Understanding the Psychology of Commercial Photography Pricing

Updated: Dec 4, 2019


Photo by Alexandru G. STAVRICĂ on Unsplash

With the explosion of Freelance Photographers across the nation, the industry has undergone a rapid shift towards commoditization of the craft. Especially in places like New York, where I reside, the landscape if proliferated with photographers across the spectrum. One's that barely have any formal training in the craft to those who are versed in the school of photography.


And just like anything the internet has touched and will touch in the future, a powerful brand will be quintessential to any business that is looking to survive in an ever increasing on-demand world.


To help prepare myself for the inevitable, I run thought-simulations of how any business that I'm a part of would function in a in a voice-first or VR first world.


Now, on to the crux of the matter.


Why do photographers charge the way they do, what affects pricing, and how can you as a consumer, educate yourself to get the best value for your money?


I've broken the factors into this very short list so that it can be quickly comprehensible and in the sections I'll leave concise detailed thoughts.


  • Professional Experience and Industry Reputation

  • Equipment

  • Overhead Costs


Professional Experience & Industry Reputation


Let's think about this for a second. If you were to book Lady Gaga or Rihanna for a performance for your annual fundraiser would it cost the same as you hiring a local act in your town?


The same principle applies in the world of photography. Independent photographers with a long-standing career and high profile clients command a higher premium for their services because of the longevity factor.


Notwithstanding this, some of the other factors that contributes to the pricing structure includes: the purchasing and maintenance of professional equipment, studio time, studio maintenance, travel feels, model expenses, licensing fees, post-production fees, to name a few of the things to think about.


With the ever-expanding market of amateur photographers coming into the market, consumers are increasingly trained to be sold on price. It's sad to say but this is quite fine on the part of most consumers.


In fact, I'll go as far as to say some don't even care about any of these factors aside from the fact that they'll be getting images that are good enough for what they need in the moment. Hence why shopping on price is good enough.


Equipment


Do you build a house with the same tools that you build a birdhouse with?

Do you run in your dress shoes or heels?


The idea behind these questions is that there are different types of tools for different occasions just as there are different equipment types to handle whatever the campaign photoshoot entails.


Most commercial photographers will have equipment that will blow your mind out the water. From 20,000 - 50, 000 sq ft of studio space, many different types of light modifiers, different lenses, assistance on set, different cameras, and even an entire team to help with the production.


Some of the useful things to think about:

  • Is your content from the photoshoot being distributed on social media or on blog posts?

  • Are the images being turned into banners to make posters for your store?

  • Are the images being submitted to publications are they being used for your own publication?

  • Are the images compressed properly?

  • Will they be archived for an extended period of time?

  • Are the colors formatted properly to be distributed across different mediums?


All mediums require a different approach, and what many photographers fail to explain is that different equipment produces different results.


And while the results will vary in its subjectivity, there is no compromise on a set of high quality images that can be distributed across multiple media and can stand the test of time as image production ever reaches towards the stars.


Business Expenses


This topic is almost taboo. The money conversation is almost fully hidden but it's a reality face by every business and photographers, though many probably won't be able to articulate these, they are absolutely important.


In addition to equipment costs these are some common fees that any business will have to incur and photography is no exception:


  • Insurance

  • Accounting

  • Ongoing Website Maintenance

  • Marketing & Advertising

  • Travel Fees

  • Equipment Upgrades

  • Education

  • Staff Costs

These are but a few things in the long list of things that impact pricing. But they are definitely key to understanding why things are priced the way they are.


So the key takeaways from my point of view are:

  • To come in with a plan of action

  • Set a budget aside in planning the photoshoot

  • Be clear about your expectations

  • And brainstorm how the image content will be used for your business

  • And never compromise on low-quality to only have a bad shoot done



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