Creating Your Ideal Photography Business

 

Lesson Info

Example Pricing List

Here are some final thoughts on pricing. This is an art. You guys are gonna be great at this because you're all creative. So, play around with it, just like you do your art. But here are some basic rules. Keep the jumps between print sizes, print prices small and use odd numbers. So I'm gonna come back here to my pricing menu. Whenever we talked about this, remember how I said there were $100 jumps between each product? They're simple. And when you're talking about $700 to $800, it's not a huge jump. If I had this price list and it went $700 to $1500 to $4000, those clients wouldn't be able to move up my pricing schedule. So keep the jumps between print prices small. Use odd numbers, nines and zeroes, well zero's not an odd number. Use nines and fives. (laughs) Don't post images online. I know some of you are still a little skeptical about that and not really wanting to do in-person sales, but I promise by the end of this you're gonna see the value in it, and you'll at least need to tr...

y it, and you'll be so surprised. So, don't post anything online unless the client has paid for it, and if they paid for it, post away and spread the word about how much they love you. Do an in-person sales session. And then here is the really important part. Look at your price list through the eyes of a client. Think about that analytical client that's gonna come into your sales room and find the best value on your price list in two seconds. Look at it through the eyes of that client and see, what are they most likely to buy? Where are they gonna go on that price list? Where's the best value? You have to be that person and look at your price list that way. And then, the last thing is, does all of this align with your brand and with your photography? When all of that comes together, you're gonna love selling. It's the best thing ever. (laughs) Okay, so now, we are going to take a look at one of our past pricing strategies. This is not the beautiful price list that you saw before you earlier. And I want you to look at that and see what strategies were used and what you think the target sale was. So I'm gonna post this up. Wow, what a difference in pricing here. Do you see the different feel here? Okay. Think about this from a buying perspective. And I'm gonna go back to the very simple pricing structure here. What kind of buyer do you think would appreciate the two different structures? Think about the buying experiences that you have had with these two different pricing structures. So just visually, what does it say? Chaos. Class, right? It's different. Okay, so. Now, I'm gonna walk you through this pricing structure because it's a lot of words and I'm gonna do the same thing that I did with our clients because it took a lot of words to explain it. All right, so the first thing is, we are talking about sessions. And it's location sessions plus weddings and graduations and family reunions and unveilings, which is when they come in and see it. So, my idea here was that I wanted to make sure everybody knew we did everything, right? That's all right there in writing. So, the session fee was $75. They could ask about all these other amazing things that we did, because that was really relevant at the sales session, and then whenever I had them come in to do the image unveiling, I wanted them to know that I was doing one unveiling. That's it, you better be there in person because if I have to do it twice, $75. Got it? Think about the feel of this, oh my goodness. This is saying, I'm giving you one hour and that's all you get. Am I competing on price or service? Okay, price or service. There's some discrepancies there. Which one is it? Okay, let's keep thinking. Let's go through here. Okay well, I did still have the same structure. I had 40 inch portrait, 30, 24. So I had already learned that lesson about choosing the right shape. And then, there's that 11 by 14 right there. And then there's eight by 10s and five by sevens and eight wallets and 24 wallets and 48 wallets and 96 wallets. I mean, I am into selling wallets. (laughs) Okay. And so, I still had our masterpiece collections. It's the same concept with one big difference. So I still had our large standard small miniature. That was good. My words were a little bit different. But I had these units. And people that buy at a cookie cutter, big box portrait studio are used to units. You get eight wallets, which is the same as four four by sixes, which is the same as two five by sevens, which is the same as one eight by 10. And so, it's the same thing. I said, you can choose any combination of five units that you prefer. Well my high end buyers that had never been to those kind of portrait studios are like, wait, what? What's a unit? I just want an eight by 10. And I was like, no no no, it's okay. You can get one eight by 10 or you can get two five by sevens or you can get four four by sixes. And if you think about my purpose in all of this, what am I trying to sell? I'm trying to sell a wallet. That is my intention. But I'm spending an hour talking about eight by 10s and four by sixes and five by sevens, which is not where I want to be at all. It was complicated, okay? It was not aligned with our brand. And so, I mean, this was a horrible disaster. I did this for about a month and then I was like, okay, we got to change this. This isn't working. And then, I have all these numbers here, and basically what it is is this is our fine art finish, this is gonna be on a rag linen paper. This one's gonna be either a metallic or a canvas, they're both equivalent, or our standard finish. But when you look at this, this is complicated. There's way too many numbers here. Whenever you look at the other one, you choose your size, it's easy to understand the numbers, and then you choose your finish, and it's based on what you want. Boom, I don't have to explain. Oh, and did you want eight by 10s? You get five of those included. Well, I don't like eight by 10s. Oh, well you could change it for a five by seven. Right, it's easy. It's really simple. Okay, so what do you think people did here? This is the question. I've kind of pointed out some funny things in my thinking. Where do you think people bought? And let me tell you these numbers too, in case you can't see them. So my miniature was $815, my small was $930, my standard was $1085, and my large was $1260. That's for the fine art. And then it's less over here, but let's just pretend like that's what it was. For the standard. What do you think people did on this list? They're coming in confused. I've had to explain it 18,000 times. Where's the obvious path? You're doing exactly what they did. They looked at it and they're like, I don't know. Sometimes they bought a miniature. Sometimes they bought a large. Sometimes they didn't buy anything because they couldn't figure it out. There's not an obvious path on this pricing structure. There's very little that's different between this one and what I do right now, but it's a world of difference. Makes sense? Okay, so. Has anybody used any of these pricing strategies as you've built your lists? Some of them? So, I want you guys, this is homework. On your hot salsa list. Boy, the hot is really filling up fast, isn't it? There's no mild