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Monday, August 16, 2010

How To Price Photography—08/16/10

Make money and protect photos by pricing appropriately

This Article Features Photo Zoom

I’ve noticed there seems to be a lot more professional photographers running around lately. Even if they’re not totally "professional," they sure enjoy taking their hobby to the next level and getting paid on occasion for good work. Some of you, I’m sure, fit this bill, while others are working toward the goal of supporting yourselves someday via photography. Whether you plan to eventually become a working pro or you just want to shoot a wedding every once in a while, it’s important to understand how photography pricing works. Important for you, and even more important for photography in general.

A little bit of knowledge in the area of pricing will not only help you put a few more bucks in your pocket, it will also help to protect the value of photography. That’s a good thing for all photographers, but especially those who’d like to earn a living at it—and those who aspire to do so someday. Giving away valuable photographs, particularly to those with the means and willingness to pay for it, only serves to devalue the medium.

The first step to understanding photography pricing—in fact, perhaps the only step—is to understand the market in which you’re selling your work. For example, if you shoot weddings and the average rate in your town is $3,500 for great wedding photography with an eight-hour day and a nice, thick photo album, you probably shouldn’t charge only $350 for that same service and give away your work. At literally 10% of the cost, not only are you dramatically undercutting other photographers in town (and ultimately pulling the value and price down) but you’re certainly undervaluing your own time, talent and hard work. Are you really only 10 percent the photographer of the ìaverageî wedding shooter in town? Sure, new and inexperienced photographers should charge less, but that’s dependent on knowing the market. Maybe 80 percent, 70 percent or even 50 percent is a more appropriate price point for you. To know those rates, though, you’ve got to do your homework.

What if you’re not an assignment photographer but a fine artist looking to sell prints? We’ve all seen framed photographs that sell for as little as $50 and as much as $50,000 (and far beyond). So what’s the right price for your pictures? Not only does your market—the venue in which you sell your photographs—help dictate that, but so does what photographers of similar stature are charging for similar works. Even if they’re not local, online research about other new and talented photographers can provide you with a more complete picture of the going rates for particular print sizes and processes.

Whatever type of photography you’re making, and wherever you’re trying to sell it, trust me: There’s already a well-established pricing precedent. There are plenty of resources to help you, too. First, consider joining organizations such as ASMP, NAPP, PPA, APA or many others that educate and advocate for photographers. Utilize their resources—many of which are well-organized online—to learn what comparable photographers are doing with comparable work in a comparable area. ASMP’s web site has a ìPaperwork Shareî with which photographers can upload pricing information from their own assignments and learn from those uploaded by others. Visitors to the site can peruse a handful of proposals, while ASMP members have access to many more.

It’s also a good idea to look at books about the business of photography for a broader view on the topic, and do some calling around to your competition to really drill down to specifics. Many photographers post rates online and many others won’t hesitate to chat with an up-and-comer—especially if it helps prevent undercutting and devaluing the medium. Not only can you learn from pricing precedents, you can see how other photographers organize proposals, how they invoice, the terminology involved as well as general standards and practices that will help you truly become a more professional photographer.

Price your work as it makes sense to you, just be sure that it makes sense. If you’re new, price your work proportionally with established photographers, not equal to them. This will help to keep you from being taken advantage of, and to protect the medium’s value in an age where everyone’s looking for cheap and free photographs. If you (and countless other new photographers like you) don’t price your work carefully, you can have a negative impact on the market and your ultimate ability to make any living for your work. If you’re interested in earning any income from photography, it’s as important to work at the business side of the photo biz as the creative side—even if it’s not nearly as much fun.

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