Here is how I decided what to charge for my very first photoshoot

Oct 12, 2021

I wish there was someone to tell me what I should charge for a photoshoot when I started my career 7-years-ago. It was literally my biggest roadblock to actually starting my photography business

Because every time I would come up with a price for a photoshoot, I would be worried that what if I am asking for too much money? How will I get clients? Am I worthy of charing this sum?

And then when I would come down to a very basic price point I would think to myself if it was even worth spending time away from my 7-month-old daughter for that pittance of an amount. 

You know... there really is no correct answer to how much should you charge for your photography services. So, what I am going to do here today is explain my thought process to you for coming up with my price structure.

I started my photography business in London in 2014. Well you can say I am based in Kent (not London exactly.) Here were some of my key thinking points.

1. Scope of Work: I first decided what are the services I want to offer. That was newborn babies, child, family and pregnancy photography.

2. Area of work: Next, I clearly decided what was the region on the UK map that I wanted to target to get my clients from. I knew that since I was sitting right on the edge of M25, I would do good by targeting potential photoshoot clients from both across Kent county and London areas.

3. Competitor Pricing: How much are the other newborn, child, family and maternity photographers charing in my area? (for this I did a simple google search and went on the websites of different photographers. If their prices were reflected there then I added their details on my excel sheet with their business name and a list of their prices. If not, then I called them up and asked them what they charge for a photo session (as a potential client). 

4. Backward Calculation: Keeping all the above information in mind, one more important consideration you should have is how much you want to earn per month and based on your understanding of your own work, what is your rough estimate of the number of clients you can sign on per month. Divide your expected monthly earnings from the number of clients you expect to have and you will get your per shoot cost. 

Also, if you are not sure how many clients you can get per month then do the same calculation based on how many days per month are you ready to work/ do photoshoots.

Remember per week, besides shooting these are the additional tasks you need to do:

  • Marketing - Once or twice a week you need to set time aside to promote your work across social media and figure other marketing methods to bring visibility for  your photography business. (don't take marketing lightly. It really is time consuming and necessary.)
  • Editing - Editing takes up a lot of time unless you are going to buy photoshop actions or do batch editing in Lightroom. I mean, even now if I have to edit an image well, I will take about 20-30 minutes per photo and right in the beginning of your career I assume you will perhaps be figuring out your editing work flow and may end up taking longer per image. Plus you would also want to give lots and lots of images to your clients (now, I don't suggest going overboard with giving too many images to your clients or they will not value your work.)
  • Admin and accounts - Sending and replying to emails. Registering the business. Keeping a track on expenses and earnings. Building a repository of props for your photoshoots. Clearing up your studio/home space after the shoots are done. Maintaining a detailed list of all client info. Sending out newsletters and a lot of other non-photography work. 
  • Family Time - Thats paramount. Don't burn yourself out in the very first few months. Make sure to keep family time aside. I understand that in the beginning it will be impossible for you to say no to doing shoots on weekends. But try and balance out family life also. 

Now when I look back at all of this... here is what I decided for myself. 

  1. I knew from the beginning that I would not want to work more than 21 days a month. 
  2. I also knew that I did not want to do more than one shoot per day because it gets a bit too much right in the beginning to understand client expectations and also find our creative style. So shoots go on for longer than usual.
  3. Finally, I knew that right in the beginning that the opportunity cost of spending so much time away from my family to build a business, would mean that at the least I need to earn £3000 a month for the first 6 months. 

With all these calculations in mind. I came to this number: 3000/21 = £142 approximately/ shoot.

To this number I added the expenses and taxes and also the possibility that I won't probably manage to get 21 clients every month.

That led me to  my final number of £180 per shoot.

I only promised 15 images per shoot because editing more than that is just too much work and we I did not want to start regretting setting up a business.

Having said that, I only fixed my pricing for the first 6 months. I told myself that these will be the litmus test months for me to study the market and also gauge what kind of work I like to do the most and how can I optimise on my earnings. 

Once the litmus test period got over, I decided not to alienate my past clients and kept that photoshoot price point available on my website but just reduced the number of images to 12. That a massive saving on my time on editing and also wasn't that big a blow for my clients.

Meanwhile I introduced an additional shoot package at a much higher price point with additional features such as images taken with animals at a farm or fine art studio portraits.

This way I opened doors to an additional client base who was ready for finer and more timeless images for their special moments such as a newborn baby being born or the first 6 months milestone photoshoot of their child, or a pregnancy session or maybe even a special family photo session.

And that is how I rolled. 

I hope this article will help you figure out your pricing at the time you set up your photography business.

Feel free to reach out to me at [email protected] for any additional help.

Remember that it is essential for your to invest in learning and upgrading your photography skills to become the kind of photographer who can charge well. You know when I get asked "Can photography be a proper profession?" "Can I make enough money through photography?" "Can I make enough money doing photography so that I don't have to do another part time job?" Ofcourse Yes and Yes. Photography is a serious profession and you can make a lot of money from this business so never let anyone convince you that photography can be nothing more than a hobby.



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