login info join!
Forums > Digital Art and Retouching > How To Start Raising My Rates Search   Reply
Retoucher
Paul Snyder
Posts: 89
Columbus, Ohio, US


So I feel like my talent/work level is at a point where I should be able to start charging more for what I do, yet I feel like it's nearly impossible to do so.

Sometimes it's hard to get a photographer to pay over $25-30 per image, and when I try to quote any higher than that, they'll sometimes just disappear and never even tell me they went to another retoucher (who doesn't do as good as work as I do). 

Maybe my work isn't completely up to par to start charging more, but I feel like it is.  I spend a lot of hours making sure my work is amazing, and I want that to be reflected in my output, my clients, and my payment as well.  Granted, I know that the "big bucks" and bigger clients don't come before paying your dues and working your way up, but I feel like I'm not getting anywhere to be frank.

I understand the market is a bit flooded with ""retouchers"" who are charging next to nothing and many photographers feel like this is how what we all should charge.  I don't know how to give clients higher rates without scaring them off. 

Does anyone have any advice on this?
Oct 24 12 01:11 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
dave phoenix
Posts: 1,299
Phoenix, Arizona, US


Sounds to me like the problem is you're marketing yourself to the wrong people. You're trying to sell a filet mignon to someone who just wants a cheap burger.

If someone doesn't want to spend more than $25 on retouching, you're going to have a hard time convincing them to spend twice that. But, there are clients out there who are willing to spend much, much more, it's just a matter of finding them, or advertising yourself in places they're looking.
Oct 24 12 02:00 am  Link  Quote 
Retoucher
Alexey Adamitsky
Posts: 226
Minsk, Minsk, Belarus


dave phoenix wrote:
Sounds to me like the problem is you're marketing yourself to the wrong people. You're trying to sell a filet mignon to someone who just wants a cheap burger.

This.

Paul Snyder wrote:
I understand the market is a bit flooded with ""retouchers"" who are charging next to nothing and many photographers feel like this is how what we all should charge.

The sad thing is that you're currently contributing to that effect. I guess it's not intentional, but you do. You providing higher quality service for lower price. I also doubt you can live off your current rates.

If you're satisfied with your retouching skill and believe that you can offer great service it's good time to start investing in learning marketing.

Oct 24 12 04:28 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
James Trapp Photoraphy
Posts: 3
Sacramento, California, US


My first thought is who is your audience? Who would be using you? Second, have you justified a price increase? some competition you scored high in. As a seasoned photographer many of us don't use someone to retouch simple due to developing our own style. If I was to hire someone to do retouching, it would be a job by job basis. A High volume job-so to speak.

You may be in a market where little demand is any more. we have all figured out all the secrets of Photoshop. Plus with other programs out there they are simple to use.

You will need a bit more than just becoming very good.....you need to become inventive.
Oct 24 12 07:33 am  Link  Quote 
Retoucher
Peano
Posts: 4,106
Lynchburg, Virginia, US


James Trapp Photoraphy wrote:
we have all figured out all the secrets of Photoshop.

Hmmmm ....

Oct 24 12 09:06 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
jonaswahlin
Posts: 1,158
Stockholm, Stockholm, Sweden


Find your market!
Oct 24 12 09:36 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
ontherocks
Posts: 22,452
Salem, Oregon, US


i think the most i've paid on here for a retouch is $14. usually it's more like $5. obviously they can't spend hours on the image for that but usually it's good enough for what i need.

the consumer has choices in the marketplace. you have to find a way to be their preferred solution. and at the higher price levels maybe someone other than the photographer needs to be footing the bill. i think some retouchers get into volume relationships with select photographers and really are part of their secret sauce.
Oct 24 12 09:56 am  Link  Quote 
Retoucher
Ken Fournelle
Posts: 99
Saint Paul, Minnesota, US


Like Sipsy says, "secrets in the sauce".
Oct 24 12 10:20 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Mark Salo
Posts: 8,297
Olney, Maryland, US


I have purchased retouching services from two individuals here on MM who were definitely above the $5/14 level.

I wouldn't contact you because your profile states twice that you only want to work with serious photographers.
Oct 24 12 10:27 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Brett Hunt
Posts: 1,829
Washington Court House, Ohio, US


welcome to the free market. you are worth what you can get no more no less.
Oct 24 12 10:34 am  Link  Quote 
Retoucher
Paul Snyder
Posts: 89
Columbus, Ohio, US


Asiris Creative wrote:
If you're satisfied with your retouching skill and believe that you can offer great service it's good time to start investing in learning marketing.

