BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Christina L. Hermansen

When just starting out how do you price your work?

I am taking pictures at a Wedding on Saturday and was wonder how I would charge the couple for my time and how to price each sheet of pictures they want? This is me first job but I have been taking pictures for 10 plus years and in August I became a a certified photographer at PCDI so I do know what I am doing!!! I am just not sure what I should charge for my first Job!!!! It is a Military Wedding so I have many ideas on how I want to take the pictures and the poses I will be doing the pricing is what I am not sure on!!! Do I charge for the cost of ink and paper? Or do I charge a price for each picture printed and if so how do I do that? Would I charge something like $12 for and 8X10 and so on? Please any help would be great I meet with the couple tommorrow and really need the help with pricing!!!!

Thank you to all that can help!!!


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4/25/2006 8:27:18 AM

Kerry L. Walker   I think your price for an 8x10 is appropriate but I would suggest having your prints made at a professional lab rather than on an inkjet printer but then that's just me.

I would create a package so they would at least be paying you enough for your time.

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4/25/2006 8:38:29 AM

Christina L. Hermansen   I live in a small town and there is not a professional lab the nearest one is about 2 hours from her what do you think about the photo mechines they have in the wal-mart stores?

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4/25/2006 8:48:58 AM

Christopher A. Vedros
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/14/2005
  If you're making a bunch of prints, those machines could get expensive and would take you lots of time.

I'm assuming you're shooting digital since you were planning to print the images at home. Try using an online lab like instead. You will get professional prints at a really good price, and they deliver them very quickly.

I did a search for PCDI, is that the Professional Career Development Institute? I assume you took their "Professional Photography Program"? I mean no offense by this, but did this course suggest waiting until a few days before the wedding to work out pricing? These people hired you to shoot their wedding, and yet they have no idea what it's going to cost them?

Sorry, I just still get blown away every time I hear a story like this.

I hope everything works out, and I wish you the best of luck, really.

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4/25/2006 9:15:32 AM

James Smithe   I'd be so dissapointed if I received wedding prints that were printed at Wal-Mart. I'm embarrassed for you for even thinking it. Online labs are always an option if there is not a real lab nearby.

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4/25/2006 9:21:56 AM

Christina L. Hermansen   I have a meeting with them tomorrow and they herd about me through a friend They just got back to me on Monday so that I could even meet with them on Wensday they weren't going to meet with me till friday the day before the wedding which really had me worried cause I was going to walk into this blind so to say!!! I understand you are what you say blown away when you hear stories like this but in this case I shall give you the story so that you aren;t blown away!!! I have been trying to contact them for a month when that asked me to shoot thier wedding and had no luck until Monday so I sat something up with them for Wensday so I could see what their budget was like which I though was a good idea only I wanted to do this a month ago so to your Question about PCDI no they did not suggest that I wait till a few days till the wedding and yes these people hired ME but they choose not to call me back!!!!!

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4/25/2006 9:24:18 AM

Christina L. Hermansen   I came to this site for info!!!!!! Not to get put down by people I don't even know it was just a question I have never used wal-mart and I don't know how the pictures would even come out that is why I ASKED I didn't not say I would use them!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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4/25/2006 9:26:45 AM

Bob Fately   Well, Christina, rants and other hoo-hah aside, here are some thoughts:

You can only charge what the market will bear - if this is a military wedding (and the couple are not 4 star generals) I'm guessing they don't plan on spending $3000 for your efforts.

That said, may I suggest that you (at least in the future) plan on thinking of a wedding as a two-tier sale - there is the time you spend taking the pictures (and all the prep beforehand, etc) and then there are the final prints/albums/what-have-you.

So, you could ask for some fee to cover the 6-8 or more hours you will be working that day - do you value your time at minimum wage? $100/hour? something in between? This is the first portion. Assuming you load the film properly and actual pictures come out of the camera, (if THAT doesn't happen then maybe you shouldn't charge them at all) then at least you will be paid for your time.

As for the prints; yes, $12 for an 8x10 seems reasonable. Again, so much depends on the market - in San Francisco you can get a lot more than you could in, say, Lockport, Louisiana, but that price seems about right. Your costs for making the prints do not matter - it's what you are able to fairly charge that counts.

