how much to charge

Legend has it that Pablo Picasso was sketching in the park when a bold woman approached him.

“It’s you — Picasso, the great artist! Oh, you must sketch my portrait! I insist.”

So Picasso agreed to sketch her. After studying her for a moment, he used a single pencil stroke to create her portrait. He handed the women his work of art.

“It’s perfect!” she gushed. “You managed to capture my essence with one stroke, in one moment. Thank you! How much do I owe you?”

“Five thousand dollars,” the artist replied.

“B-b-but, what?” the woman sputtered. “How could you want so much money for this picture? It only took you a second to draw it!”

To which Picasso responded, “Madame, it took me my entire life.”

I had my fourth photography gig today. When I sat down to plan out my pricing structure, I took all my experience in the studio and applied it to a photography business. Don’t undervalue yourself. It’s hard to raise your price later if you start into it at a really low price. Your rate must have more than just your wage built into it, so that you can cover: rentals, assistants, post-processing time, client facilitation time, phone time, administration time. It’s not likely that you will be able to separate all those things out and bill a client for each of those jobs. These must be reflected within your pricing. If they aren’t you will eventually become bitter and will find that you are working for next to nothing. Don’t flinch when you name your price to your prospective clients either. In your mind, you must believe your price is fair, and that is what you are worth. In no way shape or form am I comparing myself to the great Picasso, but artists need to be equally bold to stand up to the incessant forces of downward price pressure and insecurity/low self esteem.

Which brings me to the point of this post: pricing prints. As of yet, I have not sold a print to anyone. I haven’t tried. I have been working on a strictly commissioned basis. A recording artist commissions me to provide photos for their publicity materials or their CD artwork. I take the commission, and produce files ready to be used in print or on the net. So when, recently, I was discussing the possibility of doing a family portrait for someone, she asked me how much a print would be, I had to admit that I hadn’t gotten my pricing together for that yet. At that point I probably lost the job. But who knows, we’ll see. She told me a horror story about the Sears portrait studio… anyone have a mall portrait studio horror story?

But I digress.

I guess print pricing is for the “fine art” photographer, the ones who produce gorgeous landscapes or unique macros. For me, I haven’t had to come to terms with it yet. I rarely print anything. When I start, you’ll know.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Melody on 2006/11/14 at 1:54 PM

    Here’s the person who did our recent family photo shoot – thought you might find her site interesting (plus, her rates are posted). Our proofs are still on the site. Yes, charge what you need to – don’t apologize, and don’t start out too low. You do good work!!

    http://www.melissadiekemaphotography.com

    Reply

  2. Posted by divine_conspiracy on 2006/11/14 at 8:13 PM

    thanks melody. it’s very interesting to know how other photographers set up their pricing, because it reveals not only their cost, but also what their business model is and where they expect to make their money.

    And genuine thanks for the encouragement. I have to learn to receive it properly. It must be me, (it’s always me) but I’m afraid that I’ll be perceived as fishing for compliments, when I’m not. It’s not even the compliment so much as the fact that I worry that it looks like I’m fishing… sigh… I’m too sensitive, or something… 🙂 this should be a whole other post entirely…

    Reply

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