October 31, 2013#

Pricing YOU & Portraits

This is the constant feedback I hear regularly. What am I worth charging? How do I price myself in the market? What level am I at? How do I compete with Johnny So and So down the road only charging this much? The industry is flooded! No one in my area spends more than this __________!

What is the industry standard? How can I sustain an income? WAIT screeching brakes sound… these two I hardly ever hear. Because most people start with the above blocks and objections and quickly fall in to the negative hole of self perpetuating doom. It’s not fear! Why is Johnny So and So making more money than me I am 3 times a better photographer/person But whenever I’ve been down that whole I have managed to fight out of my doom just long enough to think “I am a creative. Surely I can think of lots of creative ways to get out of this hole”

Some big questions for you
First what is your thru average sale? Number of shoots divided by total income.
What is your Cost of doing business – What is your Shoot & Product profitability ? How much money are you keeping from this average.
How many shoots do you want per week at what dream average?
What is your survival rate? The least you are prepared to accept for a job.
Is your price list wired to drive sales to your required or desired average?
Are you a package price list or a La carte?

Over the last 24 years working in the industry I’ve seen this progression with all photographers $400 $900 $1200 $1800 $2300 $2800 $3300 These were the exact increments in which my sales progressed as I lifted my service product and value. Every time I would hit one level I would turn my focus to the next one. I didn’t see it as a ceiling but rather an umbrella you set the limits and then you come up against your own limits time to reset.

How do you raise your average? You raise your value both in what your product and service is and you raise your internal value system. How do you get out of your own way in what you’re worth and earning/receiving money. Because it is usually us that is blocking this growth. For the first 2 years in my business I struggled to pull a $400 average I had the work just not the service or the self value. I learned to value me by increasing my service to others.

Where are you at on this pricing scale? What are you offering for your current average? Can you sustain a business and income at this average?
If the answer is yes then keep that cog turning if the answer is no you have some pretty big goals to set today. But they are just goals and trust me when these goals start to come to fruition and you see your average climbing YOU are in business.

Watch the free broadcast CLICK HERE
Please write all questions here on the blog in the comments so we can take this conversation to the next level.

Sue Bryce Pricing YOU


  1. Sue,

    Thanks for doing this! My question is, what do you think of the idea of raising your prices incrementally after a certain number of shoots? Like, after every 10 shoots, move up the price. Or is that too limiting?

  2. My question would be what entry point someone would put themselves at when they are just starting? I calculated my cost to do a shoot is a minimum of $700, but I am just starting out and have only been testing to this point with no paid assignments. I have no idea where to start (what the market here will bear), but the thought of starting low is a hard pill to swallow so I have immediately adopted your pricing and have begun the marketing process. Would love to hear your advice specific to newbies. Thank you.

    • Kristina,

      I love this! because after watching several of Sue’s online workshops and this is my 2nd go round of starting my business I’ve had people tell me “you haven’t shot professionally in a while, so you can’t just start charging where you left off” or “you have to start low and work your way up again”…why?? did my value diminish over the last 10 years because I walked away from my business before because 1 I was trying to save my marriage (it failed anyway and I lost my beloved business) 2 I wasn’t pricing right and was giving away my time and money so I should do it wrong again this time as a single mom so that it hurts my family that I’m trying to support and take care of. As I sit and write out my plans and my goal boards I have another voice in my head and it’s much louder than my doubters and my self-hate voice, it’s this beautiful voice and she fights with my self-hate voice and my doubter voices and she says one of my favorite lines “really, we’re going to go with that” sit down and shut up and watch her shine because she is worth so much more and then she looks and me and say well go on show me what you’ve got, I challenged you to step up your game, sitting on your bum is doing nothing for you. Everyone has that champion voice inside themselves but we’ve let that self-hate and the doubters tie them up and bury them in the sand like they live on the island of lord of the flies that we can’t hear them any more and Sue came along and released mine, so I gave mine her voice :) So if you calculated your cost and your price and that is your minimum then that is what you market it for. Have you seen that really long boring movie Field of Dreams…”if you build it, they will come”

      anyway just my thoughts, wanted to just encourage you in a really long, rambling post that you have to make the money you are worth, because you have been out there doing the free shoots, learning putting in your dues, nose to the grind stone learning. It’s all a continuous process. you’ll never be done learning. I used to shoot weddings. I shot one wedding that I was so in love with afterward that I was so scared to post it because all my other wedding paled that I had done before, because right before I had done 2 workshops and I had applied everything from those workshops to this wedding and my game changed dramatically. You offer your clients your skill set at the time and that is liquid and forever changing so your price list must be forever changing and INCREASING because your worth is always getting better.

