Guide to Pricing Photography Prints
If you’re looking to step up your professional photography business, then you’re going to want to read our guide to pricing photography prints in 2021.
Photography pricing knowledge is critical for the enthusiast who wants to have their work available for sale.
It’s also especially important if you’re a landscape or fine art photographer. Or perhaps you’re a pro wedding photographer that’s looking to add physical products for clients to purchase.
Let’s face it, if you’ve never done it before, it can be tough to calculate exactly how to price your work.
In this article, we’re going to break down the top reasons to print your photos and the top tips on pricing them.
Let’s get started with how to price photography prints.
Table of Contents
3 Reasons to Print Your Photos
All too often, the commerce side of running your photography business can be a little daunting. Regardless of whether you’re a seasoned pro or an enthusiast, there’s a lot to work out.
While you may have had some tutorials in photography school, or another form of education, applying that in the real world doesn’t always match up.
Being able to read what professional photographers achieve with the print market can be tricky, especially in a world that’s focused on the online experience. In fact, the temptation to work purely with a digital business model and avoid printing altogether is powerful.
But there are still plenty of compelling reasons, and indeed demand, for printing your photos.
As a budding professional photographer, regardless of your genre, you need to determine how selling prints works for you and your clients. That, in turn, will strongly influence a lot of choices but most importantly, how you price your photography prints.
Let’s take a look at the top 3 reasons to print your photos.
1. As a Main Source of Income
If all you want to do is sell prints – and lots of them to make it worthwhile – there are some essential factors to keep in mind.
The first thing you’re going to need is an extensive catalogue of quality images that are print-worthy and appealing to the market.
While you may choose to start slow, eventually you’re going to need to get out and spend a lot of time capturing amazing photos to sell.
If you’re a landscape photographer, then you have to dedicate many trips to gorgeous locations. If you’re selling images of your city’s skyline, then you’ll spend a lot of time hanging out on rooftops.
What’s interesting about this business model is that you don’t have to deal with clients directly. By that I mean you don’t have to deal with wedding parties or portrait photography shoots.
It’s mostly just going to be you, your camera, and your print solutions. Plus, there’s a lot of pride and satisfaction gained from selling your work to others.
2. As a Side Revenue to Your Photography Services
Selling prints as a secondary source of income has a lot of benefits too.
If you’re already a professional photographer that works directly with clients, it makes a lot of sense to offer prints for sale.
For example, if you’re a wedding photographer, you’re already on location and taking high-quality photos – images that the lucky couple and their family will cherish in any format.
This presents a perfect opportunity to offer value-add products such as printed images.
This is highly appealing to your clients as they have an emotional attachment to the product. Plus, you take away the hassle of them printing their digital images.
It will definitely prove to be a great marketing tool for your photography business.
3. As a Fine Art Photographer
The final business model that’s well worth considering is to take the fine art approach.
Consider other professional artists that spend a year creating a painting or sculpture. They sell that single work to a gallery or a client willing to pay for their time and skill.
You can achieve that same outcome by printing your best fine art images. While you may choose to print more than once a year, the point is to master your skills and only offer a limited edition of prints.
There are fine art collectors, galleries and clients such as corporations willing to pay top dollar for a compelling photograph.
This may be to grace their office walls, a gallery of fine art photography or someone’s Ney York loft. But to make this approach advantageous, you have to price your prints like an artist and not as a quick commercial win.
4 Tips For Selling Prints
Once you’ve decided on the business model you want to follow to sell your photography prints, now you have to work out how to do it.
You see, there’s a big difference between someone that chooses to sell prints in mass quantities versus someone that sells a handful to a gallery. It’s also essential to understand and appreciate how the other business models go about selling prints.
This is just in case you decide to branch out or even mix up your business models. You may choose to sell a bunch of your images in large quantities while also submitting your best one for the fine art market.
Let’s take a closer look at the four best tips for selling prints.
1. Work Out What Sells
If you intend to sell prints and don’t bother to check what your clients or the art world are currently paying, don’t be surprised if you don’t sell any work. Research. Research. Research.
I’m not suggesting that you have to change your whole genre to make money, but you should see what your competition is doing.
What’s more, take a good look at what customers are willing to pay and what quality they’re expecting to receive. You may have the best images, but if you print them on dodgy paper to save money, your client base is going to dry up.