Of course, if you print them yourself your costs may include umpteen screwed up prints as well as your time - so perhaps an outside lab is better.

As it happens, many WalMart stores use the same Fuji Frontier professional grade printing systems that a lot of camera stores and custom labs do - but the difference is in the training of the personnel and the maintenance of the equipment. If a lab changes chemisttry daily, and WalMart changes them weekly (to save money or whatever) then this can make a difference in the final print quality. As well, the lab worker may understand hot to set the Frontier to eliminate some green cast you may get under flourescent lighting, where the WalMart clerk might just chew gum while pushing a button and loading your prints into envelopes.

So - be very specific with the couple when you do meet them (hopefully they won't postpone the meeting until Saturday morning!) - explain your fees include whatever time and services you allot, etc.

Some established pros put together packages in advance - so for $X the couple gets the day of shooting, plus a 24 page album and 3 8x10's for the family, or whatever. But for you, for this gig, I think you might want to let them choose a la carte.

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4/25/2006 11:13:43 AM

Christopher A. Vedros
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/14/2005
  Sorry Christina, I read my post again, and it did sound pretty harsh.

I wasn't trying to lay all the blame on you. I find it equally (or even more) surprising that so many couples are getting married and paying so little attention to the photography for the event.

I was serious about - you won't be disappointed with them.

Good luck,

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4/25/2006 11:55:14 AM

Christina L. Hermansen  
Thanks for all your help I hope to hear from others as well!!!!!

On another note how do I get my picters on this site!!!! I was looking at the one that most of you have and they are great love the colors and the veiws!!!!!

I would love to be able to show you all what it is that I can do!!!!! Any help wpould be Great!!!!!

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4/25/2006 2:01:47 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005

I'm with Chris and Kerry, totally.

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4/25/2006 7:59:09 PM

Slim Brady 
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/1/2006
  by the hour

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4/26/2006 12:33:18 AM

Slim Brady 
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/1/2006
  the rest is ala carte

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4/26/2006 12:37:38 AM

Kerry L. Walker   I have several comments to make but I will begin with how to get your photos on the site.

Click on "Sign In" on the toolbar on the left. Once you have signed in, click on "Upload Nwe Photos" and follow the instructions. It is so easy even a computer challenged guy like me can do it!

Never get photos processed at Wal-Mart if you are planning on selling them to a client. Even though they have the same equipment as a lot of better labs the personnel don't have the knowledge or concern for your photos that you have. Yes, there are exceptions but you are lucky to find them. Alsom there is the fact that Wal-Mart uses cheaper paper than you would like to use for a wedding. I have never used mpix but I have read a lot of positive posts on them. I use in Lakeland, FL and they do a really good job and use Kodak Endura paper.

I agree with Brady. Just charge them by the hour with an pre-set price per print. You might want to give them a pretty good price on the prints (less than $12.00 per 8x10 for example) since you will be getting paid by the hour but you will want to make some money off the prints too.

BTW, Chris is one of the nice guys here but your post kinda shows your lack of business experience when you have a job already set for this weekend but don't know what to charge. That should have been worked out long ago. The same comment goes for your clients too - hiring someone without knowing what it will cost you. That's OK though. You will learn. At least you came here for help!

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4/26/2006 6:46:50 AM

Stephanie N. Wilson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/1/2006
I have only been a "paid" photographer for about a year now. I use the walmart here for my prints and I am here to tell you that as long as you use the one hour photo they turn out great. I have had nothing but wonderful things and its on a better quality picture paper than the ones out of the machines. Also I was aggrivated as well about the comments people were making to you and I live in a small town also and I have to drive and hour to the Super Walmart in order to get my prints. Around here people dont want to wait for their pictures to be sent off. I had a wedding and they recieved their prints the next day. It helps my business because of the time it saves. Also I have a wedding package already fixed up. $200 for 200 proofs and then you set up smaller packages for each shot they choose out of those 200. I print the proofs out on my printer and then take the ones they want to walmart. Hope this helps and I you would like you can contact me by email privately to chat about the small town photographers just trying to make it in the big world. Best of luck. Stephanie

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4/26/2006 7:23:24 AM

BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/15/2004
  I'd like to drop my 2-cents in here too. I also live in a small rural community. I've had a few requests for wedding photography myself. There just are couples out there that cannot afford what I refer to as professional quality photography. What they are looking for is a person to capture the memories. I am learning, and working hard, but to date, my photography skills do not compare to some of the photographers here on Betterphoto.

