Pricing for Lifestyle Photography Sessions
Pricing. Now, there is not one pricing structure that is gonna work best for everybody as we know. So, wanna talk to you guys about kind of what I've already tried, what I know works, what I know doesn't work, and kind of where I've ended up after all of these years. When I first stared photography... This is gonna pertain to all of you guys that are new. You have your portfolio-building year, and that's when you do not charge, okay? You don't charge during your portfolio-building year because you're not making any promises to those clients. But they're not clients, they friends, okay? And that is okay. We all have portfolio-building years. Once that's done. Once you feel like your work is at a place where you can charge for it, a lot of people will charge flat rate with their digital files, and that's kind of a common thing to do. I know it's frowned upon because the whole mom with a camera thing is frowned upon. But in real life, that's what most of us are, or dad with a camera. And ...
that's okay. Don't let the photography society make intro people feel badly, because you need to price where you're comfortable when you start. That's okay. I know people out there are probably, "No, don't do it." I think it's okay. I mean, I don't know, I'm fine with that. Once you are better than the intro level type of photographer, jack your prices up. When you go in baby steps, you don't ever really change your clients. All you do is kinda make your clients mad that you went up in price. So once you're ready to go from intro photographer, "I like doing this on the side, I'm a hobbyist," to full-time photographer, that's the time where you jump. So just to give you an example, and I can talk about this because this was six years ago. I was in Chicago and I was charging zero at the beginning for the first three months. It took me three months to portfolio build, and to practice to learn my camera. I took an intro camera class from the amazing Amy Tripple in Downers Grove in Chicago. She like me as very happy and peppy, and we just kind of connected, and I decided, "I wanna be you "because I just kind of love you." So, I learned my camera well. You guys all know her. I learned my camera really, really well. And then once I was comfortable in manual mode, then I started shooting my friend's clients, built my portfolio, then I started charging. I charged $250, and I gave them all of their edited files. Now keep in mind, obviously that's not a lot, but a lot of you guys are there who are just starting. It would take me 15 hours to edit a shoot because I was learning how to use Photoshop. I didn't use Lightroom because that was something else I didn't wanna have to learn. This is normal. Just know that we all started here. We didn't all go to amazing photography school, although I wished I would've, to be a photographer. It's okay to start like this. And then after a few months, I was booking 40 sessions a month and I'm like, "This is ridiculous." I can't handle this, because that was a lot, especially when it was taking me so long to edit because I was still learning Photoshop. So, a good friend told me, "Emily, you need to raise your prices "because you're too overbooked." When you're overbooked, you need to work smarter. So I raised my pricing to $100 session fee and $900 digital files. So I went from, in six months, from $ to $1,000. And guess what. 60% of my clients stayed I'd say because they valued my work. And those are the clients that you guys all want. You want the clients that value your work and your time. Because we all know, as you saw on all these slides, there's a lot of preparation that goes into this, and there's a lot of overhead, your camera equipment. You need to value your time. When you break out hourly, what you're making, it's not very much. When you're editing... I mean I don't edit 15 hours anymore. But back then, when I was still learning, you have to break it out hourly what you're gonna make. And now I'm up to where I should be, but here's kind of what I used to do. I used to have canvases, and prints, and books, and, like, mugs, not really. You can offer everything under the sun, and have these flip books of all these gorgeous products and gorgeous products. And it's so overwhelming, it's just too much. I used to dread when I'd have to place these order because it took so long. They weren't products that weren't gonna showcase my work in a beautiful way. So, I backed away from products, not because anybody told me to. It's because it was what was right for me. I didn't have time to be sitting there and making crazy collages for pictures. Some people want those crazy collage things which I stay away from. People would ask, it's just you have to do what is right for you. Okay, now. Where I'm at now with pricing. I sell ala carte prints, which are priced accordingly to what I need to make to sustain my business. I sell canvases, which I stay away from, because I think that they can be a little bit dated, depending on where they're gonna go in the home, because you have to charge quite a bit for them in order to make your overhead work, right? Some clients will get a large canvas and it's beautiful. It's not right for every session, I don't think. I do books, so the lower-end books, like kind of the softcover books, and there's tons of labs that offer these. There's not one that's necessarily better than the other. It's what your style is. And those are awesome for my lifestyle sessions, because more frequently than not, I promise 60 to 75 images. In reality, I edit about in about two hours, not even, an hour and a half maybe. I edit about 150 images. And that to me, with life style. The thing with lifestyle is you have these in between moments, right? The shot of the freckles, the shot of the eyelashes, the shot of the teeth, the shot of... I think we have an oops coming up where the kid fell off the bet. It was hilarious. They thought it was funny. I was relieved. All those funny moments kinda go into the book, all of that. Because there's no way with a