What should I charge for… (Part 1)

Posted on March 10, 2013

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You have decided you don’t want to be penniless photographer anymore by charging for the images you take. Ok, so where do I start? How do I decide what I should charge? Pricing in any business is difficult. But, you need to make enough to cover at least the expenses for creating that product. Pricing is not just simply setting an amount you think it should be while you are off shooting images. Your marketing, equipment, repairs, rentals, time, insurance, taxes, and other business costs all need to be accounted in figuring a fair price. And, just because you have money coming in from your business, it doesn’t mean you are actually making any money. Know that the numbers you come up with are for you, and they shouldn’t necessarily be everyone.

The first thing you need to do is look at your business plan. You should have some idea of your fixed and variable costs listed in it. You should also know how much of your time is spent marketing. What? You don’t have a business plan? If you don’t, then you need to start by creating one. Within it, you will have to study and determine how you plan on running your business and estimate costs to you as a business. Part of it is also coming up with a marketing plan. If you have one, you have some idea what it costs you to be a photographer for one month or one week or one hour. I am going to assume arbitrary numbers for this example, but it should give you some idea of what you need to know.

A lawyer’s office comes to you for head shots. You find out that they heard about you from being a member of the local chamber of commerce and saw some of the work you did for XYZ company. They want six head shots taken a their specified location downtown. How much do you charge?

Marketing time: 2-3 hours
Driving to/from location: 1 hour
Parking: $6.00 (for 2 hours)
Shoot time: 2 hours
Editing time: 2-3 hours
Proofing with Client (getting approval on images before printing): 1 hour
Indirect time required: 2-6 hours

Total cost in time: approximately 12-14 hours

Ok, this all makes sense but what is this “Indirect Time Required”? That is the time it takes you to upload the images to the lab, drive to the lawyers office or studio to proof the images you took, preping delivery of the 8×10 images for delivery, and other times that aren’t directly accounted for in this chart. You should always plan on a few hours of time for each job you do.

From this, we can figure that these head shots are taking about a quarter of your work week in time. Remember that business plan and the weekly costs? This is where that comes in. You now have some idea what it will cost you to take the head shots of the lawyers. This is one of the critical reasons for having a business plan. Assuming a typical professional photographer, this means it will cost you around $430 in just your time to cover this expense and be able to pay your bills, vehicle costs, taxes, and make a small amount for retirement. This means that your sitting fee, profits from prints and albums, and anything else you charge must amount to $430, or you are losing money by shooting those images.

If you don’t have a business plan and want to run some rough numbers to figure out your costs, the NPAA has a quick and dirty web based cost of doing business calculator that can give you very rough numbers to figure out your costs. That calculator can be found on their website: https://nppa.org/calculator.  Again, you will still need to research your own costs to figure out the right numbers for you.

In part 2, we cover how to look at individual sessions and see if you are making money with what you are charging.

All information and images are ©2013 Don Krajewski on this post.

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