Can a Photographer Price His Worth?

Dear Jasmine,
After having what I thought was a good meeting with a wedding planner and her client (and then hearing nothing but the sound of crickets afterward), I have started to question my pricing. I have heard you and other wedding pros talk how they started at $1,000 and worked up from there. I have seen other photographers charge quite a bit in my affluent area for work that is less than par. So, I came out of the gate charging $2,950 for a basic package including two photographers, 8 hours of coverage.
I shot my first wedding on my own this past summer and I have since booked a couple more and was a 2nd shooter for another photographer. I feel like I deliver great service and have had happy clients. Given these factors and the work I put out, I felt like what I charge is a good deal in this area.
That said, I also know I have my work cut out for me given the fact that my portfolio is so small. $1,000 just seemed too little for me to start at. I'm wondering if I may need to bite the bullet and drop my prices to get more action rolling out of the gate, but I also think you should charge what you feel you are worth.
Sincerely,
Shooting For The Moon


Dear Shooting For The Moon,
Oh, the woes of pricing...it's pretty much the bane of every photographer's existence. Really. Almost seven years into my business and there are still moments I grapple with my pricing structure. You're not alone.
However, the thing I'm going to address is your perspective on pricing, not the pricing itself. I could get into the many layers of why I started my business charging $1,000 per wedding, but it'll miss the point (however, you can get the story here and more in depth in Exposed Magazine). I'm going to break your letter into three sections and explain why I think you need to recalibrate your perception of pricing.

"I have seen other photographers charge quite a bit in my affluent area for work that is less than par."
Word to the wise, don't look to other photographers to measure your worth...you'll be misled. Sure, you can establish your work on an artistic totem pole (My work isn't as good as his, but definitely better than hers!), but there isn't an established standard. You might think someone else's work is subpar, but you're not the one purchasing it, so--truthfully--your opinion doesn't matter. If a plethora of brides find a photographer's work appealing and are willing to pay a stated price, then that photographer is spot on.


"Given these factors and the work I put out, I felt like what I charge is a good deal in this area."
Here again, you're using yourself as a barometer to gauge what a "good deal" is, when the only person who can confirm this is a prospective bride. If in fact your services were a bonafide deal, you'd have inquiry after inquiry for your photography...that's simply how bargains work. The better the deal, the more it sells. If the coordinator and the bride you met with didn't respond, one might guess you're not as much as a deal as you hoped you were. And the key here isn't to necessarily be the best deal in town, it's to focus on a price that will allow you to run a profitable business, but at the same time grow a profitable business. You want brides talking about your amazing services, but first you need to book them.

"I also think you should charge what you feel you are worth."
Sweet, Shooting For The Moon, I thought the same thing. And then I was struck with the realization that this just isn't how it works in the real world. At the end of the day, the client is the one dictating a photographer's worth. Let me explain: One might feel compelled to charge $10,000 for his services because he thinks he's worth it...if he doesn't book any clients, they've--essentially--said his work isn't worth that much. If on the other hand a photographer charges $1,000 and he books wedding after wedding, chances are he can charge a bit more because of the simple economic rule of Supply and Demand (the more the demand on a limited supply, the more one can charge).
You can say your work is great, you offer great service, and you're a great deal...but if brides aren't booking you, there's a good chance your pricing is amiss. Do I think you're worth every penny? Sure! Do you think you're worth every penny? Sure! But it doesn't matter what we think because the client is the one booking you.

Shooting For The Moon, you may or may not have to change your prices...only you can decide what's best for your business (like I aforementioned, my goal today was to recalibrate your pricing perspective). However, what I can tell you is getting busy the first year of business (having clients publicly endorse your work, building your portfolio, and meeting other industry professionals) is something that doesn't necessarily come with a price tag. Weigh these things carefully because they might be worth their weight in gold.

