After you factor in how much your equipment, time, travel, materials, shipping, and rentals, that $2000 check gets dwindled by that amount. What's left is your net income. If your net income is greater than your expenses, then you've made a profit! Outside the world of business, profits are called "disposable income." That's the money left over after you've paid your bills, taxes, and other living expenses. ## Cost of Doing Business All these things are called the "cost of doing business," what it costs you to do what you do. Your prices need to cover those costs and give you something extra to grow. This is a great way to see if what you're making is sufficient to achieve your goals as well as make those adjustments to do so. Perhaps you don't need to go to the coffee shop so often. Maybe you're renting too much equipment. Is your post-production workflow very slow? A few years ago I calculated what it cost me every time I pressed the shutter of my camera. It didn't matter if it was for work or play. My camera didn't know the difference, so I didn't consider it. I took the total cost of my gear (cameras, lenses, computers, software, etc.) combined it with the average cost of my travel (fuel, tolls, etc.) and then divided it by the shutter life of my camera. Identifying this can help you say to yourself "I need to charge more" or "I'm spending way too much." ## Types of Photography Before we get into an example of how to price photography, we do need to understand that different kinds of photography have different requirements and therefore different costs and what you can charge. Each type of photography (wedding, fashion, portrait, news, event) has different requirements and you need to know them. A news photographer usually doesn't have the same deliverables, timeline, or costs as a fashion photographer. If you're shooting for your local daily paper, a charge for an 8-ft softbox rental most likely won't be there. Here are some common charges different photographers would impose. I'm leaving out the common stuff like cameras, post-processing, and digital delivery (FTP, hard drive, or disk): • Fashion: studio space, lighting and grip, assistants, make-up and styling, wardrobe, casting, retouching • News/Photojournalism: travel, lens rental, licensing fees, guides and translators, room and board • Landscape: travel, equipment rental, guides, prints, framing • Wedding: travel, equipment rental, assistants, hotel, prints, albums, slideshow, retouching • Portrait: studio space, travel, make-up and styling, wardrobe, retouching, prints Photographers who combine different fields such as "commercial wedding photographer" would have longer lists for their expenses since their style's gear and personnel requirements take cues from whatever they're trying to incorporate. For me, I do wedding photojournalism and therefore my gear is closer to what a news photographer would bring to a story. However, whenever I do any stock or commercial work, my invoices look closer to what a fashion photographer would present. ## An Example I remember when a 4x6 cost$0.05. Now, it's closer to $0.30. And that's just for the paper! (photo: Daniel Sone) Since there are tons of ways to approach pricing, we'll look at something most of us provide to our clients: prints. I'm using prints rather than "creative fee" because it is a tangible product with clearly defined costs. Pricing on prints vary widely between photographers and there are several reasons, but by this point you may understand why and why you may be able to — or need to — charge more. In either case, let's take a look at an appropriate way to price a print. First, let's remove the consideration who your client is and what the print is for. You won't charge grandma the same price you'd charge a Fortune 500 company. You'd also charge one price for a wedding and a different one for an ad campaign. Secondly, let's also remove any usage and rights you'd license to your clients. This can also vary dramatically from case to case. After you've factored in your overhead for a project you need to determine how much you will charge for your prints. There are a few ways you can go about this: self-fulfillment and self-printing, self-fulfillment and lab-printing, or third-party fulfillment and printing. Depending on your budget and the amount of time you can devote to this portion of your business one of the three options will fit you best. Personally, I have a combination of a third party handling the whole thing and an option to self-fulfill with lab printing. With either option, it costs money to print and I need to charge my clients appropriately to make sure either choice is profitable. So, let's take a simple 8x10" sized-print on professional paper without any special finishing, lab color correction, or any extras. A simple, direct print. The average price between the various vendors I use for both personal and professional work, is about$0.50/print. If I simply charge my client $1.00, I have doubled my income, right? No, not at all. In fact, I'm way deeper in the hole than that. Typically, there is a "minimum order charge" and this usually exists because it is not profitable to the lab to process any order less than the established minimum amount (usually$5.00). So, if I simply buy a single print, it cost me $4.50, not including shipping. And if my client buys a print for$1.00, I'm still underwater at least $4.00. This is not good at all. Other costs may be a "processing fee" that your lab or online gallery may charge to process your order. This can range from 2% to 22%, depending on the vendor and what you have them do. Once you see the big picture, it becomes clear that the simple 8x10" print isn't really$0.50 and therefore you cannot charge anywhere near that in order to break even or make a profit. At the end of this arithmetic, that print could be as much as $6.71 (plus S&H). And that isn't factoring all the production costs you incurred to take the photo and the post-production to finalize it for printing. But this is a good start, we now know this popular print size has a baseline cost of$6.71.

How did I arrive at this number?

I took the vendor's print cost ($0.50), added the minimum order charge ($5.00), and a 22% payment/order processing charge.

It is a good idea to charge for the higher end of your costs because it will give you the flexibility to address fluctuations between vendors, shipping costs, and projects. Whatever the case, your pricing should enable you turn a profit with a wide enough margin to be stable. If your margins are too close, then all it will take is a few oversights to put your ledger into the negatives. A good rule of thumb is to keep a margin of approximately 30%.

In short, every sale and client project you should pocket 30%. If all goes well, that 30% is all yours and if it doesn't you could use that buffer to cover some mistakes.

So, what does that mean in the case of an 8x10" print?

Well, we have a baseline cost of $6.71 for the piece of paper itself. So, if we add 30% to that, we get$8.72. So, a profitable single 8x10" begins at $8.72. But is a nearly$9 print worth it to those of us that wish to have a sustainable, profitable business, purchase new gear, or invest in education in a timely fashion?

No. It is not.

If a client only buys one print, we've only made $2.00. It could take a while before we could buy anything more than a ballpoint pen. So, we have to actually charge more than$9.00 for an 8x10" print. As I have stated before, we have to consider how much we spent to produce the images, market forces, and our skill level in order to pin down a price for a product. Adding that in is the tricky part. Each of us is different.

## Conclusion

Missouri-based wedding and senior photographer Sal Cincotta once said that if you're charging less than $35 for an 8x10" print, pack it up and get out of the game because it isn't sustainable. At first I disagreed with him, but then I started looking very closely at my office, vendors, and life expenses. I realized that the materials and time were costing more than I thought and that my margins for weddings, portraits, and related work were too close for sustainability. In order to keep my business growing and be able to properly service the next client, I had to adjust my pricing. I don't charge the$35 Cincotta recommends, but what I do charge for prints and photography is significantly more than before because I realized a print costs more than the paper it's on.

Hopefully, this article helps you learn the truth of the cost of your photography and gives you a pathway for pricing properly. The biggest money-making act you can do is find out your costs and reduce them, especially in the time department.

Time is money and the hours spent using an inefficient strategy could be costing you thousands and making your hourly wage less than someone working fast food. This isn't the most enjoyable part of photography, but aside from a lucrative 9-to-5, a rich relative, or winning a sweepstake you won't be getting to the next phase easily.