I originally wrote a very similar blog post back in early 2011. It’s been a long time yet the subject is still quite applicable. I thought I would dust it off and make some updates for readers that might not have been following our blog that far back.

I can assure you this will not be the most visually stimulating blog post filled with amazing photos from across the globe. Yet I can also assure you it’s one that is worth the time to read for anyone that struggles with how to determine pricing of the work you sell. Pricing your photography products is an important decision that everyone from the hobbyists to the full time professionals need to analyze and determine what price points work best. Pricing is completely up to each person, we will not all have the same prices nor the exact same factors to consider. That is a good thing. What people should understand though is that you need to have some level of thought and analysis on how to come up with pricing. You don’t want to just pick a price because you think it sounds good or because it’s inline with what your best friend or family member (#1 fan of your work) is willing to pay. If you are selling your work for next to nothing you are doing the industry and yourself a disservice. You are honestly better off giving away your work than charging ultra cheap prices. I give a number of prints away each year and I am fine with this. If you donate or give away work occasionally it still holds value in accordance to the investment you ask of your paying customers.

There are really two models to go with; high volume and low price or low volume and high price. Most of us cannot have high prices and high volume. There are a very select few but I won’t name names here, that can sell high end work at high end prices and high volume but they are the exception. Pricing was something that I was mentored on more than once when starting out with portraits and weddings, and of course isn’t much different moving into the landscape nature side. What you see below are expenses to consider plus some examples how pricing at different price points can greatly impact the bottom line.

The following are expenses you might want to take into account. This is definitely not an exhaustive list, there are more but this gives you a good starting point. I venture to guess some of these people don’t often think about so they end up under pricing their work.

– Travel: Gas, food, wear & tear on vehicle, oil changes, lodging
– Camera Equipment: maintenance, replacements, everyday wear & tear
– Office Equipment: computer, software, Internet, phone, general office supplies
– Operations Expenses: bank account fees, credit card merchant expenses, website costs, marketing needs
– Time: Your time spent at the location scouting, taking the photo and processing the final image
– Misc: Equipment insurance, business license fees, postage & shipping, photo organization dues, taxes

When I first did this post many years ago I was following the model from Example 1. Since that time I have realized the cost and time involved to receive work from the lab and resend out is significant. As such I have moved to the model in Example 2. You will see with these examples I keep it simple and focus on the immediate costs for an order yet the above list factored in certainly impacts your overall profit even if it’s an indirect expense. Obviously different labs charge varying prices and printing it yourself has it’s own set of costs. I chose a smaller print size with output as a metal print for this example since that is a popular medium at this time.

Example 1 – The Photographer Keeping Expenses In Mind – Lab Shipping to the Client

12×18 Print priced at $195 including shipping
(consumer bought online, pays by credit card and is being shipped within the contiguous United States)
– 2.5% to credit card merchant (at minimum)
– 5% storefront or website fee
– $45 lab charge (print expense incl shipping)

Example 2 – The Photographer Keeping Expenses In Mind – Photographer Shipping to the Client

12×18 Print priced at $195 including shipping
(consumer bought online, pays by credit card and is being shipped within the contiguous United States)
– 2.5% to credit card merchant (at minimum)
– 5% storefront or website fee
– $45 lab charge (print expense incl shipping)
– $15 in package/presentation materials
– $10 shipping

Example 3 – The Photographer with little Concept of Expenses – Lab Shipping to the Client

12×18 Print priced at $90 including Shipping
(consumer bought online, pays by credit card and is being shipped within the contiguous United States)
– 2.5% to credit card merchant (at minimum)
– 5% storefront or website fee
– $45 lab charge (print expense incl shipping)

Example 4 – The Photographer with little Concept of Expenses – Photographer Shipping to the Client

12×18 Print priced at $90 including Shipping
(consumer bought online, pays by credit card and is being shipped within the contiguous United States)
– 2.5% to credit card merchant (at minimum)
– 5% storefront or website fee
– $45 lab charge (print expense incl shipping)
– $15 in package/presentation materials
– $10 shipping

What is above should give you a good visual of how much different the same type of image with very different pricing can end up after the sale. Pretty different, huh! The interesting or unfortunate part is we are not done yet, this was just the cost we took into account for this one sale. Thinking about all the other expenses I noted earlier on, this will cut into the final profit. Let’s also assume with a transaction like this that you have limited phone and or an email time corresponding with the customer to complete the order and answer questions. This does not always happen but it’s likely and I always want to help my customers out as much as I can. This will be more time spent on the order. And you will need to think about the time it takes you actually fulfill the order. Is all of this getting your mind going? Here is a list of items on how it typically looks for me and likely not too different from person to person.

1. Reviewing received order for any issues or open questions
2. Send thank you email or call to client for placing order
3. Additional editing before it gets printed or goes to the lab for printing
4. Placing the print order or printing it yourself
5. Input transaction into tracking software or spreadsheet for accounting
6. Any additional correspondence with the customer during and after the order

By the time you look at this all together, in Examples 3 or 4 you aren’t even working for minimum wage. You are working at a loss when you start taking into account the other business expenses I mention early on. I have seen photographers pricing work at fairs or online sites at very low prices that make me wonder how they can truly make a profit, even as a part-time photographer. You might also be saying to yourself that my expenses are more, or less, than what you have in your examples. That is high likely. You might have tiered pricing where you offer cheaper open edition prints and more expensive limited edition prints. You might have an additional service offering that takes more time or money to complete the order. There are a myriad of ways this might be different for you. This is meant to be an example of one size and medium for an online sale.

This is my take on it to help provide all of you reading it some insight on this topic. There is much more that can be discussed and covered. I encourage you to research this topic as you are evaluating the pricing you want to offer. I would also say it’s important to revisit your pricing at least every other year to ensure you don’t need to make price adjustments.

I will also mention sometimes we make mistakes and need to eat the cost of that mistake. As an example; do not go back to the customer to change amounts after you have given a final price (unless it’s some bizarre or unique situation). I have had a few cases over the years where I had to eat the cost. So be it. One example from a number of years ago I had a client order a 30×45 canvas that I accidentally way under priced the shipping and packing fee. Even though I had sent products out many times I wound up paying much more for shipping and packing supplies than I charged this client. Do you think I went back to the client to ask for more money on this transaction? No way. I feel this would be a poor way to do business. Do the best you can and when you miss the mark try to learn from it for the next time.

Lastly, in the end you need to decide what is best for you and how you want to run your business. You might be selling a fairly high volume and low prices at places like farmers markets, coffee shops, etc.  On the flip side you might be selling at lower volume and higher prices at juried art fairs, galleries, etc. Nothing wrong with either one of these models. Just remember to not sell yourself short. As artists we tend be hard on ourselves and it’s easy to think our work is worth less than it really is when we are not paying attention or getting the right guidance. Myself included!

Location: Portland, OR
Website: www.adrianklein.com

Adrian Klein has a passion for the outdoors and landscape photography that is endless. He has traveled the parks, shorelines and wilderness capturing images that represent each area through his own artistic eye from the curbs to the far off trails.

More posts by Adrian    Visit Adrian’s Image Gallery

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