In this episode of Capture The Chaos: Grow Your Newborn & Family Photography Business we’re talking about Pricing with a capital P! How do you know it’s time to raise your photography rates? When should you not raise your photography packages? When is the best time to raise your prices? What steps can you take to raise your prices? We chat about all of this, plus I give you an easy pricing formula to determine your photography pricing.
Let’s talk pricing. What should you price your services at? Is it time to raise your rates? Why should you raise your prices? What will happen when you do raise them? In my experience, I’ve found that most people probably undercharge for their services, and it’s usually more related to a confidence thing than it is to a quality thing. So more often than not, it’s probably time to raise your prices. So let’s get into it.
I know it’s really murky around the pricing topic and there’s a lot of advice one way or the other. So I’m gonna give you my advice and what I found over the last 10 to 12 years of doing photography. I hate seeing a really good quality photographer, charging low rates. Not only does it cut the industry quality, but you’re better than that than what you’re charging. It tells me that you don’t have the confidence to charge more. And I want you to have that confidence.
It’s not selfish to charge more for your time. It’s not just one hour of a session and you make a couple hundred dollars. Think of all that goes into a session. The email communication beforehand, deciding the location, the outfits, helping them feel comfortable and ready for the session. There’s a lot of back and forth that takes up your time. Then there’s traveling to the session. Maybe you even get there early before the session. There’s the uploading, the culling, the editing, uploading the images to the gallery, et cetera.
Think of all that time and energy you put into one session. Is it worth leaving your family for a $100 to $200 for all that work? I don’t think so. You can work less and make more. When you raise your prices, you will probably see a dip in your bookings, at least at first, and that’s totally normal and also okay. You’re weeding out people with the price. Shoppers who will jump ship at the first sign of a cheaper photographer.
Think of Target and Walmart. The prices are lower at Walmart, but there are still people who choose to shop at Target. Why? Because there’s a different feeling when you walk into Target. When I go to Walmart, I almost always leave feeling stressed. But, when I leave Target, I leave wondering how I came for toothpaste and left spending $300, but I still left feeling like I had a pretty good time.
When my kids were little, we used to go to Target and get coffee and walk around for fun. I can’t say I’ve ever done that at Walmart. If your client experience is a Target, then you should be charging for a Target experience. If you want to be a turn and burn photographer, you want to leave your clients with absolutely no memorable experience with you and leave the session feeling mostly frazzled, then charge the Walmart prices. That’s probably one of the more harsh things I’ve ever said out loud, but it’s totally true.
If you charge low prices, you’re gonna get burnt out and not be able to offer your clients a memorable experience in a good way. Uh, yeah, sure. You might be able to offer them a memorable experience in a not so good way.
Recently I sent my email list a survey to fill out. I asked how important was price overall for their overall decision when picking their photographer. And I asked them to do it on a scale of one to five, five being most important one, not being important at all. Almost no one picked five, maybe one person, but most were around three and some even said one. They wanted quality photos and a good experience and were willing to pay for it. What this told me is that my clients want a nice balance between the experience and the price. So if you’re sitting there thinking if I raise my rates nobody is going to pay for that, that’s not true. People are willing to pay more many for a service they will have a good experience with. You just have to have the confidence to know that you’re giving them that good experience.
What are some signs you may need to raise your prices? Well, first of all, if you have an editing queue, a thousand miles long, okay? Not literally a thousand miles, but maybe like 10, 15, 20 sessions long. It might be time to raise your prices.
Well, first of all, I don’t suggest booking that far out in advance. And second of all, it’s time to raise your prices if any of the above are true.
If your work has vastly improved since last year, raise those prices.
And then if you aren’t making a profit 100%, it’s time to raise those prices. No, if and or butts on that one.
On the flip side, what are some signs you don’t need to raise your prices if you are not maximizing your sales yet, I suggest you start doing that first. And what do I mean by this? Let’s say you’re offering more images than you promise. Try up selling a gallery. If you tell your client, they’ll get 30 images, then give them 30 images. No one needs a hundred images and you’ll be surprised how much time you save by not over delivering. You can send them a proof gallery where they select their own images and add additional images for an upgrade.
What I do is a soft proof gallery. So I slightly edit them and mostly just apply a preset and then send it over to them. Once they select their images and their upgrades, I go through and then do all the final editing on that. So now I’m only editing 30 or however many images they buy rather than editing a hundred images. And the more you get into editing and the deeper you go, and the more intricate you get, the more likely you’re going to want to do this. I brush adjust almost every single image. Can you imagine doing that to a hundred images? Like I can’t, I won’t do it. I don’t have time for it.
Have you started automating your business yet? Are you automating the emails that you can? Your booking calendar? Are you taking yourself out of the repetitive task that you do every single time? If you haven’t started automating your business yet, I suggest doing that now. Do it when you’re not super busy, rather than trying to go backwards and do it whenever you are and are swamped with sessions. Like you’re gonna be a super busy photographer. So don’t necessarily raise your rates until you’ve started automating and see how much time you can save you. That’s not necessarily one of like the do or die moments though, of raising your prices. You can do that after you raise your prices. Cause I still think automating is necessary.
