By Adrian Klein

Well I can assure you this will not be the most visually stimulating blog post. That said 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 pricing points work best. Zack touched on this briefly in his great series on this blog about art shows. I want to delve into this a little more. Pricing is completely up to each person and we will not all have the same prices. 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 (and #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 occasional work 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 like Rodney Lough Jr and Peter Lik to name a couple, 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 is no different moving into the landscape nature genre. What you see below are expenses to consider that many people seem to forget plus a couple examples how pricing at different price points can greatly impact the bottom line.

The following are expenses you might need to take into account (definitely not an exhaustive list, there are more but this gives you a good starting point)

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
Misc: Equipment insurance, business license fees, postage & shipping, photo organization dues, taxes

Example 1 – The Photographer Keeping Expenses In Mind

12×18 Print priced at $120 inlcuding 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)
– $20 lab charge (print expense incl shipping)
– $15 in package/presentation materials
– $10 shipping

Example 2 – The Photographer with little Concept of Expenses.

12×18 Print priced at $60 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)
– $20 lab charge (print expense incl shipping)
– $15 in package/presentation materials
– $10 shipping

Example Product Pricing by Adrian Klein

Two Different Pricing Examples - 12x18 Print


Okay, this 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 sad 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? I hope so. Here is a list of items on how your time might be spent for an order like this:

1. Receiving order and processing payment
2. Additional editing before it gets printed or goes to the lab for printing
2. Placing the print order or printing it yourself
3. Input transaction into tracking software or spreadsheet (accounting)
4. Putting package together for mailing and drop off at mailing facility
5. Correspondence with the customer before, during and after the order

By the time you take all of this into account for Example 2 you are working for basically minimum wage. You might say this is not a realistic scenario. Well I can say it is. I have seen many 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 professional. You might also be saying to yourself that my expenses are more, or less, than what you have in your examples. Very possible. You might have tiered pricing where you offer cheaper open edition prints and more expensive limited edition prints. There are a myriad of ways this might be slightly different for you. This is meant to be an example.

This is my take on it to help provide all of you reading this some insight on this topic. There is much more that can be discussed and covered. I encourage you to research this topic or send me an email if you have questions.

Oh and one last thing I will also mention is 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/unique situation). Over the holidays I had a client order a 30×45 canvas that I accidentally under priced the shipping and packing. Even though I have sent products out many times I wound up paying 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.

Location: Portland, OR

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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