Back when I was first getting started with boudoir photography, we had a client who seemed very enthusiastic about her images. She picked a relatively large package during her viewing and also ordered a large canvas. The total bill, not including her session fee, hair, and makeup (which she had received on the house after winning our doorprize at a local event) was $1250
She pulled out a $20 bill to pay.
When we gave her the total of $1250, she thought we meant twelve dollars and fifty cents!
That was the moment when I knew we needed to do better educating our clients, which I wrote about here, but it also illustrates another good point:
When it comes to photography, there are no industry standard prices.
Our confused client can't be blamed for thinking that her images were $12.50, because there are so many cheapo photography studios out there with packages starting at less than $100. On the other hand, I've had clients who didn't bat an eye at spending over $3000 on a boudoir shoot.
So as a photographer, how do you set your prices? What's fair while still allowing you to make the most money possible?
It's tempting to pull a number out of thin air, but this is one of the biggest mistakes you could make. If you just pick a number that “sounds good,” you might find yourself out of business in just a few months.
Likewise, you shouldn't price yourself the same as your local competitors. Why? Because your services aren't the same.
Even if you offer the exact same packages and products, YOU are not the same photographer. Your images are different. Your style is different. The experience you give your clients is different.
Here's one of the biggest pricing secrets for photographers: The actual dollar amount doesn't matter. It only matters that people perceive this dollar amount to be a good value for what they are receiving.
“Sticker shock” only happens when someone expects a much lower price than the price they're given. So, as long as you're properly educating clients and providing an experience and end product worth the price, they'll be happy to pay it.
But that doesn't really answer the question, “How much should I charge?”…
So, here's my step by step guide to figuring that out!
1. Figure out your monthly expenses.
What does it cost you to run your studio? Think about rent, utilities, cleaning supplies, equipment fees, etc. Also include the amount you pay any employees or contractors on a monthly basis.
2. Next, figure out how much you want to earn per month.
You should always pay yourself. If you don't, all of your money will go back into your business. So what would a comfortable monthly salary be for you?
3. Determine the average number of shoots you book per month.
If you do 10 shoots per month, you'll get to your target goal a lot faster than if you only do 1 or 2 shoots per month. With every shoot, what are your most popular packages? This is probably your middle-of-the-road package, above a bare-bone package but below the more expensive, inclusive packages.
Once you've figured out these three things, you can more easily set your prices. If your monthly expenses are $3000 per month and you want to make an additional $3000 as your own salary, you know you need to make a total of at least $6000 per month. If you do 5 shoots per month, you need to average $1200 per shoot – so your average, most popular package should be around $1200.
Worried that you're pricing yourself too high for your market? Think about what you can do to make the perceived value of your service higher. Essentially, you want to roll out the red carpet for your clients.
- Turn on a Pandora station of their choice during the shoot to create a custom atmosphere.
- Provide water and light snacks.
- Create a basket of common-needed products in the bathroom (lotions, spray deodorant, makeup remover, perfume, etc.).
- Meet them out at their car and help them carry in all of their stuff.
- Offer them a list of area eateries and directions in case they want to grab something to eat or drink while waiting for their viewing.
- Make accessories available for them to use (hats, scarves, etc.)
- Use reusable false eyelashes and give them the lashes and case to take home with them. (We teach them how to take off and reapply before they leave the studio.)
Here at the Molly Marie studio, we also set out custom cookies during every viewing. A local bakery decorates the cookies with our logo, just for our customers. It gives the view a really high-end feel for not a lot of money.
All of the above tips are, in fact, super inexpensive, but they make your clients feel like a million bucks. And when someone feels like a million bucks, they're more likely to open their wallet and spend a million bucks…or, at least, spend a little more on one of your biggest packages!
What are you doing to give your clients a million-dollar experience? Or, what do you plan to start doing now that you've read this post? Leave a comment below so we can all share ideas!