I belong to a variety of Facebook photographer communities and one of the questions that I see coming up repeatedly is “How much should you charge for an album?”. I honestly can’t help but cringe when I see people reply and say “3x markup” or “4x markup” with no rationale as to why. Today, I’m going to use my blog as a platform to discuss how much to charge for wedding albums.
Based on your photography packages, you should already be aware of what your hourly rate is. If you don’t know what your hourly rate is, then I highly suggest meeting with a business advisor (or at least a mentor) and getting that worked out. Operating a business without having any clue as to what your hourly worth is is a terribly dangerous mistake to make but I won’t chatter on about that right now.
The price of your album depends on 3 things… the cost of your materials, the cost of your design time and the cost of your admin time.
Let’s talk about materials first. Not every wedding album is created equally. Just because a website is “for professionals” only doesn’t mean they make a top quality product. I, personally, really enjoy the quality of Red Tree Albums and Queensberry – my two faves. When you decide what album company you choose, you should be looking for an album whose quality reflects your own personal standards. Are they hand-bound or machine bound? Will the company stand up for it’s product and offer a lifetime warranty (a sign of a truly amazing vendor) or is there no warranty to speak of? Is it true, photographic printing or is it press printed? Only you can decide which album company is best for you but remember, the better the quality of the album, the higher the price point will be. It’s not uncommon for a large album, without too many bells and whistles, to cost $400-$600. Don’t forget, your tax and shipping need to be included as part of your cost, too, as they are part of your total material cost.
Now that we’ve talked about the actual materials of the album, let’s move on to design time. There are a few days to design an album:
- Using InDesign
- Using Photoshop – building your templates from scratch
- Using Photoshop – with templates you’ve downloaded that you can drag and drop photos into
- With software provided by your album company (some companies, like Asukabook, have their own design software)
- With software you purchase to aid in design, like Fundy Designer
- Paying a design company, like RedBoot Designs, to make your album for you
- Paying an intern or other person to design it for you
Some of these design options are substantially speedier than others and some of these design options are also a lot less flexible than others. I personally don’t like the idea of outsourcing my album designs to other companies nor do I like having pre-set templates. I like having the flexibility to design the album how I want without being limited to pre-existing designs. If you’ve designed albums before, you should be able to recall how long it took you to design it. If you’re unsure or if you’ve never designed an album, bite the bullet and make yourself a sample album design and time how long it takes for you to do it. This will give you the approximate time it takes to design an album.
If you’re choosing a design service like RedBoot designs, you won’t really have any design time to charge for since you’re not actually designing the product – you’ll have admin time. If you are paying someone else to do your design for you, the cost of that service should count as “materials cost” for you, as mentioned above.
Now we move on to admin time. This is the amount of time you’re either uploading images to design sites, emailing back and forth about which images are to go in the album, showing proofs, etc. Any work you do regarding the sale of the album is counted as admin time… even your trip to the post office to pick up the package! Again, there is no solid number as to what your admin time should be – it’s something that you’ll have to experience yourself. I have my admin time down to 3 hours and that includes all correspondences, proofing questions, uploads, downloads and delivery. It may be slightly longer for you if you’re just starting out but it’s important to keep a record of how much time you’re taking so that you can adjust your prices accordingly in the future.
So how much should you charge for your album? Here is it:
Total value of your material cost + (Total hours of design time x your hourly rate) + (Total hours of admin time x your hourly rate) = What you you charge the client
If you follow this formula and your prices end up really high: If you’re shocked by the grand total, it may be for several reasons. You may be spending too long on your designs, in which case, it may be worth examining other more efficient ways of designing an album or improving on your existing skills. You may be spending too much time with admin work – are the clients consistently requesting multiple changes that have you going back to the drawing board repeatedly? Are you spending too much time hounding your clients for lists of images to put in the album? Is the post-office really far away from you? Would changing to a slightly more expensive shipping option save you in the long run by saving you time?
If you follow this formula and your prices end up lower than you expected: If you’re using a “professional” lab that has cheaper prices as well as using a design service to create your albums, you’re more than likely going to end up with a lower priced product since your materials aren’t comparable to higher quality companies and you’re basically just charging for your admin time.
To recap, the best way to find out how much to charge for wedding albums is not by randomly multiplying by a number but by looking at the cost of your materials, your design time and your admin time. I have slightly over-simplified it for the sake of my readers sanity (nobody wants to read a 5,000 word blog post) but I certainly hope that this article has provided you a sufficient background for understanding the cost of albums and that you can go forth with more confidence.
Best of luck with your albums – I wish you all many successes!