lifestyle session, when you're capturing so many different types of images that they can pick, one, two, three or four beautiful portraits. Keep in mind, again, like we talked about, this is not portrait work. This is connection work. So that's that. So I sell those softcover books. I sell hardcover albums like the Lex Albums. I tend to sell those with my sunset shoots or with new newborns essentially. I don't recommend, unless clients have a lot of money they wanna spend, because those albums are really expensive as a photographer to get. So you have to charge a decent amount to make up for the time that it takes to make an album. So I kind of push those more for newborns. I have a few clients that love them for the lifestyle sessions, but it depends on the client. The biggest thing is I do sell my digitals, and there's two trains of thoughts. The old school photographers do the big beautiful prints, and frown upon the digital sale. Then there's kinda the new train of thought that sell your digital so your clients can have all of these to remember. With the way I shoot, I have to sell my digitals, because 99.99% of the time, they want their digitals. Now, here's my goal as a photographer. Okay, so I want you to be able to buy your digitals, and that's typically what I... When Kenny and I are looking at our reports for the month, what we need to make per client, what do we expect that each client is gonna get? And then we almost always say they're gonna get their digital files at a minimum. And that's because the majority of my clients can't pick because they love all of them. And that's the goal that you wanna get to, is where your clients love all of these images. However, you also want your work on their wall. So how do we do that? Okay, and we're gonna talk about that, because there is nothing better than a beautiful professional print, obviously. And you need to have examples of all of that to show to your clients. Keep it simple. Tell them multiple times your pricing information. This is critical. I cannot tell you this enough. The amazing Heidi Hope told me this years ago. She said, "Emily," because her husband works with her in her business, and they have a wonderful business. I reached out to her and asking her for help. Please do that. If you guys wanna reach out to me, I'm happy to talk to people. But if you're thinking about making the move of bringing your husband on to run the business when you get to that point, or your wife, or a family member or somebody. I reached out to her, and one of the things she told me was, "Emily, you need to make sure "that you tell your clients the pricing when they inquire, "the pricing when they sign your contract, "the pricing when you guys are talking." Like, "Oh, remember "Are you gonna want your digitals?" Kinda bring it up again, because what happens is people get so excited to book a lifestyle session that you're now offering because you've done your portfolio building, you've convinced them it's the best way to go, that they're deaf to the pricing information and they just book. And then what happens come ordering time? Wait, how much are your digitals? Right? Remember we went over this like six times? So you have to make sure that you do that with your... Because it's hard. You get in a moment and people get excited about their shoot and you're excited about their shoot. So just remember to do that. Offer your digitals. If you're gonna be a lifestyle photographer, I think it's very important to offer digital files, whether you're an all inclusive photographer or whether you wanna do it separately. I choose to do mine separately because I wanna offer collections. I don't want people to feel like they just have to get their digitals. The majority of my clients get the middle package we'll talk about this in a second when I pull my packages up. So talk to your clients. When you're going over pricing about all of these options, say, "Hey, I've got... "This is what I personally have, and we'll turn it. "I have my digitals, and we have this, and we have this, "and we have this." Show them examples. Show them why they may want this later on. Some clients don't want their digitals. Some people just book you and they want an album. That's fine. Not every sale is gonna be the same, and you have to kind of keep that in mind when you're figuring out your monthly goals and what you have to sustain. We have a pretty decent-sized studio, so we have some high goals, right? So we have to book enough to sustain the goals. Okay, so let's go ahead and go to the next. Do we have any questions yet?
We have a question from Holly in Cincinnati who said, "What would you do if a client decided "that they don't like the photos enough "to purchase your $600 minimum in product? "has that happened?"
It hasn't but... It's so hard because it'll totally hurt your feelings, it's like you're really bad. That's why you have contracts and you just hope that doesn't happen, and you don't charge that until you're ready and your work can sustain that price. So, I feel like that's not gonna typically happen, unless you have something occur, like a meltdown. And I have had clients where we've had sessions that the child. We just had one. I think it was just a little bit ago. The kid was crying the whole time, like sick. I always want people to reschedule if their kids are sick. Nobody wants to do that when they're sick, that's silly. You wanna make sure that... Let them reschedule. Everybody has a bad session, and I've had them and reschedule them. It's not because they didn't like their images, but I knew, I knew. There are some times when the kid just scream on the floor the whole time. We all have bad days, especially two-year-olds. It's hard being a two-year-old. We just reschedule those. But I think that as long as your work can kind of, the quality of work can sustain your pricing, you won't run into that. That's just my opinion.
So, say you went to a client's home and you did have a meltdown and they've already paid and everything, you would still then reschedule it, no cost to the client?