    • me again… :)

      I just went and looked at your website, not sure what all you’re offering, but just based off of your images on your site I have 1 thing to say your minimum cost need to be over $1000. You are offering incredible images, do NOT sell yourself short!!!

      • Hi Kimberly!

        Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story, give me your thoughts and look at my work. I have been doing my best to employ all the techniques Sue has been teaching from posing, lighting and her business model. It is intimidating because she has so much talent and experience, but it gives me a great goal to work towards. Plus, I don’t believe in reinventing the wheel and she has found great success through the years, so why mess with the formula?

        I decided to go offer the same items – I have invested in some Finao boxes/mattes and will offer wall portraits keeping with the ala carte pricing. For the 6 image folio box, with my cost for hair and makeup, even $1200 barely makes the cut, but as I become more proficient, I’m sure it will be more profitable.

        Just trying to stay positive and looking for ways to find clients who value and will pay for my work. At this point it’s very hard and discouraging because I have not found them, but most of us are going through the same struggle, especially if we are just starting out, so trying to keep my head up and keep on keepin’ on. Thanks again for your encouragement. :)

  3. Thank you for the post Sue. I have been in and out (over the last 4 years) of photography, but never really IN. Mostly due to life circumstances, etc. At this point however, I am wishing to be totally IN :) The one thing that I have struggled with all along was pricing. Not because I didn’t think I was good enough, (and have done the COS of running a business), but because I didn’t know what was the best style of pricing to offer my clients. We are taught to make 3 packages. Middle is where you want to be! But I don’t feel that is a good approach either. I like your approach. What I am understanding, is that you charge an initial session fee…is that correct? From there, all of your products are a la carte, and you also offer payment plans. No product is handed over until payment has been received in full. Stop me if I have misunderstood to this point. My other question is, how do you deal with digital images? Do you sell them…how do you price them, and do you offer 2 options. Small image (for facebook, quick sharing and the like), and high resolution images that they can have and do what they like? Definitely going to take a look at your 28 days series. Would you suggest that this would be the best “business” guide? I have had it with my flip-flopping, lol….time to step forward! Thanks Sue…you are a source of knowledge and inspiration in this industry :)

  4. This is perfect for me right now. I am putting together my first price list ever. I am so grateful that I found you. Thanks!

  5. Thank you Sue – I intend to watch this and listen to this video until I can quote it back to you!!!

    I am trying to kick start my business while I still hold down a Full Time job…

    I’ve done my CODB, and with a $150 hair & makeup (“Session Fee”) I have set my folio boxes prices at:
    5 $500; 10 $1000; 15 $1500
    with individual prints starting at $150ea.

    I’ve been told that I was too cheap and this is why I am not getting any bookings …. and of course I have received the “too expensive” comment… which is it? one or the other? neither?

    I believe in the value in my prices, I have a goal I want to work towards, but I don’t get the enquiries to even get
    bookings….. is it my work quality? is it my prices? is it me? am I trying to start too high/too low? I must be doing something wrong…

  6. I am doing well on weddings but I struggle a lot with portrait prices. For weddings I offer packages but for portraits I am totally blank on how to create packages that are appealing to clients but also make me money. Do you have suggestions for good packages instead of a la carte ?

  7. This is good timing for us too! We just reworked our price list recently (away from collections and into a la carte with gift-with-purchase.) I’ve been tracking our hours to see where we’re spending our time because I felt like I was working 100 hours a week when in actuality I was only working about 40. Go ADHD! :(

    Without boring everyone with the details, here’s my question. We average about 19 hours on each client. Is that… normal? Based on that calc (plus general office work hours) I can only physically handle about 6 clients per month. That’s not much. Our average sale is around $800 but at that low client count it needs to be more like $1700 bare minimum.

