What to Charge When You’re Starting Out as a Photographer

Of the many important decisions you need to make when you start a photography business, what to charge for your services is one of them. There are a lot of different opinions about what you should charge and there’s the fact that the photography space can very competitive

So, how do you decide on pricing?

Lower Pricing Can Lead to Failure

When you’re first starting out as a photographer, you sometimes need to shoot for free or at lower rates in order to build up your portfolio. This may seem like a legitimate strategy at the start because you might think you are not experienced and shouldn’t be charging people a lot of money for your services at the beginning. Or, you might offer your services to friends and family to “get experience” or “build your portfolio”,  but you may want to re-consider this.

Even though you’re just getting started, you still need to think like a business owner. If your business isn’t making money, it isn’t going to survive very long. Also, when you’re offering too many shoots for free or at special “friends and family rates”, people start to take advantage of you and you miss the window to establish yourself as a true professional in your field.

At the end of the day, you have put in the time, money, and effort to learn a skill that people want, which means you’re allowed to charge a reasonable price for your services, even when you’re starting out as a new photographer.

Setting Your Photography Pricing – The Basics

Here are a few tips that will help you determine what you should be charging for your photography services.

Look at your competitors

A little market research will help you determine what you should be charging for your photography services. By looking at what competitors in your specific niche are charging you can create a pricing structure that is competitive and won’t leave you high and dry at the end of each month.

Don’t forget what happens after the photoshoot

Time is money and many beginner photographers make the mistake of not taking the editing, layout, and printing processes into account. These processes take up your time after the shoot, so be sure to include it in the price of your packages.

There is a lot of research available online about what photographers charge per sector and per state, so you should have everything you need to develop a fair pricing structure that works for you.

Consider the costs associated with running a business. When you’re running a business, you need to take all of your day-to-day expenses into consideration.  You can’t charge next to nothing for your services and still expect to walk away with money in your pocket.

Before you set your prices, here is an in-depth look at some current and even expected business expenses.

What to charge as a photographer when starting out
Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

Understanding the Real Cost of Starting a Photography Business

Here are some of the costs you need to take into consideration as you consider what to charge for your photography services. 

The Gear

photography costs
Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

This might be the first expense to come to mind but it certainly isn’t the only expense associated with starting a photography business. Your gear will be your biggest expense but how much you should set aside will depend on the type of photography you will be offering. The average DSLR camera starts at about $1,000. The more features and capabilities you want – the higher the cost will be.

You may be able to get away shooting with a kit lens at first if you purchase a camera that comes with a kit lens but you will want to invest in higher quality lenses if you are serious about starting a photography business.   Pro lenses start at about $900. Most photographers require more than one lens and if your budget is limited, you may want to think things through carefully and select two lenses that will work for most of your shoots. There is a lens that is more affordable called the nifty fifty which is a good option for new photographers.

Lastly, there are all those other extras such as a flash, reflector, and lighting. Again, this will all depend on the type of photography you choose to specialize in.

The Computer Equipment

Your computer equipment and software is another expense that you will need to take into account as you plan out your budget. Your computer will need to be powerful enough to process large files, which means you can probably plan on spending around $2,000 on computer equipment. You should also have backup equipment such as external drives, all of which cost extra. Finally, if you haven’t already, you will need to factor in the cost of photo editing software in order to edit your images. Adobe has a monthly plan to access all their software program, which is a good option.

The Business Costs

You have the gear and the equipment but being a business owner means there will be set up and operational costs too. When you’re starting out, you need to remember that there will be additional costs to consider, including insurance, a business license, and studio rental costs. Many photographers also forget that they will need to budget for their website fees, photographer marketing, and advertising fees, which will be integral to the success of your business.

Knowing what it will cost to get your photography business up and running is not only a crucial part of the planning process but it will help you set your prices too. Shopping around to get the best prices on all these things I’ve mentioned so far might be time-consuming but it will be well worth it when you can reduce your start-up costs.

Guest post by Cindy Reeves from Magazine Mama.