Over the period of the last 12 months, I’ve increased the price for my photoshoots three times. Not bad, right? Higher price – higher revenue. Of course, just raising the price is easy. The trick is to charge more, but not lose your customers.
So how can you sell yourself better as a photographer?
The very first thing I’d like to emphasize, you have to be a professional. Don’t assume, that just because you bought an expensive camera you can call yourself a photographer. Photography is a profession, it requires continuous education and practice. And it is not only about taking great shots or being skilled in Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom post-processing. You need to know how to work with people (customers, models, suppliers etc.), and you need to be good at managing your time and planning in general. A lot of these aspects I’ve covered in my other post about how to choose the right photographer. There you can get the main expectations you should meet.
How to become a professional photographer?
You definitely need to love photography. If you don’t feel thrilled when you hold your camera, your hands are not itching with the desire to take a shot when you see a beautiful moment, don’t bother. But if you love it, you constantly question yourself, whether you would be able to replicate a shot you saw in a magazine, you are willing to spend hours of your free time exploring new features of your camera, techniques other professionals sharing, tricks in post-processing, then maybe you should consider photography as your profession. Or maybe just as a hobby 😉
But okay, enough of that philosophical stuff. So you are here because you want to be a professional photographer and make a good living out of it.
Advice #1 – shoot as much as you can. If you cannot sell instantly, don’t worry. Shoot your friends, family, and colleagues (assuming you have a full-time job to pay the bills while you are trying to pick up a new profession). Shoot for free. Reach out to people in your city you can find on Instagram, give them a compliment and offer a free photoshoot. People love compliments and free stuff.
Advice #2 – learn Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Before you start outsourcing some of your work (like post-processing) because you are too busy going from one shoot to another, you have to learn the ropes. There are plenty of great resources online. You can learn the basics on Adobe website, phlearn is a great resource offering tons of great courses for photographers. If you happen to be in Amsterdam and want to have a face-to-face training, give me a shout, and we’ll make it happen.
And of course, there are shortcuts when it comes to post-processing – Lightroom presets. Once you know what you are doing, they can be a lifesaver. With Lightroom presets you can retouch all your photos in a matter of minutes. I personally always use my clean color presets when I photoshoot people (most of my work). With these presets with a single click I can achieve a rich professional look. And in many cases that would be enough (especially if you are shooting for social media). For printing or commercial shoots, of course, it would require additional adjustments in Photoshop.
Advice #3 – if you work with people, especially if you shoot not professional models (sometimes even in those cases) you need to learn the basics of posing, what’s working, what’s not, how to position your body or use your outfit to highlight your models best features. Throughout my career, I made lots of mistakes I learned from. I worked a lot with professional models and average people. I always analyze my shots after, looking for things that could be improved. To make your life easier I’ve compiled the most common mistakes in posing and ways to avoid them, as well as other posing secrets in a short and concise, easy-to-digest guide. But it does take time. So keep on shooting, look at your results, analyze them, work with your models, and consider different angles until it becomes a habit and your eye is trained to spot those details right there.
And there you are, a photographer with many hours of shooting experience, even more hours of post-production experience, who works well with his/her clients, shoots well in all conditions, and delivers high-quality results quickly. If you are there – fantastic, let’s talk about money.
So, let’s say, you charge 100 EUR for one hour photoshoot (it is never actually one hour, there is time you spend to get to a location, time for post-processing, and time invested in communication with the client, so most likely it is 4 hours of your time). And let’s say you have 5 such photoshoots a week, which is 500 EUR a week and around 20 hours of work invested. There are a few things you can do to increase your revenue – spend less time, or charge more money. Avoiding any time waste is always crucial. So work on your operations. Once again, Lightroom presets can shrink your post-processing time tremendously. Actions in Photoshop are also a great way to automate your routing operations like resizing/renaming etc.
Compare your work to other photographers in your area. Is the quality of your work better, but you are cheaper? This is a clear indication to bump up the price. I’d advise an incremental step of 25%. So instead of 100 EUR, ask for 125 EUR for a one-hour photoshoot. You can also play around with your offerings. For example, if you offer a two-hour photoshoot for 200 EUR, maybe you can offer a one-hour photoshoot for 150 EUR instead. Not many people actually care about the hours they spend on the shoot, in fact, many people would prefer to be done with it as soon as possible.
If after increasing the price you still have the same demand, you can make another step up of another 25%. Don’t raise your prices every month though, unless the demand is so crazy that people are willing to pay whatever for the experience of shooting with you. I’d say consider your price model adjustments every 6 months. Most likely you will lose some clients. Some people are just unable to pay, some are just cheap, and some don’t value other people’s work and time. There can be many reasons. But let’s say if you increased your price by 100%, over the period of two years and your demand dropped by 20% (so 4 shoots a week on average), then you make 60% more money and get 20% more time back.
Obviously, you need to find a healthy balance there and do some experimentation. But one thing you should always keep in mind – quality of your work. Great communication skills, great organization skills, continuous education in photography and retouching, and creative TFP shoots in your free time – this is the recipe for your high-paid work. People love quality and speed. If you work fast and your results are great, people enjoy working with you, your clients wouldn’t mind paying above-average rates and they’ll always recommend you to their circle.
So keep on learning and improving!