in here. What pricing strategies did you use? Look at your pricing structure and write down what strategies you're using. And it would be really great if you could also write down how they're working. What do you think they're doing for you? Are they doing what they are intended to do, or are they not, are they malfunctioning? And then, I want you to look and see what your pricing guide encourages your client to do. This is really, really important. And then, what are they likely to buy? Based on just the price list, not what you know that they're actually doing, but look at it as an objective observer. And then the last filter that I want you to put on as you look at your pricing structure is, does it give them an opportunity to spend more than what you think they're willing to spend? Because the hardest lesson that I had to learn in our business was that I am not my ideal client. Peter takes photographs of my family for free all the time. I don't have to invest the same amount as our clients to get his incredible artistry. So, and my parents aren't our ideal client either. When I think of successful people and what they would be willing to spend money on, I often go to my parents and say, oh well, would they buy this, would they buy? They're not the ideal client either because their son is Peter. (laughs) And my friends are not our ideal client. So, you can't put any of those filters on. Whenever my clients do things, they live in a completely different universe than I live. I live in an RV, so it's very different from the universe that I live in. And so, I can't put any of my own filters on what I would do, what my family would do, what my friends would do, because your clients are completely different. So what you have to do is craft a price list that you think will help your clients, will get you the money that you need, give them an opportunity to get there and a way that makes sense and is logical, and gives them an opportunity to invest more. I remember the biggest sale that I ever had. I don't ever talk, I talk money at the very beginning, and then when I'm selling, all we talk about is artistry and beauty and what they love. And on my screen, and I'll walk you through what happens later, on my screen, I'm watching dollar signs add up as this client is saying, okay, I want some of this and I want some of this and I'm wanting some of this. And I'm sitting there and I'm watching it and I'm literally almost hyperventilating. Oh my gosh, I am gonna have to tell this person this total in 10 minutes. And it's growing and it's growing and it's growing and it's like a car. Not a car payment, but a car. And I'm like, wow. And it's something I could never even fathom doing without lengthy discussions with Peter, right? And this client is here alone, making this decision, and it's not a big deal. So I'm sweating bullets and really getting panicky. How am I gonna deal with this whenever I actually have to say the number? And I'm adding it up. And finally we get to the dreaded moment that I'm sweating about. And I couldn't even get the words out. I just turned my screen and said, and here's your total. Would you like to pay with a check or a credit card? She's like, I'll write a check. I was like, great! (laughs) It was not my universe. But it's one of the clients that we've had forever. They come back every year. So. You have to know that you need to give your clients opportunities to do things that you would never be able to do. I'm gonna leave you with this. Have you guys ever seen these guys? Processionary caterpillars. So before I was a photographer, I was a middle school science teacher and I loved these guys, because they were totally like middle schoolers. They actually line up head to rump and they go in a parade anywhere. So there was this scientist that led these processionary caterpillars up a pencil to the rim of a flower pot, and they came to the rim of the flower pot and they made a complete circle, so that everybody was head to rump and nobody was leading and everybody was following. And I think that when we think about pricing in the photography industry, we all have looked at somebody else's pricing structure, and we've weighed ourselves against that person and said, I'm either better than them or I'm worse than them, so I'm gonna charge more than them or I'm gonna charge less than them. And nobody has any idea why we're doing what we're doing in this industry. And so now, you guys know why things work, you know the numbers that you have to use to make this thing profitable so that you guys are not the processionary caterpillars. Because you know what happened to the guys that were walking around the rim of the flower pot? They walked until they fell off and died. And I really don't want you guys to fall off the lip of the flower pot and die. I want you guys to be successful and go out there and be in this industry for the long haul. So, don't confuse motion and meaning with activity. Go out and do this because you can. You have these strategies. And you're gonna be great. Are you printing yourself? Are you using particular vendors for different products? Do you have any suggestions? Absolutely, we have vendors that we love. So, Miller's Professional Imaging is who makes our price boards and all of our wall art. So, they're our favorite lab and have been since the very beginning decades ago. Our albums are made through PictoBooks, and they have incredible customer service and incredible quality. So, we love PictoBooks. We do use Simply Color for our canvasses. They make them in any shape. And we'll talk about wall groups tomorrow of canvasses. And I actually have nine and a half by nine and a half canvasses printed all the time, and I'll show you how that works at a later time. So, those are our favorites. Great, thank you for that. You bet. This question had come in about package pricing. My session fee is included in my price and I add gallery credit as a part of that process. Can this work similar to a minimum purchase? Can you talk about the concept of credit pricing? And if that's something you've tried or not tried. Absolutely. So I look at credit as the same as minimum purchase. And it's not a strategy that I've used in my business. I'm friends with photographers who use it all the time and it works very well for them and we've talked ad nauseum about how it works, because it's my favorite thing to talk about. And it definitely works the same way as the minimum purchase. And what it does is it relieves the burden off of that final sale. So it's a great strategy to use, particularly if you're uncomfortable in the sales theater with your clients, and also, if you need to spread out those payments over a longer time for your clients. Great, thank you. One more quick one, watermarks. Everyone's always asking about watermarks. Do you include those when you're giving out digital files? I don't because they purchased them and so, we put a logo on them always. It's small and we look at it as a sign of value on our work because people have invested a lot with us. And that's it. So, just a small signature in the bottom and other than that, they are welcome to do what they want. We always ask that they give us a photo credit whenever they're posting on social media. And usually they're really happy to do that.

