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Creating Your Ideal Photography Business

Lesson 9 of 48

Session Fees Pricing Strategy

Kathy Holcombe

Creating Your Ideal Photography Business

Kathy Holcombe

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Lesson Info

9. Session Fees Pricing Strategy


  Class Trailer
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1 Class Introduction Duration:07:01
2 How To Price Your Products Duration:05:01
4 Methods For Pricing Duration:10:38
5 Mark Up Factors On Products Duration:05:46
6 What Is Your Per Hour Figure Duration:04:45
8 Target Sales Average Duration:08:04
11 Bundling Pricing Strategy Duration:25:47
12 Pre-Design Pricing Strategy Duration:10:33
13 Album Pricing Strategies Duration:10:33
14 Example Pricing List Duration:17:33
15 Business Basics Overview Duration:07:07
17 Track Your Session Counts Duration:07:19
18 Know Your Sales Average Duration:06:41
19 Importance Of Data Analysis Duration:10:14
20 Overview Of Costs Duration:13:46
23 What Do You Want To Accomplish Duration:13:31
24 Take A Leap Of Faith Duration:20:19
25 Refine Your Vision Duration:12:44
26 Products That Sell Duration:07:48
27 Identify Pricing Strategies Duration:03:03
29 Album Pricing Strategy Example Duration:09:21
33 Sales Strategies Overview Duration:05:45
38 Album Pre-Design Duration:18:51
39 Marketing: Define Yourself Duration:12:55
40 Who is Your Ideal Client? Duration:05:12
41 Who is Your Ideal Partner? Duration:03:27
43 Marketing Strategies that Work Duration:17:10

Lesson Info

Session Fees Pricing Strategy

How are you gonna present this new information? You now have a target sale that you know you have to hit. How are you gonna present it to your clients, so that they do what you need them to do every single time? And how do you build a price list that encourages your clients to buy what you want them to buy? We talked about that wow product that you are so excited that you wanna go make, how do you get them to invest in that, when it's a sizeable investment? So that's what we're working on this time. So this is where it gets really fun, I think. So you know your target sales average, now we have to figure out the path to get there. And it's not as hard as you think. There are strategies. These are things you guys have probably all heard of. On the left side, there are session fees, there is minimum purchases, there is incentives, there is bundling, there is pre-design, there are probably words you've heard thrown around and a lot of us probably do some of these things in our business, b...

