I have spent a lot of time considering this question, and I'm still revising my pricing. I think I probably always will. Pricing has a lot of factors to consider, including the type of work you plan to do, the area you live, and the competition you have. Some of the factors I've had to consider:
- Per hour rate
- Job rate
- Print in house
- Outsource printing
Since I started last year, I have also been introduced to a new strategy, at least for family portraits: No sitting fee at all. The photographers I have met that use this strategy derive their profit through print sales. This strategy relies on being able to guide the customer to purchasing not just 1 family portrait, but a series of prints, albums, or other products (more on these marketing techniques in another blog!). I am going to start using this strategy for my family portrait sessions. I'll report back later this year on how well it's working.
For weddings, I've looked around at other wedding photographers, and found that most charge a high price that includes certain end products in a package. For example, they may charge $1,500 that includes final print album, a certain amount of prints, or perhaps a DVD slideshow. I've taken a pricing route for weddings that is more A la carte. I charge a low, basic fee to cover the wedding, and then work with the couple on the products they want. The products I'm offering vary so much in cost, it would be impossible to quote a single package cost that works for everyone. So far I'm finding my wedding clients like this approach.
Print pricing is a little trickier. Most photographers outsource their printing through a professional lab. Some of the labs I have found that cater to professionals include:
With these labs, you must consider the price they are charging you for the prints, plus shipping, handling, the time you spend preparing the files, plus a profit margin. I have taken a slightly different route. I have invested in a high quality professional printer, capable of producing fine art prints on virtually any paper of my choosing. This allows me several advantages:
- Complete control over color and quality of final print
- Control over the type paper used and the quality
- Lower cost to print
- Higher profit margin
Basically, the print allows me to produce an equal or superior product when compared to a lab, at a lower cost. I'm able to sell my prints to my customers at a price similar to lab retail prices, but with a much greater profit margin.
My printer can handle print sizes up to 17 inches by 22 inches. I've decided to offer prints from my printer for 8.5x11, 13x19, and 17x22. For prints smaller than that, and larger, I'm using a professional lab, and charging accordingly.
I've constructed a spreadsheet to calculate my print costs and pricing. I've found the spreadsheet very useful to looking at my pricing, and making sure I'm charging a fair price, and a price will get me a fair profit.
For printers, I would highly recommend the Professional series from our new Nikonian's partner, Epson.
For those who may not be too sure about printing themselves, and the quality they can achieve, I would highly recommend Michael Reichmann's web based video series, Camera to Print.
This video series explains the complete process of producing excellent prints from today's pigment based printers.
I'll be covering pricing, as well marketing techniques, more in future blogs.