Selling yourself short
Something that every photographer struggles with is how to price themselves. Most of the time, they under-price themselves because they are scared that someone will say no. The problem with this is that it hurts the entire industry. If you set a new low for portraits (I’m looking at you, Craigslist photographers) you will be setting a new low for expectations of photographers and the services that we provide.
And our services are valuable.
Photography is everywhere, this is a very visual time whether it’s photo or video, and people that can provide this service well get paid well.
Start with some research. See what other photographers in your area are charging, because it’s different from city to city. You can’t charge a New York rate in a Mississippi town. Have yourself a minimum rate that you will go and shoot for, and you can figure out that minimum rate using the ASMP’s cost of doing business calculator.
Keep in mind that you will NOT be shooting 365 days a year, so it’s important that the work you take can pay your expenses on days that you’re not shooting. Which brings me to my next point:
Don’t charge by the hour. You will ALWAYS be selling yourself short, unless it’s some sort of event photography in which case you should have a minimum time for. Take for example, you charge 75.00 an hour and you’re heading out to shoot a portrait of a business man. His people have given you one hour with him but it takes you 10 minutes to do the portrait. His people will then decide to pay you for only 1/10 of your time. It happens.
If you can do a shoot in 10 minutes that was thought to take an hour to complete, this means that you are very skilled and should be paid more, am I right?
You should also remove the term “Day Rate” from your business vocabulary as well. It comes down to a time issue – if a client has you for 8 hours and you’re done shooting in 3 they have you for another 5 hours – which is time you could be spending managing your business.
And that’s what photographers are, businessmen. You have to know your numbers and be able to set your rates competitively. Don’t fly into the market and undercut your competition – that’s just tacky. Research, and price fairly. Are you better than a mall photographer with one of those “studios” in the middle of the floor? Then charge more. People will eventually come around and see that they get what they pay for.