A finger presses the shutter of a black Olympus camera. Ask Marlboro: Should I charge for photos on top of my session fees?

Ask Marlboro: Should I charge for photos on top of my session fees?

September 18, 2020

One thing I’ve seen debated often in the photography industry is whether we, as photographers, should be charging for photos on top of our session fees, or if the pricing should all be rolled into one. It’s a question I’ve been asked more than once.

My answer is always the same: make it all-inclusive. Here’s why:

It’s about expectations

I am not a businessperson by nature. (Probably a common story for a lot of us photographers.) I preferred to see myself as an artist, an individual. But it took a business point-of-view to see where I’d once gone wrong.

An expecting mother basks in golden hour at Dallas Road in Victoria, BC. Photo by Marlboro Wang.
Credit: Marlboro Wang Photo

Think of a photoshoot from the client’s perspective. It’s about managing their expectations more than anything. If I’m a client, I don’t want to pay for the session and then buy the photos after — unless the session fee is already low. I’d rather pay for it all up-front, even if the cost is the same.

People want certainty. That, and they want everything included in the price. As humans, we’re not big on surprises — even less so when it comes to our money. The thought of “hidden costs” or “extra costs” can be a turn-off to customers. Again, even if the final cost is the same — we’d rather see it all at once.

Read more: How your photography pricing is losing you dream clients

Imagine you’re going on a mini-vacation. You’ve booked a great beach hotel for $500. There’s a bottle of wine in the room, free of charge, plus a hot breakfast every morning. There’s a pool and a sauna, and your package includes a massage at the spa. If you want to surf, the hotel rents surfboards. It’s all included with your booking.

A mother and daughter share a moment of warmth at Beacon Hill in Victoria, BC. Photo by Marlboro Wang.
Credit: Marlboro Wang Photo

Imagine the same vacation, same hotel, but you’ve found a $350 room. You want to celebrate. There’s wine in the room, but it costs extra. Breakfast is $18. The pool and sauna are there, but you have to pay extra for those too. Same with the spa and surfboards (both things you want to do). The only thing you’ve paid for is the room.

Which vacation would you rather have?

Eliminate uncertainty

Before clients hire a photographer, the first determining factor is the work. The next question is “can I afford this?” If your pricing is all-encompassing, they know exactly what to expect.

Focal's Sessions give customers everything they need to know.

On the other hand, if you’re charging for photos on top of your session fees, they’ll start thinking, “what if I want all the photos but can’t afford them? Maybe I’ll go with the photographer with the package deal.”

Package pricing eliminates uncertainty for clients, so they know what they’re getting. And if you feel like you’re underpaid for your work, you can raise your pricing for the next session.

Feeling like you could use some help with your photography business? We've designed our free Business Accelerator program to help set you on the path to success. Over three one-on-one video consultations, we'll help you identify and reach your ideal clients, and then craft packages that will get them jumping head over heels to book. Program space is limited.

Join the Business Accelerator

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