For me, they pay their session fee, and they don't pick anything until they see their images. I would absolutely reschedule it at no cost to them. I mean, now, I do know photographers that wouldn't. I have a hard time of saying no, but I think that in sustainability for your business, the more flexible you can be and the more relatable. Have some empathy because we've all had the crying kid on the airplane, and you just empathize with that mom so bad, like on the way here. You just feel so bad. And that doesn't happen frequently enough where it's gonna really impact your schedule. Then I think yes, 100%, I do. And my clients appreciate it. I become close with all my clients because of that, because I empathize with things that can go wrong because I'm a mom. I get it. There's not reason to be a diva, right? I wanna show you the collections that work for me. Now, keep in mind I'm not gonna show pricing up here because it depends upon your market, right? However, this is exactly what we offer. The very first package that we have, this is who it's set up. We have page of ala carte pricing, so all of your prints for al carte. Page two is our digital collection, which is x, y, and z. Then we have three collections. Our first collection has 10 digital images. Because sometimes people, especially for the smaller shoots, like the newborn shoots, sometimes they're really, really stretching to get a session with you and they can afford this, and that's fine. Because we've done our plan, we can equate for those smaller sales. So the people that wanna book, get that first collection, 10 digital images, and a $250 print credit, or whatever print credit you wanna have it as. Okay. Now, the second one. So that way they get some digitals and they get a print, and everybody goes away happy. The second package, I'd say we sell it probably about 80% of the time pretty decently, is they get all of their digital images plus a chunk of, to spend on prints, right? A print credit. And I'd say that we sell them a lot. I used to do it where I was like you get four 11 by 14s and 160... Nobody wants to be told what size to put on their wall. I don't know why I didn't think that when I was doing it, because nobody was getting those collections. The minute I switched it over to a print credit, it gives them the right to choose. And then if they go over that print credit, then I give them 20% off any additional prints. That price is above my digital package, but bellow the highest package. So the highest package, then what I do is I add in an album. So the families that really wanna splurge will get that one. And I'd say I sell that about 10% of the time. That's the one you want to sell because you want your work on their wall. You want them to show their images digitally and those albums are gorgeous, the high end albums, with the looks, everything. And they're beautiful. And so that's the one you strive for. But my goal, I'd say most people buy that middle collection.
I have a question from online who is asking are your digital files full resolution or are they resized for social media? And she says, "I'm finding myself overwhelmed "with the retouch process, "and I think I may need to get away "from actually delivering the digitals."
So, I batch edit. I shoot in a way that I have certain situations, certain lighting situations where we can edit 40 images at one time. Batch it, and not have to worry touching skin up and all that kind of stuff, because we don't do that for lifestyle sessions. So, I only offer full res. Because the half res, who has time to do that? I don't. And the people will blow it up anyways, and then I will look yucky. And then somebody will cover and complain, "Who did your pictures? "It looks kinda blurry." You don't want that.
So if a client has an add on, so say they did the post-newborn plus the lifestyle, the mini that you offer, does it all fall into the same, like they can share the collection, or is it two separate ones?
So, when we do the lifestyle add-on, that includes 10 edited digital files. And if they wanted me to edit more, then what I do is add those to those final gallery. If they get their digitals from their newborn session, they get all of them. That's how I do that. It's been kind of a balance, does that makes sense? Okay.
Alright, more questions from online about packages and pricing. Tailor Clement ask do you put a watermark on your images delivering them or an add-on to that?
I use ShootProof for that. Yeah, I use ShootProof. So, ShootProof puts up the watermark.
And is it just on obviously on social media your website, but when you deliver the files to the client.
No, no, no. They get their rights.
Okay. And another question is about the print credit. This is from Sonya an Katherine. They're new and they're not exactly sure again what you mean by the print credit as part of your collection.
So, a print credit means say you give them a $500 print credit. You have $500 to buy any images from the ala carte section of prints, essentially. So, you have $500 to spend on prints or canvases. It does not go towards books or albums, because those are obviously a lot of expensive for a photographer to get.
Okay, great. And then the question is, in what package do you offer... Do you have softcover albums? Are there different types of albums that you use?
Softcover albums within the package. Just the nice ones, yeah.
And how are you delivering sort of these options to everybody? I know that sometimes the client might get overwhelmed in terms of I don't know what to choose. Are you going over those things in advance of like you're shooting for these particular types of end products, or do you have like a printed things that they get? Is it all on your website? How does that work?
This is all the pricing guide that we send over when they book. In the questionnaire that we're gonna go over here in a minute, it's on there, where do you plan on putting these images in an album on your wall. So then I shoot for what the client wants. Then we have them come into the studio and we do the ordering session there, but they've already seen their images. I let them look over them for about two days. I know they say that hurt sales, but I'm not a high pressure person. I want people to get what they want, not what I want them to get, just because that's the type of photographer I am. I know there's no right or wrong for any... That's just me. I want them to have time to kind of process it, especially when I do a shoot that has that many images. So I send them over on ShootProof, and then they look over them all, and then they send me these emails and text with I love you messages. It's fun, and I become friends with them. And then they come and we, we do the ordering session. And I find that when we do the clients for the ordering session, they're more than likely to get products. When I do the clients that don't do ordering session, they are less likely to get a product. Just in-person sales really does push bigger sales. But I know which clients are gonna wanna invest more than others, because some clients save up, and they're only able to spend this much. And you know what, that's fine. Don't make them feel bad. Don't pressure them. Not everybody is for everybody.
