Pricing your Photography with Costs of Goods Sold

Author Recent Posts Nicole BegleyNicole Begley, M.Photog.Cr., CPP, is a zoological animal trainer turned pet photographer and educator. She created Hair of the Dog in 2012 to empower pet photographers to turn their dreams into reality by helping them improve their craft and grow their pet photography business.Nicole has authored a book “Pet and Equine […]

Written By Nicole Begley

On March 28, 2012
What is the most important calculation that you can make when creating a photography business? It’s your COGS, or Costs of Goods Sold. If you aren’t pricing for profitability you will NOT be profitable, it’s as simple as that. It is imperative that you understand your numbers and why your 11×14 costs what it does. Never base your pricing on what your competitors are doing. For starters, you have no idea if they are actually earning any income and you have no idea what their expenses are. You also will not have the confidence to stand behind your pricing when you are in a sales session with clients if you don’t know why your 8×10 is X number of dollars.

Photography is difficult to price because there are so many aspects involved in delivering your final product. We are selling both goods and services! I see many photographers make the mistake of pricing an 8×10 at $20. It stands to reason that since it costs $3 and then it is marked it up almost 7x then it should certainly be making money! However, I have yet to see a business model that can be profitable selling $20 8×10’s, other than the very high volume chain studios. Now there is nothing wrong with being a high volume studio if that is what you are developing your business model to be, however being an on-location studio you cannot charge high volume studio prices and expect to remain in business for long.

The X factor when calculating your pricing is failing to account for your TIME. An 8×10 is much more than the paper it is printed on, it is all of your time that went into making that final print. We make money in our business model on the products that we sell to clients. Those products need to not only pay for our hard costs in creating the product but also your time preparing that item.  This is especially important in calculating your prices for albums and prints, as those items tend to have the most time associated in producing them.  In addition, you must remember that you should be making enough during each session to pay yourself for all of your time spent working on your business, such as marketing and website development. Remember, the only time you are bringing money into your business is through your sessions.  They must be priced appropriately to allow you to stay in business.  Now, how on earth do you determine what profitable pricing is?  Enter the COGS, or Costs of Goods Sold.

To develop your COGS you MUST factor in your time in creating that product:

8×10 Print + mounting$9
Process Time 15 min$15
Total Cost$27
4 x COGS$108
Retail price:$110


While you need to do your own calculations in order to come up with your pricing, generally 8×10’s should be priced at LEAST $50, often much more, in order to have a chance of being profitable.  Many people aren't sure what to price their time at either.  If I were to outsource my editing I would pay $60/hour so that is what I used in this calculation.  Your business costs may be more, as if you have a retail space then you will need to have a higher per hour rate of pay for those extra costs.




Looking for some more pricing training?  Forget what every other pet photographer is charging -- the best thing you can do for your business is set your prices based on YOUR business and YOUR goals. It’s time to stop following the pack and let your rates lead you to a sustainable business!

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • The #1 thing you need to know BEFORE setting your prices
  • My simple formula to set up your pricing structure for success 
  • How to increase your prices without losing customers

Oh, and did I mention this is a free training?  Grab it below.

Nicole Begley

You may also like these resources

Creating photography albums FAST with SmartAlbums

Creating photography albums FAST with SmartAlbums

Let’s dive into the world of seamless album creation with SmartAlbums by Pixellu. We can create stunning albums for our photography clients in mere minutes. Join me for a quick look on how to craft a gorgeous album with this software. You too can master the art of album design in less than 10 minutes!


  1. Doug Cohen

    This is a great post. For the young/new photographer who is serious about making a go at it they need to truly believe that their time and talent is absolutely valuable and not apologize for it! Even if you are still just getting established don’t sell yourself short.

    There are plenty of faux-tographers who are amateurs just looking to make a couple extra bucks, don’t take the time to learn the craft and aren’t even looking to make it a full-time business. They give everything away on a disc for next to nothing and don’t really care. These people hurt the industry.

    But for the sincere and serious this is good stuff. Great blog! 🙂

    • nico1958

      Thanks Doug! I appreciate your comment. I can totally appreciate how people think “I’m selling a CD for $250 so it’s all profit.” However, it’s absolutely not possible to make a living when you factor in the time spent creating that CD, unless you have only 1 or 2 hours of TOTAL time from contact to thank you note in that client. We are self-employed. In addition to the lovely self-employment taxes, we are the only ones responsible for our health insurance, our retirement savings, etc. We need to make sure we are profitable so we can continue to work in this wonderful profession. (And it is a profession…..we are professionals….and we should price ourselves as such.) Thanks for supporting the blog!

  2. Andrea Jordan

    Hi. A really helpful post. I was wondering how you take account of your session fee and other shoot related time e.g. enquiry calls, ordering and delivering prints etc? Do you balance the two off against each other by making sure that the session fee is high enough to pay you a decent hourly rate for those activities? Thanks

  3. cat

    <3 Nicole is a genius! <3

    I love that you have this info available online for tog's to share and learn from. So useful!

  4. Patrick Malone

    Hi Nicole, I am just starting out as a pet photographer and I find your information extremely helpful.
    I have a question about pricing. If I understand correctly, you are suggesting we charge 4x our cost for an item. There is a very excellent photo lab I hope to us. They charge $90 for a 16×20 canvas wrap. Are you recommending that I should charge the client $360?
    Thank you.

    • Nicole

      Yep. 😉 I know the numbers seem scary at first, but it’s honestly the only way to be profitable unless you are going to do a high volume model.



  1. Save time in your Photography Business - Time Management tips - [...] much time on that drain your energy? Outsource them! Add that expense into your Cost of Goods Sold (read…
  2. PTHQ Podcast Episode 17 - Photography Tips HQ - […] […]

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Hair of the Dog Pet Photography Education

Welcome to Hair of the Dog Pet Photography Resources. The #1 educational resource for aspiring and established pet photographers.

Join the Academy


Listen to Our Podcast

Check out founder Nicole Begley’s Book


Join the Hair of the Dog Community

Sign up for the Summit


Pin It on Pinterest