ut have you ever wondered why we do these as photographers? I know I did a lot of these things because somebody that I admired or respected told me it was a good idea. But it may or may not be a good idea for your business. So what we're gonna talk about now is why these things work and how you can use them as tools, and how they have probably been used as tools on you in other purchases that you've made. So we're gonna start out with session fees. How many of you guys charge a session fee for your work? Some people do, some people don't. It's an industry standard. Why do you think we charge a session fee? It's an interesting thing, right? So basically, the way it works, a session fee is a standard practice that allows you to remove some of the cost from your price sensitive products, like digital files, and so that they become appealing to the consumer and therefore you can be more competitive. So a lot of times, in this industry, nobody even questions a session fee. It's normal when somebody calls your studio or emails you what's your session fee? It's a normal thing that people expect. So when you're thinking about tackling that $ target sale, you can say, "Oh, well, my session fee is X," and you can just subtract that from that $800 total, okay? That's how it works. So let's look at what it does. There's lots of ways you can do it. There's no right or wrong answer to how much you charge for a session fee. You could charge a $50 session fee and have a $750 sale at the end. You hit $800, right? That's your goal. You could charge a $100 session fee and have a $700 target sale, a $200 session fee and only have to sell $600 of product. Now, the thing about session fees is they're the gateway to your business. So if you are new starting out, to ask a client to pay $ just for you to take their picture is probably gonna close that door on that client. So you use this as a tool for your gateway to your business. If you are just starting out, you might wanna have a really low session fee, it's only $50, really very minimal risk, right? But then you know that on the backend you have to hit that $750 sale, so all of your products have to guide that client right to that $750 level, okay? If you have more business than you know what to deal with, it works the other way. You can say, "You know what? I'm not taking anybody that's not willing to invest $300 upfront, because I can't keep up with my workload." So this is the doorway, the gateway to your business to control your volume. Brand new, starting out, you wanna lower session fee, more business than you know what to do with, raise your session fee, that will change. (laughs) So that's how we use the session fee. So as you're thinking about developing your pricing structure, you need to think about how you wanna use this strategy if you wanna use it at all. So if you're a really super nervous about going into the salesroom, and asking for that $800 sale or $700 sale, you might wanna use this as kind of a crutch to say, "Okay, I think I can get $200 upfront, and then I won't be so nervous personally in the salesroom at the end." Does that make sense? The other really cool thing about a session fee is if you plan your sessions out far enough and you collect the session fee upfront, that money is forgotten, okay? When somebody pays you $100, and they have to wait a month for their session fee, they don't even remember that they paid you that $100. That's off the table, they're in a whole new paycheck, they're in a whole new financial cycle of their lives, that money is gone, so now they're focusing on just the sale numbers, does that make sense? Okay. So in general, and this a question I like to throw out to the masses, just to get a feel what are session fees, what are normal session fees in your area? So that we can all hear what... What it is across the country and what it is here. What are normal photographers, what do photographers around you charge for a session fee? What do you charge? 325. 325, and does that include the anything, or just the taking of the pictures? Correct. Okay, 325. Anybody else wanna share? We can share it. It doesn't have to be a huge number, remember, it's just a tool. (laughs) In my market, I do headshot sessions for... That are about two hours long each, and I sometimes charge as low as $50. $50, okay, all right. All right. Anyone online comment out there for us to share? Because this is really important for us to hear what's going on out there. So we have a range of $50 to $350, I charge $200 for a session fee, it includes the taking of the pictures and that's it. When I was in Boulder, I was charging $100 for the session fee, because I knew my sales process was gonna work at the end. I didn't wanna have a huge barrier for my clients coming in to my business. So I knew that they would love the experience, I knew that they would invest in my sales strategies the way that I needed them to, so I didn't want that barrier there. So it's not success versus not success, it doesn't really matter, it just matters that you do it intentionally. Yes? I just realized I should clarify my three and a quarter because that's one of my offerings that includes the in-home sale session at the person's home. Oh, great. Which is up to an hour and a half. I tell them that I'll come with my products in hand, walk them through, get them to purchase on the spot, like you said, everyone there. So I shoot for up to an hour and a half and I'm up to an hour and a half in their home, so for the three hours it's three and a quarter, so when I explain all that, it makes a lot more sense to them, it's a lot easier to swallow, they appreciate my time that way. That's a huge value, absolutely, and that's easy to explain to people, yeah, I'm coming to your house, not only am I going to cater to your schedule, I'm gonna help you walk through your home and find the place for all of these images, added value, great. So we have... And let us know what area you live in, too. Marilyn who's $125 for taking photos on site, Vicky says where she lives, it's everywhere from $ to $300 for that sitting fee... Session fee, and that's in Central Wisconsin. Okay. Davy says one woman charges $4,800 for a wedding just showing up and shooting, but that's about the top range for as low as $50 for new folks in Bozeman, Montana, so... Okay. So Jen Wiles, $500 for two-hour session, I include some digitals. Jen got tired of in person sales and she says, "I wasn't good at it." Okay, yep, yep. I have a funny story about me going into the salesroom for the first time, I'll save that for another moment. But I think we all feel that intimidation going into the salesroom. So we've heard a huge range, $ to $500 I think was for a portrait sessions, that's a big range. And then for weddings, my goodness, it is all over the place, $500 to $2,000 and everything in between, right? So what that says is there's no right or wrong answer, you use this as a tool to control your volume and you use it to accommodate your comfort in the salesroom, okay? Session fees. So now you need to decide is that a tool that I wanna use in my sales kit. Okay? If it is, put that on your salsa list and say, "Gotta work on the session fee, gonna calculate the numbers," okay?

Class Description

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 - startups 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. 



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)!

Jenny Farrell

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.