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When you become a travel photographer, every day brings a new experienceMy passion for photography was born in a most inauspicious way. I attended the Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop in San Francisco in 2012 with every intention of pursuing a career (and supplemental income) in writing. But as an additional seminar at that event, they offered photography the day after the workshop, so I signed up to see what I could learn. 

Little did I know that this day would change the direction of my life and give me a laser focus that I hadn’t experienced in years. 

Upon returning home, I recounted everything I had learned to my wife Karen and she became as excited as I was. We own two businesses: an interior design business and a custom cabinet business.  Consequently, there is always a demand for unique artwork in our clients’ homes or businesses. 

Karen immediately seized upon the idea of using my photography as the artwork that we so desperately needed. It might sound strange, but it had never occurred to us before that we could make the art we always wanted instead of buying it elsewhere.

I read everything I could on the technical aspect of photography – ISO, shutter speed, aperture – but one recurring theme kept cropping up from every successful professional I read… just go out and shoot, shoot, shoot! 

So that is precisely what I did.

While there was no shortage of clients who wanted specific images – architectural, life stories, family history, bourbon barrels, horses, etc. – the real problem now was about setting a price for my work.  Pricing is an art itself – you need to make a profit unless it’s just a hobby for you. 

Like professional photographer Rich Wagner discusses in Turn Your Pictures into Cash, you need to determine your target market, first. 

For me, it’s the clients of our interior design business. They want unique art for their homes and businesses, and that’s true of interior designers in your hometown, too.

It’s been my experience that not many photographers in my area are landscape-oriented. Most specialize in family portraiture or newborn photography, so this became my market – shooting unique images of my town that didn’t include babies, families, or weddings.

The next step is setting a price.  If your price is too high, you won’t sell anything; if it’s too low, it will be perceived as cheap. Here are some tips to help you determine a reasonable price:

  • Know your cost…this includes your camera equipment, printing costs, travel time, insurance, the value of your time, and your profit. I always double my material costs (i.e. if an image costs me $100 to get enlarged and printed on mat board, then I figure in $200 for the materials.)
  • Determine whether or not you, the designer, or the client is going to have the image framed. That can add another considerable cost. Generally, I will charge at least $500 for a framed image – more if I build the frame out of reclaimed wood.
  • If you’re working with an interior designer, get their input on the price point.  They should know their client and can guide you. 
  • Do some comparative analysis to see what others are charging, but don’t base your price solely on this. 
  • Never base your price on what YOU would pay! 
  • If you underprice your art, people won’t value it. My first sale was to a client that wanted five 24” x 36” architectural images of her hometown for $2,500. The second client wanted a history of their life depicted on various canvases plus some architectural and food images for the kitchen – sale price $3,000. 
  • Don’t compare your work with what is offered at local stores or on-line, because most of that is reproduced in China. Offer something of higher quality and you’ll be off and running toward making your business a fun and profitable venture. 

Above all, ask a price that will make you happy and be profitable. If it doesn’t sell – then it doesn’t sell.  Some people will say it’s too expensive whether you are asking $75, $100, $500, or $2,000.

Pricing is certainly not an exact science.  But seek out designers in your area and offer your services to them.  Their expertise in pricing and dealing with clients can be invaluable.