‘Why Are Your 4x6’s Twenty-five Dollars?’

This question comes up a lot; most of the time it’s implied and written all over a potential client’s face.  That price seems crazy to those not in the industry.  Why would a click of a camera button and then a 4x6 piece of photo paper cost $25.00?  It's not comprehendible to some people and that’s okay.  If you’re prices look like this or are higher (mine are really not that high compared to many other photographers) I’m sure you get inquires from those who don’t understand the value of professional photography or who are used to seeing prices listed at Walmart, PicturePeople, and other walk-in photo shops.  There’s nothing wrong with any of those places but their target market is NOT your target market.   You’re not a franchise. You don’t operate as a large corporation.  You’re a small, one-person (commonly) operation.  You have to wear every hat in your business and that takes time, money and talent.  

I know some of  you who are photographers are saying '$25 for a 4x6 is giving your services away'.  When coupled with the rest of my pricing, packages, etc. and with my average sales, it's actually not.  So before you judge either way, take into account your market saturation, economy and spending trends in your area.  All of these have to be considered as well.  My hope in posting this is that you'll be confident with your prices as a photographer and if a client or consumer of photography reads this, maybe they'll understand a little more behind the madness of our pricing methodology. :) 

But wow, $25 is still a lot for a 4x6?  How can that even be justified you might think?  Sure it’s art, but it’s a piece of paper and ink.  That’s just ripping clients off. 

This is where so many struggle…pricing.   How are you going to stay in business if you just charged four times the cost to print the image from your lab (a common misconception)?  So if my lab charges $1.25 for a 4x6 print and I charge my client $5 for a 4x6, isn’t that fair?  If you want to stay in business, if you value your art and have proven to have talent then, no it’s not a fair price.  It’s giving your work away and it’s costing you money and time (a lot of it), as well as talent when you charge those prices.  This is how many photographers end up getting burned out and realize they are just loosing money in this industry, so they ultimately leave this profession.

The reality is, this is a job.  There are expenses that many clients don’t realize.

Here’s just one simple scenario of the time and money that goes into photo-shoot start to finish.

So a rough estimate of the amount of time spent on this client is 7-12 hours. 

That’s a lot of time!  Also, I didn’t even take into consideration business expenses.  Many of these are not a ‘one-time purchase’ you have to upgrade and update these often to stay ahead in this ever-changing industry.


So let’s do a quick and dirty calculation – again this is a rough so please bare with me.  My husband said this is where my accounting brain is going to confuse people so hang in there.  I tried to simplify :) 

Say your client wanted a 4x6.  Let’s look at some of the variables that went into making that 4x6. I’m not including shooting time or editing time (both should really be considered when setting your prices).

Let’s say you only want to make $11 per hour.  Note:  that’s ($11x8hr work day)=$88/day x 5 days a week=$440/week x 52 weeks out of the year= $22,880 per year. (that’s nearing poverty level so supporting your family and contributing to your families income is very nominal and nearly impossible at this amount).

So a 4x6 print minus all the correspondence, editing, scouting, shooting and babysitter fees (which really should be taken into consideration when you’re creating your pricing but I’m not in this example for simplicity) takes you:  64 minutes minimum.  So that’s  ($11 (your hourly labor costs)/60 minutes= 18cents a minute)  $.18x 64 min (the time it took you to do peccary work to create that 4x6) = $11.52 

But consider your cost of goods sold  {COGS}.  The PPA recommends that your COGS should be 35% of your revenue for that particular product.  So in order to find out the recommended price based on this, you need to times your COGS by 2.85 (which is 100/35) . 

Your COGS for the 4x6 is $1.25+$11.52 + business expenses allocated but not represented here = $12.77.  Take $12.77 and multiply 2.85 and you get : $36  So a 4x6 print really should be around $36 if I want to make just below poverty level and support my family or contribute to my families income.  And I only charge $25!!  How are you going to stay in business when you’re the poverty level with your earnings?  That doesn’t even touch your business expenses.   NO wonder so many photographers leave the industry! 

And digital files!  I’ll delve into those in a later post but those should be priced higher than your prints.  #crazyright? #itsreal

So next time a client quibbles over your prices, have confidence in knowing where your numbers are coming from.  Not every client is for you and you are not for every client.  Rejection will happen but it’s just steering you into your appropriate target market, so try not to take it personally. 

Obviously there are so many other factors to calculate when determining your prices and I excluded many just for time, clarity and sanity sake. There are numerous pricing guides available on the market.  One can be found here:  ‘The Photographer’s Pricing System: Get paid what you’re worth for portraits and weddings’ written by a dear friend of mine Alicia Caine.   Design Aglow offers a pricing guide that can be found here.  And there are so many others that go deeper into cost and pricing analysis.