When you get in a rut, it’s fun to try new photo activities. If you aren’t doing our Photo A Day Challenges, we’d love you to join in. It isn’t too late.
Beyond photo challenges, picking up a new technique can spark creativity. In that light, here’s a great photography project to try:
Crystal Ball Photography
To start, you need to start with a crystal ball. It needs to be solid, clear, and colorless. We recommend one 3″ (80mm) in size. You can try larger or small if you wish.
You can BUY ONE HERE.
Next you need to find a scene that you’d like in the ball. You can experiment with images that are far away for a wide angle view or closeup for a fisheye look.
Lay the ball down on a steady object, in a stand or even hold it. You decide. Then back up until you see what you want to inside the globe shaped crystal. Set your exposure, focus, and start shooting.
The principal is the same as shooting dew drops on a flower with a macro lens. But this you can do anytime. It is not dependent on nature. The photo above was edited with MCP Inspire Photoshop actions.
Here are some tips from Sue on getting the best results with your crystal ball:
- Make sure it is a solid crystal ball.
- Try to shoot in the shade. If the sun is shining on the ball you will pick up that sun shine all around in the ball. The main thing to watch for it is the light reflections on the ball. Remember, if you see it so will your camera.
- Don’t hold the crystal ball in the sun as it becomes very hot and could burn you!
- Focus only on the ball, but pay attention to your background. The wider open you shoot, and the further way your background, the more bokeh or blur you will have surrounding your ball.
- Position your ball with knowing you will have to turn your photo upside down.
- The distance between the ball, subject and camera does matter. Move the ball around until you find the picture you are looking for.
- If you have a macro lens, use it. But other lenses will work too. I often use a 85mm for these images. Any lens will work, but shooting shooting fairly wide open helps.
- Since you are shooting through the ball, you do not have to worry about your own reflection on the ball. You will be far enough away that it should not be an issue.
Here are some more shots from Sue Zellers. Thanks Sue for your help on this activity.
Pricing…what is the right way to price photography?
Pricing is always a difficult subject to talk about. It is also one of those subjects where a new photographer will hear a lot of conflicting information regarding what is right or what is wrong. The perspective that I am going to share might be a bit different than most. First, let me tell you a little bit about myself as I think that will help shed a little bit of light regarding my thought process.
I have been in business as a full time photographer for 12 years. For the past six years, I have had a large natural light studio in Downtown Chicago. Chicago is the 3rd largest city in the United States. I have been servicing the high-end market in my area for the past 10 years. I also specialize in children’s photography. This means that I do not take on any other genre of photography. Those last two points play an important part in how I personally choose to price. In this article, I am going to list ideas that are universal to those in any market. I am going to avoid listing actual figures because what one should charge in New York will be drastically different than what one should charge in Alabama. The cost of living is drastically different.
So lets begin!
Where to start
There are a few things a photographer should take into account when they are choosing their pricing. First, you must remember we ALL must begin somewhere. You have to think about a few of these key points…
- What are your expenses?
- How much do you want to make?
- Who do you want to service? ( your target market)
- What does your work look like?
- How long have you been in business?
- Where do you live? (small town vs. big city)
The first thing I like to ask photographers is: “ What do you want to make per year?”
Starting with that figure helps you figure out if you are charging just right or not enough. Once you have a figure in mind you will need to start subtracting expenses. Even if you do not have a physical studio location, the money you make will never be purely profit. You will need to think about subtracting things such as…
- Your time
- Phone, cell phone, monthly costs
- Camera(s), lenses, lighting equipment
- Editing software
- Professional services: accountant/attorney
- Product Costs
- And much, much more…
Before you present your pricing to the public, you will need to tally up your expected expenses, and subtract that from your profit. In the beginning, you’ll need to make guesses and estimates for some of your expenses. That is why most businesses do not turn a profit during their first year. So you will raise your prices a bit as you find your expenses rise as well.
One pitfall that new photographers make is they think only in terms of profit. They do not think in terms of expense.
Now you need to think about mark up. How much should you mark up your product? First, you need to figure out what your tax rate will be so that you will know how much to mark up your products.
So lets take it step by step….
