Pricing beginners vs experienced

Discussion in 'General Shop Talk' started by Lightspeedfoto, May 26, 2010.

  1. Lightspeedfoto
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    Lightspeedfoto New Member

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    I've read a lot on here and other forums and it seems that a majority of people seem to feel 2 things that are almost contradictory. First is that you should not charge high pricing unless your photos are spectacular. Second is that people who charge lower than area averages are sending a message that their work or service is sub-par and if customers don't see a high price, they may not expect a high quality job.

    With that being said, how should a photographer like myself set pricing? I've been second shooter on a few weddings for one of Orlando's top wedding photographers, and i've even done several events of my own - one engagement party (just like a wedding reception), and one charity ball. Prior to that, I enjoy taking photos of babies, families, etc but have not charged for my work.
    I'm fortunate enough that I'm able to do this as a hobby because I love it and since I have a "normal" full time job, it takes a lot of pressure off.

    Recently, I've been asked (through referrals) to shoot a bat mitzfah which will be comprised of shooting formals at the temple with the standard family lineup, and then the following evening shooting the party which will take place in a banquet hall.

    my equipment is as follows: 5dmkII, 50 1.2L, 70-200 2.8L IS, 24-105L, 20mm 2.8, couple of speedlights, 2 alien bees 1600's, pocket wizards etc, 600x cf cards, imac, etc.

    I think i'm good on equipment. But the dilemma remains on how much I should charge? Most of the work i've done has been gratis and mainly for friends/family, friends of friends etc. I'd love to hear some ideas? I do want to make this into a business, but I enjoy it so much anyway, I'll probably want to at least cover my costs and try to pay for some new gear.
  2. mwcfarms
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    mwcfarms New Member

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    How long do you think this event will take. You could have a flat hourly fee and price from there and then of course price for your prints. I believe if you search the forums there are a bunch of threads on pricing structures etc. Good luck with it.
  3. Big Mike
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    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member

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    I agree with those who say that you should not have lower prices simply because you are inexperienced. In fact, I took a course about starting up in wedding photography, and the primary point that he constantly drove home, was that a low price was the number one reason why people failed...and experience should not dictate your price.

    But of course, the paradox is that it usually takes experience to hone your craft so how do you justify a decent cost while you are still 'getting good'?

    Good question. It sounds like you are on a good track though. Assisting with an experienced pro and shooting for friends/family is a great way to get some experience under your belt, without the costs or risk of taking on full gigs.

    You have a nice gear list, but what you didn't list was another camera. A backup/2nd camera is essential IMO.
  4. KmH
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    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish

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    Checkout this book.

    The Business of Studio Photography: How to Start and Run a Successful Photography Studio

    The first steps to starting a business are consulting with an accountant, an attorney, and an insurance agent.

    The accountant will help you establish pricing, an attorney will help you jump through the various hoops your town/county/state has for establishing a business, and the insurance agent will help make sure you are covered against damage, theft, or other loss of your photography gear, and to protect your personal assets from law suits for various reasons.
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2011
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  5. Lightspeedfoto
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    Lightspeedfoto New Member

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    I'm very comfortable with business operations, as a successful business owner for the last 15 years, and all aspects of E&O Insurance, and accounting practices.

    My main concern is when charging for a service, should price always reflect experience, or should price only reflect results?

    I'm sure the answer is a combination of both and varies from person to person, I was just looking for a bunch of input. I have until January, but the mother is anxious to lock something up soon.

    Per the advice of many on here, I will be producing a contract, and sticking with the terms of the contract, yet my nature is such that I will always go above and beyond for my customers. Service is the only thing that will ever truly set you apart from the next guy. If your work(product, service, etc) is fantastic, but people don't like you, they won't use you!
    Photography or anything else.

    I'd love to read more comments if you have them. And yes, a 2nd body is in the works. For an event like that, I will rent another 5dmkII for the weekend, until work is steady enough to warrant another body purchase. That's what I did before. There's a local shop that will rent for about 125 for a week, complete with batteries, cards, etc.
  6. Derrel
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    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    How much do you suppose the family will be spending on this important aspect of their child's upbringing? Keeping in mind the cost of food, decorations, hall, invitations, amenities, perhaps some accommodating out of town relatives, and so on? The photographic record you are being hired to create is probably one of the more important aspects of this important event. How do you suppose the clients are viewing your services? Do you think they want to be able to tell their friends and families that they got somebody to shoot the event for $100? Or would they be happy to let people know they hired, "a thousand dollar photographer" ? I suspect that the answer lies somewhere in the middle, but closer to the $1,000 end than to the $100 end.
  7. KmH
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    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish

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    You left out many pertinent details in your OP, biasing most of the responses by giving the impression you had no previous business experience.

    Good luck with your new venture. :thumbup:
  8. Lightspeedfoto
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    Lightspeedfoto New Member

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    [/QUOTE]You left out many pertinent details in your OP, biasing most of the responses by giving the impression you had no previous business experience.

    Good luck with your new venture. :thumbup:[/QUOTE]

    Sorry...I do have prior business experience, but no experience in the Photography "business". Only as a glorified hobby, but one that I would like to pursue into a business.

    I do have photography experience (portraiture mainly), but only once as a primary shooter for an event, where I did not charge for services.

    I'd like to do more events in the future, but not sure if i should start pricing just below some of the shooters I admire, where I feel that I could do just as well, if not better than, even though I don't yet have the portfolio to back it up?

