Jody MacDonald calls herself a documentary and sports photographer, but she's…
The key to any successful business is understanding how much you need to make in order to stay in business, and what your ideal client is willing to pay. So when it comes to pricing, many portrait photographers will tell you right off the bat that there’s a sweet spot – and the only way to find it is to experiment with new clients and adjust your prices accordingly.
For better or worse, sales are really contingent on how comfortable you are being a salesperson. If you’re offering portrait sessions with print packages, for example, you’ll need to consider what your clients are likely wanting as the final product – and then sell them on it. Are you serving families who want printed canvases? A married couple that wants an album? A graduating senior who needs wallet prints to send to 150 relatives and friends? Research what like-minded photographers are offering, and then build a sales pitch. How do you convince prospective clients that they want what you’re selling?
Jennifer Chaney, San Francisco-based family portrait photographer, also happens to have a background in finance so she often helps fellow portrait photographers figure out their pricing structures. She typically recommends one of three options for portrait photography pricing sessions:
- Session Fee with a la carte pricing or packages
- Session fee, all digital
- Packages only (one or three)
Let’s break these down:
Creating a session fee-
If you’re setting a new pricing structure, consider starting out with a basic session fee. This should be determined by what you need to make per hour to stay in business. Also take into account what your target client can realistically pay. When deciding this fee, you should factor in travel, number of subjects you’ll be working with, and time spent back in the office preparing and delivering files.
As you might have noticed already, these numbers can be all over the board. Some photographers charge $50 an hour with a budget for five hours ($250 for the basic session, no prints or files included). Others charge anywhere from $500 to $5000 for their sessions.
“In general, to figure out what to charge, you should look at what comparable photographers are charging around you. You don’t want to be too high or too low. Once you start booking people and making money, you can then slowly adjust by incrementally increasing the session fee or product prices”, says Jennifer.
Session fee, all digital-
This is often a favorite because there’s no pressure to sell a product later on. This package includes your session, plus image processing and all images delivered in a disc or via a private gallery (downloadable online).
Start with the basic session fee plus a variety of “extras” like prints, albums or canvases. When building a package you need to understand what it is your client will want and offer them a variety of packages with products that make sense for them. Is it a family that will likely want canvases? Or is a couple who will want an album but no prints because they’d prefer to print on their own? You need to think through how your clients plan to consume your photography and offer packages that reflect those needs.
Jennifer recommends creating three distinct, tiered packages that include a mixture of the above (session plus digital files and one enlargement, the session plus digital files and a series of prints, an album and a series of canvases, etc.). Your goal however, is for a majority of your clients to purchase your mid-priced package, as that one should accommodate most clients’ needs.
Overall, people buy on emotion, so while they’re salivating to purchase that beautiful portrait of their adorable baby, if you aren’t excited about it, too, it’s going to show. Jennifer only sells what she personally would display in her home. If you offer only what you love, sales will become effortless because you can easily become excited about it. And, your clients pick up on that.
For more great tips from portrait photographers who have created successful pricing structures, check out our free guide, Growing Your Portrait Photography Business. It’s 31-pages packed with do’s and don’ts on how to target a new audience and showcase your unique brand.