What is the lowest price a NewBee Photographer Should Charge for an 8×10?

Yesterday I asked this question on Facebook and had a huge number of comments from photographers.  There were many great responses and suggestions.  One photographer suggested that the newbie set their prices higher and then discount their prices for their portfolio.  Another photographer reminded the newbie’s that it is hard to go up on their prices once they have set them too low.  Most photographer that set a price were in the $25 to $40 with most qualifying that a photographer most know their cost to set a specific price.

I posted this question to see what the general opinion of professional photographers were.  Because of the books I have written and this blog I hear from many photographers both newbie’s and seasoned pros.  When the subject of price comes up I have heard from new photographers, students and soccer moms that charge as little as $3.00 for an 8×10.  They take the digital file to Costco and double their money or so they say.

As a professional we can keep reminding ourselves and our clients what they are getting for the price they pay.  The concept of, “How much of a discount would you have to be offered for you to buy Hamburger that fell on the floor?”  or “if a beautiful portrait of someone you love is priceless, how little is a crappy photo worth?”  But the problem with pricing is one that we can’t ignore because it is doing two things.  First of all it is conditioning consumers that worth of the photography is the value of the paper (times two) and it is creating a profession that all those newbie’s will never be able to make a living in.  Newbie’s are selling their professional soles to be able to make a quick buck and to skip over the process of learning professional photography.  A person that is charging $3.00 for an 8×10 will never be able to charge the price per 8×10 needed to run a photography business, so they are sealing their fate.

The profession of photography has always been based on the honor system, with no specific training or testing needed to be a practitioner.  The ease of learning on a digital SLR, Photoshop and the down economy have collided to a create a situation where if things don’t change I think I am going to see small children with camera around their neck having front yard photo stands like the lemonade stands of the 1960’s selling photos for 25 cents a shot!

If the honor doesn’t return to our profession and new photographers don’t stop using paying clients as the training grounds to be a photographer, new photographers will have no future in this profession.  There will always be those clients that want nice photos and go to a recognized studio name in their community, but there will be little chance for those photographers that have learned professional photography and entering our profession to make a living.

The focus of many of my books is to the newer professional photographers trying to balance their creativity with the challenge of starting a business.  I love helping newer photographers in my books, blog and in the articles I write, but the path to being a successful photographer isn’t easy.  It’s hard doing the right thing when it seem that everyone around is doing the wrong thing, but in the end it might take longer to build up a client base charging a realistic price, but it will be a client base to build a business on and not one that their only loyalty is that you work for next to nothing!

A wise older man at our local camera store gave me some good advice which I repeat often. Being young and starting to photograph people for money he told me, “either give your work away or charge a price that is close to what the photographers in town charge….one day you will be a professional photographer with a studio and you won’t want younger photographers undercutting you just to make a quick buck, so don’t do it to the photographers today.”     That was 31 years ago when I was 16 and very ambitious, starting to learn photography and darkroom work when I was 14 years old.  If a 16-year-old kid can see the merit in this advice I am sure that the newer photographers of today can understand as well.


~ by jeffsmithbooks on May 14, 2010.

One Response to “What is the lowest price a NewBee Photographer Should Charge for an 8×10?”

  1. Good advice.

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