As you may have seen on my investment page, I am changing my pricing beginning April 1. Instead of just flipping a switch and changing over on April 1 though, I thought you all deserved some explanation as to this shift. I don't want you thinking I up and decided that I need more money starting a month from now.
So let’s back up a bit first. And let me start by saying, I have always loved photography. As I said on my about page, one of my first high school jobs was in an old school photo lab. I loved that job, and that job made me love photography.
I had always considered photography a hobby of mine, but I began looking at photography as more than that in the spring of 2009. This shift in view came unexpectedly out a friend’s baby shower present, and I rolled with it. I took maternity photos for my friend, Carly, they were given to her as a present at her shower, and when other people saw those photos they asked if I could take some for them too. It was not intentional, but as soon as the opportunity presented itself, my path began. That’s why now, four years later, it is still somewhat surprising that this “hobby” has grown into something I never anticipated. I have my own website, a list of clients (some whom I’ve photographed more than four times) and a collection of work that I feel both blessed and proud to have captured. My little hobby is now an actual business.
I have never worked at the same job for more than three and a half years, but I have now consistently studied and practiced photography for four years. I think in photos. I will enter a room and assess the light. I’ll sit on the train on my way to my 9-5, catch a glimpse of some scene out the window and be upset that I don’t have my Nikon to capture it. I get itchy fingers if I haven't had a shoot in a few weeks. I live and breathe photography. Photography is the thing that is constantly in the back of my mind and often times pushes to the forefront.
I spend my evenings editing photos and my lunch hours watching Photoshop tutorials. I stay up until 2 a.m. working on my marketing materials and tweaking my website. And on the weekends if I don't have a shoot scheduled, I am still usually snapping photos of my husband and dog. I have bought photography books, I subscribe to photography magazines, I dream about new camera equipment. I cannot stop. And I don’t plan to.
I am serious about photography as a way to both live out my creative desires and be a source of income (not just the thing that allows me to buy fancy camera equipment). But if I am to live out this plan, I have to do one very important but very difficult thing. I have to change the way I do business, which means I have to raise my prices.
What I Have Been Doing
For my first few photo shoots I charged nothing. My next few shoots I charged $50, and it was really difficult for me to ask for that $50. As time has gone on, though, my ability to deliver consistently good images (and my investment in better equipment) allowed me to raise my base prices to $150. And they have remained there for more than two years. I look at that and think if in my day job I had gotten no raise in two years, I’d be pretty pissed. I’d probably quit. So why when I run my own business would I not expect the same?
I know when you book a session it seems like you're paying for just the two hours that you see me, but in reality, that session fees covers all the time that goes into your shoot - scheduling, editing proofs, backing up files, designing custom art pieces, and making sure that my time with you is as smooth and seamless as it can be. When you tack on the time it takes me edit 48 full res digital images and minus my expenses (purchasing and maintaining my equipment, buying new software and hosting my own website), I am paying myself less than minimum wage. And given that these tasks are all done in my free time, it doesn't seem fair to my family that I am paid so little to be away from them so much.
Where Do We Go From Here?
I have spent a lot of time thinking about my pricing and what I should charge. I didn’t want to do a blanket increase this time. Instead, what I did was create a whole new way to deliver photos to my clients, which I am sorry to say no longer includes providing 48 digital images with a session fee. That model is unsustainable and unfair to my clients in a few ways.
First, carefully editing that many images takes time. A lot of time. And as much as I love my Mac, I hate the thought of sitting in front of it and editing images that may never see the light of a desktop screensaver. Second, by offering that many images, it means I can’t spend the time I’d like to perfecting each one. I can’t remove each blemish, each strand of hair, each rouge person who wandered into the background of a shot if I have that many photos to edit. Third, I have realized that my favorite image and my client’s favorite image is not always the same. So I may choose to spend a little more time perfecting one image and a little less on another, and then sadly my client chooses to print and frame the image I spent little time working on. I am too much of a perfectionist to let that happen any more.
So what will I offer instead? I will offer you beautiful, professionally crafted products - not digital images. But any product you purchase includes a free high resolution digital image. My thinking is this: If you purchase a print or a gallery wrap to hang in your home, I want to make sure it’s perfect. And I will. And since I have already spent that time editing your image, I have no problem turning over the digital file so you can do whatever else you’d like with it. Plus, my images are edited to the specifics of printing from my lab (which makes BEAUTIFUL prints), so if you have that image printed elsewhere later, you'll be able to compare it to my print and ensure the image looks as it should.
I still do offer digital images, but they are priced accordingly. These high resolution images are intended to be used for large custom art pieces in your home, not as Facebook cover photos. Similarly, I know all some people want to do is display their photos on the Internet, which is why you have the option to purchase a lower priced, lower resolution image just for that. If I know the only way an image will be viewed is with a 4x6 print or a 900 pixel wide image on the web, it takes me less time to edit.
To better explain this new pricing, I have created a really helpful guide. At least I hope you think it's helpful. It includes info on my session fees, descriptions of all of the products I offer and their sizes and prices. You can find it here.
What I Hope You Understand
First, that this was a really hard post for me to write. It's not easy telling others that they need to value you more. I hope you see that I do this because I love photography. I do this because I want to create custom, meaningful art for you. I do this because I can't not do this. I don't do this for the money. But if I want to continue doing this, the money is a necessary component. I hope you understand. I hope you are not deterred from booking me for a shoot. More than anything though, I hope that I will be able to continue doing this for many years to come.
Now the for the specifics...
My new pricing begins on April 1, meaning any shoot you book after April 1 will be subject to these new prices. However, I can book shoots months in advance. I will no longer honor my old pricing after October 1, but if you would like to book a shoot anytime between now and October 1, you can book one at my current rates. And just as a heads up, my April is pretty much fully booked and May is getting there, so contact me here today if you want to set something up.
Also, for anyone who is still reading this, gold star for you. Seriously, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you an image of a gold star for your efforts. This one was probably the longest blog post I have ever written.