Artists for the most part do tend to not take as firm a stand on price for their work as they should… we have control, let’s not screw each other!

  7. Alicia Gines at 4:34 am

    Pricing hasn’t been an issue for me as far as “making ends meet” so to speak, but really a means of “getting to know WHAT I was worth” as professional photograph. I went into the industry with the love for doing it and not to on making income and that has proven to be my best friend! I’ve been in business professionally for three years and each year I triple my profits. So, in my opinion, pricing should be based on WHAT YOU THINK YOU ARE WORTH. I agree with a couple previous posts. Do NOT under sell art. Hope this inspires somebody and helps. :o)

  8. Dallas at 6:06 pm

    I just started reading this & it is BY FAR the most honest & accurate discussion I’ve read (started) since I moved into the pro ranks in 2007.

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