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Photography Question 
Keren Dorner

How much to charge for a family portrait shoot?

I am new to this forum. My name is Keren and I've just finished a photography course. I started with only doing photo retouching, but now I am considering combining both: being a photographer and doing the retouching.

For my final project I decided to do portraits of kids, so I went to the park and asked moms if it's OK that I'll take their kids portraits and send it to them by email and all of them said yes.

Now, one of the moms asked me if I can do a 1 hour shoot of their all family and give them the photo on a CD.

My question is, how much money should I ask for? It's going to be about 1 hour shoot plus touch Ups.

Please help!!

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12/11/2007 4:41:04 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  That mom, Karen, is essentially asking you to compete with the local Walmart, plus retouching, and you can't compete with them unless you intened to lose money as they do on such things.

We've said this before here, about a gazillion times. You need a business plan that details ALL your collateral expenses plus how much profit you want to make. Break that cost down to an hourly fee and multiple every hour you plan to spend shooting x 4 because of running around, meeting with your client before and after the shoot, plus fixing time.

Costs PER PERSON btw, include, but aren't limited to:
Your equipment usage, insurance, travel, gasoline, wear and tear, separate fees, phone calls, computer usage time and depreciation, scanner, incidentals like CDs ( although how can you sell prints and make a profit if you give the work away on CD), pro-rating of rental fees for the space you use to shoot in on an hourly basis, business license fees, taxes, state, federal, supplies, letterhead, etc. In other words, it's not just about figuring our a price for your time.
Take it light;>

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12/12/2007 9:21:42 AM

Pete H
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/9/2005

To add to Mark's good advice; photography and the "selling" thereof is NOT about quality or quantity.

This concept is very hard for budding photographers to get their head around.

Perhaps a old anology is in order.

At a yard sale, the auctioneer was trying to sell an old violin. It was pretty beat up, dusty and obviously out of tune.

The auctioneer yelled out "How much am I bid for this violin?" From the audience came "One dollar".."two dollars" and went as high as "five dollars."

Then; an old man came forward and asked to see the violin. He looked it over carefully, plucked each string as he tuned it. Then he pulled the bow from the case and began to play.

WOW!..what beautiful music emanated from this violin! The crowd was overwhelmed at the sound.

"How much am I bid" yelled the auctioneer. "100 dollars"...."500 hundred" and up and up the bidding went.

Moral: In the hands of a master, even the overlooked and undiscovered is brought to it's maximum potential.

Keren, people buy (value)..not skill sets. (Value) is perception..and how we perceive is truth.

There are many technically excellent photographers in the world who can't make a plug nickel!

There are also technically average photographers who make a lot of money.

What's the difference in the two?
One has "mastered" the art of selling and has a clearly defined business plan.

As Mark said, Walmart will undersell ANY photographer because the people who go there have not been sold. They have not been sold on what YOU can do for them..They have NOT been sold on WHY you are different..They have NOT been sold on the FEATURES, ADVANTAGES and BENEFITS of YOUR product. They have NOT been sold on YOU!

Most photogs who get into the business of SELLING their work are AFRAID to ask for the big money. This is a major mistake..I might add it is a mistake I am thrilled they make as it allows a few of us the niche' we seek.

When I get a request to shoot this or that, I am always asked "how much?"
When I tell them my fees, one of two things happens, 1) The conversation ends quickly or 2) They exclaim; "You have got to be joking?!!!" "Why do you charge so much?"

Question #2 I love and embrace, because now it is time to sell!

This may not be the answer you are looking for; but it remains the truth.

Your question has no real answer. Part of the business plan involves deciding what you are worth..cost per hour or however you want to analyze it.

Anyone who believes a Lexus is (worth) $20,000 more than a Toyota Camry; raise your hand. Believe me Keren, many hands are raised and Lexus thanks those people who hold their hands high.

all the best,


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12/12/2007 7:43:09 PM

Jerry Frazier   Hi Karen,

Tough answer. How much should I charge is a very difficult one to answer. In fact, when clients ask me that, it's hard to put into words. The best way to do it is show them some work, make sure they connect with it, find out why they want you to photograph them (what is their intention - big wall portrait or whatever) and then you can talk about sitting fees and print prices. But, the price is kind of a dumb conversation. To jump right to it, I charge $150 for a sitting. Does that tell you anything? No. My sales are very, very high. I frequently have over $2k in sales from a single portrait session. I don't sell the files either. I decided not to do that.

So, what you should do is decide how you want to be percieved by the public? How do you want them to view your work? Once you answer that question, then your pricing and sales techniques will reflect that. It's not easy, but nothing really is. It only looks easy, if you do it right.

In your situation, I would tell the lady that I would love to photograph her children, and would also explain that I don't provide the images on a CD, but instead she can come view the proofs (however you want to do this, on your laptop, via projection, or in print), and she can decide which prints she would like to buy during that time. Make it clear that you ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY WILL NOT put anything online, nor will you leave anything with them to decide. This is where finesse comes in because some clients get pissed off at this. But, explain upfront that this is their only opportunity to buy. When you do this, you create urgency. You see, with portraits, the problem with them is there is no urgency to buy. There's really nothing. So, you have to create the sense of urgency. This does prompt big sales, or it can. Do well, and it can be very rewarding and actually appreciated by the clients once they go through your process.

The price you charge for the "sitting" aren't really too important, as long as you truly feel they are a strong match for you and will buy at the viewing session.

Portraits are all about shooting on speculation. So, you really have to work with the client and get a feeling about what they are going to buy from you.

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12/13/2007 10:26:33 AM

Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/4/2004
I always suggest that you call around to see what others in your area are charging.
Most sittings for a family group envolving kids never stick to a timeline,such as an hour.
you will want to take as many approvals as possible to get the most monies out of your sitting and the most for your client.
I always figuer on 3-4 backgrounds, and then take the family together, then brake them up on each background as well.
you can see more on this in the "Studio Photography Threads"

Wishing you the very best in your venture,
Debby Tabb

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12/13/2007 12:44:49 PM

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