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. 

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.

Learn how Focal makes packages easy

More from

Focal UniversityFocal Blog

January 8, 2021

The secret to finding ideal clients

It's one thing to have clients, it's another to have ideal clients. What if I told you there was a secret to attracting and booking people who are perfect for you and your photography style? Well, there is. Read on to learn all about how to reel in those perfect clients.
December 24, 2020

How to revolutionize your photography business

Is your business ready for 2021? Whether you feel ready to bring your photography business into the new year (after the strange year we are in right now) or not, you might not have considered completely revolutionizing everything from your website to workflow. But today, I will convince you why NOW is the best time to revolutionize your approach to your photography business to take you that one step closer to your business goals. 
December 17, 2020

"Show your value as a photographer": Focal on the Capture Crew Podcast

New podcast alert! The good folks over at Capture Crew invited our CEO & Founder, Lachlan Shum, to talk about conveying value as a photographer and attracting ideal clients.
Success! Thank you for subscribing.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.