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Determining your pricing can bring about a lot of questions and headaches. Questions such as: What should my session fees be? Should I make a package and include some prints? If so, which prints? Do I post prices on my website? Suzy Q Photography down the street charges $80 for an 8×10 but that seems so high and I could never get anyone to pay that much! Begin hair pulling.
The Complexities of Selling Prints to Clients
One area where pricing seems to be a toss up is print and digital negative pricing. We all know the labs charge pennies compared to what many photographers charge their clients for the print. It’s not uncommon to charge around $40 for an 8×10 that your print lab charged you $1.25. Of course, the price charged to the client factors in the photographer’s time to process the image by preparing it for the lab with ideal cropping and making sure colors are perfectly calibrated to the printer. However, how do you know what price to set for your prints in order to maximize your income? Too high and clients won’t buy or too low and you might be leaving money on the table.
The reason pricing is complex is because there is not a single perfect pricing for every photographer. There are so many factors that can go into how much in print sales you make per client. I know a photographer that has clients in two states – where she currently lives (City A) and her home town (City B). One of the most telling points is that she has seen clients in City A haggle over print costs while clients in the City B don’t bat an eye at prices twice as high for the exact same 8×10 print. Same photographer, same “product”, same sales process – so why the difference?
Guess what? It doesn’t matter! There are many factors that will determine what people are willing to pay for a print, but those reasons are irrelevant when it comes to maximizing your profits with prints.
What Can You Do to Maximize Your Print Sales?
As a photographer you likely got started in this business because you loved the work. Taking pictures was your calling and you made the beautiful decision to follow your passion and make it a career. However, in doing so you also started a business and the bottom line is your business needs to make money. Every business needs to consider how they can maximize their revenue and find the right balance between how long it takes to produce something and how much they can sell it for. Selling prints is for many photographers the largest income generator and increasing revenue by just 10% could make an enormous impact on their business. So what can you do to help maximize your print sales revenue? Split testing.
What is Split Testing?
Split testing is when you offer the same product/service but have a slight difference in approach to selling to see which results in maximum revenue.
Amazon.com sells millions of dollars in products a day at cheap prices. Because of their pricing each sale yields just a small profit. With all their infrastructure costs, how do they make money? They are constantly split testing things on their website to see what is more likely to convince people to make a purchase and maximizing the number of sales.
So what can you test? Everything. One small example for a typical e-commerce website is the simple Add to Cart button. You could test the color, placement, font size, design style, and the text of that button (“Add to Cart” vs “Add to Basket”).
For photographers, testing buttons, placement of things on a page, text is extremely time difficult and time consuming. Along with the relatively low volume of total purchases makes it hard to get statistically significantly data. Sites like Amazon.com that do thousands of transactions a minute can quickly get data on a test and adjust accordingly very quickly. However, two areas where photographers can do some testing to maximize their print sales is 1) in-person vs online sales and 2) the price of their prints.
In-Person vs Online Sales Process
I have met photographers who swear in-person meetings yield significantly higher per-client sales while others swear doing it online sells more. So is there one method that works better than the other? It all depends on you.
Doing in-person sales meetings means you have to put on your salesperson hat. Sales is a hard thing to do, you have to have the right personality for it. My dad is in car sales and he is fantastic at talking to people, educating them on their options and can make them feel like they are buying a car that is going to be perfect for them. The feeling of comfort they have with him through the process makes them feel confident about forking over thousands of their hard earned dollars for a car. When he is buying something, he has no problem “discussing pricing” (haggling) which has saved our family thousands of dollars on things throughout the years.
I do not have these skills whatsoever. I feel awkward asking someone to pay me for anything, even if it is something I have spent thousands of hours making. In fact, my WordPress client gallery plugin, Sunshine, I had someone else help me determine a price point because it felt overwhelming trying to decide on a number. If I’m buying something, whatever price you tell me it is, I am paying it without any questions. I feel too awkward haggling and just can’t do it.
So if you have the right personality, in-person sales could absolutely yield you more profitable print sales from your clients. Or, if like most photographers I have met, you hate sales and wish somehow you could have someone else handle it all for you then you likely are going with an online proofing and cart system for selling prints.
Testing Print Prices
It’s not nearly as hard as it seems. If you have a decent online photo cart it should offer the ability to set different price levels for the same product. A feature like this allows you to charge more for prints to your wedding clients than you do for your family sessions – not an uncommon thing in the photography world. You can use this same feature to do split testing and setup two or more price levels. Say one where an 8×10 is $20 (and each larger size up increases incrementally) and another where the same 8×10 is $30. Randomly assign each client to one of your price levels. After all the sessions are complete and you have totaled your profits from from each session you can see which price level has made you more money. You could do all the same thing with in-person sales too – just print off a different price sheet when you walk in to meet with each client.
There is no magic formula that I can give you to determine your most profitable prices. I don’t even think you should look at your competing photographers for pricing ideas. Every photographer over time starts to develop their own unique methodology for working with clients from initial contact through final delivery of prints. You can have two family photographers, in the same town, who offer the same sitting fee, yet have two very different print price models that each are very profitable. Every photographer has a different methodology when it comes to trying to get clients to buy prints such as in-person vs online sales.
Things to Consider When Testing
The more price levels you use the more accurate your test will be. However it also means it will take more time to complete your testing.
10 sessions per price level should be a minimum otherwise the data may not be sufficient.
You need to calculate profit, not just total sales. Some products often can sell for more yet you make less profit on each than a cheaper product you offer. For example, if you sell 10 – 8x10s at $20 each you made $200 which costs you maybe $5 for a total profit of $195. Sell one canvas for $200 but it costs you $75 to produce then you only make $130 profit. It may feel nice to get that one big product sold but ultimately you made less money.
Our WordPress client gallery plugin, Sunshine, offers price levels and cost/profit data making split testing, and thus optimizing your pricing for maximum revenue, quite simple. You can even see which product, individual images and even entire galleries made you the most money which can help you better understand what shots translate into more money.