How to Charge Appropriately for Birth Photography
By Laura Paulescu of Crowned Photography in Graham, WA.
So you’ve fallen in love with shooting births, but what in the world should you be charging for this?? Well, we’re glad you asked.
If you know anything about birth, you realize it is unpredictable. There is no formula for when a woman will go into labor, if it will happen during the day or at night, how long labor will last, what the outcome will be, etc. It is generally a physically, emotionally & mentally exhausting experience for everyone involved.
If you have children, you’ll need to have reliable, on-call care set up for them. You’ll need to stay in the general vicinity of your client’s planned birth location for 3-4 weeks around their estimated due date, (for an uncomplicated, single pregnancy,) while making sure you have a reliable way for them to contact you 24/7 during that time. You cannot go 30 minutes without checking your phone whenever you’re on call, and you must have your gear serviced and packed ready to go at a moment’s notice. You need to have high quality camera gear & the knowledge & experience to shoot in cramped, dimly lit, fast-paced situations, many times at weird & possibly unflattering angles. You’re expected to produce gorgeous images despite any and all circumstances. Oh. And there are NO do-overs.
If you were shooting a wedding with that sort of criteria, how much would you expect it to cost?
In most markets, birth photography & videography are still very under-valued for the amount of work that goes into them. And if your potential clients are not familiar with that or even the concept of hiring a birth photog, this is where educating them in a professional manner comes into play. It is important to set your pricing from the very beginning, and offer discounts to your first few clients for you to gain experience. If at all possible, do not shoot your first birth(s) absolutely free. If anything, you will be putting in 10 times MORE work for these earlier clients than once you are established. DO NOT SELL YOURSELF SHORT, OR DEVALUE THE INDUSTRY. Always state your goal pricing upfront, and if you are still portfolio building, discuss their discount options AFTER that. The sticker shock over birth photography soon dissipates as your potential clients see the quality of your work, your professionalism, and hear from your past or current clients what you're charging. The last thing you want is your past clients referring friends & family who are expecting to pay the same low, unsustainable pricing.
**Do your research, find out what other local, successful birth photographers are charging for similar services/packages, and determine your cost of doing business (CODB) including camera gear, software, advertising, insurance, business license, childcare costs, gas/mileage, products, etc. Then determine what profit you need to make over that.**
Pricing across the U.S. (and around the world) will really vary, but generally it is currently hovering around the cost of very inexpensive, basic wedding coverage, between $1000-$2000. It is our hope that in the very near future the average birth photography package will be priced comparable to the average wedding photography package, which is $5000+. And the only way to do that is for birth photographers to charge appropriately for the amount of work they put in.
If you’re not charging enough to turn a decent profit, it’s not IF but WHEN you burn out, you’ll realize you can’t run a successful business long term solely on passion. This industry is a fantastic sisterhood (with a few amazing brothers in the mix too!) where the love of all things birth runs deep, but that's not enough to pay the bills! Industry standard pricing encourages mutual respect amongst us, prevents undercutting, and can only drive us all to provide better service to our clients. It also increases the respect for birth photography as a truly valuable profession. Get honest feedback from your clients & peers periodically on your birth work, and charge accordingly.
Then, you can relax & enjoy this beautiful job you've been blessed with, knowing that not only are you providing your clients with priceless images, but you're being compensated appropriately & adding to the value of this amazing industry.