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Lesson 29 from: Integrating Animal Photography into your Business

Norah Levine

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Lesson Info

29. Pricing

Next Lesson: Volunteer Work

Lesson Info


We talked a little bit about this before, about your pricing structure, it really needs to support your business needs and go back to that, how much do you need or want to make you know per client? So think about like on the whole, plus your section fee, plus your sale. What are your goals there to make? You know so go back to that cost of doing business calculator and you know I think it's helpful to I made a spreadsheet in Excel when i was looking at my pricing and consider your you know what items cost you that's something to consider when you're pricing as well as kind of what you're able, kinda what the markets gonna bear to put a price up, to price your prints for. So you know I'm happy to share my pricing information but I don't feel like as a teaching point I don't feel like my ultimate value is going to be saying I charge X for an 8X10 because it doesn't really necessarily apply to your business and your life and your needs and your market. Because that's gonna change dramatic...

ally from where you are and what situation you're in. So my better value I think in terms of teaching is to talk to you more about how to think about why you're pricing something the way that you're pricing. So when you sell an 8X10 print you're not just selling an 8X10 piece of paper and that's something I you know really something I learned from Julia Kelleher a lot was like if you're stuck on that, well this only cost me X amount you know to print this. Well that's not what it's about you know, you've got to have an understanding that it's about more than that 8X10 piece of paper. If you don't believe that you're not gonna be able to convey that to your clients. So you have to get really comfortable around that concept and understand that, that piece of paper might involve your equipment insurance , and your marketing expenses and your overhead if you've got overhead. You know it includes way more than that cost of you know that piece of paper. So think about you know more of the why are you charging what you're charging. Keep it simple, so if you don't understand it nobody else is going to. So people tend to not read my experience when you send them information, it's easier if you go over things in person with visual guides. So that tends to be the way I learn and I kinda retain information. So consider that as you go along, well I sent them all this information and they didn't know. Well go over it with people. And have that communication with them. So keep it really simple. Make your materials really easy to follow and maybe in the beginning of your pet photography experience or your photography in genera experience as a businessperson maybe you just do a la carte, you know maybe it's simple, I offer you know seven different sizes of prints in maybe I do just classic types of prints and then I offer some canvas types of prints. And it's completely a la carte and that's what I do to start out with. That's totally fine, feeling that kinda that need to do everything all at once, will only hold you back from starting first of all and it will completely overwhelm you to have to offer everything to everyone. So I would say keep it simple and do a la carte just as a start if you're beginning. And then later develop some packages and maybe some groupings, you know to kinda steer clients into a bigger purchase if that's comfortable for you. So ultimately for me, I have a la carte options and I also have collections. So a la carte options people choose to by a la carte, they're gonna spend more money per item and then the collections range from $500 to $5000 and they can choose anywhere in between that. I have a variety of items in there and you know that pricing is fairly simple where it shows, you know all of my materials show the what's included and they get more bang for their buck in a collection. So they're getting a grouping of items, does that make sense? Yeah. So you're pricing structure we talked about before needs to really support your business needs and I want your pricing to consider your target audience. So you need to be clear about who it is that you're trying to reach in terms of your clients, in terms of your marketing before you can set your pricing. So starting back with what is it I need to make, who are the clients that are able to spend that money and then what's the range of money of investment that I would like people ideally to make? And start your pricing that way. So there's a little bit of an art to pricing right? There's not, there is some formula they say you know try to keep your cost of goods under a certain percentage and so that's a good place to start you know if you wanna have like your cost of goods be 20% of what you sell it for and so your markup, you don't have to deal with markup but there isn't a formula that you can necessarily follow all the time. So there is has to be a little bit you know there's a little bit of finessing and some of that includes trial and error and some of that includes researching what's going on in your market. So you might be able to find other people's pricing just as a reference point. And it also includes you know for example, somethings cost more you might not be able to mark them up, you know you might not be able to double them and you could