Christopher D. Thompson is an action, travel, and studio photographer…
Most photographers selling prints today are pricing themselves out of business. This is because they are unaware of the important factors that influence the price that they should be charging for their prints.
For this, the second of four installments of the “The Price of Prints”, I interviewed Dean Oros, a full-time professional photographer based in Toronto, Canada who is successful at pricing and selling prints.
In October 2006, he left a 17-year career in television & film to pursue photography. Today, his mix is approximately 70% consumer photography (fine-art weddings, children and family portraits) and 30% business photography.
“The majority of my consumer clients are young, urban, creative,” he said. “Business clients tend to be small to medium size business. Though I also do a fair amount of work with health-related businesses and some financial institutions.”
Oros is interested in providing high quality products, and personally prints many of his orders. However, he also uses a select few labs for large format and specialty products. He takes the pricing and sales aspect of prints as seriously as he takes the creation of the print itself.
“I could write a book on pricing,” he said.
Oros is not the kind of photographer who pulls his prices out of thin air, relying exclusively on “gut feel.” Instead, he figures out his cost of doing business, and uses this as his starting point.
How did you come up with your print prices? What factors influence the price of a print?
I feel that pricing of print products is something that needs to be carefully thought through. This goes for pricing of photography services while we’re on the subject of pricing, as the two can often go hand-in-hand. In any saturated market, I think many photographers do themselves and the photography industry a huge dis-service by trying to compete on price on their services and their print products. The only possible winner is the consumer, but only in the short term because many photographers / studios cannot sustain a profitable business with this approach. Customer service and the final product will begin to suffer on the way to going out of business.
A common saying is “I can only charge what the market will bear”. This is not accurate. It’s important to have a range of print offerings, that can meet the wants, needs and desires of the different demographics in the market one serves. If you’re a studio striving to reach a higher-end client you are not going to reach them by competing on photography pricing or print pricing. Each demographic needs to be marketed to differently.
I also believe success in selling prints of one’s photography is based on how you think about your photography, and how that translates into the marketing and selling of the resulting prints. You must have the quality of image that will justify a highly priced print, and the right client. And, you have to be realistic about the image quality you’re creating. If your approach is creating an image that is good vs. creating an image that will be viewed as a piece of art by a prospective or existing client, you can’t tack on a high price.
There are a few factors that influence the price of our prints:
1. Always, our cost of doing business.
2. Proof or a polished image.
3. Media: type of paper, canvas, greeting card etc.
4. Type of photo session / event that was the cause of the image to be produced in the first place. Or, for example, is it a stock image we created at our expense where we offer generic prints, or a limited edition fine art print.
5. We often do not include high-res digital files (for consumer clients). Unless they’re well-versed in color profiles, etc., most consumers will take those digital files to a local consumer lab to have inexpensive prints made which they in turn will share with their friends and family. Your image will never look as you intended by doing this. Handling the printing yourself will ensure you have control over the print process, and will ensure your client receives the best quality for the type of print they’ve ordered.
Images that come from personal photo session assignments are the ones most likely to be printed for a client. But what about self-assigned personal projects?
“What I typically do is shoot just for me,” Oros said. “If I create an image that makes me feel good and I want to share it, I’ll offer it for sale.”
Oros also likes to teach his clients about the process, and value assigned to his photography. He finds that this kind of guidance helps clients in their decision-making process.
“Educate yourself and your clients about the differences in printing,” he said. “Explain the differences in photographic papers, framing etc. Clients want to make educated buying decisions.”
Oros also maintains a blog with many great motivational articles about photography and the photo business. One such inspirational post is titled “I have many to thank,” which was written after a client asked him why he is a photographer.
The Price of Prints: Part 3: 14 Ways To Increase Print Sales
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.