Someone asked the other day why some photographers using Print Shop seem to be selling their prints “quite cheaply”.
"I can understand that there is potentially volume in art prints that isn't there with portraits. But I still wonder how a client might feel if the price is significantly lower for an art print."
I think there are a few questions here — does the difference in price matter? Are people undercharging? — and anyway, how much should you charge?
I'll leave the last one for later, but meantime…
1. Why might you need to charge differently for your art versus your wedding and portrait prints?
If you're a wedding and portrait photographer the people in your viewfinder have to pay for everything, especially your time. You have only one chance to cover your costs and make a profit.
But if you're selling landscapes, for example, you’re almost certainly hoping for more than one customer — in other words multiple chances to cover your costs and make a profit. Which means you do have the option to charge less, sell more, and make on the deal that way.
2. If you do charge differently, can you justify it to clients?
What I've said seems pretty reasonable, so I don't see why not. However…
You probably do need to charge your portrait clients more — but maybe not for a framed print. (You wouldn't expect us to charge more for printing and framing a family photo than for a landscape.)
Instead you need to charge portrait clients a fee for service, which presumably you do.
If you offer portrait sittings for a very low price, or even free, and expect to make your money on product sales, it could be awkward — but even so only if you're selling your art prints on the same site.
3. What people are really paying you for is your artistry and skill.
And that's what you need to charge for. That and your time.
The person buying an art print is basically paying for the right to display it on their wall.
Your portrait client is paying for much more than that. They may even be paying for ownership or unrestricted use of the images.
Which leads me to…
4. As a general rule it's a mistake to charge too much for products.
Yes, you'd expect me to say that, because if they're "affordable" you'll sell more and that's good for us! But I'll stick to my guns.
Photographers used to charge bigger mark-ups on their products, partly because they were reluctant to charge for their time. It's harder to do now because everyone can check out prices online. But even if your mark-ups are lower, there are still three good reasons to sell products:
— They're great “silent salesmen” (i.e. generate referrals)
— They move you and all your prices up-market, and
— They ensure your images are always presented at their best.
In other words charge what you’re worth for your time, and a reasonable mark-up on your products. IMHO.
5. So are people undercharging in Print Shop?
Who can tell? Everyone's different.
When you're checking out other photographers' online stores, bear in mind where they’re coming from.
For some their store will be the core of their business.
If they're the modern Ansel Adams — or selling exquisite Ansel Adams prints! — the sky's the limit.
In the real world successful photographers will have worked out from experience how much people will pay, and what prices leave the most cash in their back pocket. They may have maximised the value of each image through "limited editions". And they'll understand that Print Shop is a selling tool, and that they need to invest time and money driving traffic to it (via their website, blog, social media etc).
For others their store may be a way to build credibility with their portrait and wedding clients. I remember visiting one of Australia's best photographers, and one of our best wedding album clients. There were few if any wedding images on his studio walls.
For many more their online store could be just a side gig — a nice spin-off from their travel adventure maybe. Like the time Heather and I spent a month in India travelling with our friend the Master Chef. His trip cost as much as ours, of course, but he sold the story to a magazine, he won a travel-writing award for it, and he tax-deducted the trip. So annoying.
To sum up, when it comes to pricing there's no substitute for trial and error. Try something, see if it works, try something new. Until you get it right.
As always, we'd love to hear your take.