    Here's my thoughts for my upcoming event...it's a 2 day affair with formals on friday evening in the temple (about 2 hours of shooting max) and then the following night, covering the party/reception (about 5-6 hours max). This is shooting time only.
    I figured I would roughly charge around $100/hr for shooting time, and nothing for setup/takedown. I would also include a certain # of prints maybe 3 or 4, and give out only 4x6 or low-res on-line proofs. I would then offer a dvd of hi-res images for $500, and also offer any albums etc. that they might want.

    how does that sound? And yes, I know there are a million other "intangible" costs associated with doing business, but you can't include everything in your costs as you start. You've got to get your foot in the door somewhere in order to build up a portfolio, right?
  9. c.cloudwalker
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    c.cloudwalker New Member

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    A lot of people are probably going to hate me but... charge as much as you can.

    The type of photography you are talking about is a racket. Either deal with it or get out of the business. If you can deal with it, charge whatever you want once you've checked out the local competition.

    And by that I mean look at what others are charging in your area, honestly look at how your work compares to theirs, and figure it out from those two facts.

    If you are better and everyone is charging $500, you may not want to charge $2500. Might be too much of a jump but how about $750? If they charge $500 and your work is not half as good, you probably don't want to charge more than half their price. Etc, etc.

    Study your local market. But don't hesitate going for the money.
  10. Nicholas James Photo
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    Nicholas James Photo New Member

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    I dont think that pricing should or even could reflect experience. Someone who has made their living in photography for a hundred years may not have learnt anything new or improved for the last 99 of those years.

    What counts is the image or should I more correctly say, the images.

    There is a possibility that a person could come into the industry, with little experience, but a natural gift for image making.

    I guess that some would argue that with experience comes the ability to produce quality images when things are stressful, it's raining, the brides mother is having a tantrum etc etc, I would agree,,,, if you have the ability to take quality images in the first place.

    Then comes the photographers nightmare.... much more worrying than buying equipment or how much to charge. It's "will people like my work". It's not just a photography thing, it happens to artists of any gendre. And in a way it is reflected in many of these "how much should I charge" threads. You said it yourself. You have a good job and you enjoy it (photography). So in effect you could say a wedding costs me $500 to produce so that is what I'll charge, cost covered and I've had fun.

    The reason most of us ask ourselves about charges is because we would like to know what others think we are worth. It's another way of saying "How good am I as an artist"

    I've not seen any of your pics so advice as such is a little low but what I do advise is this.

    Put together a wedding portfolio or an event portfolio and put a value on it that you feel is right. Forget what everyone else is charging or any advice given, just go with your instincts.
    Then take that portfolio and price to market.
    If no one books you (I dont mean one or two people think its expensive) then you have probably over valued your talent.
    If you have to turn down work because everyone wants to hire you then you have probably under estimated your talent.

    Sooner or later you will gather enough information from those that count, potential clients, as to your true worth.
  11. c.cloudwalker
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    c.cloudwalker New Member

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    "...not charge high pricing unless your photos are spectacular."

    What are spectacular photos?

    I just to come back and talk a bit about this because, frankly, it means something different to every person saying it. Years ago I attended a workshop by the top wedding photog in the country. Incredible waste of money.

    His shots were technically fine but they were the exact same from one wedding to the next. There was absolutely no creativity involved in his work. I would never had hired this guy to shoot my wedding.

    Also, we had a guy here a while back who thought that you shouldn't shoot weddings unless you had so much gear and so many years shooting second camera with a mentor... Well, he is now going to shoot weddings on his own but his photos suck big time.

    Not a gear problem. He's got every lens out there and a couple bags full of lighting gear. But he has a serious problem relating to people. And that is a major problem when you are going to do people photos. Someone with a 1/4 of his gear but with better people skills will get much better shots with no problem. Any day of the week.
  12. CraniumDesigns
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    CraniumDesigns New Member

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    i wouldnt charge based on experience. charge based on how good your end product is. even if ur brand new, if u make great stuff, charge great stuff prices.
  13. Lightspeedfoto
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    Lightspeedfoto New Member

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    I'm definitely leaning towards the philosophy of charging based on the quality of work, and not necessarily experience. I know I can produce images that will be technically sound and also tell a story, which is what I believe they should do. My only concern is that since i haven't had much experience in an "event" type setting, i'm not sure what makes a good image. That will come with a lot of researching for the next 6 months, and also continuing to act as a shadow/second shooter for some great photographers in my area.
    Thanks to all for your input and advice.
  14. DanEitreim
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    DanEitreim New Member

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    One thing to keep in mind is that even if you only wanted to cover your costs, chances are you'd end up losing money. There are far more expenses in running a business than most anyone takes into account.

    Don't let the fact that you love photography drive you into the poorhouse.

    Price is a function of marketing. Not quality.

    If you have more people clamoring for your services than you have time for - raise your prices. If not, lower them a bit.

    Charles Lewis advises that you raise your rates after every wedding until you reach a point where you aren't getting any more bookings, then back off a bit and start massively marketing until you can start raising your prices again.
  15. bethany138
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    bethany138 New Member

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  16. imagemaker46
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    imagemaker46 Well-Known Member

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    Charge as little or as much as you want, with a full time job you have the option, if you feel you are good enough to compete against the professional wedding photographer you were working with then charge the same, if you don't feel you can compete with that person charge less. Setting your own prices has nothing to do with how experienced you think you are, it has to do with how experienced you really are. If you do charge the same as the person you were working with be prepared to produce the same quality, if you charge alot less, be prepared to deal with a pissed off professional if they start to lose clients.

    No one can tell you what to charge or what you are worth, only the quality of your photographs will dictate that.

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