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Photography Question 
Kristi Eckberg
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/22/2003
 

Should I require a minimum amount on a print order


I'am just getting my photography business going this year and so far going great. I shoot digital so charge a sitting fee for my time only then they order prints. Since I'am just starting out and still learning as I go I do not charge much for prints. My question is should I be requiring a minimum amount for print orders so that they don't just buy a few 4x6's or 5x7;s and copy them to make more enlargements etc.?? I have never had this happen but as I was thinking about it, my print prices are so cheap that it is bound to happen where they only order a few and maybe "claim" that they don't have the money right now but will order more later then go and make copies are scan them to their computer. I'm not ready to raise my print prices yet as I'am trying to bring in business. So any opinions would be so helpful as I'am learning the business. What did all of you pros do when just starting out?? Figuring out how to price things and what to offer has been a big challenge.


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11/14/2005 3:14:25 PM

 
Michelle Ochoa
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/4/2005
  Kristi -

I'm just starting out too. I'm thinking many people are paranoid about people copying their work, but when we price ourselves to protect ourselves, we wind up chasing customers away. I think if you keep your pricing reasonable, they'll buy more. If it's expensive, that's when they'll buy and maybe copy. As for charging a minimum, it depends on whether your sitting fee really compensates you for your time. Most photographers should make about $50 an hour AT LEAST to start out, but most make more like $100 from what I've seen. But if you're starting out, $100 sitting fee may seem like a lot.

In case you can't decipher all that (It's late and I don't think I can even understand it), I would charge a reasonable sitting fee for your experience ($35-$50), and only charge a minimum if you're sending your prints out to be processed and need to cover shipping. You need to make sure you time for proofing, color correcting, and processing the order is worth your time. And if you keep your prices low, they'll come back again and again.

If anyone disagrees, let me know, since I'm starting out too!


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11/14/2005 11:06:42 PM

 
Cyndee Wanyonyi
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/7/2005
  Hi Kristi,
I was wondering this same thing when looking at a fellow b-pers website. She had a minimum charge. However, when I evaluated the last 10 + shoots...I never had anyone order less than the minimum that the other b-per requires. So, all that to say that I haven't needed to have a minimum charge. As long as it stays this way, I will not have a minimum.
Cyndee ><>


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11/15/2005 7:46:38 AM

 

BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/28/2003
  You have to be prepared to support a minimum order. What if some one order 1 4x6 print? It will happen. So, you price in a way that allows for that to happen.

Personally, I hate processing reprint orders. I don't really want them. They are a nuisance and do not provide much to my bottom line, so I price them pretty high. So, when I do get an order, I don't mind doing it.

I process about $1k a month in reprints.

My lab has minimum orders. $12 minimum. So, I price my 4x6 @ $15 and go up from there.


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11/15/2005 8:31:26 AM

 
Michelle Ochoa
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/4/2005
  Jerry,
What type of photography do you do where $1000 a month is a nuisance? I would think that's really where the money is. I know, the sitting fee is really for your time and talent, but depending on what your market is, it may be better to price a sitting fee lower, and make bank on the reprints. If you're doing weddings, then I understand how it would be easier to set a package deal, including the day's work and a set number of prints. That way you know what you have going in. I have dye-sub printers at home, so if I have a short run of just a couple, I print them at home. But if I get a good run, then it's easier for me to upload them to a lab and let them do all the work!


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11/15/2005 2:48:37 PM

 

BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/28/2003
  I disagree that lowering your sitting fee will help with reprints. You should always get all your money upfront and do not worry or count on any reprint orders.

I see others in my area going crazy with $50 sitting fees and $5 4x6's. They work themselvs to death with almost nothing to show for it. Because it costs a lot to run a business.

I charge alot for a sitting fee. And my reprint prices are double what they are for weddings. So, yes, that's a $30 4x6 print.