- How much do you want to make per year? When I started my business, I came up with a figure that I wanted to make. Everyone has their own figures, and your figure is your own figure. There are a LOT of variables that go into choosing a high figure, or a figure that is on the lower side. The important thing to remember, is your figure is correct…because it is your own. Remember, we all have to start somewhere. However, on the flip-side, if your figure is on the higher side, knowing this info upfront when planning your price list, is an awesome way to help you figure out what to charge. When I started, my figure was on the high side. However, I purposely chose to choose a high figure. I only mention that to say that no figure is too lofty if you plan, and price yourself appropriately!
- What are your expenses? Write down everything that you will have to pay for and tally it up. This is a very important step. You want to make sure that your expenses do not exceed your gross. One of the main reasons many photographers go out of business shortly after they start is because their expenses greatly exceeded what they bring in. You also want to make sure that you aren’t just breaking even. If you’re charging too little, you will find you’re working for basically nothing. You will be paying out any money you bring in.
- Now the part that starts to confuse photographers is actually pricing the product. Many new photographers simply can’t understand the market percentage of say an 8×10 print when it only costs them $5 to buy. To many photographers pricing an 8×10 at $35 when it costs them $5 to buy sounds like a crazy mark up. You know what many do not factor in to that price? Your time. Even if you are just snapping the shutter, and you’re not editing anything, you still need to factor in your time for creating the image. If you are someone who just sells digital images, then you would still perform the same task. You should price your time in each image you place on that disk, and price the disk accordingly. Many photographers sell CD’s for $200 dollars, and those disks contain about 100 images on there. Guess how much you’re selling each image for? You’re selling each image for $2. What if you sold a disk that contained 10 images for $200? Then each image is being sold for $20. Doesn’t that sound like a better profit? I am not against selling digital images as long as they are priced for profit. Making $2 an image is not a profit, and a beginner photographer can most certainly charge more than $2 an image. You’re worth more than that!
- Next comes one of the most important factors in the pricing game, your target market. In the beginning, we all look at what other photographers are charging to help us know what we should be charging. Next we think that we are too new in the photography game to charge enough to turn a profit. Next we look at what WE would pay to determine what we should charge other people. All these tactics are incorrect in my opinion. You need to define and then research your target market, rather than what the masses charge. Currently, my session fee is $375. When I began, I charged a mere $85 session fee. I found it hard to really know if my work was good enough to command higher prices, and I felt future clients wouldn’t pay someone who was new any more than that. In the beginning, I felt an $85 session fee was VERY high! I was able to see if my work commanded clients. I was able to see what products sold. Once I felt confident to dramatically raise my prices, do you think those in my original target market would pay that? No they wouldn’t. So once my prices began to raise, I had to change markets.
High-end/low-end – photographers for everyone:
There’s a lot of “high end vs. low end” pricing talk in the photography industry. I am not a photographer who believes everyone needs to be a high end photographer. I do believe that there is a market for everyone. The photographers that learn and recognize how markets work are the ones who turn a profit and who succeed. I learned about market behavior very, very early in my business career. Back to the high end vs. low end mantra, remember that you can’t sell a Mercedes in a lower middle class area. Just as you would have a hard time selling a Kia in the upper class areas where the 1% of America lives. Perception is reality, and you need to price yourself amongst those you plan on servicing. There’s business in every sector of the market, so never raise your prices to what is considered high end in your area if you aren’t planning on servicing that market.
If you find yourself saying that no one in your market will pay a lot, then you’re probably right. Just make sure you are turning a profit based on the information I listed above. If you are interested in making a higher profit, then you will need to change markets!
Let’s say you’ve already started, and now you’re ready to raise your prices. What should you raise them to? If you find yourself in that position that I firmly believe this is a marketing issue FIRST. If you don’t know who you want to service then it is impossible to know what you should raise your prices to. The very first thing an intermediate or advanced photographer should do if they find themselves ready to make a significant price hike is to find out who they want to service, and how they will gain their attention. There are other things that weigh into your prices such as your current clients and how/if you want to maintain them. It is inevitable that you would lose some of your current clients, in order to gain new clients with a brand new price list. However, pricing at the intermediate level and the advanced experience level would require a new blog post as there are a lot of things that factor in besides the prices you choose. Marketing plays a huge role.
