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If You Charge Too Little You May Have A Problem

March 22, 2011 Pricing 6 Comments

Written by: Charlie Borland

If you are always wondering just what to charge during an assignment, you may want to read this post over at www.photographyforrealestate.net. Larry Lohrman publishes this site and his post last week: If You Charge Less Than $150 For A Shoot You Have A Problem is well worth reading, even for nature photographers.

The markets are tough out there for all photographers and the competition for work forces prices down. The real question is just how low to go and remain profitable. Real estate photographers and nature photographers share similar problems.

Real estate photographers are in a category of their own within the architecture photography business. You have your high end architects and high end magazines like Architectural Digest, and you have real estate agents, all who hire photographers.

Each of these types of clientele has different needs and different price points that they may be willing to pay, just like nature photography and pretty much anything else in the photography business.

A few photographers work cheap within their respective specialties and for real estate photographers it’s often because a realtor wont pay what the architects or high end magazines pay.  Many real estate photographers charge an all inclusive price, some as Larry suggests, for as little as $100 per house to shoot every room. In many cases that price includes all expenses, photography time, and post-processing or Photoshop/HDR work.

My buddy Steve Wanke, who is an amazing architecture photographer has found some competition from real estate photographers but generally he is hired for his high end work and paid accordingly.

What Larry emphasizes in his post is that there is only so far you can go down in price before you are not profitable. This goes across the board with all areas of photography.

To me the math is simple and I used the same approach Larry’s does in this post I wrote from last year: I Tried, But I Cant Get Microstock Numbers to Crunch, and was subsequently trashed by Microstock advocates suggesting I used faulty math.

The math is simple: you determine your cost of doing business, how much you like to make, and this helps you determine what to charge. Of course you keep in mind what the competition is charging and the market will bear, but you must focus on profitability over the joy of getting published for next to nothing.

As Larry writes; “…you need to include costs to replace equipment every couple of years, health insurance, business insurance, investments in a retirement fund, etc….” Heed this advice if you are just starting out because if you are self employed and you have a successful photography business going, you will be self employed for a long time and nobody is contributing to your retirement plan or those future kids college fund.

Business is much costlier for the nature photographer than the real estate photographer due to where each works. The real estate photographer can work a local region and so can a nature photographer but generally nature photographers travel further. Nature photographers are also prone to make most of their money licensing images than getting assignments.

Look hard at the cost you incur and related to your business and then what you might charge like driving to a shoot. What is the cost per mile driving your car including gas? What did you pay for food while travelling? What other expenses did you incur like park permit fees, camp fees, or how much Photoshop time will you need to process images?

Despite the lousy economy, you have to be profitable and charge what it really costs plus a profit so you can invest in the future as well.

Do you have any thoughts here? Please leave a comment.

Related Posts: 5 Ways to Keep Costs Down and Profits Up, Outdoor and Nature Photography is  Business

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Currently there are "6 comments" on this Article:

  1. sbg says:

    I think you mean “If you charge too little” not “to little”.

  2. admin says:

    Hey, thanks for keeping me on toes!

  3. Syv Ritch says:

    Hi,

    I’m sorry to disagree with you, but you are looking at the “wrong end of the lens” (pun semi-intended).

    =======8==>===================================
    A few photographers work cheap within their respective specialties and for real estate photographers it’s often because a realtor wont pay what the architects or high end magazines pay. Many real estate photographers charge an all inclusive price, some as Larry suggests, for as little as $100 per house to shoot every room. In many cases that price includes all expenses, photography time, and post-processing or Photoshop/HDR work.

    My buddy Steve Wanke, who is an amazing architecture photographer has found some competition from real estate photographers but generally he is hired for his high end work and paid accordingly.
    =======8==<===================================

    No "photographer works cheap within their respective specialty"! That's unless their specialty is "press the button". What does specialty means? The fact that somebody take photos of real estate doesn't make them a specialist. You are mixing "pressing the button in front of house and inside that house" with understanding the architecture, the interior design, the lighting… How to rearrange the furniture to make the interior look 10 times better, how to clear the table to create space… How to balance the light to create a feeling of spaciousness…

    Let's face it, $100 is all that many of these photographers are worth. They don't bring much expertise to the table.

    The expert still gets the jobs and charges. The customers are even willing to pay for the expertise, because they get more. They get photos that help their business. They pay for photos that makes them money. The "specialize in pressing the button" photographer doesn't make them money.

    Are they selling photos vs selling expertise?

    Syv Ritch

  4. admin says:

    Actually, Syv, I totally agree with you and this post is reference to a post elsewhere. Nature photogs are selling cheap, very cheap in many markets and they dont cover their expenses either in some cases. Sadly, we are in an environment where some clients are only looking for someone to press the button and some photographers gladly do it and consider themselves Pros. Many qualified specialists are getting pretty beat up in a market that may have paid them the rates they are qualified to charge but now wants that expertise at a ‘press the button’ price. For nature photographers there are few assignments so it boils down to stock image sales and that is not a pretty picture either. Thanks for jumping in.

  5. DJ says:

    “For nature photographers there are few assignments so it boils down to stock image sales and that is not a pretty picture either.”

    How about print sales? Are they selling?
    Prints in the 20×30 catagory.
    Anyone doing Art Festivals? or Art Fairs?

    Smaller sized prints? perhaps in the 12 x18 inch size range?

    Anyone have any imput in the fine art market of black and white silver gel prints?

    What about canvas or metal prints?

    Lots of options out there to be different than a button pusher.

    So much of it is about the marketing. [not the button pushing]

  6. [...] Related Posts: How To Quote The Photography Assignment,  If You Charge Too Little You May Have A Problem [...]

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