How to justify your photography prices to yourself

There are five phases of justifying your photography prices to yourself…

… and they’re very similar to the five phases of grief!

Phase 1: Denial

Phase 2: Anger

Phase 3: Bargaining

Phase 4: Depression

Phase 5: Acceptance!

Here are 5 phases photographers will go through to justify their prices to themselves Click To Tweet

Nearly every photographer has been through this process. When I started out I did a quick Google search of my competition to check out their prices.

The price range fluctuated as wildly as my emotions while watching Shawshank Redemption.

Some photographers were charging 10 times what others charged.

I quickly went from phase 1 to phase 2!

Phase 1 (denial): That’s ridiculous, no-one would pay hundreds of pounds for family portraits

Phase 2 (anger): Who do these people think they are? Surely they’re just ripping people off!

Then there was a long pause of many months.

As I started to get more and more clients I realised I wasn’t making any money doing family portraits for £150 and weddings for £800. Maybe those high end photographers had a point.

Phase 3 (Bargaining): I realised that photographers actually do need to charge far more than I ever realised. It’s a paradoxical situation…

Most people think photographers are expensive and raking in money.

The reality is most photographers are making less than minimum wage.

But those same photographers who are struggling find it hard to justify putting their prices up to the level they need to be to make a sensible living.

It’s a pickle.

The bargain you need to make is to discover how to differentiate yourself from other photographers so you can justify higher prices.

Phase 4 (Depression!): When the reality hits home you need to charge more than you thought it can sting a little.

Thoughts like this start to go through your mind…

  • I’m not talented or established enough to charge that much.
  • I live in a low income area. People around here will never pay that.
  • What if someone gets upset with me about my prices?
  • How can I charge so much more than all the cheap competition? Some of them are actually talented despite being cheap.
  • This is hopeless. I’m stupid, useless and worthless… …or maybe that was just me!!

Almost every photographer has felt like this in the beginning.

We all get caught out and charge too little for our work.

Once the reality hits you there are two possible outcomes.

You start to lose motivation and enthusiasm and you eventually give up on your dream of being a successful photographer.

You stand up tall, suck it up and do what you have to do to earn a decent living doing what you love.

It’s the people with heart and desire and who just keep pushing forward who ultimately make it.

How to justify your photography prices to yourself

It’s very hard to promote and sell a service if you don’t feel it’s worth what you’re charging. So, you need to overcome your self-doubt.

Again, we’ve all had to do this mental gymnastics. You’re not alone.

Now, I’m a bit of a mind reader, so you’re probably thinking back to those 5 bullet points above. You’re not good enough / you live in a poor neighbourhood etc.

I’m happy to tell you that if I can do it then anyone can.

I was that little kid look at school who was kinda funny looking and got bullied a lot. I did not grow up to be a confident adult! You can overcome your lack of confidence.

I live in Peterborough in the UK where the income is below the national average and surrounded by carrot fields.

There’s lots of cheap competition, just as there is everywhere else in the world.

But once I’d made peace with my new higher prices and discovered the system for earning a great living in portrait photography I was able to earn £1000+ from a single family portrait session, despite not having a studio or any reputation.

I was even able to do this when I was still a part-time photographer.

Of course I also needed to learn how to differentiate myself from other photographers so I could justify my higher prices.

That really helps. When you can justify it to your clients it’s easier to justify it to yourself.

I found it really helps if you compare the price of a family portrait session to other household costs.

Let’s say you want to make an average of £500 ($850) for your family portrait sessions.

What other things cost similar amounts:

  • Taking your car in for repair. Often the parts aren’t very expensive, but the labour is around £50+ per hour. One family portrait session takes around 8 hours when you include the pre-booking consultation, the photography, the retouching, the presentation of the photographs, the ordering and the delivery. If your car requires 8 hours of solid work you’re going to get a pretty hefty bill, so why shouldn’t you charge a reasonable amount too.
  • A cheap TV. £500 isn’t going to get you a great TV and it will probably need replacing in about 5 years. The portraits you create for your clients are going to be displayed on their walls for a lifetime.
  • A plumber. Often they won’t talk to you without a call out charge of £60. Again, the hourly rate is around £50.
  • A cheap sofa. We bought our cheap sofa for around £600 8 years ago and it needs replacing. Your decent sized wall portraits are like furniture for the walls so you should be charging accordingly. Again, your wall portraits will last a lifetime, sofas and tables don’t.

Not everyone will be your ideal client. Family portrait photography is a luxury, like a weekend away. Not everyone will feel you’re worth what you charge. That’s fine.

I had just as many people query my prices when I was filthy cheap as I do now.

It’s just part of being in a service industry.

Learn how to differentiate yourself from other photographers and the people who value what you do will be happy to invest the extra money for the better service.

One last thought. Many people’s dream job is to be an actor. I see myself as being an actor in my photography business. I’m playing a part. My role is a confident, successful photographer who’s polite, well spoken, kind and entertaining. Not all of those things come naturally to me… …I’ll let you decide which ones!

Hey! It’s the confidence that doesn’t come naturally you swine!!

What do you struggle with pricing wise? Leave your comments below and I’ll lend a hand.