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11/15/2005 3:16:05 PM

 
Michelle Ochoa
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/4/2005
  I agree with you that a $5 4x6 is cheap. but we'll agree to disagree on the sitting fee, but mostly because of the area I'm in. If I charge $150 for a sitting fee, I probably won't get any business to begin with. If I get one or two, I've made $100 each after I print all the proofs. But if I charge $50, I'll probably get 5 or 6 sittings, and sell $100+ worth of prints on each. So here I've made at least $500 if not more.

Since the question was asked, I assume we're talking about a relative beginner here too (same here!). We're not counting on our photography as our only source of income (usually) - it's a little extra to get us by, or until we build up enough to quit our day jobs and stay home. Then you raise your prices. Your sitting fee is for your time and talent, and if you're talent and experience isn't all there yet, it's not fair to charge a huge sitting fee. But once they see your talent (the proofs), and they like them enough to purchase the prints, then they'll pay a little more for them. I think a beginner's time is worth $50 for an hour, and if they do happen to only order 1 4x6, then you print it at home or take it to Walmart for $0.29.


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11/15/2005 3:26:52 PM

 
Margot Petrowski
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/14/2004
  On the subject of clients copying your work, I've had it happen to me. One lady ordered all 4x6's which I didn't charge much for and then blew them all up. She probably used a scanner. I no longer sell 4x6's....5x7's and up. Of course I still do wallets, but nobody is going to get a great enlargement from that size.

I've also struggled with the sitting fee. Until I'm really established, it's hard to charge much. Even though people have seen my work and I've had nothing but positive feedback, I only charge $35-$50.


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11/15/2005 3:40:02 PM

 

BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/28/2003
  Yes, your sitting fee has to match your experience and, more importantly, your talent. But, don't say you can't get $150 per sitting. You don't know that. Over and over I hear people saying they can't chanrge this or that, and then comes along some guy who charges $20k for a wedding, and works regularly. And, he's no better than any other, he's just smarter on the marketing. There are people in rural areas getting $3k for a portrait. It's in how you market and how you sell. Your not selling stuff, you're selling you - and your art.


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11/15/2005 4:28:38 PM

 
Michelle Ochoa
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/4/2005
  There's a difference between Rural, and low income. I live in Los Angeles, where everything is overpriced and everyone is just trying to get by. I use this as an opportunity to grow, then when my confidence in my work has increased, along with my talent, then I can move into the higher market. I just find it hard to sell myself at $150+ when I don't feel my talent and experience is there yet. I'm confident in my on-site photography at events for favors, etc., and I do charge accordingly for that. Then again, it's a richer market.

So look at my gallery - do you think I could, or should, charge $150?


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11/16/2005 10:04:21 AM

 

BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/28/2003
  Michelle, you are in one of the top markets in America. What you have said and the reality are polar opposites. You are catering to a certain group that has a cap on their budgets. But, in Los Angeles, there are unlimted budgets. You can charge way more than you are and be busy.

You must live in a different Los Angeles than I do. In my Los Angeles, there is a wedding photographer named Mike Colon, he gets $20k per wedding. There is also Joe Bussink, he gets around $10k per and shoots the Hollywood stars.

There are also lots of portrait people making a killing at more than $3k for a portrait session. You're standing in the street looking at the gutter. Don't forget there are stars above your head.

The most expensive photographers are not the best. They are just really good at marketing and selling.

You can get way more than $150 per sitting.


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11/16/2005 10:36:24 AM

 
Michelle Ochoa
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/4/2005
  I understand where you're coming from. Unfortunately, I don't have the time or the money to invest in such a marketing strategy. I have a family, work 40 hours a week + 2 days a month on the side, plus the photography. I'm just doing it to have fun, get out of the house, give some families who normally wouldn't be able to afford it some really great photos, and make a little money on the side. I definitely feel I should be compensated for my time and effort, but because I can't market, I rely on word of mouth. If I can't sell reprints, the families I shoot can't show them to their friends, therefore I get no further business. So that's my strategy - it works for me, although it may not work for other people. I may not be shooting the stars, but that's not my goal at this time. I guess I was giving advice to someone I felt was on the same level as me, but it's good that you're here to give another perspective. That's what we're all doing here, isn't it?