I mean I am satisfied with my skills, but I also don't think that I am intentionally marketing myself to these kind of clients.  I feel like the quality in my portfolio is a bit higher than most, but for some reason I guess I'm attracting lower level clients.

I had to take a few marketing classes at my university already actually, but maybe my problem isn't that I'm marketing myself to the wrong clients but that I'm not doing enough marketing in general. 

I don't know. I guess this is why I was just making a thread to just get a bit of advice from people who've already made more of a name for themselves.

Oct 24 12 02:30 pm  Link  Quote 
Retoucher
Tim Whitney
Posts: 38
Brooklyn, New York, US


Well if you're trying to go from, let's say, $15 image to $35 an image you're really not moving to a new level. You're just more expensive at the same level. Think big. Think $200 per image or $500. I know of at least one retoucher here in NYC getting $1600/image. He's an outlier, and does lots of celebrity work, but still...

http://data.whicdn.com/images/3208948/inception___dream_bigger_by_ol_bear_large.jpg

You gotta know your market, though. If you want high end work your clients won't be local photographers doing beauty shoots or portraits for the general public. You shouldn't expect to get those rates off of this site, either. Instead you'd look at ad agencies, PR departments at corporations or Photographers billing you through to the same.

To add to that, look at your portfolio. I see lots of faces but very little clothing. Most of the work I do is product work, even if there's a beautiful woman or man in the shot. Get some full length images featuring clothing, handbags or even sunglasses. Get an image or two to show your ability to composite, too. You'll be asked to do a lot of it and it's generally worth more money.

You're doing pretty good work and you deserved to be payed well for it but you have to ask the right people and be able to show them what they want to see. And you might need to move to the right market. I get a lot of my work through the people I know and the people I get to know though my clients. I live in NYC so that's fairly easy to do.

It may take a lot of cold calling but once you get one good client, they can introduce you to other good clients. Don't be afraid to move to a large market and find a house to work at, either.

You may have to start off doing high volume catalog work (50-75+ images a day) but the pay is usually decent, if not generous. The experience that will give you, though, is tremendous.
Oct 24 12 03:49 pm  Link  Quote 
Retoucher
Paul Snyder
Posts: 89
Columbus, Ohio, US


Tim Whitney wrote:
Well if you're trying to go from, let's say, $15 image to $35 an image you're really not moving to a new level. You're just more expensive at the same level. Think big. Think $200 per image or $500. I know of at least one retoucher here in NYC getting $1600/image. He's an outlier, and does lots of celebrity work, but still...

You gotta know your market, though. If you want high end work your clients won't be local photographers doing beauty shoots or portraits for the general public. You shouldn't expect to get those rates off of this site, either. Instead you'd look at ad agencies, PR departments at corporations or Photographers billing you through to the same.

This is all definitely the objective haha.  I realize everyone does have to start somewhere, but I'm not sure how to find my way up to those agencies/PR departments etc. It all seems nearly impossible sometimes

Tim Whitney wrote:
Get some full length images featuring clothing, handbags or even sunglasses. Get an image or two to show your ability to composite, too. You'll be asked to do a lot of it and it's generally worth more money.

It's interesting you say this because I have recently noticed this myself and have been trying to talk to photographers who do more fashion than beauty.  So working on this! 

Tim Whitney wrote:
You're doing pretty good work and you deserved to be payed well for it but you have to ask the right people and be able to show them what they want to see. And you might need to move to the right market. I get a lot of my work through the people I know and the people I get to know though my clients. I live in NYC so that's fairly easy to do.

It may take a lot of cold calling but once you get one good client, they can introduce you to other good clients. Don't be afraid to move to a large market and find a house to work at, either.

I attempted to do this a few months ago, but nothing much came of it even after applying a bunch of places in NY and LA.  I just recently graduated college in May so the plan was to move to a bigger market but it's proved more difficult than I anticipated haha  I decided to hold up on that and build up my portfolio a bit more before trying again, which I think I am going to do fairly soon.  Fingers crossed and trying to stay positive. 

Really though thanks for all the advice!  I really do appreciate it.  Just trying to figure all this out and it helps to have the knowledge of someone who's already traveled the path a bit.

Oct 24 12 04:32 pm  Link  Quote 
Retoucher
Natalia_Taffarel
Posts: 7,665
Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina


I only test for a maximum of two images at a time.

Shame... Imagine I'm a photographer and I have an editorial for elle, I've worked with Elle before did some covers for them but this is not a cover it's an inside piece of 7 images. I saw your work and I liked it - Wanted to test you with an editorial (great way to test a retoucher, because I get to see if they have a good attitude, are good at communication, they can respect deadlines and understand references. I also get to see if they are able to work on stories and not just single images). But I guess I'll pass on you because you don't understand any of this smile

Paul Snyder wrote:
Fingers crossed and trying to stay positive.