Think about what images people enjoy displaying and how your genre can fill that space on the wall.
There’s a vast range of online print sites that will have pages and pages of examples of work that sells well. Take a look at what price points those sites and other photographers are charging at.
Put your pride away and even get the advice of a seasoned professional. No doubt you’ve got friends in the photography business so rely on their advice and opinions too.
The take away is to thoroughly do your research, especially in the genre that you specialise.
2. Only Sell Your Best Work
All too often we’re the worst people to critique our photography – we’re either too harsh, or we overlook our development opportunities.
As a result, it’s essential to step back from the emotional connection and take an open-minded approach. And if you’re terrible at that, develop a mentor relationship with someone good at it.
I get it; your photos are your expression of how you see the world. But when it comes to selling prints, what you like may not be what people are looking for. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s the reality of selling photography prints.
Another helpful tip is to set up your e-commerce platform with the ability to track what gets attention. When people come to your site, the analytical tools will record what people view, click on and what they purchase.
You can use this data to your advantage – that’s why it’s there in the first place. If a print is not selling well, consider removing it and replacing it with something in the same vein as those that are selling well.
Another critical consideration is the quality of the actual image. Regardless of selling one or a thousand copies of the print, the time spent in post-processing is just as valuable as time spent in the field taking the shot.
Your editing has to be perfect for every print you intend to sell.
While I’m not going into the finer details of editing here, I will say: Please don’t rush it, as customers will notice.
3. Quality And Quantity
When setting up and running any business, one of the founding principles to apply is managing costs.
You do this so you don’t throw money down the drain. But the flip side of this is to deliver a level of quality that meets your customer’s expectations and remains competitive.
Sounds straightforward but it’s a tricky balance and one that you have to fine-tune continually.
When it comes to printing photos, one of the highest costs to consider is paper stock and printing services.
If you’re printing only a few fine art prints a year, then the printing cost is going to be high. However, if you’re printing hundreds of copies of the same image, the scale will bring down the cost per print.
Let’s throw into the mix a need for quality. As we said earlier, there’s no point expecting to sell a fine art print if you use the most inferior quality standards and paper. A gallery will not touch that print, nor will you ever have a client return for another one.
Setting a quality standard is all part of that ever-important research, research, research.
Before you can expect to price your prints, you must work out the balance between cost, quality, and quantity. Most printing businesses will already have a price structure based on these which means a lot of the hard part’s already done.
But, don’t accept the first quote and always ask for samples of the stock. Ask them to print out some of your pictures in different quality paper and with varying standards of print.
4. Bring It All Together
I’m going to assume that you’ve done all of your research. Having settled on those critical points, you need to bring it all together.
But before you price your prints, you cannot forget the ‘hidden’ costs of running your business. And, more importantly, you want to have a good hard think about the sort of profit you can expect to make.
When starting, don’t get too carried away with dreams of making it big!
If you set your price too high, people will appreciate your work but not the price point and, as a result, they’ll look elsewhere.
As for other costs to factor in, think about the cost of your website, credit card transaction fees, delivery fees and overheads. Do some homework on running your own business for greater insight into these factors.
At a bare minimum, you need to cover your costs.
Fortunately, there are sites online that specialise in selling photography prints.
Some will act as a one-stop-shop and take care of hosting, selling, printing, transactions and postage. They may charge you a set price per months or a cost-per-print – it all comes back to your intended business model.
If you’re going to sell your prints in bulk quantities, then a site like this is ideal. The downside is that they take a cut for taking care of everything, and your profit margin will diminish. And in a lot of cases, they set the pricing of the products.
However, if you want to sell fine art prints, then a more hands-on approach is best as you can personally dictate the price, outcomes and quality from the printer, manage freight and optimise client satisfaction.
3 Tips to Price Photo Prints
Just to recap, you’ve decided on your business model and the reason to sell your photographs as prints.
You’ve also done your research on the best ways to sell prints to have a successful business. Now all that’s left is understanding how to price the actual prints.
Here are three tips for doing the actual calculations and pricing photo prints to ensure that you’re successful. (You can also search for ‘photography pricing calculator’ online for a handy tool to help with this.)
1. How Much Do Prints Cost?
This is the biggest question of the day. Working out how much prints cost is fundamental to your whole business model.