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11/16/2005 1:01:16 PM

 
Kristi Eckberg
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/22/2003
  It's an interesting subject isn't it?? I'am always looking over pro websites who have the same style as me and see if I'am somewhat near the same quality and look to see what they are charging. I do see websites where I'am not impressed with their work at all and feel mine is just as good if not better and they are charging way more than me. I personally feel it comes down to confidence. Although I have produced alot of amazing photos (I think) I have only been doing this has a business for less than a year and I'am still learning how to get the correct exposure each time I go out. I just don't feel I have gotten to the point yet where I'am confident on each and every photo shoot I do. Lighting is very difficult to master and I still have alot to learn. There are still times when I have to do re shoots b/c of my lack of knowledge of "seeing the light" That is why I charge very little for my print prices. I feel my session fee does compensate me for my time and for where I'am at. I charge $80 for the sitting. I live in a small town where it's word of mouth at this point. But the word is getting out and I'am getting busier. So I'am happy with what I charge at this point b/c I know I will get business at these rates. I had a friend awhile back who hired a "pro" and paid almost $400 for a photo shoot and prints and she told me she only got 5 4x6's and maybe a 5x7 I don't remember but she was so sad that she couldn't afford to buy more b/c she loved them all. So for me if my passion is to photograph for other people and produce these amazing pictures of their children that want to make them cry then I feel that I want them to be able to afford to buy alot of the prints to cherish and share with family. And yes I know that there are photographers charging way more than me and people are buying. I'am excited for the day when I can up my prices a bit and be able to get ahead with it but I also want everyone to be able to get amazing photos. Not just those who have more money. So back to my original question at these low print prices maybe I should require a minimum order. I won't raise my session fee so if I charge a minimum I think it would be fine b/c my print prices being so low at least they could get a few prints for that minimum and I could make a bit extra as well. Does that make sense? I really just want to protect myself from the person who does ask to just order a couple 4x6's and then copies them for enlargments. It's bound to happen so I was just wondering what was the best way to go about this when I'am not ready to raise my prices??


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11/16/2005 1:44:05 PM

 
Michelle Ochoa
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/4/2005
  Kristi, we are on the same page. You obviously feel you should charge a minimum, which is fine. So what sort of profit do you really think it's worth? Remember, you have to sort through the photos, and maybe do a little cropping or correcting, which takes time. $50 - $100 seems fair. Even then, you may have them buy 4x6 prints within that $50 to make enlargements. You never know. Having the photos printed on matte paper helps with that, because many people aren't pros at scanning, and then they get the screen effect when they try to print them on their inkjet printers.

I just remembered I had to do some research on different pricing structures. Here is the link to my question. Many people gave answers, and some links to their sites and others. Hope this helps:

http://www.betterphoto.com/forms/qnaDetail.asp?threadID=20188


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11/16/2005 2:17:30 PM

 

BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/28/2003
  My wife is in your shoes. She is now taking an interest in shooting. She runs my business, but is now asking me about exposure, and f stops, and all that stuff. Up until now, she's had very little interest in shooting. I think it seemed scary to her. But, slowly, she's been shooting our kids and just kind of getting interested. She's been doing things for free, and is asking me how she should price. She wants to specialize in kids and pets.

It's an interesting problem because she wants to shoot under the umberella of my studio. But, she's thinking she'll charge $50 for a sitting fee and an 8x10 print. Now, mind you, she knows nothing and still shoots in the "P" mode. So, she's just starting and knows virtually nothing about it. But, for now, it's fun, and it's neat to see her start to ask me things about what I'm doing.

So, understanding that that's sort of where you are, I understand. Just realize that when you have time to devote, and you want to go further, you can. Always remember that. People will pay much much more than you think they will.

People buy $800 shoes, and $5,000 wrist watches, and $100,000 cars. Photography is a luxury, not a necessity.

Have fun shooting,
Jerry


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11/16/2005 2:26:08 PM

 
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