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Portrait Photographers: How do you charge your work?

Alaine Mangabay , Dec 16, 2009; 07:06 p.m.

I am thinking about doing some wedding and portrait work on the side while I am going to school (majoring in photography). I have photographed a wedding already, but have not done portraits yet. Anyways, my mom has been taking my portfolio in with her to show to her co-workers and even passed out my business cards to them. Now some of them are starting to ask what I would charge to do portraits. I have no idea how to go about charging. So my questions are: What do you charge if you are a portrait photographer? How did you come up with your price? \
Any advice would be great!


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Kevin Delson , Dec 16, 2009; 07:25 p.m.

What do you charge if you are a portrait photographer? How did you come up with your price? \

This is actually a fairly easy question to answer. Since you do not have a established name nor a portfolio, I would suggest you come up with a minimum $/hr you are willing to work for; keeping in mind you are attempting to build a portrait portfolio.

Many people breaking into portraiture tend to underestimate how long it takes from shoot to delivery, so whatever you come up with, add 30% more time (i.e) if you're guessing 10 hours, figure on 13.

One word of caution; in the scenario you spelled out, get ready for people to expect a whole lotta' service for very little dollars. At a minimum for you, and if you are pretty good (better than JC Penny) start around $30/hr.

What usually happens for photogs starting out is a tendency to undersell yourself, then they get desperate... then finally wind up on craigslist shooting weddings for 200 bucks.

Robert Cossar , Dec 16, 2009; 08:58 p.m.

You say you have photographed one Wedding, but have done no portraits. What do you call photographs of people and groups at a wedding? I suggest that your pricing start very low indeed, if what you have written is any statement of your knowledge and professionalism. Robert

Alaine Mangabay , Dec 16, 2009; 09:24 p.m.

I have never charged for a portrait session. I have only done it for friends and family and for class and didn't charge, which was a mistake because of how much I put into it. I do have a small portfolio of work and know what all goes into portraits, I just don't know what to charge. Thank you kevin for your answer it helped.

Robert Cossar , Dec 16, 2009; 09:57 p.m.

Alaine....it doesn't really matter how large your portfolio is. What matters is.....How good are the Images. THAT will determine how much you should charge.....so what you really need is some expert opinions on your work.....not just a blind "how much"? Robert

Lisa Christianson , Dec 17, 2009; 03:26 a.m.

Right now I have just passed the stage you are at. I did a whole lot of research before I set my prices. From my experience I have learned that pricing depends on the area you are in,the quality of your work, your experience and the equipment you are using. To start out look into at least three different photographers or studios in your area. Based on those prices, ask yourself how do your photos compaire to the ones taken at those studios. Ask youself how does your experience compair to those places. The next thing you will want to look into is the cost of the prints you are offering or are you willing to give your clients full use rights of the photos you took. Compair the cost of printing to what you are thinking of selling your photos for. Then ask yourself again if you think with your experience and equipment if this is a fair price. Remember you are just starting out and the price of your photos will increase with the experience you will gain. It's ok to change your prices at a later date. There are all kinds of online sites these days that you can upload your photos to and that site will do the selling with your stated pricing and printing without you having to do much. Right now I am using adorama.com in their pix section. It's easy to use since I haven't completed my website yet. I hope this info helps you out with your new business and remember that you are just starting out and this should all be a fun experience for you. Don't stress yourself out yet, that will come later ;)

John McCosh , Dec 18, 2009; 07:32 p.m.

This is not such an easy question to answer. There are a few factors that come into play. What is your competition charging. How good are your images. What are you offering for your payment. I have played around with different options and have come up with the following that works in my market. $100 per hour for that they receive unlimited digital images either in my studio or outdoors at a location of their choosing. They also get 4 (10 x 8) prints from 4 images that they choose including digital enhancement. I charge an extra $20 for any other images to be digitally enhanced. See my web site for more information. http://www.mccoshphotography.com

Kevin Delson , Dec 18, 2009; 07:49 p.m.

What is your competition charging.

With all due respect, this is not a good yardstick when you are starting to charge for work; esp just breaking into portrait photography.

The competition may be experienced; Alaine is not as yet.

I've yet to see a craigslister or beginner garner what experienced shooters can; unless you can back up your claims of doing excellent work with references.

John McCosh , Dec 18, 2009; 08:08 p.m.

Your missing my point. What the competition are charging comes into play in setting your price. It's no use charging more than what they are charging. As I said it also depends on how good your shots are. If you think they are not quite as good as the competition then your price has to reflect this based on the Competion's charge. Ie maybe 50% or 75% of what they are charging. Therefore what your comprtition are charging still comes into the equation. As also stated it also depends on what you are offering for your charge. If your shots are not as good as the competition but your offereing more in other ways then maybe you could charge 90% or even the same as your competion.

What your Competition is charging has to be your starting point from where you base your charges based on the other two items in the equation. How good your shots are and what you are offering for this price.

Dean Tomasula , Dec 19, 2009; 03:08 p.m.

You say you have photographed one Wedding, but have done no portraits. What do you call photographs of people and groups at a wedding?

This is so far from portraiture it's not funny. Lining people up against a wall and taking a picture of them is not portraiture.
As for what you should charge, it depends on a lot of factors, including what your time is worth, what (if any) is your overhead, how much the market will bear, etc. Basing your pricing on "what the competition charges" is definitely not the way to do it. That is a recipe for disaster.

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