For our recent guide, How to Grow A Wedding Photography Business in partnership with Tamron – we spoke to Bryan Caporicci, an award-winning wedding and portrait photographer based out of Fonthill, Canada. He had had no photography experience when he started doing computer work for another photographer more than nine years ago, but he saw a business opportunity, and took it—but then he had to learn how to shoot. Now he excels at both and is the author of the ebook Pricing for Profit and founder of Sprouting Photographer, an educational website and podcast that educates photographers about the business side of being creative.
As a new wedding photographer, how do you begin to de￼velop a pricing system?
There are a bunch of factors that will contribute to where your price should be as photographer. There are subjective considerations and objective considerations. The subjective ones are items like confidence and the quality of work that you’re producing, your perceived value in the marketplace, what your competition charges and what your local market will bear.
There’s no subjective way to price your photography. Those are good things to consider, but none of those give any kind of starting point. So I suggest starting with an objective measurement of your cost of goods. From there you can influence that price with those other factors. It’s a matter of adding up what goes into a particular product or service then marking it up to allow room for your overhead and your ongoing expenses and some profit in your business.
A lot of photographers will say, “My 8×10 cost, $2 for my lab and I put some on packaging, so maybe it’s a $5 cost. I’ll multiply that by 3, and therefore my print price is $15.” The problem is that they don’t factor for their time. If you’re pricing an 8×10, you should calculate every single minute that goes into that 8×10 print.
The practice that I teach is literally to record what goes into every single product and service that you do on a piece of paper. If it’s an 8×10 print, you say, “Okay, I spent 5 minutes retouching. I spent 2 minutes ordering it from my lab. I spend 3 minutes getting it back from my lab and packaging it up. I spend 10 minutes with my client when they pick it up.” Let’s say that adds up to be 30 minutes. Then you have to put a price on your time. That’s challenging for a lot of photographers because we’re close to our art. It’s a creative pursuit and so we don’t really like to charge for our time, but, unfortunately, if you want to be sustainable and if you want to run a career and a photography business that’s profitable and able to allow you to make a living, you have to be paid for your time.
The best way to do that is to look at the bigger picture and say, How much do I want to make per year? What would I pay myself if I were an employee of my own company? Let’s say you come up with $60,000 as an annual salary. Then you have to then extrapolate that $60,000 to a per-hour wage. Divide it by 52 weeks, and divide that by 40 hours in a week, and you’ll get your per-hour wage. This example translates to just under $30 an hour.
If we go back to the 8×10 example, that means that your cost for your time is about $15. From there you add what the actual material goods cost you. How much is the print? What is the shipping from your lab? How much packaging do you use? In this 8×10 example, let’s say it adds up to be $25. Now, you have to consider marking up the product because we have other expenses. We need a profit margin to actually pay for those things.
How do you figure the profit margin?
A good industry standard that is something that the Professional Photographers of America came up with in their benchmark survey—a 2.85 markup factor. Figure out what that cost of goods is, multiply by 2.85 and that gives you a good, profitable and measurable number that will allow you to pay yourself, pay for your cost and cover all your overhead and expenses and have enough room for profit in your company.
That’s the short version of pricing for profit. This is where, whenever I’m teaching this or if I’m in a podcast or whatever, someone would say, “Okay, so looking at these calculations based on a $25.00 8×10 cost, that means that my price should be $71.25.” Many photographers would balk at the idea of charging close to $75.00 for an 8×10 print, although I don’t think that should be the case. I think that’s a reasonable price for it. For newer photographers that’s very scary.
This gives you a starting point. I’m not saying this is where you have to end up. From there you can use the other factors—quality, perceived value, confidence, what the mar- ket will bear, competition—and you can fudge that number up or down depending on where you are in those different categories.
How do you suggest structuring wedding packages?
I suggest having a couple of different packages. It always makes sense to have a bare minimum package, but you need to price that and present it in a way that you under- stand that you may have people booking and buying that package.
I think this is where a lot of photographers will fall apart because they’ll have their low-ball package, and then they’ll get upset when somebody actually books that package. There are strategies that we can use to steer people away from it, but there will still be some people that will buy that package.
For most photographers, the base package should be something like 7 to 8 hours of coverage, digital files delivered, either on a CD or USB key or via download, and an engagement session. That’s what every couple’s going to want.
That’s sort of a bare minimum. Figure out whatever you’re comfortable with. What’s the least amount of coverage you want to do on a wedding day? What’s the least amount of other items that you want to include for a package? Walk through the process of pricing for profit to calculate your cost on that, and then associate a price with that. As you go up in the packages, you can start to include things like extra time, products from the engagement session, print credits or canvases or albums or books.
How many packages or tiers of packages do you find works for clients to choose from?
You should ultimately have three or four packages with varying amounts of items and times and additions. There’s a reason that we have good, better, best in terms of psychology for packages. The only time that I would say not to have three would be if you wanted to have a fourth whopper package. Basically it’s everything and the moon. The whole point of that is not necessarily to have a package that people would book, but to have a package that anchors the price at a high price point so it makes your other packages look much more affordable.
When you’re walking a couple through prices, if you were to say, I’ve got a $2,000 option, a $3,500 option and a $6,000 option, they know your spread is from $2,000 to $6,000. If you instead present the whopper package first, and you include everything that they might ever possibly want and the price is $12,000, you’ve anchored the price in their mind at $12,000. They’re not going to book at $12,000, but now your $6,000 looks very, very reasonable.
￼Should photographers incorporate “freebies” into these packages or how do you get your customer to feel like they’re getting something extra? ￼
Anything that discounts your value or that could look like you’re trying to make a price exception does not do well for photographers, because photography is a luxury purchase. No matter how much we want to justify to ourselves that a client needs wedding photography from us, they could just have their uncle bring a camera to the wedding and that would be it.
We can’t be making the reason they book us be price, because there’s always going to be somebody who will beat you with that. Instead of offering freebies or discounts, I love the idea of having value-added services, or value-added products. The things that you can add into it to increase the value of a package or a product or a service, not to decrease the price of it, though.
You could say something like, if you purchase our main package at 8 hours of coverage, you could actually present that as 7 hours of coverage. Then, in the negotiations with the client, say, “I’ll tell you what, I’m going to add in an extra hour of coverage for you guys.” You’ve budgeted for it, so you’re not losing money, and the client feels like they have a little bit of a win.
You could also find little things that don’t cost you a lot to sweeten the pot. A little $10 gift card from Starbucks with your booking package would deliver a really nice feeling to the client and show them that you care. You could do little things like that here and there to sweeten the pot and give better service if you wanted to. I’d rather encourage photographers to consider value-added things as opposed to price lowering things.
How do you know when you’ve got your pricing right?
Like everything, there’s going to be a balance. If you book every client that contacts you, that either means that you’re making a really solid value proposition and you’re doing a great job, or it means that your prices are too low. I would say more often than not it’s the latter. If you’re not booking any clients that call you, that’s a sure sign that you’re too expensive. I’ve heard many stories of photographers that completely price themselves out of the market. You go through this process where you kind of get a little bit overly confident about things and you just jump your prices up like crazy, and all the sudden it’s crickets. That’s a dangerous place to be.
If you’re booking 25 to 35 percent of your inquiries, that’s a pretty good conversion rate, and an indication that you’re pretty much in line with where you should be in the market. That’s not to say that you don’t have room to increase your price, but when you increase your price, you have to then also increase you’re value proposition. You need to raise the quality of photography that you make by doing a better job with communicating, by improving your timelines, by marketing better, whatever that is.
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