July 21, 2022
When you start offering your photography services, you’re likely just going to be excited to get paid anything to do something you love. But as your photography business grows , you’ll need to start thinking about pricing so you make money on your time and effort. Plus, when you price yourself correctly, you attract the kind of clients you want to work with.
But how do you know what to charge?
When I set my pricing, I didn’t just do market research to see what other photographers in my area were charging. I looked at a few, but I also took into account things like my skill, my experience, the event and time commitment involved, and the experience I knew I crafted for each and every client.
Today, there are absolutely cheaper photography options in my market. There are also more expensive options. It wasn’t simply market research that brought me to this price point.
If you’re wondering how I got here and how you can craft your pricing strategy to keep yourself competitive while respecting your time and skills, keep reading (or watch the video below).
Your base price is the minimum amount that you’ll charge for your service, whether that’s a wedding day or a session. In the industry, we call this our “get out of bed” fee!
If you’re interested in learning more, I have two pieces of content that go really in depth on pricing and how to price yourself based on your specific market and business. The first is a podcast episode about photography pricing 101, and the second is my free pricing guide.
But here’s a quick overview to help you determine: your base price.
If you’re paying all your bills or just supplementing your income through photography, you need to know how much you have to make. If photography is more of a hobby for you and the pay isn’t going to make or break your bank account, that’s totally fine! You probably don’t need to know how much you have to make to pay all or some of your bills.
You’ll need to decide on how many photography projects you can take on, and what kind you want to book. How many weddings can you photograph? How many portrait sessions can you take on? What is your maximum capacity? Once you know this number, I want you to take your desired income and divide it by how many sessions you can take on. This equation will give you the base price you need to charge per session!
Like I said, this is the base number, but you may have other things to consider, like business expenses, assistant photographers to pay, travel expenses, etc. So let this be your base pay and build from there!
Now that I’ve decided upon my base price, I use a formula to then determine the exact quote I will be sending out to a client. Each quote I send out to a prospective client will include my base price and my base offering.
A base offering could be something like: 7 hours of photography, an assistant photographer, an online gallery, and a book. This base offer will have a price — my base price. But, in addition to this price, I know that there is a certain amount of work I need to do in order to make a client completely happy on a wedding day. I want to know that, if I’m showing up to photograph their wedding, I’m getting exactly the content I need. And after doing over 500 weddings in the last 10 years, I know that I need about 7 hours to create a solid wedding gallery of 700+ photos.
Then, beyond this formula, I have an a lá carte menu filled with everything I can provide for a client. This might include:
Any product or service I can provide a client is listed in this a lá cart menu. Depending on what exactly a client wants, I give them a discount for purchasing more. I think of it like going into the Apple Store — you don’t just walk in and buy a single computer. You buy an entire bundle, and the bigger the bundle, the bigger the savings.
So, the client who books my biggest offering with every product and service I provide will receive a greater discount than someone who books my base offering. I don’t actually list this discount (although you could), but when a client sees the offerings together, they can see that they save more by booking more.
Way back in the day, I just had one package and then my a lá carte menu. The issue with this was that clients were trying to save money by not adding on to their service. However, I truly believe that my extended offerings are providing far more value to my clients… which is why I have them! I want clients to have these things, but if I don’t list them out, a client doesn’t realize they can book them!
We all know that, when it comes to photography, it’s about more than just the photo session itself. There’s going to be a much greater time commitment than the 7-hour wedding day. It’s also about how long it takes you to get there, prep your gear, come home, back up your images… all of the things you need to do to give your client the best experience.
So when you’re thinking about your time, it’s important to take these things into consideration. You have X number of hours per month that you can work, and X number of jobs that you can take on. And when you’re taking on that 7-hour wedding job, it’s not only 7 hours. It’s probably closer to 40-60 hours to really complete the job.
That’s a lot of hours!
When you’re looking at your rates, you have to make sure that you’re taking every single hour into consideration to respect the value of your time while also giving yourself plenty of space to actually complete the job.
One of the hardest lessons I had to learn was that I needed to price out my photography in a way that allowed me to sustain the work. When I was undercharging and overworking, there wasn’t enough “me” to go around! It was a true story of supply and demand. There was only one of me, prior to my team, and I only wanted to work 40 hours per week. I had to get honest and realistic about how much I could actually do within that 40 hours to give my client an amazing experience without burning myself out.
Today, I have a pricing guide with 4 offerings included. I want to make sure that my clients have enough options to see the progression from base offering to top tier. Typically, people will fall in the middle. And sometimes, they won’t see an offering that fits their needs.
When this happens, I want to make sure I can create a custom offering for them. I realize that this can be overwhelming and confusing, so I wanted to give you my strategy for crafting custom offerings.
First, I NEVER discount my get out of bed fee. Secondly, I have a lá carte items that are discounted depending on how many items they’re adding.
So, you want to have these tiers and discounts mapped out. This way, when a client goes through and chooses from your services, you already know the price and discount to give them! It’s as simple as that.
Wondering how I do this? I do have a pricing masterclass that dives deep into creating custom offerings for your clients! You can find it here.
Now that you know your price, let’s talk about actually getting paid. It’s extremely important to have a payment schedule for all of your clients. This protects you in the case of a client non-payment or if someone cancels on you last minute.
For my business, I require a non-refundable deposit when they first book their session, a second payment halfway in between booking day and session day, and then a final payment due 30 days out. This is the industry standard for weddings, but you are able to do whatever you like as long as it works well for both you and your clients.
My retainer fee varies based on a percentage of the client’s spend. My current retainer fee is 30% of the total spend.
A few words of advice:
I use Dubsado so that you can send the client payment reminders automatically. This takes the burden of remembering and reminding clients off of your shoulders, since that can become overwhelming. Plus, when a client misses a payment, Dubsado will automatically send them a payment reminder.
If a client is late on payment, whether they forgot or overlooked it, I always recommend following up with them personally once they’ve received the automatic invoice reminder a few times. Sometimes you’ll run into a situation where the client might need an extension. In this case, I would withhold the images until the client is paid in full.
First and foremost — always have a professionally written and signed contract. I would encourage you to either work with a lawyer or use a contract template. Having a strong, solid contract protects both you and the client in case anything happens during the course of working together.
For example, in 2020, I ended up having to have many conversations around pricing, contracts, refunds, and reschedules. I was so grateful that I had strong contracts in place that protected both myself and the client. The contracts are in place on the off chance that anything happens, and the pandemic was just that.
I have no doubt that unexpected things will continue to happen in the future, so I want to make sure that you have a solid contract in place so that you can do business knowing you’re protected.
Pricing is such a complex topic, but I hope that this post helped clear up any questions you might have. Of course, I know that so much of our pricing is about mindset. We worry that we won’t book anyone if we raise our rates, but we worry about burning out if we’re pricing too low. This is totally normal, but it doesn’t have to be your reality.
Do you dream of booking $8k-$10k projects and pricing your services in alignment with where you are as a luxury wedding photographer? If so, then I want to invite you to my one-of-a-kind intimate mastermind experience: Leveling Up to Luxury.
Masterminds are peer-to-peer groups that will help vastly up-level your business and your mindset. When I first began my wedding photography business, I invested in more than one mastermind — and I know they’ve been directly responsible for the success I now have today.
I created my mastermind to help luxury photographers like you go from making $50,000 in your business to making 6 figures, and close $8-10k bookings with ease and confidence.
This experience will be by application only and I’m only accepting ONE photographer per market. Learn more about Leveling Up to Luxury and apply here!