I try to be patient.  I try to be nice, but my God didn’t some of you have a Lemonade Stand in your front yard when you were a child?  I have seen more business savvy from the local neighborhood kids that do lawns and sell lemonade than from some photographers. When it comes to understanding prices and profit, even children realize that when you set your prices, you figure in all your costs, every single one of them, plus a little extra just in case things don’t go as you expected, plus the amount you want to make.

In addition to writing my books and articles (and working in the studio) I try to help photographers, young and old improve their photography and business through workshops and seminars.  I spend a great deal of time answering questions through email and trying to help by commenting on Facebook, but there are some photographers that are so scared of charging a fair price they act as though they are much less intelligent than I know they are.

Many photographers have explained to me they start out by charging clients twice what their lab charges them for a finished print.  It costs them $3.oo, they charge $6.00.  In a recent conversation with a young man on Facebook, I explained that average market up for a retail business is 5 to 10 times.  He was shock that I suggest he charge the insane price $15 for an 8×10 (lol).  As I talked to this young man about his costs, he had no clue of the total costs of producing that single 8×10 image.  He hadn’t thought of the gas to get to the session or to the lab, the time editing the image, etc. etc. etc.  Even the kid that mows lawns know what his costs are, gas, oil and extra money so when the mower blows up he can help dad pay for it to be fixed!

Trying to make him understand, I asked him what happens to his three dollar of mark up if he makes a mistake in editing and doesn’t remove a zit or removes a mole he was supposed to leave.  The lab will charge him another $3.00 to print another 8×10 since it was not their fault.  In his clueless way, he said, “Oh,  that would mean I didn’t make money on that order!”  I quickly responded, no that means it cost you money to photograph that client!  Your gas, your time, all your expenses that go into that 8×10 you just ate.  Take it one step further, what if the lady picks up that 8×10 and writes you a bad check?  The fees are ten times what your three dollar mark up is? Lady’s and gentlemen you can watch TV and break even, you don’t have to work to lose money!

Everything you sell, has to have every single cost priced into it, so even if you have an “oh shit moment” you at least don’t lose money.  That’s business. The kids on the street know it, you should too!  Another frustrating thing I see from photographers in regards to pricing are the posts in which a photographers feels bad because they offered to do a job for what they thought was fair price (when in reality it was below cost) and the person said they were too high.  Really?  Do we have a self-esteem problem here?  Example…  You are unemployed and have been for a while.  You go into job interview and the person tells you that he is going to start you off at $3.00 an hour.  You are offended, you know there are laws about minimum wage so you ask why is the pay so low?  He explains that he can find someone else to work for that amount, so why should he pay you more?  On top of that you will have to buy your own uniform and wash them yourself, as well as pay for the gas you use do errands for the company….get the picture.  At what point do you have enough self-respect to tell him where he can put the job and report him to the Labor Board!

While I don’t think you should tell any perspective client “where to stick their job”, I do think that any photographer, any human being has the right to charge a fair amount for their services that provide them a profit to live on.  Know what you costs are, work with a standard mark up for retail or more and realize that you will not get every job.  This is business!



~ by jeffsmithbooks on June 29, 2012.


  1. WELL SAID!!!

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