Pricing Your Work

How to Price Photography

how to price photography

I shot this image for Macy’s. It was used for both a POP poster and newspaper slicks advertising.

Pricing your work can be one of the most difficult and confusing tasks you’ll take on in your professional career. There are so many opinions and factors to take into account that it can truly make your head spin.

The most important thing to keep in mind is your success and profitably and should always be the prime factor in all of your pricing decisions. As with any product or service, the market drives the price—too high and you price your work out, too low and you run the risk of operating at a loss and can make buyers wonder about the quality of your work. You can also gain a reputation of the “low baller” who devalues the services you and your competitors offer. Again, do your due diligence and research your market and your successful competitors to gain a true picture of the market you are working in.

If you belong to a professional organization like the PPofA, ASMP or APA, look at the pricing guide provided for the members, as well as the support of the organization’s network. Use this in your research, taking in all they have to say and then applying this to your business. So let’s breakdown this, and try and make some sense of it.

As I see it, there are three basic categories to factor in when you approach pricing, and you can fall in one or all of them. Basic is the key word here. Within each there are other factors that should become apparent through your specific market research.

How to Price Photography for Businesses and Firms

The first are those of us who sell our services to other businesses, like advertising agencies, design firms, publishers or directly to a company or corporation. These business are generally not the end users of your work but will resell it to their clients. Key here is the project budget, so, when you’re bidding on jobs here, don’t be afraid to ask about the budget.

Find out how the work will be used and factor in both your fees to create the work as well as the usage fees or rights to the work. If they wish to buy all the rights, the price should be much higher. If they only wish to purchase limited usage, consider the value of that image over its entire life as a stock image, and factor this into the price.

Factor in any costs that fall out side of the normal, such as equipment rental, location fees, or outside services, and mark these up. Remember, the bills for these will most likely come due before you get paid by the client, so cover yourself with a fair markup.

Don’t fall into the “promises” trap. In other words don’t devalue this job with the promise of future work. Once you’ve set a value in the client’s mind, that’s where you will stay, so moving up will be all but impossible if and when the future work comes in.

If this is the first time you are working with a specific client, get some portion of your fees up front. I suggest 50 percent. I have found that practicing this and approaching them professionally will gain you respect and help to develop a relationship with a client, ultimately you want them to think of you when they need photography. See my in-depth article on negotiating fees and rights in the 2014 Photographer’s Market (available in August 2013) to tune up your skills.

Pricing Photography for Direct to Consumer

The second category includes photographer’s who sell their work directly to the consumer, or the end user. Wedding, portrait, and real estate work fall into this section. Again, the market has some bearing on pricing, as does the perceived value this work will have to the consumer.

The big difference over the first category is this perceived value. Let’s take the wedding photographer as an example. The range of price and quality in this genre can vary widely and is driven by the individual customer and what they wish to spend on their special day. Most wedding photographers offer a wide range of packages to their clients allowing them to choose the value placed on the work.

The basic tenet here is to price your services with comfortable margins for profit and tailor the packages you offer to appeal to the widest range of consumers. A simple analogy to draw from is your own buying patterns: When you go to any store to buy something, you’ll find the item you want in a range of prices. You will place a perceived value on this item and make your decision based on that value.

The usage and rights issue is something that is foreign to most consumers, so, if you broach this subject with a client, you may encounter some questions and resistance. Be prepared to navigate this issue, with adjusts in your pricing and the services you offer. My advice may seem somewhat cynical but is nonetheless true. Don’t sell yourself short. Try to get the highest price you can for each client you serve.

How to Price Stock and Fine Art Photography

The final category will attract both the resellers and the consumers of your work. The two big segments here are stock and the fine art photographers.

For stock photography is very much market-driven, and you have a ton of options to market and sell your work. You can place your collections with stock agencies and allow that relationship to drive the price, or you can set up and sell your work through your own website. Either way, pricing is what the market will bare, and is more or less out of your hands and largely dependent on the quality and the uniqueness of the image. Again, research and education are the keys to placing a value on the work you put into any stock library. If you are considering adding a stock photo library to your revenue stream, see my blog post on Microstock, which is a subset to the larger stock photography landscape.

For fine art photographers, pricing is wide open and is very much driven by the perceived value of the image by you and the buyer. It goes with out saying that the better known you are, the higher the value your work will carry to a collector. Developing a reputation and showing the work in galleries, entering art competitions and connections in the world of art will add to the perceived value of your work. Subject matter both from an aesthetic and social perspective are the keys to the popularity your work. Other marketing venues for fine art work are in the design and interior decorating world. These professionals are always on the hunt for art to use in their work, and, in some cases, these venues can be very lucrative for an artist. A hotel chain looking for prints to be used in lobbies, restaurants and rooms, could amount to quite a large sale for an artist, and could lead to commissioned work from a design firm that works in the design and decoration for corporate clients.

I hope this information helps you to better pricing structure and strategy, but remember that you need to do your homework, know your market and always be realistic in the value you place on your services and your work.

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Ric Deliantoni is a professional photographer and director with thirty years of experience, with a focus on still-life and lifestyle imagery for advertising, design and publishing. He has developed a unique style that has been described as impressionistic and bold. Ric has also spent much of his career teaching and mentoring students of all levels to better themselves as artists. – See more at: http://blog.artistsmarketonline.com/photographers/sell-stock-photos#sthash.smQvNNbw.dpuf

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