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How to price your photography is a big topic. You have many choices when developing a pricing plan. The good news is, there is no wrong answer, yet, there are many better answers. Your pricing structure is only poor if you are losing money, or not meeting your goals by accepting a photography Job.
You may believe that you have low over head and photographing for $25 an hour or $300 a day is enough to sustain your business. However, if you do the math, you may be surprised at how much you need to charge to pay your bills and meet your income goals.
If you would like more information about the topic of pricing, check out may annual post. How much should photographers charge in 2016. In my post, I champion per-image-pricing. Still, there are many more ways to price your photography. Heck, there are many ways to approach per-image-pricing too.
The following are 23 different approaches to price your photography.
1- Hourly: Hourly is good for event photography. The reason is the client expects you to stay at the event for an allotted about of time. In other words, the client is paying for your time. You can’t leave early because of your efficiency or you got the money shot. I don’t recommend hourly for other types of photography because, in most cases, it’s better to focus on the value of the photograph and not the amount of time it takes to create an image.
When pricing your events hourly, you must consider your post-production time after the event. How much time do you spend edited, adjusting and touching up your images. Include that time in your hourly rate.
2 – Hourly + Expenses: Some events require travel, props or location expenses. It is helpful to charge for these expense separately. Depending on the client, you may wish to consider invoicing your expenses upfront or before delivery of the images.
3 – Hourly + Editing: If you have a good relationship with your client, you can invoice for editing fees. Unfortunately, many clients only wish to pay for your time on site. Still, your time is valuable at any point in the image making process. If you can educate clients about the time involved, the increased quality and benefits of you spending more time on their images; they may be agreeable to pay your for editing time. Often photographers charge an editing rate of about 50% of their photography rate.
4 – Day Rate: This is a common method of quoting photography. Many clients are familiar and comfortable with this method of pricing. When you quote a day rate, like hourly, you need to consider your time before and after the assignment. Post production time can place a large dent in a photographers income, if it’s not accounted for in the estimate.
Art Buyers like day rates because they know what they are getting into and can use the photographers time to their advantage; which is understandable. Day rates also make it easier to compare apples to apples in a bidding situation. However, day rates in the digital age, don’t make as much sense as they did in the past.
Photographers work faster, yet, the value of the image is the same. If you do offer a day rate, make sure you consider all the time needed to complete the job, the value of the image to the client and how they plan to use the photographs. Also, when offering day rates, make sure to line-item all possible expense in your proposal.
5 – Per Project: A good way to charge for your photography is per project. This method of pricing is helpful when you have to apply multiple skills. For example, a client may regularly request you to create ten photographs, resize the images and create clipping paths around each object. In this case, you can offer a single rate for the entire project.
The nice thing about such an arrangement is it encourages you to become more efficient. If you do it right, less time doesn’t mean the lost of quality, value and service for your client.
6 – Per Image Pricing: This model is my bread and butter. Placing the value on the image is the way to go, in my opinion. Although there are other excellent approaches to pricing, this one is easiest for me.
I ask the client how many images they need. I base my fee on a production time estimate, projected expenses, use of the images (local, regional, national etc.), and divide the number of images the client requests by my total estimate number. For common types of photography, such as studio portraits, I have standard per image rates.
The nice thing about per image is that if I get done early, the client isn’t expecting to pay less for photographs of the same value. If I do an excellent job, the client may purchase more images, which is a bonus for a job well done.
7 – Per Image Pricing (no minimum): If I have little overhead, I offer most clients a no minimum purchase option. This takes the risk out of hiring me. If they don’t like my photography, they pay nothing. I’ve done this for over ten years and I’ve come out head every year.
8 – Per Image Pricing (minimum required): It is a legitimate concern that a client may not buy all or any of the images requested under this pricing system. Some photographers have more expenses than others. If a project as a lot of production costs, I will require a minimum purchase to cover the expenses. This still lowers the risk of hiring the photographer, yet, lessens the risk of the photographer losing money.
9 – Per Image Pricing (plus expenses): If you have a large production, it’s important to make sure you cover your expenses. Models, locations fees, set fees, travel and large production teams cost a lot of money. I find it valuable to line-item these things rather than incorporate them into the per image fee.
