Climb the Ladder To Sell Bigger Prints

March 17th, 2014

There are lots of ways to improve your photography business to be more profitable. You can become better at lighting, posing and composition. You can work harder at marketing, selling and social media. You can design a better website, improve at blogging and increase your search engine optimization. The list is endless.

These are all great things that you can and should be working on, but they’re not easy and they take time. There is one area, however, that you can improve immediately, at zero cost, with just a few keystrokes on your computer – your pricing.

Most photographers don’t realize it, but they are sabotaging their profits with poor pricing structure. In particular, I often hear from photographers who complain that they can only sell lots of small prints (e.g. 5×7, 4×6, etc.). Actually, I consider 11×14 to be “small”, but that’s a story for another day.

When I take a look at their price list, this is no surprise. Most photographers have price lists that are designed to sell small prints. For example, one photographer I worked with charged $50 for 8×10, $25 for 5×7 and $15 for 4×6. Why would the customer spend $50 for an 8×10 when they can spend the same amount and get two 5x7s?

In marketing there’s a term we call “climbing the ladder”. To sell bigger, you’ve got to make your clients climb the ladder. If the ladder is too steep, they won’t climb. This means that the larger print should be just a little bit more expensive than the smaller print, making the smaller print seem like not such a good deal (the corollary being that the larger print seems like a great deal).

Think about the last time you ordered a soda at a fast food restaurant. You’ll often see prices like this: $2.35 for a large, $2.15 for a medium, and $2.05 for a small. Why would you not spend just 20 cents more to get the large? Restaurants figured this out long ago.

So let’s say you charge $50 for an 8×10, try charging something like $40 for a 5×7 and $30 for a 4×6. Why would your clients buy a 4×6 if a 5×7 were just a bit more? And while they’re at it, why not just spend $10 more and get the 8×10? That’s what “climbing the ladder” is all about. You have to flatten the ladder so your clients will climb it.

I take this concept a step further with my own pricing. I make the price differential between my 5×7 and 8×10 really small. How small? Try zero! I simply charge one flat price for any size print 8×10 or smaller. My clients choose the size based on their needs, not based on price. In other words, I never make anything less than my full 8×10 price. Problem solved.

The bottom line:  encourage your clients to climb the ladder and you’ll sell bigger prints!


Laurence Kim is a Boston-based portrait and wedding photographer.  He also blogs about the art and business of photography, and coaches professional and amateur photographers worldwide.