Embarrassed by How Little You Make in Photography?

Embarrassed by How Little You Make in Photography?

Intro by Skip Cohen

I’ve been active in the photographic industry my entire adult life. If there’s one common theme I’ve heard over and again from photographers is the challenge of how much to charge. Plus, you’re panic-stricken when it comes to turning down a client, even when what they want to pay is far below your expenses.

Here’s the first issue – everyone isn’t your target customer. You’ve got to learn to simply say no and move on. But there’s an even bigger challenge – it relates to your confidence level and skill set. Assuming you have the skills and produce beautiful images, then, for many of you, it’s your confidence level dragging you down.

If you were trained in the art of making a perfect cup of coffee, purchased a Starbucks franchise and opened up a location, would you charge less because you were new to the game?

And to take one of Sarah’s points a step further, take a long look at what you’re offering. Look for products that add value for your consumers, and go beyond the same old thing!


By Sarah Petty

Dear Photographer, I see the crazy hours you’re putting in. I see the gorgeous images you create for your clients. I see you taking the risk of being in business for yourself and foregoing the guaranteed paycheck, benefits and vacation. I also see you agonizing over your prices and thinking that you can’t make more money. But that’s not true. You can make money with photography.

I get so frustrated when photographers sell themselves short and hurt their families because of it. You deserve a wage that will not only support your family but also allow you to take vacations and pay for nice things.

This Lesson Will Change Your Life

Recently, my teenage daughters learned a valuable lesson that I think every photographer needs to learn as well. My two daughters play high school and college volleyball all year round. In between camps and club tournaments, it’s very hard for them to get a normal job.

Before COVID, they had the opportunity to work for 10 days at a food stand at the Illinois State Fair. They had a great time, but they worked 48 hours and made $322. That’s about $6.70 / hour.

This summer, they decided to work a different job, coaching young volleyball players. When my husband and I built our studio, we added a small volleyball court because it’s hard to get off-season gym time in our city. There are a few gyms you can rent for $25 an hour, but they’re hard to reserve. My girls saw an opportunity and decided to teach lessons to younger players. When they posted about what they were doing, it stirred up a bunch of interest. They charged $15 per student and had an average of eight girls per hour. That is $120 per hour. So each girl was making $60 an hour.

Doing What You Love Can Make You More Money

While working at the state fair was fun, it would not be enjoyable long term and they only made $322 for 48 hours of work. On the other hand, coaching volleyball and encouraging young girls, made them $300 in 5 hours, while doing what they love. It was so rewarding for them because they were able to have an impact on younger players and encourage them to work hard.

My girls learned that there is a more enjoyable way to make money. If my teenagers can make $60 an hour by doing what they love, you can make money with photography.

Stop Holding On To Excuses

You might be thinking, “You have a nice gym, so that’s why they could charge more,” but that’s not true. They could have set up a net in our driveway or used the community sand courts and still charged $15 an hour. Don’t look for excuses about why you aren’t worth more money. If you are adding value to someone’s life, you are able to charge more. Yes, even if it is fun and you love what you are doing.

Give Yourself Room To Grow

Build a business where your hourly rate can grow. If you’re selling digital files for $200, the only way to make more money with photography is to raise that rate, but you’re still giving your time away for money and serving your clients at the lowest level.

Add value to your clients’ lives by offering wall art and holding their hand through the process. Once you become a boutique photographer, your sessions can average $10,000 or more. There’s nothing selfish about charging more when you are serving your clients.

Will it be hard? Absolutely, but it is also hard to work your life away and make little money. You can pick your struggle. Why would you work for less money when you can make more and serve your clients at a higher level? You are worth more, so much more. All you have to do is decide.

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This article was written by
Sarah Petty

Sarah is a New York Times best-selling author, highly-acclaimed speaker, author, MBA and coach who started her own boutique photography studio after working for Coca Cola for 20 years and then meeting the marketing goals of a top regional advertising agency’s clients. She attributes the rapid growth of her boutique photography studio, which was named one of the most profitable in the country within just five years in business by PPA, to the creation of her own strong brand. Click on Sarah's photograph to visit her blog.

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