One of the most important ideas behind starting your own freelance photography business is choosing a pricing strategy. Typically there are three different strategies that you can utilize that work will for a typical photography studio, and they are all based around price. The three strategies are simply, high, low and a medium level on the price scale; however you will only be emphasizing the price on one of the strategies. The important thing to remember is that quality is almost a second consideration when pricing, instead these strategies are going after intrinsic and perceived value of your business.
The first pricing strategy is to charge a premium price for your business. With this strategy you are focused more on delivering some form of exclusive experience. You’re not just getting some photos taken, you are having memories made. Things like customer service and a high quality brand image take the cake here. High quality print options as well as the best customer service are some things most people are going to be looking at in this price range. The benefits here is that you will often make a considerable amount of money from your print sales and an amazing hourly wage for the sheet fee. The downside however is that the pool of potential customers is fairly small. This means competition will be greater for those few clients. This strategy is best reserved for the photographer who has high quality work, but already has a consistent client base, or a successful corporate clientele built up.
The opposite of the premium price strategy is to bid solely on price and aim towards the bottom of the spectrum. At the lower price range, customers are less likely to care about the quality of service they receive. These customers generally don’t have a high regard for quality photography and are shopping merely on price over quality. The upside of this strategy is that there is an incredibly high volume, the downside is that you will make less per shoot, meaning you will have to do a lot more work to make any where near as much money as other studios. This approach can be great for the hobbyist who is looking to bring in a little bit of extra money on the side for new gear, though it is a fairly poor strategy to take on for any serious freelance photographer.
The last pricing strategy a freelance studio can engage in is the idea of charging a fair price for a quality product. In this strategy you will be offering middle of the road everything, decent service, good quality prints all at a price that is “Middle of the road”. This strategy works well as when purchasing a product they don’t fully understand most people tend to skew towards the middle of the highest price and lowest price they find. Odds are people in this category aren’t going to be sold by your work OR your price, it’s a magical combination of both. Arriving at this price can be tricky, but with some trial and error you will figure out what works best. This is where most studios end up pricing wise, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as this pricing strategy tends to attract a large volume of customers and the average profit per shoot is generally pretty decent.
No matter which pricing strategy you choose, the important thing is to remain consistent and think long term. If you feel like your photos are not of the highest quality and you choose to skew low, keep in mind that you will alienate your consistent clientele as you try to ramp up to the middle of the road or premium pricing. This means losing business and having to start over building a customer base. With that in mind it’s a good idea to charge a little bit more than what you’re thinking of charging and grow into a price than to quickly out grow a price.
“Guide to Sales & Marketing for Professional Photographers” by Kathleen Hawkins
“Basic Marketing” by William Perreault, Joseph Cannon and E. Jerome McCarthy