  8. When many photographers now just offer a CD of images (and nothing else) and clients have grown to expect only that, even with luxury high end products such as wall prints and albums etc, how can we make those products more appealing to clients so that they actually want to buy them? How can we educate them that they should have their images printed, framed, mounted, placed in a luxury album or hung on a wall? I know it ultimately comes down to attracting the right kind of client but how do we find those clients that are not going to just say “oh I’m not really too bothered about having prints or an album, I just want pictures to put on Facebook”. Fair enough we can tell them, ‘well you get the album with the digital files, so you might as well have the album’ but if they really do not want an album or wall print, are they really going to spend the same amount of money as they would on an album just to get their digitals, when they could go elsewhere? If you take products out of the equation, and Joe Bloggs down the road also has a hair and makeup artist, knows how to light and pose well (because he has watched creativeLIVE), generally takes very nice pictures, has a great personality too and also gives clients a good experience, what is it that really differentiates us? That is where I guess my block is at the moment. What I think makes me different and unique, ultimately makes me the same as many others in the eyes of potential clients, so why do I deserve to charge more? Even though I believe in my work and believe I should be paid appropriately, others may not agree. I know the answer is to take pictures that speak for themselves, that make people want to buy them, but when there are an abundance of photographers that take absolutely amazing pictures, how do my amazing pictures stand out?

    • Adrian,

      I thought your comment was very well put. I’m curious about Sue’s thoughts on this too. I just have one small suggestion. Our sale of prints and canvas wraps is ALWAYS higher when we actually show those items. We do everything on location, including sales sessions. And we consult before the shoot in order to go over prices and show products. Sometimes we’re lazy… or one of us sick and we can’t carry it all… for whatever reason we just go over prices without showing the products. We’ve found this nearly guarantees the final sale will not include those products we failed to show and let them touch and feel – even though our samples are mini versions of what we’re selling!

      Anyway, this was supposed to be short. :-) Thank you for expressing your thoughts so well. I’m following.

      • Thank you Heidi, and yes I agree, showing products so that clients can touch and feel is definitely a must if you want them to buy those products. I guess my main question is, even if potential clients do agree that your products are fabulous and of a high quality better than what most offer, but they really do not want anything other than digital files; how do we further differentiate ourselves from other really good photographers with just as amazing photos and great personalities / experiences so that clients are willing to pay us a premium for those files?

        My main reason for asking this is because I have given my business plan to my business mentor and it has been pulled apart with questions like this. Despite giving answers that explains why I feel I am offering more than most photographers in my area. It kind of makes me feel that I am not so unique after all. ;)

        • Good question. All the standard responses come to mind but they’re not good enough. :-)

  9. Hi all!

    My question has to do with offering the product and SERVICE of value so that you reach your sales average goal (mine is $1800). I’d love to hear Sue’s thoughts, or anyone elses, on what defines a valuable service that deserves $1800. I’ve got the products and my photography is something I am pretty happy with at this moment. I don’t have a studio though, and have been shooting in hotels and an apartment loft. Thing is, the loft could be rented at any time and the hotel is expensive. Can I offer a $1800 service in a hotel? So back to my question… what defines a valuable service? TURN AROUND ,MUSIC, MAGAZINES, COFFEE ,TEA, PERSONABLE SERVICE, NICE PACKAGING, A SURPRISE BIRTHDAY GIFT, HAVING THEIR FAVORITE FOOD AT THE SHOOT, BEAUTIFUL IMAGES, PROFESSIONAL SALES (IN HOME WITH PREVEAL), INSTALLATION OF ARTWORK, PERSONAL DELIVERY, HAND WRITTEN THANK YOU CARDS…. these are the type of things I can think of. Do you all think these are the things that define a $1800 service? What else??



  10. Sue, I look forward to this discussion and hope you will address people that have other professions (some full time jobs in completely unrelated fields), but market themselves as professional photographers and charge $150 for a session with edited 20 images on disc. I realize you feel we should not be looking at the competition, but these people are giving away photography and en masse set the expectations of the general public. I am hoping you will continue to educate & empower photographers to improve their work until they get to a place where they are profitable before they begin advertising and working for nothing…

  11. Great article Sue! This is all I have been focusing on for 2013 and now that I have a better grasp of it thanks to photographers like you and others I found in CreativeLive, business has been flowing in. Thank you! If you are ever in Montreal Canada, let me know. I owe you a drink.

  12. I’m looking forward to hearing your feedback to our questions, Sue. :-)

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