Don’t raise your prices just because another photographer told you. Take their advice with a grain of salt. If you are a small town photographer and a big city photographer said you don’t charge enough, it might not be the best advice. In reality, they can probably charge a lot more than someone who’s in a super rural area. Now on the flip side, if multiple photographers and clients are telling you to charge more, it’s probably time to charge more though.
Sometimes it may not be time to start charging more. When you’re portfolio building, keep building that portfolio when the risk is low, that way you don’t have to pay back a whole lot of money. If you mess up a session if you don’t want to get pigeonholed into the cheap photography range. But I would suggest setting a specific amount of time for your portfolio building. Let’s say for six months, I’m offering sessions at X amount for my portfolio. And then when the six months are up, go to the predetermined rates. You have your new predetermined rates listed on your website. So if they’re booking a session that’s after the date, you’ve set, they know your prices will be different.
Another reason not to raise your prices is just because you got new equipment, new equipment doesn’t necessarily make you a better photographer. I would suggest instead of raising your rates to pay for the equipment, save up to pay for the equipment before you buy it. Keep in mind. If you start too low, you’ll just be getting price shoppers who will jump ship at the next sign of a lower price. These people are not your loyal clients. You shouldn’t be afraid to lose them. Raising your prices will show you who your people really are.
So when is it time to raise your prices? Like when’s the best time to do it? I would say before the busy season, the new year, or just do it right now. How much should you raise your prices by? There’s a couple things that go into that. I really hate the phrase, charging your worth. It makes me cringe a little bit. We’re all worthy. And how do you measure worth? I’m not sure.
So let’s kind of look at this a little bit more. Logically first you have to run your cost of doing business and you have to determine what your expenses are. I know this is not fun. This is not glamorous, but sit down, do it, figure out everything you spend money on. You’re going to be shocked and it’s going to make you a little bit sick. Think of your studio rentals, the apps you use, websites you are paying for, gas, and props.
If you pay for education and coaching, camera equipment, anything you spend money on for your business is an expense. And it’s also a tax write off. Once you have that number, then sit down and think about what you offer. Are you a more intimate boutique experience? Do you spend a little bit more time with your clients before the session? Do you offer the full gallery?
And now, like I know I said don’t offer the full gallery, but if you do wanna offer the full gallery, you better be charging for it. Do you offer a client closet? If you’re paying for people to have clothes to wear, you should charge for that. What are your special touches that add value to your clients? You can charge more. If you add these little touches on there, how much do you want to make per month? How many sessions do you wanna take per month?
Here’s a quick formula. Take your monthly expenses. Add how much you want to make and then divide it by how many sessions you want to take. So example your expenses are 500 monthly. You want to make 4,000 a month in your pocket. You want to take 10 sessions a month. That’s $450 per session. So, if you’re charging $100 per session and you are never going to get to that $4000.
How do you go about raising your prices? So you can do it slowly over time or you can just make a really big jump. You’ll lose clients either way, either slowly or all at once. If you raise them slowly, you’ll have less of a booking lull, but will take you longer to get to where you want be. If you make the jump, expect a huge dip in booking. So for me personally, I would rather keep shooting and stay in people’s minds. And I also just really enjoy photographing families. It’s definitely a slower growth growing that way, monetary wise. But I think that would be my personal preferred way. You might wanna just go all all in and just go for the jump and that’s totally cool.
What are some things that you can expect to happen when you raise your rates? First of all, this is a big one and it’s not something you may expect. You’re going to have better clients. For some reason, those free clients are the ones that tend to be the nightmare clients. They have the most requests. They give you the hardest time, but when people are paying more, for some reason, they’re just better clients. There’s probably some psychology to that. I’m not really sure what the psychology is, but it’s really interesting.
You’re definitely going to work less, you’re going to make more and you’re going to get your time back. That’s such a big one. This is a fun job to have, and a lot of us get into it as a hobby because we enjoy it. And then we turn it into a business, but it shouldn’t eat up all of our time. And like I’ve said, you’re definitely gonna have a booking lull, it’s not something you’re doing. It doesn’t mean you need to go backwards and lower your rates again. It’s totally normal.
Now it might make you a little nervous to have to tell returning clients that you’ve raised your prices. So what do you do? You can prepare them or you can just do it. I usually just do it and I don’t really apologize for doing it. And I think they’ve just come to expect that I’m going to be raising my rate slowly over time. If you want to prepare them for it, you can tell them that fall prices will be raising, but you can book a session now at the current rate and it will be honored. Keep in mind if they don’t value what you do, they aren’t gonna be loyal and supportive. That’s fine. Say goodbye.
Now, those who truly value value, you will stick with you. There will come a time. You may eventually price your initial clients out, even if they’re loyal. And I always like to give those super loyal clients a discount forever and always, but their prices will rise. Just like everyone else is. I’m not going to stay at my year two rates, but they will get a discount on a portion of the session for whatever I’m charging. Now, you know, I have never made a price increase and regretted it. I’ve gotten a little anxious wondering if it was the right move. And then it usually came back and it paid off. So keep that in mind.
So your homework is to sit down and do your cost of doing business. Figure out your expenses, figure out how much you wanna make per month and how many sessions you wanna take. So do that. And then you can figure out what price you should be at. If it’s a huge increase, then you can decide if you want to make the jump or if you want to do it slowly over time. But create a plan either way so it isn’t just willy-nilly.