That's a good thing.

Oct 24 12 04:51 pm  Link  Quote 
Retoucher
Tim Whitney
Posts: 38
Brooklyn, New York, US


I wish you the best of luck Paul. It's hard and took me almost 2 years while working a day job. It was a combination of meeting the right person at the right time and being prepared to sell myself when the opportunity came. Talk it up to friends and acquaintances you never know who they know. I got my first "Real" retouching job from a FoaF who happened to be a creative coordinator in need of a retoucher.

Also, don't ever turn down a job because you think you can't handle it. I took on a lot of jobs at first that I thought, "How the hell am I going to do this?" Then I just proceeded to do it. Fear is good. You learn a lot of things that way that are very hard to share in things like tutorials and forum posts.

Here's a good quote from Paul Arden:
"Talent helps, but it won’t take you as far as ambition. Everybody wants to be good, but not many are prepared to make the sacrifices it takes to be great."
Oct 24 12 04:54 pm  Link  Quote 
Retoucher
Natalia_Taffarel
Posts: 7,665
Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina


Tim Whitney wrote:
I wish you the best of luck Paul. It's hard and took me almost 2 years while working a day job. It was a combination of meeting the right person at the right time and being prepared to sell myself when the opportunity came. Talk it up to friends and acquaintances you never know who they know. I got my first "Real" retouching job from a FoaF who happened to be a creative coordinator in need of a retoucher.

Also, don't ever turn down a job because you think you can't handle it. I took on a lot of jobs at first that I thought, "How the hell am I going to do this?" Then I just proceeded to do it. Fear is good. You learn a lot of things that way that are very hard to share in things like tutorials and forum posts.

Here's a good quote from Paul Arden:
"Talent helps, but it won’t take you as far as ambition. Everybody wants to be good, but not many are prepared to make the sacrifices it takes to be great."

+1

I got a Coca Cola Campaign because I talked to the producer without knowing and he was concerned about weather so I explain it could be done in post if the weather didn't change, explained how and what they needed. I didn't know who he was or who was behind the project. He called me the next week: It's still raining, lets do it your way.

Oct 24 12 04:58 pm  Link  Quote 
Retoucher
Paul Snyder
Posts: 89
Columbus, Ohio, US


Natalia_Taffarel wrote:
Shame... Imagine I'm a photographer and I have an editorial for elle, I've worked with Elle before did some covers for them but this is not a cover it's an inside piece of 7 images. I saw your work and I liked it - Wanted to test you with an editorial (great way to test a retoucher, because I get to see if they have a good attitude, are good at communication, they can respect deadlines and understand references. I also get to see if they are able to work on stories and not just single images). But I guess I'll pass on you because you don't understand any of this smile

Well I only added this part recently after a few photographers tried sending me 7-8 images and tried to get me to do them all for free (even after I explained that I wasn't going to do that many images for nothing).  sad

I'm assuming I need to get rid of that now wink haha

Oct 24 12 05:51 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Looknsee Photography
Posts: 21,411
Portland, Oregon, US


Paul Snyder wrote:
When I try to quote any higher than that, they'll sometimes just disappear and never even tell me they went to another retoucher (who doesn't do as good as work as I do).

Seems to me you know the answer:

1)  Photographers use several criteria when they choose retouching, and one of the top criteria they use is price.  Maybe the cheaper guys aren't as good as you (I wouldn't know), but clearly they are good enough.

2)  Photography, modeling, photoediting -- these are all competitive businesses, and the local guys who a) can do a decent job, and b) are the cheapest will pretty much always get the job.

3)  Focus your business on the photographers willing to pay your rates.  It doesn't matter if you lose the jobs from the guys who can't afford you.


But in general, you can't just raise your rates & expect no consequences.  If you want to charge more, improve your clientele first.

Oct 24 12 06:10 pm  Link  Quote 
Retoucher
Paul Snyder
Posts: 89
Columbus, Ohio, US


Looknsee Photography wrote:
But in general, you can't just raise your rates & expect no consequences.  If you want to charge more, improve your clientele first.

Haha very very good point.  It's just easier said than done hmm

Oct 24 12 06:33 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Andrew Thomas Evans
Posts: 24,078
Toulon, Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur, France


Paul Snyder wrote:
Does anyone have any advice on this?

