Avoiding the Pricing Game in Photography

With the lowered barrier to entry in the photography world the increased numbers of photographers has risen dramatically and the price standards in many markets have dropped just as dramatically. (Not only are prices dramatically falling but it is causing major drama in the photography industry itself. So drama filled… just think the Bachelorette meets the Kardashian sisters. You get my drift….)

It is time that photographers quit lowering their pricing standards to bring clients in the door and begin avoiding the pricing game. This is a vicious cycle! From here the market learns a lower standard and begins to demand it. The danger here is the standard is teetering on the edge of restricting (or greatly hindering) many markets from charging a sustainable price for their photography.

Here’s a few marketing tips for photographers that will assist in avoiding this price game with the end goal of meeting your business goals, financial needs and initiating an increase in the value of photography in our communities.

Will these tips end this pricing game? No.

Will it fix the industry? More than likely not…at least not right away.

The end game is to make a profit, return value to the eyes of our clients and show clients why they should value, not just simply tell them to.


NOT the money! Show and tell your clients what they will receive beyond product and how much they are shelling out. Focus on the things that you value and want your clients to value. The time you invest in creating their session. The specially drafted and published blog features you will be able to provide Sally to show her grandma in Seattle via the web.

Come up with creative ways to knock your clients socks off with the amount of value and not taking their breath away because they are so focused on numbers.

The major tip here is to balance giving too much in place of showing value. Many photographers feel they have to essentially giveaway the studio, farm, studio apartment, whatever. They feel they have to give alot to show value. No way. Emphasize aspects of their photography relationship with you that goes beyond the passing of money between hands and resolving schedule conflicts.


Inquiries coming in. Clients wanting to order more but don’t have the funds. Do NOT put a roadblock to your client’s wanting to hand you money. Offer payment plans. Having payment plans available to client works wonders in a variety of ways. First, they can be a good response to provide your client if you receive the dreaded “we want to but we can’t afford it” line. Second, they also provide a way for clients who want to invest in you to be able to afford you without being embarrassed if they happen to not have the means.


Payment plans (also known as Installment Contracts) are so much more than picking when a payment is due and how you’re going to pay. The arrangement of payment is a contractually binding relationship that should be outlined in writing, as well as understood and agreed to by both parties. However, don’t let the fact that you’re “adding” on a contractual duty to the business relationship scare you aware. It really IS as simple as arranging time and payment amount. If you are prepared. Before offering payment plans come up with the chosen methods of payment, how soon you want to be paid (balanced against the amount of the order) and any consequences if they aren’t.

Check out lawyer/photog drafted payment plan contracts here


>>>Example Scripts<<<

Situation #1 – Inquiry responds that Photog is “too expensive”

  • Inquiry: I looked over your prices and we are unable to afford that amount at this time.
  • Photog: I can totally understand looking to hire on a budget. I have created a payment plan that is customized to each client. Let’s say you want X products/package, we could do # of payments at the amount of $XXX per every month until paid off. No interest. No rush. I would love to work with you.


Situation #2 – Client has session but is unable to afford package they want

  • Client: “We love ALL the images but we can only afford X package at this time”
  • Photog: “I can completely relate with having a certain budget in mind. I have created a payment plan that is customized to each client. Let’s say you want X products/package, we could do # of payments at the amount of $XXX per every month until paid off. If this isn’t something you want to work with we can always do the package X that you expressed interest in and then look at adding on the additional products in the future.” (Consider an incentive for them to return for additional products)


Situation #3 – Client responds that no payment plan offered is sufficient

  • Client: “Thank you for the payment plan but at this time we still can’t swing that.”

*Two Options:

  • Option #1: Photog: “The proposed payment plan I provided was just an example, what monthly payment amount would work for you?”
  • Option #2: Photog: “I totally understand and look forward to you working with you in the future.”


This one should be a no-brainer but the constant hustle can lead to a well-worn-out business owner for sure! The goal with this tip is to ensure that you are marketing at a baseline amount all the time (set scheduling, consistent and comprehensive information published), but make sure to increase marketing in advance for specific events and occasions (christmas portrait sessions, valentines boudoir, etc.).

Letting client’s know of events far enough in advance can allow them time to gather their pennies and arrange budgets.

For example, it may seem common sense to us, as photogs, that christmas card season comes around the same time every year but we must guide our clients. Be their reminder and focus as the holidays draw near each year. Beat out your competition with customer service by sending out a reminder (ahead of time) to previous clients with a reminder and exclusive opportunity to snag their preferred session date for this year!


Are you actually comparing yourself to your local market? Seeking out their desires and balancing against you as an artist. Keeping tabs on competitors. Identifying demographics and external reasons to the pricing game. Make sure that you have positioned yourself appropriately against competitors and are actually marketing to those you want to market to.

A major mistake in rookie-marketing is inadvertently marketing to a set of the market who isn’t your target client. Don’t make that mistake!



All-in-all the majority of you reading these probably nodded your head a few times when referring to mistakes or responses clients give. Don’t be discouraged. Implement these tips into your routine marketing and client workflows. Give them time to work. Listen to clients and get their feedback. However, don’t forget that sometimes people are just people. Circumstances exist that are beyond our control. As long as you’ve done everything you can to avoid the pricing game then just keep marching on!


If you are having issues with the actual figuring up of pricing these are my recommended resources:

The Modern Tog’s Pricing Worksheet & Easy as Pie Pricing Guide


  1. stephanieReply

    I like your points. It is so important to let the client know that you get what you pay for. Anyone with a digital camera, and the willingness to wait for Walgreens to offer a free 8X10 can get a portrait of their kid for $0. So if you want to stay price competitive only …. that is truely the bottom line.

    They aren’t buying the print. They are buying a professional portrait/photograph. They are buying the fact that the lighting is right, as well as the exposure and colors. The composition is pleasing, hopefully without looking posed ….. etc, etc.

    It isn’t a snapshot, it is a piece of art.

    Sometimes, a layout, with the amateur snapshot, printed at the drugstore, a dept store “package”, and your work. Then use it for the really stubborn peeps . – “well, if $19.95 is all you can spend, here are a couple of suggestions. I am sorry that I am not the right photographer for you”. You aren’t really losing business if they leave, as you would not be making any money from them no matter what you came up with.

    • Rachel BrenkeReply

      Definitely a valid point! The premise of this article and my personal belief from experience is that is only the baseline. Unfortunately we are still battling content-driven vs technical-based and the pricing game. That alone is not enough anymore. Maybe one day we’ll get back to it! Until then we pray to have the clients that see the value and that baseline is enough to convince, for everyone else there needs to be extras – these tips :)

  2. Rachel AlvesReply

    Rachel thanks so much for posting. I purchased Alicia’s Easy As Pie common sense pricing guide for portrait photographers and was just thinking of lowering my pricing to compete with the local “photographer-hobbyist’s” who’s pricing I seemingly can’t compete with. I will just continue to find clientele that appreciate my photography.

  3. Pingback: 5 Quick Tips to Reducing Business Costs from The Law Tog

  4. Pingback: How to Avoid Getting Underpaid

Leave a comment