Workflow and Pricing for Professional Photographers

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After posting the 5 Steps to a Successful Photography Business, there were so many questions on pricing collections and workflow, so today I’ll dive into those two topics.

Pricing is a critical component of your photography business, because pricing yourself too low is just as bad, if not worse than pricing yourself too high.  In the “5 Steps” article, everyone asked what my pricing looks like, but what I quickly realized is that the wrong question was being asked.  Sending you my pricing doesn’t help you figure out what your pricing should be.  Please do some research and determine what your cost of doing business is, as this is how I structured my pricing.  If you are serious about running your own business, you need to do the work.  Working for yourself is hard work, and if you want to see the fruits of your labor, you need to put forth the effort.

The MCP Blog has many articles to get you started on pricing. Here’s a few of the most popular:

 

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Collections

I currently offer four collections to clients as well as a Baby’s First Year package:

  • The smallest package includes a few small prints and a handful of watermarked low resolution digital images.  I think I’ve only ever had one person actually purchase this package.
  • The second package includes the same prints as the previous package as well as one enlargement and three high resolution digital images.
  • The third package includes the same prints as the previous package, a few mounted enlargements and five high resolution digital images.  This package is the most popular for family sessions and cake smashes.
  • The largest package includes the same prints as the previous package, but has all of the digital images from the session included as well.  This package is purchased 99% of the time by my newborn clients.  It also includes 25 custom cards or birth announcements.

Hopefully that helps you structure your Collections.  Pricing for the packages will depend on how you’re priced, which is unique to every photographer.  Collections are always a better value than my a la carte pricing.  In fact, very few clients purchase items a la carte!

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Client Workflow

Several people asked about my workflow and how I manage a client from start to finish.  This can and should very from person to person and photographer to photographer.  For example, many higher end portrait photographers don’t even offer pre-consultation.  They consider it to be a waste of time.  Others do it by phone or Skype, but I prefer to meet with potential clients in person, usually at Starbucks (because I am iced coffee obsessed.  Yes, even in the dead of winter).

1. Initial meeting. Meeting your clients before they sign on the dotted line makes sure we are a good fit for each other.  I have turned clients down before based on fit and they have always appreciated it.  For this reason, I have a number of local photographers who I can refer clients to if we just don’t seem to click.

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If our meeting goes well, I schedule their shoot, take deposits, and have them sign their contract.  Once I’m back at the office, clients are entered into my database, and confirmation email is sent to the client.  I help with planning outfits, or with newborns, identifying themes.  Unless it is a newborn session, location scouting is done a week before the shoot and session reminders go out three days before the shoot.  Pro tip:  I have four large parks with very different looking landscapes.  I am comfortable with the light there, know what the light looks like at different times of day, and you’d never be able to tell that multiple sessions were shot in the same location.  Do yourself a favor and find some gorgeous, diverse outdoor settings!

2. Next in the work flow is the actual session.  Shoot times vary from one hour (family, cake smash, maternity) to three hours (newborn) and after the shoot, photos get pulled off the cards for editing.

  • Sneak peeks are only done for clients who have pre-purchased all of their digital images or for sessions where the client was a newborn model for a mentoring workshop.  I do sneak peeks the day after the session and let clients know once they are up.

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3. In-person proofing. When sessions are done being edited (3 weeks), I schedule an in-person proofing session with the client.  This gives me an opportunity to control the conditions under which clients see their photos for the first time.  It also gives me the opportunity to help clients plan what size enlargements or canvas will fit in their space.  I rarely do online proofing galleries for clients.  I find it highly impersonal for such a personal experience.

4. Ordering prints. Prints are ordered after I am back from the proofing session and I give clients a turnaround time of 1-2 weeks, so I can quality control the images once they’re delivered to me.  They’re wrapped and packaged once I check them and I’ll send clients an email to let them know their images are ready for pickup.

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5. Follow up. I always follow up with clients about a month after their session and stay in touch, sending cards for anniversaries and birthdays.  This keeps me in pretty much constant contact with them.  I have a referral program for clients which entitles them to a percentage discount and a complimentary enlargement for referral a client.  Clients LOVE referral programs.  Make sure you have one in place, because you’d be shocked at how much additional business it generates.

I hope I managed to answer everyone’s questions from the original article.  Remember, dreams don’t work unless you do!

Veronica Gillas is a natural light photographer in Portland, Oregon, specializing in newborns, children, families and seniors.  When she’s not with her amazing clients, she loves to knit, challenge her 8 year old to a high stakes game of Mario Kart, play dress up with her 5 year old, tickle her 7 month old’s feet and snuggle on a picnic blanket with her husband. Head on over to her website or Facebook page and say hello!

 Workflow and Pricing for Professional Photographers

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This post was written by a MCP Guest Blogger. If you would like to contribute to the MCP Actions Blog, check out our Guest Writers Wanted page.

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