Hopefully this blog post can help your thought process as you begin to plan your price list. Its important to have the proper frame of mind in order to chose the proper pricing. What questions do you have? List them below so they can be addressed in future articles.
Audrey Woulard, the author of this article for MCP Actions, is a 100% natural light photographer based out of Chicago, IL. She specializes in children’s portraiture and commercial children’s works. She shoots out of her 2200sq natural light studio in Downtown Chicago as well as on location.
The Naked Truth Exposed: How Photographers Price Photography
Most photographers find that pricing photography is the most difficult aspect to owning a photo studio. It’s easy to under charge when you start out and soon you end up feeling stuck in that price range. Want to raise your prices but are worried you’ll lose clients? You’re not alone! Many photographers we heard from had the same concern. Some think, “I could never afford to pay that rate so how could I ever justify charging that much?”.
Pricing involves more than saying, I think I will charge $X per print. You, and only you, can determine your worth. First, start with answering these questions:
- What is my current skill level?
- What does my competition in my geographic area charge?
- Do people in my geographic area currently pay competitors’ rates and what do they get for it?
- What do I need to charge to make a profit for all the effort I put into this business?
- Who do I want as a target audience for my photography services.
Help Is On The Way!
Don’t worry! We are here to help! To start with, we surveyed customers on the MCP Actions Facebook Page in December 2013/January 2014.
(Disclaimer, while we surveyed professional photographers on the items below, along with where they were located, it is far from scientific. Some of the surveys generated hundreds of responses and some just dozens. But skill set, needs, and target customers were NOT factored into the equation.)
Our main observation? Some of you seem priced quite low, some were priced in ways that made sense, and others definitely were on the high end. Meaning? Ta-Da! THERE IS NOT RIGHT OR WRONG ANSWER! That said, if you are doing photography as a full-time job to support yourself and your family, or even part-time to make extra money, you should still make photography worth it for the time and skills you put forth. We all know it can be demanding, so why not set yourself up for success?
Since it was unscientific, there was no easy way to compile data in neat answers. As much as you’d like to be able to have a list telling you what you SHOULD be charging for your 8×10′s or how much to charge that client for a CD with all images (and you know they want all the digital file releases!), we decided instead to let you view each thread. Below, we’ve linked the threads for each print size, session, package, along with many other items that were tracked. Click, read, and do the math!
Without further adieu, we hope you enjoy reading through the compilation of the Name Your Pricing Photography Game. If you did not participate, add your comments to each on the respective Facebook thread. Also, we are very excited to have a well-known professional photographer, Audrey Woulard, join us later this week to further teach you how to set your pricing for success. Good luck!
Larger than 16×20
Discussion on digital files
Sitting Fee for portrait session
Miscellaneous Survey Questions:
Most popular size print
What is the biggest obstacle on why you don’t increase your pricing if you think you are priced low?
To learn more about MCP Photo A Day.
It’s never too late to join in. And if you miss a day or two, or get behind, that’s fine as well. Just participate when you can. Here are the fun themes for March. You are welcome to pin this and post it directly to Facebook and Instagram too!
How to participate:
- Take a photo with any camera you want (SLR, phone, P&S, etc). Post the image to your Instagram, Facebook or both. Hashtag it #mcpphotoaday. If possible list the day, date and/or theme.
- Bonus fun – You can also follow us and tag @mcpactions on Instagram. Or tag the MCP Business Facebook Page.
- If you edited the photo with MCP products such as our Photoshop actions, Lightroom presets and textures, you can also hashtag it #mcpactions. For more exposure, you may post MCP edited images to our Facebook Group and state what products were used.
- Spread the word. Tell others to visit this shortened URL to join us: http://bit.ly/mcp-photoaday
- Make sure you FOLLOW US ON INSTAGRAM and OUR PERSONAL FACEBOOK as we will try and feature photos daily.
That’s it – super easy. We hope you participate. Make sure to check out MCP on Instagram. We will feature participants’ images – so visit to get inspired and maybe to see your image.
Comment below and let us know if you will be joining us!