Stay Fabulous,
j*
Comment (36)
Share on


Thank you! Your comment has been saved.
Glori - Does that $1,000 include their engagement as well?  01.13.14 - 8:50pm
angela hubbard - I think I need to move out of my city.   12.12.13 - 10:52am
Melanie - Thank you for this Jasmine! I do struggle with pricing but it is nice to know that my philosophy (affordable enough to get bookings but expensive enough to reflect what I am worth) is spot on despite being difficult to live by at times...   11.28.12 - 8:39am
Francesca Caputo - i'm glad you touched on this topic. i feel like i've reached a point in my new business where i can confidently support my prices but not turn too many people away. it's slow going but your advice on the business side of things is always much appreciated.  11.26.12 - 7:01pm
Kristin - Awesome advice!  11.26.12 - 10:18am
denise karis - Ahhhh! GOODPOST! oh goodness I'm sure the comments will be fun to read in a minute. I think that if you ARE going to charge a lot, at ANY TIME, you DO have to believe you're worth it before anyone else does. That actually goes for any pricing....no one will buy it if you don't buy it first. But ultimately, yes, our brides decide if you're worth what you're charging. My friend who refers me constantly always says "She doesn't know she's good enough to charge more yet, so book her while she's still not charging enough" :P Hes a good sales guy so it works!!   11.26.12 - 5:06am
Chris - I'm sure everyone has gone through this, we started in much the same way, we charged £500 a wedding to get us going and did over 60 in a year, since then we've increased our prices when we feel we can with the bookings we already have. It's great to finally get to a figure you are happy with but even then it's a constant struggle to work out if you're too cheap or too expensive! Ultimately if the bookings are coming in then things are ok, if not then a re-think is in order!  11.24.12 - 8:58am
Arlington TX Photographer - Great Post! I think every photographer has struggled with this at one time or another!!   11.23.12 - 6:44pm
Adriana Morett - Great post Jasmine, and your answer was so nicely written. Thank you for advice like this  11.23.12 - 3:50am
Lilia C - Thank you Jasmine! That is a well put perspective on how to price one's work.  11.23.12 - 1:42am
Alton Strickland - I like how you responded to this post. Thoughtful. Perceptive. Expressive. Clear.  11.22.12 - 6:07am
Kitrin Jeffrey - Spot on advice as usual, J*. I too struggle with pricing. Thanks for addressing such a pertinent issue.  11.21.12 - 4:54pm
Ashley Christine - I've been struggling with the same thing. Very helpful perspective! Thank you Jasmine!  11.21.12 - 3:15pm
Yuliya M. - Oh wow, you just totally gave me a new perspective on pricing and I have read all your others posts on it too ;). Thank you for taking the time. I will have to put this into practice.   11.21.12 - 1:58pm
Jane - I think you're words of wisdom are such great advise. I think this is perhaps the best bit of advise I have ever read according to this business. Thank you Jazmine you are a star! xx  11.21.12 - 12:18pm
Monika Greenaway - Ooooo. This post is very very very good.  11.21.12 - 11:52am
Cole - Great post/answer Jasmin! Ironically enough I too had a similar conversation with a fellow photographer just starting out how asked me for advice. I share the same mindset as you that, especially starting out, its those "other" items like on the job experience, building a portfolio, word of mouth and vendor relationships that are worth more than the package price. Very well said. The first year in business takes patience and lots of hard work, but can set you up nice for future successes, IF you play your cards right. Cole www.colejosephphotography.com www.colesclassroom.com  11.21.12 - 11:14am
Rachael May (Portland, Oregon) - God, I love how you put things. You are one of the few photographers who can encourage instead of turning up your nose and those less expensive/less successful. THANK YOU. I love this and will take it into consideration in my price increase for 2013  11.21.12 - 10:25am
cheryl - Amen sister :) very well written answer.   11.21.12 - 9:16am
Christopher Johnston - I watched Mike Colon's reaching the High End Bride just last night and he said something that stuck with me. If your value > price = you will book quickly If your value = price = you will book at a normal rate If your value < price = you will book slowly.  11.21.12 - 9:06am
Amanda Isert - I too am struggling with pricing. Now so much how much to charge but now to build packages. Any suggestions? Helpful hints? Websites? Thank you!!!  11.21.12 - 8:44am
Katie - where are people sending in these letters??? i would like to send one in!  11.21.12 - 8:38am
JC Ruiz - I think as photographers we all at one time or another compare ourselves to other photographers to gauge what our prices should be. I think it's best to remember that we are all different and we all offer different services and our prices should not be compared with others but based on what we feel our worth is and what we offer. It's also wise to remember be honest in your pricing. If you charge an exuberant amount but you only offer so little then don't expect much in return.   11.21.12 - 8:31am
Michelle - Jasmine, You hit the nail on the head. My company, Story of Your Life (www.facebook.com/tellmystory), doesn't have any competition because no one does what we do, so we have had to really look inward to price ourselves initially and then listen to our sales volume to see if our pricing works. It has. The good news for dedicated business owners is that if you do the job you promise you'll do, eventually, you can increase your pricing. As our demand has increased, so, too, have our prices. Thanks for this blog. It's incredible insight. Happy Thanksgiving! Michelle  11.21.12 - 8:31am
Sarah Collier - I'm reading Worth Every Penny by Sarah Petty right now and I think it's an excellent expansion on what you're saying about this.   11.21.12 - 8:27am
Amanda Naylor - If your base package isn't working.. try coming up with 3 packages.. a low ball for people who don't have a big budget or are having a smaller wedding, a medium package (what you hope to make/average for every wedding), and a package that's a little higher (maybe your $2,9xx).. You never know what people are willing to spend.. don't shoot yourself in the foot with just having one package!  11.21.12 - 8:26am
Laura - Great perspective! Thanks for sharing this.  11.21.12 - 8:24am
Linda B. - I agree with both of you, but sadly it really is the demand for your photography that is the barometer of what you should charge at that particular moment in time. Pricing is something that most photographers, including myself, fret over.  11.21.12 - 8:24am
Eddie Sanchez - Wow......(No further comment).   11.21.12 - 8:23am
Lorrie Prothero - as far as worth and what a client is willing to pay - I don't go simply by what a client decides you're worth. Some people just simply may not be able to afford you in a certain demographic - it doesn't mean you're not worth what you charge.   11.21.12 - 7:49am
Heather Beach - Lots of good things to think about, J*! I am in almost exactly the same spot as Shooting for the Moon. Thanks for the insight!   11.21.12 - 7:19am
Ariana Watts - Great pointers J*! So true how we have to see our work through our potential clients eyes and assess our value there. Which made me think of another point - if you feel that you are valued at that particular price point, what are you doing to show others your value? Is your customer service $2950 worth? Do your pricing guides, products, website, etc. show that you are worth $2950? You may feel that the quality of work you offer is enough to set your prices higher, but people need to visually see that you're worth that much more through as many channels as possible - presentation, customer service, professionalism, etc. Maybe focusing on making yourself seem valuable will keep your mind off your competition, and increase your perceived value.   11.21.12 - 7:11am
Nicole - Pricing is one thing that I think we've struggled with. Great point that sometimes its our perception that we need to change and go from there!  11.21.12 - 7:07am