What should I charge for photo prints?

Dec 3, 2011

Topic: Pricing & Sales
Time Investment: 5 Minutes
Suggested Product: Sales Contract Bundle, BizRevamp®

Pricing your prints can be so difficult!

I surf multiple message boards, Facebook groups, and beyond in an effort to give help and receive help in this craft.  

One of the things I felt that I've been able to provide is the business insight, hence my workshops & countless hours in conversations with other photographers.

Photography is NOT 90% camera + 10% business. In fact, it's the opposite.

Photography is merely the hook, and your business is the line and sinker.  (I could go into customer service, marketing, etc, but what I want to focus on here is the pricing structure.)

The question I see MANY times over is "What price should I charge for X print/product/service?"

Well, my question to you is...

"What does your marketing/business plan say? What does your break even analysis show? Your marketing research? Your clientele base?"

Determining your pricing is MUCH MORE than looking at the lab cost + whatever you feel you deserve on top. In fact, I am very saddened and scared for the industry when the photographer asking doesn't even have a marketing or business analysis.  How are you to set yourself up for success without a plan?

I understand that your skill may set you apart to be successful, but for how long?    I can't help but be very concerned when a "professional" that is in "business" asks "How much should I be charging?"  This is about as personal as "What cut underwear should I wear with this dress?"

So let me ask you, what are your production (direct) costs? non-production (indirect) costs?

Time spent marketing?

You don't know?

Then you need to stop RIGHT NOW and commit yourself to developing appropriate pricing and marketing strategies.

I'm going to demonstrate later on in the post why this is SO important.  For now, I'll give you a brief overview to get the thinking juices going. Pricing a product or service begins with an understanding of the total cost of the product or service, and includes other issues.  Markup percentage is based on the cost of the product multiplied by one plus the percent of markup desired (cost x 1.50 is a 50% markup).

Gross margin percentage is based upon the gross margin divided by the retail price ($5.00 / $15.00 = 33%).
Understanding the total cost allows you to look at the margin or profit that you want to obtain.

There are production and non-production costs, external and internal pricing variables.  Your break even point.  Your marketing penetration strategy.   Overhead costs.  Upgrades. Repairs. Insurance.

So after all this the question should be...


Are you even getting paid what you are worth???

The reason any large corporate chain can charge less than $10 for a print is because they are selling QUANTITY not QUALITY.

They suck up the overhead costs at dirt cheap prices.  

They are not offering custom portraiture - every single client that comes through gets the same poses, minimal pricing, and lack of customer care.  Think about it this way: Sears sells an 8x10 for $7.00 and that is with PENNIES being taken out of that for all of the above costs due to the nature of their breadth and quantity of the market.  Allowing for Sears to have a big profit margin at low cost. Can you afford successful marketing and proper equipment by only taking pennies out of each print?

(This being said, if you can't afford custom portraits, some portraits are better than none. Capture the moment!!!)


Secondly, the other pitfall I have seen is people saying, "I used X pricing guide to set my pricing."

Okay, awesome.

You've started your research, however, is that photographer who helped you in the same market, same style, same niche, same clientele?  Are they really the same? Or was it just easy to copy and paste? How is copying and pasting another's guide going to help you if you're in a COMPLETELY different market?

So why all of this hub-bub about pricing correctly? Sure, charging $30 for a CD of 100 images is a great way to get many clients.  But is it really doing you any good? Even with $100 for a CD of 20 images - is it giving you an income??

With every click of your camera you are spending money, driving to the location, shooting, marketing, responding to emails, editing, posting to the website; rinsing and repeating with the next client.  At the end of the day, you will realize that you are working in the NEGATIVE. Not even minimum wage. By the time you do all of the things listed above and calculate the hours put in you, will see that the $30 CD (or print or whatever) is more like a $1 per hour that you're paying yourself.


For instance:  Let's take the $100 for a CD of 20 images.

Marketing time: 1-2 hours
Booking time: 1/2 hour
Driving to and from location: .5-1 hour
Shooting: 1-2 hours
Editing: 1-2 hours
Uploading & sending proofs to client: .5 hours

Then, factor in your cost of the CD, internet, website hosting, use of your camera (every accutation= $$), repairs, insurance.

Rough estimate, we're looking at less than $10 an hour BEFORE TAXES.  Factor in another 20-40% of your taxes and you are below the federal minimum wage.



Those that commit to developing appropriate pricing and business plans (on top of technical skills) are true professionals and give true value to this profession.

In summary:

  1. Do your market research
  2. Develop your business plan (Get legit!)
  3. Calculate your break even point
  4. Calculate what you'd like to make (compared with your market research)
  5. Implement & stick to it!
  6. Succeed.Be smart. Respect yourself and the industry. Get a plan. Commit.


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