Photography Tips: COUNTING THE COST - PART 1 OF 2

Recently, Mark Jordan Photography was asked this question from a photographer: "How do you charge more than $50 for an 8x10 and stay in business?" I jotted down a quick reply, and on the chance that it might be beneficial, I thought I would post it here in my blog.

Thank you for asking about how to price your photography.

Pricing one's work is fairly subjective, and so much depends on not only the quality of one's visual expression, but the market one is seeking to attract. Regardless, there are certain elements to every pricing structure that cannot be ignored and MUST be considered before deriving a price.
Counting the Cost Begins Early 

The vast majority of pricing considerations entail one's costs. That is, one must take into account such indispensables as tithing/charity, food, home/mortgage/rent, clothing, insurance (life, disability, auto, home, overhead, business, equipment, liability, etc.), overhead (studio space, utilities, phones, internet/cable/web-host/domains, maintenance, marketing, sales, salary, employees, cameras, furniture, stationery, computers, hard-drives, etc.), taxes (property, income, employees, federal, state, etc.), retirement/savings, medical, living expenses, education, auto, vacation, and least of which are lab costs - just to name a few.

Not until these annual costs are determined can one sit down and make a reasonable estimate of what it takes to simply exist.

Add to this list of actual costs the excess (i.e. profit) you must reap to cover other yearly costs for such "luxuries" as travel, hobbies, interests and fun (and my case, guitars and golf). With this complete picture in mind (and the appurtenant total), divide it by the number of sittings/sessions you want to book or the number you average a year. Now you know how much you need to average from each session. 

Then, ask yourself, what is the general makeup of each session? Do you sell primarily 8x10s or 40x60s? How many of each? For every photographer I've helped work these numbers out, I have never seen an 8x10 cost less than $50 - nearly always, it exceeds $100. When I did this exercise for myself back in the 80's, the $3.00 lab 8x10 cost me $87. 

Obviously, those photographers who are selling their "8x10s" for less than their actual costs and believe they are making a profit, simply because their lab bill states $3 are living in denial. It's not to say that a photographer who is booking a thousand sessions per year cannot make a profit with low margins, but I don't know many who have attained the volume that would justify charging only $50 for an 8x10. They might be a good photographer, but as a viable business, they are fooling themselves. 

Who me? Count the cost? I'm making $25 for an 8x10! 
A great many photographers I speak with DO NOT charge nearly enough and subsequently are woefully under-insured. This includes medical coverage, a retirement plan, disability insurance, and the list goes on and on. 

Sadly, I now meet many older photographers reaching retirement age and most do not have what they need to live comfortably - they will be working all their lives. Why? They never counted the cost. Sadly, this also extends to many a spiritual destiny as well, but that's a whole other story...

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