And working out how much a print will cost is not as simple as calculating how many times you press the print button – there’s a lot more to it than that.
If you’re hosting your e-commerce site, then you need to calculate the cost of that and the costs to store your digital images. If you’re relying on an external company to host the e-commerce functions, then you are going to need to know their total fees and charges.
As for printing the images, if you’re working with an agency or processing lab, get a full price structure from them. Make sure they include labour, data transfer, paper quality variance, print quality options and handling fees.
The cost of postage and handling can be tricky to map out as your clients could be anywhere in the world. Postage fees are usually an addition to the purchase that clients are aware of and prepared to pay. Be sure to check your competition and what others are charging for these services.
Work with your print partner to determine the cost to suit your business model – remember that printing mass images versus only a few varies dramatically.
For fine art prints, if you’re going to be offering a full service that includes printing, laminating and framing, you may price that on a case by case basis.
Be warned that framing can add big bucks to your cost to print as there will be additional storage and transport costs too.
Also for the fine art folk, if you’re going to manage shipping yourself, do your homework on the value of domestic and international couriers.
So you’ve done all the above math, considered your business overheads, gained an understanding of customer expectations and competitor’s pricing… Now you can finally determine what you can expect to pay per print.
2. How Much Should I Charge For An 8×10 Print?
A popular choice from clients, especially in family, portrait and wedding photography, is the good old 8×10 print.
That’s 8 inches by 10 inches and not a metric measurement. This print size is popular as it’s a size that looks good in most household rooms. Plus, it’s easy to mount and frame with products bought from a variety of places from supermarkets to home improvement stores.
What’s more, it’s effortless to find out what companies charge for printing an 8×10.
An online search in your local area will return countless options of places that print photos. From this, you can get a fair indication of print prices for individual and bulk 8×10 prints.
Plus, you’ll have the opportunity to research how print companies structure their pricing, including data management, printing, paper quality, postage and handling.
(See also: why is matte more expensive than glossy?)
You can also get these standard sized prints from photo printing kiosks in department stores should you want to start small and handle everything yourself.
But printing is not the only cost consideration. As we’ve discovered, you need to factor in your time, photography equipment and skill level.
Another thing to factor into your photography pricing is your overheads and how much time you spend editing and preparing the image.
And of course, a little bit of profit wouldn’t hurt would it?
For a simple answer, a good rule of thumb is to charge customers approximately four times what your total costs equated to.
So if you’ve calculated that it cost you $13 to print an 8×10 (taking into account all the factors we’ve covered above), then you could charge customers around $52.
When you’re starting, I would recommend matching competitors of the same experience. Then see where your profit lands and adjust your costs and price accordingly where possible. You apply the same methodology to all print sizes.
3. Create An Attractive Pricing Structure
A great marketing tool is to create an attractive photography pricing guide structure.
Professional wedding photographers often have one of these so clients can select the services they want on their big day.
Once again, check to see what your competitors or friends are doing with their print services. They, like you, advertise it on their site so customers can make their own decisions.
A good pricing structure for prints will need to include a few core elements. Having a choice is always great for customers, but too much choice can confuse you and your printing partner.
You may decide to have different print qualities so that you offer a standard printer paper as well as an archival-quality paper at a higher price. Or, you may provide other print formats such as canvas, glass and even metal.
The sky is the limit on size options, but I recommend starting with two or three popular sizes. You can expand on this later or even open the door for custom sizes in your pricing model.
When it comes to framing, you may find a demand for that from your clients. If you don’t want to handle that part of the product, then team up with a local framer.
You can promote and recommend their business on your website, and they can do the same for you. You may even agree on a referral discount for one another.
Many photographers use the popular option of creating bundles or packages for clients.
This is especially popular in the wedding photography industry where a certain number of prints are ‘included’ in the job. Of course, you just price your other services to accommodate this cost, but it’s an attractive strategy.
Finally, if you want to make your pricing model attractive in a busy market, consider offering discounts, subscriptions, memberships and give-aways. A simple one is that for every ten prints a customer orders, you will throw in a free 8×10. Or, pay for a year’s membership and choose an image per month.
At the end of the day, the start-up process is going to involve a lot of research, hard work and ongoing evaluation.
But in time, pricing photography prints will become second nature and that side of your business will almost run itself.
This leaves you the time and freedom to get out with your camera and capture your next selection of beautiful images.