If you are a self-employed photographer, you get to determine the size of your check (to a point). So what's the value of your services?
Peter Hurley in Manhattan consistently gets $1,200 for a headshot. That's more than he could command in a small town in Eastern North Carolina. However, I'm sure that there are others in New York that charge far less. Peter has determined that his headshot services are worth $1,200 minimum. The nice thing for him is that there is a market willing to pay his asking price.
Locally, I had a veteran professional photographer and cinematographer tell me back in 2013 that he had done the math and figured out that he could not go on location for less than $2,500 per day or he was losing money. That may not be the case for every photographer in the local area. However, this particular photographer is a veteran of the industry and had figured out what his minimum day rate needed to be. Do you know what your minimum day rate is based on actually crunching the numbers and not just randomly picking a number out because it sounds good?
A friend of mine knows a photographer that works full time, has some nice camera gear and only charges $60 for a family photo session. Even part-time and having another job, the $60 rate will not yield enough revenue anytime soon to buy new gear. Her mentality is that her target market can only afford $60. It's up to her, but I think she might be better off donating her services to the less fortunate and targeting families that can afford to pay more.
Determining what your photography services are worth includes factoring in what the market will bear. For example, the Raleigh market is not a hotspot for $1,200 headshots. However, there may be a handful that will pay that price point. On the other hand, the Raleigh market will bear a $2,500 per day photographer. And of course, if your pricing is rock bottom at $60 per family, there will always be people willing to pay low prices.
Whatever you do, don't under value your services and put a black eye on the photography industry because of your super low prices. It's OK to make a profit and a comfortable living doing photography. Decide that you are worth more than the lowest priced photographer in town, charge what the market will bear and actually make a good living doing what you love. If you do photography on the side, there is nothing wrong with pricing at a fair market value rather than "I'm a part-time photographer. I'll shoot for $25 because I just love taking pictures." Surely you want new gear and at $25 a pop, it will be difficult to buy new gear.
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