We wrapped day one of our West Coast leg of Digital WakeUp Call last night. Thanks to the 200+ enthusiastic photographers that came out for the program. My special thanks to those that made 2, 3, even 4 hour drive to be in attendance at the program. My thanks to several of our Canadian neighbors who also made the trip down and across the border to see the program. Your presence surely made it an international experience for everyone!
Last night I also got a chance to meet fellow blogger, Gavin Seim. Gavin runs ProPhotoShow.com which features several notable articles, interviews, and discussions on all things digital. Heck, I was even a guest a while back. He has a great post right now entitled, "19 Tips To Get 300 Client Inquires" - pretty good stuff. You can check Gavin's site out right here. It was certainly a hi-light to finally meet Gavin in person and to put a face with the name.
Gavin, Jag from Canada, Kanani, and I had a nice visit in the lounge afterward just talking all things photography. I'll tell you, I love Seattle, I love the salmon (missed it this time around), and I love the beautiful geography in this part of the great USA. We look forward to a return visit where we can have an opportunity to explore the area.
Hey, let's get on with today's post.
What Do You Charge For The Portrait
Wow! After the few the negative remarks about my "Clothing Conference" last week [link], I wonder if I should go on with the series. Just kidding - I was surprised by the remarks though. Some commenters liking the first image over the second blew my mind. The first image might have looked good at grandma's house as a 5x7 next to some snaps of the grand-kids, but it would not be my choice as a piece of photographic art to hang in my home. Maybe that's the difference - what's the final use of the image. Anyway, each to their own opinion.
The post today was originally slated to take on a different flavor, but somewhere along the way my brain took a detour. I got fired up about pricing, and ended up with what you get to read today. Maybe I should have posted this tomorrow for Business Day Thursday, but hey, we've got to hit the road for Portland shortly so I'm going to let the stand as is for today. Next week I'll get back to the specifics of shooting the portrait - sound good? Then off we go...
But, you know, it does raise a point about family portraits - what is the final use of the image going to be? I started this series based on the premise that the final portrait would be hung in a prominent location in the clients home. I suspect many readers have a different expectation of what the family portrait represents to their photography business.
This begs the question as to what one might charge for such a service. How much should you charge for the portrait session? How much should you charge for an 8x10? What should be a good sales average for a portrait sale? Answering these questions certainly makes some sense before we proceed with booking the client.
Hit the "Read More..." link below for the rest of the story.
So how much should you charge for a "sitting fee?" We charge anywhere from $0 when I donate to charity auctions in which I support the good cause of the event. Sure, the "sitting fee" is paid but the proceeds go to the fundraising event and we get the promotional value out of our gesture. As a result of our participation we, by the way, usually pick up a good client too.
Typically our session fee is $250. That includes my time and talent, my assistant's time, planning for the portrait with the client, and follow up discussion on how to best display the family's full enjoyment of the portraits.
Photographers prices can range all over the place for the portrait photography service. Some photographers opt for a minimum order of as an example $500 and waive the session fee in lieu of the client agreeing to the minimum amount. The bottom line is this folks, if it's not profitable, don't waste your time.
What do I mean by that remark? Follow my thinking. I recently saw a photographer at one of our local parks photographing two young children ages around 4 and 5. The photographer was using a wide angle lens that certainly did little to enhance the portrait - we've talked about why I use a long lens on all my portrait shoots [link]. He was also using a flash diffuser on his on-camera flash - no directional light - hence no beauty in the lighting in my opinion.
I'm guessing his sitting fee was quite small. Notice, I didn't say reasonable here. Why? Because reasonable implies value for price and from where I was standing, there was not much value going into the "portrait" I was watching the photographer make for his client. Granted I didn't have benefit of viewing the final results, so I can't be absolutely sure of the photographers final presentation to his client.
OK, don't start the nasty-grams yet - still here me out. So many photographers are charging little for their services in many instances because that is what their services are worth. The print prices for the client, I suspect would be quite small too. I know of a photographer who was charging $10-$12 for his 8x10's - for real!
So now let's beg another question. How much do you need to net to support yourself working on a full time basis in this profession? What's a comfortable amount for you? Let pick an annual income of say $50,000. Now let's do the math; sitting fee - $50, total sales from portrait session - $150. That's a grand total of $200 for all the photographer's time and effort. I would have to shoot 250 sessions a year to gross $50,000. After expenses, taxes, FICA contributions, etc. I get to keep about $23,000 - about the the poverty level for America and for a family of four! It doesn't work.
Now consider your time to book the session, shooting time, post production and delivery and you end up making about $18/hour - not worth it in my book. It comes down to this - you need to present a great product at a fair price for your time and talent and only then can you expect to make a decent profit and be successful in this profession.
At those unreasonably low prices, you might be staying busy but staying busy is easily confused with being successful. I know photographers that charge from $50 to $500 for a session fee, $50 to $300 for an 8x10, and up to $3000 for a 40 inch wall portrait.
DAZNOTE: I personally wouldn't spend $3000 on a portrait if that portrait didn't compliment the colors, tonality, and mood of the space in which I planned to display it.
Where is your comfort zone? The entire discussion demands that we rethink what we want our gross sales to be, what we need to do to hit that number, and finally consider how many dollars are left for us to put in our back pocket.
I learned in the second grade a little saying by J. Hawkes that sticks with me even today, "Aim at the sun and you may not reach it; but your arrow will fly far higher than if you aimed at an object on a level with yourself."
Food for thought--
Hey everybody, I've got to get moving -we leave for Portland shortly. See everybody tonight in the beautiful Beaver state. See ya' then, -David