business mentors for photographers

How to Price Portrait Photography: a real world example

You wonder how to price family photography without comparing yourself to what other’s in your area charge. We all need easy to explain session fees that work so we can shoot more and “sell” less.

Many photographers give out the digital files because they don’t know what to do. They don’t know how to price their products or what to even offer to their clients.

This is why you’re here, which is awesome.

{high five!}

When I began my photography business, I just charged what my mentor told me to charge… which was half of what she charged.

This was an epic failure for the BOTH of us and you can read more about that story right here.

Over time, my clients started asking me about wedding albums and canvas prints and I was lost as to what to charge for those things.

So, I picked numbers that sounded like what I thought they should cost and struggled to know whether or not I was making the right amount of money on each.

-->> It took me 5 whole years to be fully self-supporting and quit my old job because I didn’t have a plan. Nobody taught me what to charge for a 16x20 canvas or a small album.

That changes NOW.

how to price newborn photography

Anything under $500 is the same as free!

Did you vomit when you read that? Are you ready to throw me a punch in the face because you are feeding your babies on $150 photo shoots??

This is why everyone’s pricing their portrait photography wrong…

You’re like, well $200 to photograph a newborn baby sounds great. “It’s two hours, and a little bit of editing”, but you’re discounting how much time it takes to edit, meeting with clients, and the marketing time to even book the one client.

You think, “Oh, $200 for family pictures in the park is appropriate.”

It’s more per-hour than your day job, right?

Nope. It’s not nearly enough.

If you’re charging $200 to photograph a family portrait, and are giving out the files, that’s all you’re ever going to make.

Just $200.

That’s your cost of doing business, that’s your profit, that’s your paycheck… That’s everything.

-->>  So to take home $20,000 a year, you have to shoot 250 sessions a year to take home minimum wage. Given that we basically shoot 9 months a year, that’s 28 sessions per month. It’s HIGH volume and why the term is ‘Shoot and Burn’, as in burn out.

And what’s happening when you do that and you’re doing just the files, is that you’re missing all of these extra sales on each client you worked hard to get.

-->> You could actually make $3,000 on a portrait if you don’t give out the files.

That’s exactly how much money you are leaving on the table after a $200 session.

To take home $20,000 a year, you have to shoot 250 sessions a year to take home minimum wage. Given that we basically shoot 9 months a year, that’s 28 sessions per month.

It’s HIGH volume and why the term is ‘Shoot and Burn’, as in  you will BURN OUT.

how to price a 16x20 canvas for newborn photographers

How to price any type of photography gig

Running the numbers for a photography business gives most people headaches, but this is where I light up! It doesn’t have to be hard.

It’s so much fun for me to plug in the numbers and make the math easy, repeatable, and profitable for my photography business.

Just check out this behind the scenes look at me explaining how to price family photography to a new photographer just starting her business…

Photography prices for beginners: a sneak peek at my pricing mentoring

How to price your portrait photography work EASILY

The way that I price ALL of my photography gigs and products is to work backwards. How many gigs can I shoot per year, month, week and still give top notch customer service AND have a life?

This gives me my average sale needed for each job. Once I have that, I play with fun and creative ways to pitch that to different clients so they want to book me.

-->> It helps to start with just one product and run the numbers on that one item. Rinse and repeat!

When you’re getting into pricing your photography, you have two things that go into each job:

  1. The actual session fee.
  2. Products (even digitals are a product).

Every type of photography has these two factors and when you sort out your average sale needed, you can play with the percent mix of these two items.

For example, with my wedding photography business, the client has a very high session fee, which covers my costs of running the business, profit for expansion, and my paycheck. Most of my income comes out of my wedding coverage fees.

-->> Therefore, loose prints and wall-art is all an added bonus on weddings. I assume 20-25% extra sales on products, etc. 

However, when pricing portraits, the session fee is very ‘affordable’ and the profit is made on the products. So I need to sell wall-art and albums in order to hit my average sale needed…. which is the same dollar figure as a small wedding!

Have a game plan for what you want to offer

So far, you’ve just given out digital files because that’s what is easy.

What other kinds of things have you been asked to create for your portrait clients?

Has someone asked you to help you plan out like what to put in their house?

What kind of stuff did you recommend, or would you recommend, or more importantly… what are you interested in selling?

Let’s start with a 16x20 canvas print because that’s an easy and very appropriate item to sell to any family portrait client. It’s approachable and ‘affordable’.

how to price canvas photo prints for photographers

It's not all about CODB!

Now, we will talk about COGS. Costs of Goods Sold (COGS) are what goes into the actual creation of a product. So, the lab cost for a wedding album is one piece of the COGS.

When you’re building your price list, what kind of stuff would go into the time it takes to take a picture or create a product?

  • time to sell the item
  • time to edit the images that go into/on the item
  • time to package, ship, bill, etc. the item
  • client meetings

Therefore, your COGS consists of more than just the actual cost of the item from the photo lab. You’ll also want to account for your time as the employee of your company too.

-->>  What if you had to outsource the production??  You have to budget for that.

25 percent of your total sales is what you can allocate to cost of good sold (across your entire product line).

Keep your yearly COGS under 25% of your sales in order to be fully profitable.

How to Price a 16x20 Canvas Print:

If you were going to just sell a 16x20 canvas to a client & not running your numbers, you’d probably say, “Oh, I’ll sell it to you for $250.” I guarantee you that the number that would just pop in your head. This is how most people start offering products… by just making up numbers that sound good.

So let’s say the 16x20 canvas cost is $100 just for ease. It’s not the right price, but let’s say it costs you $100 to buy from the photo lab.

  • Item cost: $100

Then let’s say your ’employee’ time is $100 and this 16x20 heirloom also has packaging and shipping. 

  • Time COGS, credit card process, packaging, shipping: $100

So the real COGS are $200.

(and COGS need to stay under 25% of what you charge).

What happens when you just charge 3X your actual cost is you’re missing the fourth piece of the pricing puzzle… Your pay as the owner of the company.

So, at minimum times by four (25% is 1/4th the cost). This will end up covering the cost of doing business (CODB), cost of sales (COGS), profit, all the stuff…and your income.

-->>  You get paid to be the employee IN your business + the OWNER of a small business. Because that’s whatcha are!

So this 16x20 is now $800. That’s it. It’s that simple. $200 COGS x 4 = $800.

And you just repeat this for everything.

-->> The $800 product becomes your base line.

So, guess what you now charge for a small album, where your tangible cost is close to $100 too?? 


What can you charge for a bunch of loose prints, where your tangible cost is under $100??

-->> $800!

How about those must-have digital files (because you won’t get any print sales, so the digitals ARE the product)…???

-->> $800!


You charge $800!!!

how to price family photography
are you confused? Work with me by clicking right here.

So there you have it. Run your numbers ONCE and rinse and repeat. This is how you price family photography, wedding photography, high school seniors, newborn photography, you name it.

It is allllllll the same.

Keep those real COGS under 25% for the year and you have a profitable small business.

-->> Leave a comment with thoughts, insights, or OH SHIT moments…

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