You are a newborn photographer, and you love to create images for Moms and Dads that celebrate the newest addition to their family. It’s a noble pursuit to create timeless portraiture for generations to enjoy – and it’s certainly a rewarding and fulfilling opportunity. You love the creativity, the artistry, the posing, the styling, the props and the retouching.
What’s one thing that you probably don’t love, though? Pricing …
… Am I right? It’s ok, though, because pricing isn’t a topic that most photographers enjoy, and while it may seem boring, tedious and unimaginative, it is actually a very important part of running a photography business.
Some photographers pick their prices without logic or reason – they simply pick a price point out of thin air. This isn’t the best way to set yourself up for a successful career as a photographer though, as you need to be sure that you are pricing yourself not only to be profitable, but also to be realistic and appropriate.
There are many factors that should affect how you price yourself as a photographer, and experience, confidence, quality are some of them. I wrote an article all about how to price yourself on Sprouting Photographer, which is a website for photographers all about the business of photography.
Ultimately though, the best approach to establishing your pricing is by looking at what goes into a product or service and working it up from there. If we’re discussing the idea of pricing a newborn session here, then let’s get into the details of a typical session and calculate the total amount of time that you might put into it.
First, we have to consider that there is likely a good amount of back-and-forth in the pre-session communication with your client. This could be via e-mail, phone or in-person where not only will you be talking about you, your style, how the session will go and your availability, but you’ll also likely be going over details, options, styling, colours and preparation instructions. Let’s say in total, this is a 2 hour time commitment all-in.
Next, let’s talk about the session itself. You probably spend a good hour getting your studio all set up – setting the temperature right, preparing your backdrops, and organizing the wraps and blankets. Even if you don’t spend a full hour doing this, you probably aren’t exactly getting productive work done right before a session. It’s your prep time.
Then, if you’re like most newborn photographers, you most likely spend on average 3 hours for the session itself, and then following the session, another hour cleaning up and getting your studio all organized again.
Once your studio is in good order again, you bring the card over to your computer, start importing the images and doing your selections, which might take somewhere around an hour. From here, there are two different “camps” of newborn photographers in terms of retouching/editing:
If you are the first type of newborn photographer, then it might take you another hour to do basic corrections to all the images (soft proofing) before exporting them. If you are the second type of newborn photographer, it may take you somewhere closer to 5 hours to fully retouch all of the images, this is assuming 10 minutes per image at 30 images total.
Now that the images are ready to be viewed by your client, there are (again) two different “camps” of newborn photographers:
If you are the first type of newborn photographer and only offering online proofing, then your time investment from here is basically 15-20 minutes to prepare the online gallery and e-mail it to your client. If you are the second type of newborn photographer and are doing an in-studio ordering appointment, your time commitment is more likely closer to 2 hours by the time you prepare the studio, spend the time at the ordering appointment and then clean up again.
Total Time Commitment
To sum things up, there are 4 different scenarios here, and if you were following along and doing the math, you’ll see that the total time commitment up until the point of ordering is as follows:
- Newborn photographer who provides soft-proofs online: 9 hours and 15 minutes
- Newborn photographer who retouches all images and then sends and online gallery: 13 hours and 15 minutes
- Newborn photographer who soft-proofs the images for an in-studio ordering appointment: 11 hours
- Newborn photographer who retouches all images and then presents them in an in-studio ordering appointment: 15 hours
Your numbers may vary, but this gives you a good estimate in terms of averages. I would say that these numbers are fairly accurate, and if anything, maybe slightly conservative. Keep in mind that at this point, we haven’t even started to talk about product – this is only the session and presenting the proofs.
Let’s step back for a minute and have a quick conversation about your salary. If you’re a full-time photographer, have enough experience to be considered a professional and are hoping to make a sustainable living from your business, let’s put your annual salary at $60,000 for this example, which I think is more than fair. We have 50 weeks of work (2 weeks vacation) and 40 hours per week, which means that your personal salary as an hourly wage works out to be $30 per hour.
This means that to only cover your costs (your time) the session’s cost-of-goods for each scenario is as follows:
- Newborn photographer who provides soft-proofs online: $277.50
- Newborn photographer who retouches all images and then sends and online gallery: $397.50
- Newborn photographer who soft-proofs the images for an in-studio ordering appointment: $330.00
- Newborn photographer who retouches all images and then presents them in an in-studio ordering appointment: $450.00
We have only covered our cost-of-goods (your time) so far. We haven’t taken into consideration any other ongoing fixed expenses such as utilities, taxes, equipment, education, marketing and so on. The PPA benchmark survey recommends that a home-based studio operates a business model of 35% cost-of-goods, meaning that your variable expenses (cost-of-goods) should be 35% of your total revenue. The remaining 65% is eaten up by fixed costs and business profit.
Therefore, if we’re operating under a 35% cost-of-goods model, we must mark-up our costs by 2.85 (100 ÷ 35 = 2.85) to arrive at a final price that covers our costs and leaves room for overhead expenses and business profit.
To arrive at our session fee, we must multiply our session costs (your time) by 2.85. This gives us a final session fee for each scenario as follows:
- Newborn photographer who provides soft-proofs online: $790.88
- Newborn photographer who retouches all images and then sends and online gallery: $1132.88
- Newborn photographer who soft-proofs the images for an in-studio ordering appointment: $940.50
- Newborn photographer who retouches all images and then presents them in an in-studio ordering appointment: $1282.50
You may be saying that these session fees seem high, and you’re right, but this is what we need to charge, mathematically, in order run a business that will last. This means that we have to pay ourselves for our time, make a modest business profit and cover our overhead as professional photographers. If you aren’t able to quite get to these numbers for your session fee, then you need to make up the difference between what you actually are charging and what you should be charging (above) with your profit margins for your products. To read more about pricing your products, please check out this article over on SproutingPhotographer.com.
Note that these calculations are based largely around a working full-time professional photographer. If you are newer or still learning, you’ll need to make adjustments.
Although this process might seem tedious, it is crucial to the long-term success of your photography business. It is a repeatable and measurable approach to calculate your session fee. I suggest that you run through these numbers for yourself for your own situation. If you don’t want to do the math, I have created a custom calculator for you over on our Sprouting Photographer educational website, here.
Bryan Caporicci is an award winning wedding and portrait photographer based out of Fonthill, Canada. Bryan is a Fuji X-Photographer. In 2011, he was awarded his Craftsman of Photographic Arts (CPA) designation by the Professional Photographers of Canada (PPOC), making him one of the youngest photographer in Canada to receive this level of achievement. Bryan can be found at bcapphoto.com