I have taken the honest and straight forward approach each and every time. I have in a couple of cases tried to push the couple into the direction of one of the professional photographers, especially if I get an opinion that they may be expecting professional quality from me.

I charge by the hour and I will edit/crop and print the proofs from my printer. I use a lab of their choosing, after making a few recommendations. They pay for all photos from the lab themselves.

To date, I have had happy customers with this process.

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4/26/2006 7:57:57 AM

Denyse Clark
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/2/2002
  Hi Christina,
While I'd say it is unusual for there to be a commitment without having discussed pricing, hey, whatever! Stuff like that happens in the real world! It's not always formal, especially with us who do low budget shoots.

I think sometimes we on BP get caught up in giving TOO MUCH advice, instead of focusing on the isolated advice someone is actually requesting :)

That being said...

I do highly recommend professional printing vs. printing yourself. The lasting quality of the images depends on it. I've heard lots of good things about mpix too. You might want to check them out & see what their pricing is, then increase as you are comfortable.

Again I see everyone is off on a tangent here, doesn't see that you got an answer to your question about loading pics- are you asking about loading pics specifically into this thread? Or just in your gallery?

I'd love to see some of your wedding pics b/c I am also new and really enjoy seeing other "newbies" work :)

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4/26/2006 9:49:59 AM

John P. Sandstedt
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/8/2001
Contact John
John's Gallery
  A plumber charges for the job he does - normally, a starting point is charging labor at 100 percent of the hardware cost. This works for a new faucet - of course.

I asked an artist friend how he priced an oil painting. Certainly, I reasoned - by the hour doesn't work. He answer - more that the last picture I sold.

I've estimated the cost of a 13X19 print on my Canon i9900 at approximately $5.00. If I'm off by 100 percent, the cost is $10. A selling price of $12.00 for a 13X19, and even an 8X10, is too low since it doesn't factor in anything for your camera/accessories costs, your time, your clothes [if they're involved,] transportation, etc.

I priced a shoot of a pickle display at a store about 5 miles from my home at $200. Would have been trying to get 2-4 8X10s. Didn't get the job because another member of my camera club offered to do it for free. Can't argue with that.

You need to get a commitment before the fact from someone who really wants YOUR work. It's a tough business, especially when you're starting out.

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4/26/2006 1:30:28 PM

Jerry Frazier   you price your work best on the percieved value of it. so, while experience comes into play here, it kind of has nothing to do with it at all. what it has to do with is the perceived value the client places on your work. usually, you can only increase your percieved value through experience. however, this is why sometimes, someone comes out of nowhere and charges high prices and gets it. they got it right from the start. there really is no barrier to entry.

but, from a practical standpoint, you are asking how to price this. I would set an hourly rate. i'll try not to reiterate what has already been said. just set a rate that you think is OK in your market with these clients. I wouldn't charge less than $100/hr. no matter what. you need to be paid. if you are charging people money, then you need to charge as a professional, because you are representing yourself as such.

above that, just come up with a fee for the other options. when I was starting out, I charged double my cost for prints. of course, that's ridiculous (on the low side), but that's what I did.

it takes a few years to learn the wedding business. most new people to it sell themselves way short. you can get $3k per wedding by just falling off a turnip truck and demanding it. many newbies are afraid to do that, but believe me, you have to trust me. I did it. I shot for years at rates like $900 for all day, full set of proofs, neg's, and a preview album. one day, I got sick of literally making nothing from it, and raised to $3k. I did that one january, and that year, I had record bookings. of course, I also had a few years under me, some training working with other pros, killer albums, a new website, and some other things that differetiated me. but, the point is...don't sell yourself short. get what you are worth.

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5/1/2006 12:40:17 PM

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