HOW TO MAKE MORE AND WORK LESS - price comparison chart

"Photographers in the United States pull down an average of $15.06 per hour. In the world of Photographers, overall cash earnings stretch from $21K near the bottom to $90K near the top" (source: payscale.com)

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I recently asked photographers how many sessions per month they were shooting and got a long list of answers. The reason I asked was that I was creating the brand new Photography Business Planner and wanted to get a rough estimate on how many session checklists I needed to include for photographers. 

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Reading through the answers got me thinking about some of the responses, and I wanted to put together something that I wish I would have seen when I was charging very little for my time. Back then photography was something new and had to shoot for little because I was still in the learning stage. I was still building my portfolio and learning who I was as an artist. At the very beginning, I also had no costs. Since it was just a hobby (each state has different laws on how much money you can make before something is no longer considered a hobby, and needs to be switched over to a business). I didn't have an accountant that needed to handle my business taxes. I didn't have any real overhead. Simply put, my hobby didn't cost me anything, so pricing myself low made a lot of sense. 
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There came a time where I could have easily raised my prices but was scared to. Scared of not booking enough clients. Scared of others not seeing my own value. It was enough to keep me charging very little for what I was giving my clients. Most of all, I had no idea that by raising my prices, it would actually allow me to work less, and be the key to eventually taking my business full-time. A dream so many photographers have.
I know that had I kept my prices low, it would have made it impossible, in addition to overworking myself to an unrealistic amount of sessions each month. Professionals that do this full time, understand that keeping their prices low, will hurt their business in the long run. They realize how much time, every and money goes into running a business, and don't feel bad about trying to make their passion into a full-time business, that allows them to pay their bills, just like anyone else with a full-time job. So I put together this pricing comparison chart to help you see, that valuing your time and business by raising prices, will only help you in the long run. I wanted to keep it simple and easy to understand, and hope that you can see why raising your prices is one of the best things you could do for yourself and your business! 
With the above snippet we know that photographers make anywhere from 21K a year, to 90K so I will write out three different salaries (20K, 55K, 90K) and a rough estimate on the sessions a photographer has to shoot to acquire this income. 
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PHOTOGRAPHERS HAVE TO CHARGE
$50 $100 $200 $300 $400 $500 $600 $700 $800 $900 $1,000
PER SESSION & SHOOT
34 17 8 6 5 4 3 2.5 2 1.8 1.6
A MONTH TO MAKE
$20,000
A YEAR
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The amount you shoot has little to do with how much you make. Often photographers think that high volume clients = big paycheck. When in reality, it's often photographers who shoot a lot and end up charging less. A photographer who charges $50 per session has to work A LOT harder to achieve the same paycheck as someone who charges $500 per session. 

I wanted to draw up three different yearly incomes to show you how many sessions someone would need to charge to get to that income. You can quickly see that for someone who charges $50 per session would need to shoot 33 sessions every single month to make $20,000. (Just reading that sentence exhausted me) While shooting 33+ sessions a month is amazing; I know it's also a quick way to get very burnt out. Long term it's not a good business strategy. While someone who charges $800 per session only has to shoot two sessions per month to make the exact same amount. 

Side Note: If pricing gives you a total headache and you need help figuring out how much you should be charging for a session, event and even get custom pricing on products and collections you can use our Photography Pricing Calculator. All you have to do is enter a few numbers and it does the rest for you! 

 
PHOTOGRAPHERS HAVE TO CHARGE
$50 $100 $200 $300 $400 $500 $600 $700 $800 $900 $1,000
PER SESSION & SHOOT
92 46 23 16 12 10 8 7 6 5 4.5
A MONTH TO MAKE
$55,000
A YEAR
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Aside from figuring out how much you should be charging you should also focus on finding your personal sweet spot; how much you'd like to shoot. There are photographers who only want to shoot 1-4 sessions a month and put a great deal of focus on each of their clients. They have the time to devote to each client that hires them, and that's what they enjoy doing. 
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There are plenty of photographers who have to shoot more, not because they charge little but because that's what they enjoy. They love working on multiple sessions per week and shoot more sessions inspires them. There are plenty of photographers who want to shoot a lot and can do this without getting burnt out. Shooting a high volume is what's right for them, and there is nothing wrong with it.
 
PHOTOGRAPHERS HAVE TO CHARGE
$50 $100 $200 $300 $400 $500 $600 $700 $800 $900 $1,000
PER SESSION & SHOOT
150 75 38 25 19 15 13 11 10 9 8
A MONTH TO MAKE
$90,000
A YEAR
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Now looking at these charts, many of you might think that upping prices is going to leave you booking less clients; that might end up being the case. However keep in mind that you will be able to make the same income or MORE by charging more, even if this means you'll book less clients overall. (remember: someone who charges $50 per session would need to shoot 33 sessions every single month in order to make $20,000. While someone who charges $800 per session only has to shoot two sessions per month to make the exact same amount.)
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IMPORTANT NOTE: Now also keep in mind that these numbers will be excluding taxes. It's always a good idea to put aside 30% of what you make. Taxes will depend on where you are located, what items you sell as well as what tax bracket you fall into. So when you decide how much you want to set as your yearly income goal, it's a good idea to increase it by 30% to ensure that after all taxes are paid you are still on track to your personal income goal. 
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This post is here to inspire some of you to take a second look at what you're currently doing. Always know that there is no right or wrong when it comes to how you want to run your business. This little lesson was something I had to learn over a long time, and I wish someone would have sat down with me and explained it to me like this. 
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4 comments

Becky

I want to charge more and think I’ve improved enough to do so, but hate the thought of informing all of my previous clients that my prices have raised. I wish now that I would’ve started higher.

Danea Burleson

Great info! A key element to point out, and maybe I missed it, is that this is what the business makes, not what you will actually bring home. Sadly, the cost of running a business, taxes on top of that, can be a huge chunk out of these numbers.

christine

This was great! Thank you!

Meredith

This is just wonderful and so accurate. Here in Kentucky, however it can be challenging for someone who does not do studio work to have steady business in the slower winter months so it can be challenging to have a steady amount of sessions each and every month as those who maybe are in a steady warm climate. I also shoots weddings so if I come up short with my portrait sessions it helps hold me over.

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