double it and price however you want but nobody would buy it you know. So you have to consider what the market's gonna bear and what's reasonable for people to spend money on. So it's important for you to have this confidence in your pricing and you know does your pricing and your quality of your work match? So you can go out there and price however you want but if your work isn't strong enough if your business isn't structured around it it's gonna be really hard to sustain that price point. So you know you can set a really high price point and then you know you might not be shooting that much you know and that's kinda something you gotta weigh. So I feel like you can, you can do whatever you want but let's try to make it match up with where your work is and be realistic with where your experience is and then try to adjust from there. So pricing can be pretty hard, you know consider your education level in terms of your experience, your creativity, you know your marketing costs, your material costs, you know weigh your materials as well. Copying and pasting somebody's price point, I have been in this position, where I've you know I moved to a new market and I was freaking out, I was like I don't know what am I gonna do here you know? And so it's really important and so I looked at some other people's pricing but I found myself going a little bit, getting a little bit overwhelmed with over analyzing, well they charge this for that and they charge that. You cannot you know that to me is kinda it's a great place to have that comparison and just get a sense of what's going on in the market but it cannot dictate what I'm pricing, how I'm pricing my work. Right? And I think it's important to look at those things but it can't it cannot dictate it. So you know copying and pasting somebody's pricing it just might totally backfire on you because it's not based on anything. And then you go in there and you have your client meeting and you're selling, it's like I don't know why I charge this, you know, it doesn't make, it's really, hard and that kinda feeds off into your clients. I went to a trade show, I don't know a couple years, a few years ago, quite a bit and I remember going in there and just being like, I might have been just in a really vulnerable place or something but I was like, maybe it was right after I moved to Austin. It was like one of those, all the different vendors are there and they have all the products and they're just it's amazing how much you can offer. So there's beautiful albums and you know prints and so many different amazing companies that do amazing things. Limit what you offer, you cannot offer everything and no one wants you to either, right? You're not doing anybody any service by offering too much and overwhelming them. So it's part of your job and your commitment to your clients to guide them and part of that is keeping it simple and limiting what you offer. Less is more. And so pick a company that you like. You know, don't have this like lack of commitment with oh maybe this company's better, and I found myself in those positions like maybe I should have gone with this company and oh but these guys are offering this and that's their job is to constantly get you to want to switch over. But they all do great things and it's gonna fluctuate over time what they offer at what time. But I would say pick a company or two to do your prints, you know to outsource your printing and stick with them for awhile. You know, give it a year and reassess it later if there's something you feel like needs to change. But commit to a company or two and it just helps streamline your process. You're not constantly relearning their ordering system. You're not relearning their pricing, so it just simplifies it a lot. Let see, so if you're gonna offer albums, I feel like you can offer one size, maybe two, you know offer something where you can say oh I offer albums oh but I have 10 sizes which would you like? You know can you imagine? That's like too much. So in addition to your client being overwhelmed, you're gonna have to learn how to format 10 different albums, in 10 different sizes and I just think it's too much. So have a variety of options of products that fulfill kinda that discrepancy that people might have. For example, the stipulations, so I don't have wall space, okay do you have something that can fulfill that need for somebody that says I don't have wall space? Well I was really looking for lots of images, well do you have some way for somebody to have lots of prints in a package? Or in a la carte? Do you offer those types of things when you're thinking about packages, this is something that I think about is you know how can I offer those items where I can kinda fill that void. But I offer stuff, the stuff that I offer is more, it's aligned with what I like too. And I've gone through somethings over the years, where I would offer something and it never sold and so I've had to pull it off of my, what I offer, but I really liked it, but it just wasn't selling. And but in general the products that I offer they're kinda my aesthetic right? So there's stuff that is aligned with, they're items that I value that I like, because I think ultimately that I'm gonna attract the clients that are attracted to what I have to offer. And rather than, chasing what I think is the latest trend all the time. So that's just my perspective, I think it can get really distracting with the trends and you know what's selling right now and it can just get really distracting