Updated: Mar 23
A thought-provoking journey into the complexity of photography pricing and and why pricing varies so much throughout the industry.
From time to time I am questioned about my pricing so here I will share some hidden details with you. Things you are more than likely oblivious of unless you work within the industry. Why Joe Bloggs Photographer in the same town can do a photoshoot for 'cheap-as-chips' including all the digitals is something only he can explain. His quality of work might be fine, but to hazard a guess, he will either not be running a viable business or he is doing it as a hobby. A photographer's rates should be based on their own business and personal expenses. It's impossible for photographers to compete on price because there is always someone who will do it for free. This is why from a client's point of view I totally get how super-confusing it must be. It's your hard-earned money, you want the best return and aren't necessarily concerned with the burden of a photographer's costs. But if the subject of pricing does intrigue you, and you would like more clarity on the subject, please read-on to discover more.
IT'S GOOD TO TALK
For whatever reason, many photographers don't put their pricing out there unless you make an enquiry. It is such a diverse and bespoke service to price and it really does help to have as much information as possible first. As a first point-of-call, I try to offer as much detail as I can on my website. I know my worth and my costings (more of that below) and don't consider what Joe Bloggs Photographer charges. Do your research and once you have found someone who's work you love, have a no-obligation consultation. It is by far the best way to answer any questions and get a clearer picture of expectations on both sides. I offer commercial photography as well as portrait photography and there is quite a difference in what I offer and valid reasons for how I price according to the wants and needs of the customer.
VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE
It's easy to see how photography services have become de-valued. Prices along with service varies widely from photographer to photographer. In addition, everyone seems to be a photographer these days. Anyone can take a photo on their phone and run it through an app. It's just pressing a button, right? Plenty of photographers will do photos for free too i.e. a student or a hobbyist or someone who doesn't need it as their main income. I've done it myself when I was building my portfolio. I can totally understand how my pricing could seem costly, and that's ok, as I am not the photographer for everyone. If you are looking for bargain basement I'm certainly not the one for you.
It's fine to ask questions. I pride myself on being transparent with all the information and pricing that I offer, but if there's anything else that you'd like to ask, then please feel free to do so. I'd be delighted to hear from you. It's much better to be clear and honest from the start about what you hope to achieve. I understand that pricing can be confusing and overwhelming at times so stick with me while I walk you through my process ...
PICK A NUMBER
Creating a price is probably one of the most challenging for any photographer. It's not just a case of picking a number and adding to a price list. The cost of doing business (CODB) has to be calculated. For instance, £199 for an hours headshot session could seem at first glance like I'm onto a pretty good thing. But hold that thought! If an employee was on that sort of hourly rate it certainly would be a good number, but being self-employed there are many other things that enter into the equation. Here are some typical things I take into account when working out my CODB:
Advertising and promotion
Archiving and backing up images
Continuing education/professional development
Cost of living
Equipment wear and tear
Equipment service and repairs
Experience and knowledge
Planning and preparation time
Subscriptions i.e. to an online viewing gallery/booking system
Vehicle maintenance (lease, insurance, maintenance)
There's more calculation before reaching the final CODB equation, but you get the idea. So now, looking at that same £199 fee, have your thoughts changed at all?
COMMERCIAL vs PORTRAIT SERVICES
There are many differences between the two services I offer. The main one being that my commercial clients receive digital files and my portrait clients receive prints, albums or wall art. The costings listed above still have to be considered for both services, along with other variants for commercial customers, some of which are listed here :
Makeup artist/hair stylist.
Catering for the team.
A producer (someone to organise the above).
Additional considerations for portrait customers include:
Designing products i.e. albums, print boxes - it takes up a lot of time!
Quality product costs.
Going back to commercial for a moment as it's worth explaining for business owners new to this type of photography: I calculate my basic costings and usage fee into a single rate called a 'creative fee' rather than a 'day rate'. Basically, a creative fee is the time it takes to produce the all the images. A day rate is a misnomer because it implies that a single day is the only day a photographer does work on the shoot.
My portraiture differs as it starts with a session fee. This covers my consultation, prep and wrapping-up time and actually taking photographs (expert posing/guidance) and making it a lovely experience. After that clients are free to decide what products they desire from my price list, which as you will be an expert by now, takes all of the above costings into consideration.
So here's the thing - making a choice based on price alone is fine if that's your priority. It will certainly be a deal-breaker for some and there are plenty of photographers out there who will do that for you. At Alison McMath Photography it's all about the client experience, the quality of service and producing a finished product that goes beyond all expectations. A professional photography service is full of hidden work. It takes time, preparation and various other resources in order to produce the finished product. If you have any questions or specific requirements please complete my contact form and I'll get back to you as soon as possible.