So right now you've found something that I guess works, and has got you busy, at a lower price point. This isn't bad, and can be the normal progression for a business. From here, IMO, you're going to have a few options.

Keep the same rates or little higher rates for existing clients, and raise them a little for others. This will allow you to keep some cash flow while you're looking for new clients, and keep some old clients if they have been loyal to you.

Raise rates across the board, drop current clients, and focus on new work. Clean slate, start fresh, but then there would usually be a pause between current and old clients.

Create different products at different price points. Full detailed retouch would be (out of the air) $50, more minor general work starting at $20.


If it were me I'd keep a few good clients, then go after some more business in markets I haven't touched yet - maybe in different areas if you're work is mostly local, or local if you're work is mostly the net. Dunno, something to figure out, it's a fun ride.


Andrew Thomas Evans
www.andrewthomasevans.com

Oct 24 12 06:47 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Andrew Thomas Evans
Posts: 24,078
Toulon, Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur, France


Looknsee Photography wrote:
But in general, you can't just raise your rates & expect no consequences.  If you want to charge more, improve your clientele first.

I disagree.

Raise rates first then go after new clients, or give a first month discount on new clients. I wouldn't go into it with cheaper prices, then start raising them after you've found "better" clients.

Can't put the cart before the horse.



Andrew Thomas Evans
www.andrewthomasevans.com

Oct 24 12 06:49 pm  Link  Quote 
Retoucher
Paul Snyder
Posts: 89
Columbus, Ohio, US


Andrew Thomas Evans wrote:
Keep the same rates or little higher rates for existing clients, and raise them a little for others. This will allow you to keep some cash flow while you're looking for new clients, and keep some old clients if they have been loyal to you.

I think this is more or less what I'm going to do.  I do like a few of the clients I have, and raising rates up in a major way will run them off (and I don't want to lose them until I have a few more higher level clients).

Oct 25 12 08:08 pm  Link  Quote 
Retoucher
CLICK retouch
Posts: 195
Denver, Colorado, US


To you Paul, I'd advise to get out there, if you're good, and maybe even work in house? Just to get the feel of what work is ahead in the "premium" segment?

I've tried to work for 15$ an image, and all I've got are people who don't shoot very well, and I've just had it.

2 or more stops of incorrect exposure, flat images... up to the point of the image not even being lit in nearly the same way as the example they're showing me.

So I gave up, and decided to go pursue my own photography, however, I once again have a problem, of not being paid well.

I mean, I can't just go and retouch an image when it's a set of 10, and all I'm being paid is less then 10$ an image to shoot and retouch.

What on earth do I do?
Oct 26 12 08:43 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Looknsee Photography
Posts: 21,411
Portland, Oregon, US


Looknsee Photography wrote:
But in general, you can't just raise your rates & expect no consequences.  If you want to charge more, improve your clientele first.

Andrew Thomas Evans wrote:
I disagree.

Raise rates first then go after new clients, or give a first month discount on new clients. I wouldn't go into it with cheaper prices, then start raising them after you've found "better" clients.

Can't put the cart before the horse.

Not to quibble (okay, yes, to quibble), I think we are talking about the same thing:

I listed the objective:  "If you want to charge more, improve your clientele first".

You suggested the strategy for achieving that objective:  "Raise rates first then go after new clients...".

Your strategy hopefully accomplishes my objective.  Same thing.


My caveat is that success will be determined by several factors, including the local supply & demand of retouchers.  If there are local retouchers capable of doing an "acceptable" job, the cheaper one will get the job.

Oct 26 12 08:54 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Leonard Gee Photography
Posts: 16,317
Sacramento, California, US


To get the right clients, you need to understand what those clients need and have the talent to give it to them. Good clients don't just throw money around.

You can't be in the big leagues and expect $20 mil in pay when you can't bat worth beans or can't nail free throws. Asking $50 for an item you can get at the Dollar Store won't get buyers. Trying to sell a Bently to someone looking for a beach buggy is a waste of time.

Find the right clients. Have what they want. Without both, you don't get there.
Oct 26 12 09:50 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Lone Pine Photography
Posts: 38
Savannah, Georgia, US


Speaking as a photographer, there are people that won't see any value in what YOU do, but they do know they have to have someone doing what you DO.  If you're having this problem, it means you're being seen as a commodity, and maybe it is a commodity, but there are ways to break out of this rut.

Competitive advantage is based on a few factors:
Price
Service
Product (talent)
Availability
Feel


Figure out your strengths and weaknesses in the above matrices and figure out how to communicate the strengths to potential clients with a value associated.
Nov 13 12 11:56 am  Link  Quote 
  Search   Reply