10 – First Image + Additional: It is common for me to charge a larger amount for the first image of a list of client requested photographs. It helps to establish the value of my photography and cover some initial expenses. This method also allows me stay competitive in the market place. I find it useful when I’m in a bidding situation, because it does not diminish the value of my photography.
Depending on production expenses, I may charge the higher rate for the first few photos. After a certain point, such as five or ten images, I will lower the rate. The larger the volume; the lower the rate. For example, I might charge $350 for the first photograph (local use) and $275 for each additional image purchased.
Be careful how low you go. I’ve seen photographers charge $600 for the first image and $50 for each additional. Honestly, this doesn’t make much sense to me. As a client I would think, if the photographer can charge me $50 a photograph, how can they justify $600 for the first? I recommend not lowering your rate more than 25% for additional images. If you do high volume work, such as 50 -100+ images per day, then up to 50% less is acceptable.
11- Package Pricing: This is similar to commercial project pricing. Yet, it’s geared more toward retail or family photography. You can offer a discount on a package of products or prints. For example, 2 – 8×10, 3 – 5×7 and 20 wall size photographs for a lower price than if the client bought them individually.
Work to develop packages that most people actually like and offer you the most profit. No matter how many packages you offer, there is always a favorite and logical choice among most of your clients. I recommend having a few focused packages rather than overwhelming your customer with too many choices. If they want something not in your packages, you can offer an à la carte option.
12 – A la carte: Some photographers offer this option as a flexible alternative to package only photographers. It gives clients the option to order exactly what they want. The down side is, like having too many packages, it can overwhelm your customer.
Some photographers offer discount rates after the customer reaches a specific level, such as, 10% off orders over $50.
13 – Setting Fee: Many portrait and senior photographers require a sitting fee. This fee helps to cover expenses, and takes the risk out of waiting for reprint orders.
One setting fee option is to give part or full credit to your client. Allow your customer to use all or part of the fee toward future reprint purchases. For example, if a photographer charges $150 sitting fee, they might offer a $50 dollar credit toward the reprint purchases.
14 – Licensing Images (use): When a photographer clicks the shutter, they are the proud owner of a copyrighted photograph. No other action is required (although recommend). If a client commissions you to create an image, it doesn’t mean they own the rights, unless it’s stated in writing (USA). I recommend photographers to state the image use in every estimate and contract.
A traditional pricing option is to license an image for a specific period of time. If you are a wedding photographer, you might offer unlimited personal use. In other words, the customer can make as many personal copies as they wish from a digital file for personal and family use. However, if they run for congress, they can’t use your portrait in the campaign without permission or payment.
In the case of a commercial photographer. The value of an image depends on how it is used by the client. For example, the value of a photograph created for a local story flyer is different than an international magazine and billboard campaign. A commercial photographer must consider the image distribution, number of views, geography and the value of the image to the company they are serving.
Traditional license fees are based on one year of use in North America (our within your country). Charging a license fee for each photograph is similar to per image pricing.
15- Expenses + License: Some high-end commercial photographers charge the client to cover their expenses, plus the license fee, depending the use of the image and the number of images the client buys.
This is a more exact and fair use of licensing. For example, a client may hire a photographer to create ten images. Most of the images might be used for a local ad, yet, one or two could be published in a national magazine. It doesn’t make sense for all the images to cost the same. So, the photographer charges a rate for the local use images and higher rate for the national use images.
16 – Fee + Expenses + License: It is common for professional photographers to first charge a fee and expenses to create images. Once the photographs are available and selected by the client, the photographer charges the customer a licensing fee. This fee is based on how each image is independently used.
17 – Net 30/Admin fee: You are not a bank, yet, some clients think it’s OK for you to cover expenses for an extended period. It is custom in the United States to wait thirty days for payment. If you wish to be paid early, you need to offer a discount.
A common practice is 2% net 30 or 2/30. This means, if the client pays you within thirty days they can take 2% off their bill and pay you 98% of the invoice. You can create any scenario you wish, such as 5% net 15. This means the client will receive a 5% discount if they pay within two weeks. Many large companies mandate that these invoice be paid first, this is because on the whole they save a lot of money over a year.