from from me focusing on getting clients or doing good work to begin with. So I've offered kinda similar products for a couple of years and maybe I'll add something as the new year comes back. You know I assess my pricing every year and my products and I say is this working for me? Is it not? And sometimes nothing, if it's not broken I'm not gonna fix it, you know so I keep kinda a consistency there and it seems to work. I like to talk about this concept that people tend to buy in the middle, I'm sure you've heard this before about pricing. So if you are thinking about doing a collection of some sort of a package, consider creating a package where the middle item, the middle package is at your like happy place right? So you offer, let's say you offer four packages, or five packages, you want that middle package to be at a price point where if that person you know bought that package, you would feel like that was a really satisfying sale. And I do find from my experience, this to be true is the buying in the middle, it tends to be where it is. Also the concept of you do want to have package that's kinda out of range, like a dream package, you know like my $5000 package, is kinda, it's a dream package, it doesn't mean that nobody would buy it but once people start to buy your packages, like I had a $2200 package, and people were buying it pretty frequently, and I was like okay you know people are buying my top package, that means it's not an out of reach package anymore. So I started to offer additional packages to try to keep something out of reach so it really has increased, it increased my sales as a result. I think it's really important to have integrity with your final product. And so I retouch each image that people, that anybody orders. And I spend time with, I've had to learn how to like set timers for myself and not get too focused on the details. But I really care about that final product, cleaning up the details, cleaning up distractions and really making it so you know that image is a, that final image is presented in the best way possible and it's a piece of art. So packaging and presentation, I take a lot of pride in my packaging, and it's something that I get a lot of comments on too, and so I think that matters, from beginning to end, what am I providing to my clients, it's that experience and they feel like they're getting something of value, so in addition to offering them beautiful prints and products. I want them to feel like it's almost a gift right? That's like wow, I paid for this but it's almost a gift and it really does it makes a big difference. I know I love it when I have that, when I'm on the other end of it. So that's an important part of what I offer too. So if you decide on a pricing structure, stick with it for a period of time to test it. Give yourself a time to let it play out, if somebody has a problem or is confused by something take note of it, if your pricing is confusing take note of it. If one person gets confused it doesn't mean you need to go and switch your pricing structure, but keep note of that over a period of time. So stick with your pricing structure for a little bit of time and then reevaluate it as you need too. Notice what's selling, what's not selling and just kinda keep tabs on things. Give yourself some time, to kinda set yourself up for kinda an experiment so to speak and see what kinda response you get before you instead of kinda flip flopping around with your pricing and everything. So yeah, I think we're good for questions. Alright let's take some final pricing questions, we have a lot coming in, pricing, packaging. So do you, one of the biggest questions, a number of them, do you offer a digital package and what do you include in that? Do you encounter people who want to go make the prints elsewhere, maybe cheaper? And how do you handle that at this point? Yeah digital images, they've become that kinda question is kinda a new thing over the last few years and for awhile I was really holding onto the control of the final product, thinking to myself well if somebody has a digital image and they go print it at you know the drugstore and then it looks terrible, and somebody has a dinner party and they you know they're gonna say, they're not gonna be able to tell the difference between the quality of the print and the photographer. And so that is kinda a consideration, it is something you know that is a possibility, however I feel like there is enough demand for digital imagery and I know for myself as a potential client to somebody hiring a photographer, I'm also interested in the digital imagery. So I cannot ignore that and I feel like I was losing sales when I wasn't selling the digital files to my clients. I do not give them away however, so I do not give my digital files away for in the session package. That's not included in my session package. Because I feel like once people have digital images, there's a little bit, there's a lot less sense of urgency, and desire to have the final product in addition to those images. Even if those images are web size. You know I feel like there's it kinda loses luster in terms of that sense of urgency so I've found that that's that doesn't make sense for me. But I do sell them in a package and I do sell them a la carte with a minimum purchase. That's the only minimum purchase I have. So if somebody were to call me and say I wanna do a Christmas card I would probably and I want one digital image, I'd say that's great we can do that but I have a $500 minimum