So then are your sales sessions or ordering sessions, is that optional for it to be in person?
Yes, and it's funny because I started it as, when we built the new studio, that we were gonna have all in-person sales. But some clients just say, "I want package three. "I want the album, I want this, I want this." I'm like, "Okay, we don't need the sales session. "We're fine." And then some clients say, and we give them the option, "Oh, my gosh I love all of them. "I'm not sure which ones are gonna print the best." I'm like, "Come in, let's do this." It is very client-based. And I would say 75% of my clients wanna come in and look at it with me and want my help.
And for people who maybe are just starting out, maybe they don't have a great space to do those ordering sessions, would you go back to the client's home? Would you do coffee shop? What would you recommend for those people?
It depends on the client. A lot of clients want you to come into their home because can walk around the house and be like, "Hey, there's an empty wall. "that looks like it really needs a couple prints "to fill it up." So that kinda helps in their home, or you can go to a coffee shop, whatever. I used to go to client's homes when I did it, because it helps them visualize where things are gonna go.
That's great. I have a question about the 10 edited digital files that are in your basic collection. In that package that includes the 10 edited image files, are they picking the 10 that they want out of all of the edited files?
Yes. So I edit everything and then they pick their favorite 10.
Are you gonna talk about the different places where you do get your work printed?
We can. There's a lot of labs.
Yeah, you know it's kind of... There's different styles. There's some that are the more earthy ones, and then some that are the more standard ones.
You mentioned ShootProof. A question that come in about what do you use for online gallery. Can you tell us a little bit about what you use ShootProof for?
So I use ShootProof just for the viewing purpose. I used to use it for sales because they do have an option in there. The clients can purchase their own prints and digitals in there. But since we have moved over to Iris, we do have all of our... We keep track of invoices and stuff within Iris, which is easier now. And Iris is working on actually something with ShootProof right now, so they're gonna be... Because they're always growing. We just do the viewing there.
So on the packages, it's not going from the most expensive to the least expensive when you list it.
Well, really when we do it, we have it left to right. This is just for here. It's not the most expensive to the least expensive. You know, I did that for a while, and then sometimes people's eyes were going right there and being like, "Sorry, we're out." So I'm like, "What if I flip it back?" So I flipped it back and I found the conversion rate was a little bit better for bookings, because they know there's an option besides that expensive package. Again, whatever works for you. I have it left to right. So I have digitals, and then the three collections. Now, I used to have it, the three collections in digitals, and then I found that people are like, "Do you offer just your digitals?" People weren't seeing it. Your eye naturally goes to what's first. So that can be scary I think if you. There's a lot of train of thoughts. Put the biggest one first and then they're gonna leave the scene. A lot of psychology behind the whole thing.
So on that, is there a certain spread that you're separating them in price, or is it more the package that they want? So it's like do they really want these items in the package or are you spreading things apart by $500 or so on?
So I'm spreading them out. Let's just give up a number. So like 10 images and then you get a $250 print credit for this one. Then the next one is all of your digital images plus a $500 print credit. And then the third one is all of your images saved plus a $500 print credit, you always add one thing, plus the album. We try to up the print credit on the third one and it was too much. People don't need that many prints. They wanted the album, some prints, and all of their digitals.
So, do you offer extra digitals in your ala cartes, or is it only prints?
Only prints We do not sell one individual digital image, unless it's for newborn. We'll do that sometimes, because I just edit too many and then people will say, "Oh, I want 16, instead of the 10." That's too crazy, I'm simple. Keep it easy.
From Escrouse, do you have a maximum number of images that you would put in front of the client?
I know I should, but there are some there just like really good sessions, and they will end up with 200 images. I'm like, "How do I pick these? "I can't." So, I let them all. It doesn't take me too much longer to batch edit them anymore. So, the way I edit, I've got it down pretty efficiently. Back in the day, I used to only edit when I was hand editing, I don't do that anymore. I shoot for how I want it to look, so it's a little bit different now that I've kind of... I shoot in JPEG. Yeah. And I shoot in Kelvin. I get the looks that I want straight out of the camera. It makes it easier.
Which is awesome.
Finding all the efficiencies that work for you in your business. So, it's great.
I used to shoot raw and I got lazy and switched to JPEG, and I like the look now. I'm not finding myself fixing white balance. I don't recommend that for new photographers.
A lot of people will shoot JPEG plus raw, that's good idea, until you master your white balance.