An admin fee is a creative way to charge clients who don’t pay within thirty days. It serves as a fee to cover the cost (phone calls, emails etc.) of trying to collect your money. The photographer places an admin fee on the invoice, and notes, if the client pays the invoice within 30 days, they may remove the admin fee.
18 – Art Prints: Many photographers, at all levels, like to sell their artistic, landscape and wildlife photographs online and in galleries. Where do you start? One rule is to charge 3x (or 4x, 5x etc.) the cost of the framed print. If the image cost you $50 to process and frame, then charge $150. A common mid-range rate is around $250 for a good 11 x 14 or 16 x 20 print.
Obviously, these are starting point recommendations. As your work becomes more well-known and in demand, you can raise your rates. One way to help increase the value of your images is to limit the number of prints produced. Sign and number each print. Charge higher prices for the first five or ten.
19 – Stock: Stock images sell for a dollar to fifty-thousand dollars. The fee depends on the photographer, rarity, image use and value to the photography buyer. Currently, I find stock sites charge 25-60% commission on the sale of a digital file. In other words, if you sell a photograph on a stock site for a dollar, your reward is 50 cents.
This means you need to sell your photography in high volume. Generally, high volume means average photography that is not too risky, and a lot of people can use. You can sell unique, rare and high-quality stock at a higher rate on your own website. The volume is much lower and you will depend on good SEO (search engine optimization) or advertising for best results. So, name and tag your images well.
20 – Trade: This is a common option in the fashion industry. A photographer needs high quality models in their portfolio and models need images to show agencies and producers. Trade doesn’t pay the bills, however, with limited use it is a nice reward and benefit for your business. You can save money on products and services with a little time investment.
For a long time, when I had hair, I traded photography for hair cuts at a high-end salon. One client, early in my career, gave me a free movie pass card from their movie theater client and another guest card for a top restaurant group. In exchange for a little time, I had some wonderful date nights at little cost (when I needed it most).
21- Cheap: This is one pricing model rarely recommend. The reason is you can’t make it up in volume. You are an independent professional, with limited time. It’s really hard to make a living as the cheap anything, unless you have a realistic volume plan.
Some photographers do figure out ways to work cheap through efficiency and volume, and still make a profit. However, I suggest that type of work is not why you got in to photography. I’ve noticed that the cool, exciting, high paying jobs are not often assigned to the cheap photographers. This is because there is too much at risk. If things go wrong, hiring the cheap photographer is not the justification needed to save the photography buyers job.
It is tempting to lower your price to get in the door, I understand. Yet, there are many negatives that come with this approach. If you do present yourself as an inexpensive option, I recommend you review my comments on charity work.
22 – Charity/Free: We are all called on by our favorite charities to do pro-bono work. First, before you say yes, make sure it is a cause you believe in (see exposure below). If you agree, then set boundaries. In some cases, a charity or non-profit will offer to cover your expenses or a small stipend.
The key to charity or free work is to not allow it to diminish your value as a photographer. You don’t want to be known as the free photographer. Trust me, people will refer you to other people who need free photography.
The best way to avoid the free trap is to invoice the organization for your full rate and give them a 100% discount. This way they know your value. You may also find that clients treat you with more respect.
23 – Exposure: You’ve heard it before; if you photograph for us for free, you will get great exposure. No you won’t. Don’t believe it. Yes, it does happens, however, it’s rare and you can’t build your business off one-time exposure.
When is exposure good? Like advertising, exposure only works when you are a regular contributor. When people see your name on photographs consistently, you earn name recognition. If you play it right, this can lead to more photography opportunities. If you are part of an organization and people refer to you as the organization photographer, then you have an opportunity to develop good relationships and referrals. Like charity, always invoice for the full amount of your photography, minus a discount.
Pricing Your Photography
Pricing your photography is not easy. I recommend you write a pricing sheet to work off when talking with prospects. The worst thing you can do is quote prices off the top of your head. My friend Blake Discher never offers quotes over the phone. You need time to research and think through the particulars of the production in front of you.
I’ve lost jobs because my rate is too high and I’ve lost opportunities because my rate is too low. Really! There is always a photographer who charges more and plenty of photographers who charge less. Your best strategy is not to compete. As Judy Herrmann likes to remind us, much of your price is based on perceived value. Find a price range and pricing model that works for you. A model you can sell with confidence.
Remember, your photographs have value.