The Business of Boudoir »

Do the math, yo!

It started like this…

I was seriously stumped for article content. ((Lance took my idea and so did Kara and Heather too!  Ok.  Not really but it sounded good!)) All the good topics taken, I reverted into procrastination mode by taking an internet leap onto Facebook hoping to delay the inevitable and guess what? I actually found my article inspiration!?!? *shock*wonder*awe* ((thank you Lynn for the suggestion))

If I had a quarter for each time I saw a photographer ask about pricing structure I could easily afford my shoe habit.  

I get it. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I’ll even admit to having purchased a ‘business in a box’ type marketing template set complete with pricing, product descriptions and even images once upon a time ((please, don’t spread that around, it’s kind of a secret)) 

Disclaimer: There is nothing wrong with buying and using templates. I’m all about being efficient, and if design and layout is not your cup of tea, then by all means, buy them and use them, but don’t build your business around a model built by someone else because ….

It will not work.


End of statement.

Whether you choose to offer all-inclusive collections or a’la carte my advice to you is this:

  • Do the math
  • Know your shit offerings
  • Keep it simple

Breaking it down further and going into a bit of detail here:

Do the math

Know your overhead. How much does it cost you to be in business? What do you factor in? The numbers vary from studio to studio, I can’t tell you a number because there are too many variances but I know that for ME to be in business it runs roughly over $600 per week just to cover my overhead. So when you’re pricing your product, an 8×8 album for example, you simply cannot take the cost and multiply it by 3 and call it good.

In order for me to PAY ONLY MY BUSINESS EXPENSES based on “cost x 3”  mark-up model, I would need to shoot at minimum 8 sessions a month. Ok. Great. What about profit? What about my wage? I support a family of 5 on my income. In order to barely scrape by, maybe pay for food once or twice a month I would need to shoot an additional 12 sessions on top of the 8 that would *only* cover my business expenses.

20 sessions a month to barely scrape by? I’m 43 years old. Dude, I’d keel over figuring out that the “cost x 3” mark-up model doesn’t work because it doesn’t account for my time, my overhead recovery or my profits. It may work in the grocery industry, but it won’t work here.

How do I do it? It’s only slightly complicated’ish but I’ll outline the gist. My COGS, or costs of goods sold, are factored in last. Yep. I said it. They’re the last little bit in my mathematical equation that makes up my pricing. Why?


Emphasis enough? Catch your attention? Good. That part of the equation is quite simple. How much money do I want to make per image?

For my pricing structure, I’ve done the math based on worse-case-scenario thinking. How little profit am I willing to work for on a per session basis? Worst case scenario thinking again: How many sessions do I need to take per month to get by?

Add up your overhead recovery and your worst-case scenario profit to find your worst-case scenario per image price. Your smallest offering should start here.

For example:

My smallest offering is a 12-image press book in 6×6. I’ve sold it once. Ever. At half my average album sale,  I’m not thrilled if I sell it, but I won’t starve either.

Why do I do it this way? At the end of the day, when I’ve sold a 40 image album my gross profits, the amount that I keep after paying my COGS, is the same regardless of size.

Old Notebook PaperPIN


Know your shit offerings

This doesn’t mean memorize your entire price list. This means know enough to confidently say to your client, “To upgrade from “entry level loss leader” to “the album I really want to sell you” with “x” amount of photos is x amount of dollars.”

We shall tie this into “Do The Math” by saying that if you didn’t conjure up your own pricing with your own thought, you’ll always be confused by your own price structure.  To create it is to know it, intimately. Can I rattle off all 38 price options on my albums. Nope… but I do know my starts, my upgrade jumps from size to size and the price difference between my 40-image mid-level album and my 40-image top-of-the-line album.


Keep it simple

Thirty-eight album options may sound confusing but the presentation makes it simple and easy to understand. I sell my albums by the image, upgradable by size and quality/style of album. My pricing is laid out in grid form so it’s very easy to follow and very easy to see that upgrades are just no-brainers. And yes—they can have 50 images in their album, it’s only “x” amount more than 40 images and yes, they really can have the 10×10 instead of the 8×8 because really, it’s only “x” amount more.



In closing, I hope that whichever way you choose to offer your boudoir portraits that you decide to do it with intent and with an eye toward growth and nailing the big sales!

Peace out,


Afterthought number 1:  A little teensy question/nugget of something to consider.  Note my use of the word collection?  I don’t offer ‘packages’. Anytime someone asks “what’s in your package” my inner teenager giggles like Beavis and Butthead and thinks ‘he he he he.  She said package.’ Collection sounds fancy. I like to be associated with fancy, not Beavis and Butthead. Just my own little preference.

Petra Herrmann

The Business of Boudoir co-founder, Petra Herrmann, owns and operates Bella Boudoir located in Kansas City. In addition to running her studio, Petra also teaches through Level Up, a master class aimed at shooting smart and shooting to sell. Petra is the proud inspiration for FloricolorUSA's Boudoir Collection and is known for her naughty, voyeuristic, and romantic style of capture.

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  • August 19, 2014 - 12:24 PM

    Danea - Great advice… off to change my packages to “collections”. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • August 20, 2014 - 12:26 PM

    Leslie - I love that you point out that your smallest album is far from ideal, but still a profit that is acceptable. Once I figured that out, I knew that unless I completely ruined a session (hasn’t happened), then I would make enough to make me happy. That takes the pressure off of the session and needing to “sell.”ReplyCancel

    • August 20, 2014 - 6:32 PM

      Petra Herrmann - “That takes the pressure off of the session and needing to “sell” — Leslie, you’ve hit the nail on the head. As a consumer, I can smell a hard sell coming from down the road and the minute I catch that familiar scent, I run. Fast. Assuming that we’ve done our jobs well in capture, there’s no need to ‘sell’ it. Presented well, presented simply and the stuff kinda sells itself. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • August 20, 2014 - 5:53 PM

    Jennifer tallerico - I always loved my pricing structure that followed these same lines, but it was always in my head! Now I see such a fabulous way to lay it out so my clients can be there with me:)ReplyCancel

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