purchase before you can buy the digital file. So if that's your goal I may not be the right fit for you. So some of my pricing might filter out a little bit making sure the clients are the right fit for me. Some of my pricing might kinda steer that along. When people do buy those digital images, do you, what size do you give them? And are you giving them like a high res version, not the actual size but high res? And do you give them a print release so that they can go print them? Yes, I charge a fair amount for my digital file in a package, because it was like ask myself the question, what is it worth to me to give away, so you're losing, it's a lost opportunity cost right? So it's like it's if I sell my digital files I'm not going to be making a print order, a product order because they can do it on their own. If I'm giving them that right, so I had to think about it for myself and my business, of what is that number for me? What is that number? Because they're gonna walk away and I'm not gonna here from them you know until their next shoot or potentially that will be it, they walk away. And what am I okay with? And that is my middle sales number you know? It's where, its my happy place, where I feel good about it. Yes there's some loss of control, I give them full resolution files, I give them a release to print them for personal use and I'm letting go at that point a little bit of my control on what thing you know how it works out. However I do give them suggestions on places to print the work, and tell them you know I recommend this website and it's for it's Prosumer website and I think they do quality work, I do not make commissions on it, but just you might wanna start here and just kinda guide them in that direction so hopefully they can, it's a reputable place, I know that the prints will look good, so that's kinda my solution to that. But yeah, I think selling the digital images I think I have to and it's only been positive for me to be able to do that and I retouch all those images. I appreciate how you're smiling and admitting that it is hard for you to do these things, to let go. Yeah. Because it is for some many of us, and of course, you're teaching us how you found what worked right for you. Can you give people out there final tips again for how to go about narrowing down those things that they want to include in their packages. Like how do you figure out what is right for your market or your target clients? Well I think on a basic level, if you're just starting out, it's you're gonna have some kind of classic style print where they're gonna put it in a frame so there's that kinda go to, people expect that for the most part. Then you're gonna have I think typically the option of doing something a little bit more contemporary like a canvas piece. So I think those are two main items, and then the digital images as an option and then in terms of kinda specialty items, I find that albums are really great to offer. So at least one kind of album is a good idea and when it comes to picking the type of album, I mean there's a million choices, so pick aesthetics that you feel are you know aligned with you and also at price points you can support and charge for. So you know wedding, for example, wedding albums you can spend, you know cost of goods for a wedding album can be very high you know you can spend $1000 or more on just your cost as photographer for an album so you're not in that specific price point. So you know having an album there that's reasonably affordable for you and your price point with your market and then kind of specialty item that fulfills maybe another stipulation that somebody might have so like I love those image boxes for example because I feel like that can align really well for pets. So people that maybe you can put some keepsakes from your pet in there and a way to kinda switch out images if you don't have a lot of wall space to put prints and you just want something a little more consolidated, but love to have a lot more images. So I think thinking about it in terms of what are people's stipulations as they go along and how can you fulfill those needs? But start with the basics and then build from and then introduce an item or two here or there.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Norah Levine Book Coupon Code
Norah Levine Resource Guide
Pet Packing List
Pre Shoot Questionnaire

Ratings and Reviews


Norah is really great and I learned a lot watching her. Even non-pet related things, like how she's continually trying to better herself were really inspiring to me. Since watching this, I've learned to take every shoot as a learning opportunity by evaluating what went right and what didn't, and thinking of what I can do next time to do better. I liked the way she showed interacting with animals in a way that doesn't stress them (well, depending on the animal there may be some level of stress anyway I guess...) too. Great class.

Chelsea Beauchamp

So inspiring! Great information on both family pet photography as a craft as well as the business side. Norah obviously knows what she's doing and has tons of experience, so it's a good chance to hear/see what it's really like to take this on as a specialty whether it's the focus of your work or one of many parts of your work. She focuses not just on the mechanics, but on the personal side of working with people and animals. You can tell she's passionate about what she does, too. It's only been one day of class and I already feel totally inspired!

Student Work