"If you're struggling to figure out the business process of photography, this class is one of the clearest and most concise I've ever seen. If you're experienced but the business side and pricing are eluding you, you will find clarity here. I own at least twenty CreativeLive courses and hands down, this one explains pricing and strategy better than any others I've purchased or watched live." - Julie, CreativeLive Student 
 
Join Kathy Holcombe as she shares techniques and strategies to develop the photography business you desire. Whether you’re making the leap from part-time to full-time or starting your very first business, the amount of work can be overwhelming. From what products to offer, how much to charge, how to pay yourself or the legal considerations - start ups often sink before clients are even booked. Kathy will show you the ways to grow your business from the start. This class will cover: 

  • Defining what product you are selling and how much you should charge to make a living 
  • Photography business basics and how to track your income compared to other businesses 
  • How to write and create your business plan 
Kathy Holcombe and her husband Peter built one of the top wedding portrait studios in Colorado, then jumped in an RV with the entire family and began traveling the country full-time, and added a successful commercial division. Together they have built multiple successful businesses and have honed in on the important factors that every photographer should consider when building a business. 

 
 
 
 

Reviews

  • I started my business a year ago with little formal technical photography education. It's hard to admit but I've been winging it, figuring out each small task that goes with photographing a session, editing one, and working with clients as I go. I may be doing things backwards, but now that I feel like I'm more comfortable in those small, specific parts of business, I need to figure out how to make this business sustainable and profitable. Kathy's class felt perfect for this time in my business to take a step back and look at the bigger picture of what I want to focus on and where I want to go (and how much I want to pay myself!). She uses realistic, specific numbers: something that's SO helpful and I feel like I rarely see in the photography community. And she breaks everything down in an organized and easy to understand way. The classes were easy to follow along with and Kathy's positivity and patient manner is inspiring and motivating. The fact that she used to be a school teacher is clear. Thank you so much Kathy (and the rest of the Holcombes)!
  • I am so glad I was able to attend this course in person and receive all the wonderful and practical information Kathy shared with us. I also really enjoyed the connections with other audience members and side conversations with Creative Live peeps as well as the Holcombe family. What an inspiration this family is--lots of practical info, but also a great pep talk to not sell yourself short and get out there and do what you love, but use sound business practice while doing it. Thanks so much for these incredible two days.
  • Fantastic course! Very helpful instruction and how-to guide for anyone considering starting up a photography business. Kathy was an excellent instructor, with a wealth of knowledge and experience. I gained a good understanding of the practical everyday aspects of running this kind of business, and how to create my own vision.