Pricing Yourself as a Photographer
How to Understand What to Charge
This has got to be my number one question that fills my inbox. And while I'd love to say that I personally have got this topic down pat and am confident in how to start this dialogue-I'm filled with a bit of anxiety. Not because I don't want to reveal this information-if fact I think it's a subject that desperately needs to be talked about. It's because I don't think there's a step-by-step guide that I can create that will work across the board for every single photographer. All I can offer are tips that I've picked up along the way that have worked for me. I think some of these tips are for sure universal, but every photoshoot you get hired to do will have a different budget. So there isn't a "You should charge $____ and don't take any more or less" type situation. Regardless, I hope this helps you guys or at least can unify the community more!
Ask Questions. Before I start hammering out to brands on how much a charge, I always try to ask as many questions about the shoot first. How long is the shoot? How many models? How many outfits? Inside or outside location? Do you have a hair/makeup artist? What's the theme or style of the shoot- do you have a mood board to go off of? How many edited photos do you need? This way I can get a feel for how produced the shoot is and what is required of me as the photographer. If it's inside, then I'll probably have to bring my lighting equipment. Or I might have to hire an assistant if we are shooting outside and I need a reflector. By knowing all of this information I can start to see how much I'll need to charge-because renting lighting equipment is expensive and I don't want to have to pay for an assistant if the shoot doesn't need one.
What you pitch isn't always what you get. Most of the time, when a client approaches you to shoot, they really want to work with YOU. So don't be scared that your rate is going to be too high for your client-because even if it is, usually they are open to negotiating in order to still secure you as their photographer. I always write in my emails something like, "Normally I quote $____ for this type of project, but I'm not sure what your budget is so let me know your thoughts." This way I'm showing them my rate but also leaving the door open for negotiation if it's outside of their budget. Don't get tangled up in the idea that other photographers always get paid what they pitch-from my experience it's always a negotiation battle.
I'm hungry. In the freelance world, you will find yourself either extremely busy or going long periods of time without getting booked. The 'dry months' as I've heard it be called, or as I like to say, the "I'm hungry" months 😬, will push your pricing boundaries. Some photographer peers of mine like to account for these slow months in the rate they get paid during the busy months. I definitely try to save money to keep me afloat-but I also have taken on some lower budget projects during the slow seasons.
Happy Medium. A friend once told me, "Half of your clients should say your rate is too high, and the other half should say that they can afford it." So by following that rule, I've been able to toggle my rate back and forth until I found that happy medium. Everyone saying they can afford your rate no problem-without any negotiating needed? Then raise it a bit. Everyone saying you are too freakin expensive? Then lower your rate a little.
Overbooked and overworked. I've had moments where my calendar schedule was swapped with back to back shoots. Sounded awesome at first because I was happy to get booked consistently and know that my rent was covered for that month--BUT now all my free time was spent editing. I had no time to update my website, reach out to new opportunities, or even respond to emails. So I had a moment of reflection: what if I raised my prices so that I got booked less often? That way my schedule wasn't overbooked, I made more money, and I didn't have to stay up late at night editing photos. This was a big realization for me. It's kind of like the 'supply and demand' theory. If you are becoming highly in demand for photoshoots, you raise your price in order to not be overbooked.The other option is just to say 'no' to work after a certain point. But if you're a workaholic like me and have a hard time saying 'no' to jobs, then you might want to consider raising your price if month after month you are overbooked. Just be careful not to raise it too high all at once because your returning clients might raise an eyeball and not hire you again.
Don't feel alone in all of this. Questions about money and how to price yourself ARE TOTALLY HARD!! It's also such a broad topic so if I didn't answer your questions, feel free to directly email me or send me a DM on Instagram. I hope this article was able to clear the air a little bit though and inspire you guys to keep moving forward! We are all in this together 👊