How to price a Photography print for sale

Maine-Atlantic Ocean-Sunset-Marginal Way
The Atlantic Ocean at sunset along the Marginal Way in Ogunquit, Maine.

As I am building out this site and trying to finish up some last details before it goes completely live I wanted to talk a little bit about how I price my prints and all of the factors that go into my pricing structure. I am very sensitive to cost issues and  the main goal is to strike a balance between an affordable price, getting my work out there to be seen and enjoyed while also making a profit on all of the hard work that goes into making images. As most photographers know, making a profit on our work is what allows us to continue producing high quality images. While making money is not my highest concern it does play a factor in what I do.

To often photographers can just come up with arbitrary prices out of their heads and to me this just doesn’t take into account all of the costs that come into play with photography work nor is it a sustainable business model. I need my prices to be consistent, fair and not just taken out of thin air. While I don’t want to get too into the nuts and bolts of why I price the way I do, I would like to offer some guidelines for others trying to price their work but also give my buyers some information as to everything that goes into my cost of producing images. A lot of thought and care has gone in to my pricing and I feel it does strike a good balance with the premium product that I want buyers to receive.

How do I determine the price that I charge for my work? The formulas…

The easiest way to come up with a consistent pricing structure is to:

  1. Markup = 100 divided by 35 (35% cost of goods…See below) = 2.85
  2. Determine your cost for producing and shipping a print product. List out everything that is required from the print to the shipping costs. (See my list below. Also include your time calculation into your cost.)
  3. Multiply your cost by your markup to come to a final sale price for your image

This is probably the easiest part to figure out but does require a bit of math so that our pricing stays consistent. This is key because we want to accurately quote a price to a buyer and it had to be the same from buyer to buyer. Pulling a random number out of the air just won’t work and even worse you could be under charging by using this strategy. Take some time, figure out every last cost that goes into your work and your figures will accurately reflect that with an honest price.

The first thing that I did to have a more consistent pricing structure was to use the 35% cost of goods pricing structure for everything that sell. The cost of goods is simply all of the money that I spend for the inventory that I sell. In my instance under this model 65% of the total artwork price is profit and other fixed costs while 35% covers all the costs to produce, package and ship a piece of artwork.

Using those numbers I divide 100 by 35 to get 2.85 which is now my markup. Next I simply take the total cost of an item and multiply by 2.85 to come to the final sale price of a print. It sounds complicated but it’s accurate and consistent, Not a random number. You will always be able to quote a price from buyer to buyer and it will always be the same.

The second thing I like to do is to make a list of every single cost that it takes to produce and package my work. Everything from my time to the products I use have a cost and I need to figure out a monetary value per print size and per print product what I am spending on those items. The final sale price of my work is based on the following list and a few math formulas.

And the final calculation you need to make is for your time. Your time is valuable and it must be accounted for when figuring out a final sale price of your prints. The formula for your time is to take your wage (What you would like to make per year) divided by 50 weeks (assuming two weeks off for vacation) divided by 40 hours per week divided by 60 minutes which will equal your per minute wage. Once you know how much time has been invested into an image (for me I factor about 1/2 an hour to an hour per image excluding drive time and shooting time. I really am only accounting for my processing and prep time to ship the image to the customer.) To me it’s a trade off…I concede some of my time and do not include all of it in the final price so that I can offer a competitive price for my work and get it out there. Again this is a subjective formula as everyone is different but it’s a very good starting point to accurately calculate your sale price.

What costs go into every print product I sell?

Of course everyone’s list will vary from mine to some degree but generally this is everything that goes into the cost of my prints:

  • The paper or metal print itself
  • Archival quality mats, backing boards, plastic sleeves and hinging tape
  • Protective box for shipping
  • Shipping both to me and to the customer
  • A printed certificate of authenticity
  • My time editing and prepping the print
  • Salt Printing Chemicals and supplies including specialized paper for the prints and transparency sheets for the digital negatives

On top of this are the hidden costs that come out of any profit that I make. Here I am not even including driving time, wear and tear on my car and gas but along with this are the costs that must be factored into profit for “keeping the lights on” which are:

  • Yearly domain name registration
  • yearly payment for this sites theme
  • Monthly payment for website hosting
  • Monthly payment for Adobe  Creative Cloud subscription
  • Computer maintenance/ upgrades – custom-built windows based computer for image work costs roughly $1500 to $2000 and will last ten years. Current computer build is ten years old and due for replacement.
  • Camera gear maintenance/ Upgrades
  • Stock on hand for print sales including all packaging material

Pricing is subjective but should be consistent

Here I am only offering a guide as to how to get started with your pricing. In building this site I wanted to present to buyers how I structure my prices and what is actually going into the piece of artwork that they are buying. Customers are putting a lot of faith in me as to the high quality of the work and materials and I want them to be assured that they are getting the most value for their money. To be fair, Pricing is different for every photographer or artist but in my mind it must be consistent from customer to customer. Picking a price off the top of your head just is not going to account for all of the variables that you may encounter in producing your work. Remember…. Be fair, Be consistent, Offer high quality and value through a superior product and service. Above all make a personal connection with your customers!