Photography pricing - How much to charge for your photography
As someone who’s done it for over 20 years, trust me when I say running a successful photography business requires more than just talent. It requires hard work, dedication and business savvy.
Knowing how much to charge for photography is just one of the hurdles you’ll have to overcome if you want to make it, but it can be challenging (especially for photographers just starting out) so I’ve outlined some important points to help guide you.
Pricing your photography is covered in much more depth in our Business section, where you’ll find in-depth classes on how to run a successful photography business, along with advice on how to market your business, grow your studio and develop important skills to maximise your success.
How to make money as a photographer
“How much should I charge for my photos?” is a common question I get asked and it’s not without good reason.
Pricing your work can be challenging. It requires finding a balance — you don’t want to under-price your work (you might end up making a loss or being perceived as low quality), but you also don’t want to over-charge as this could easily lead to clients going elsewhere.
Professional photographers can be grouped into two categories: commercial and social photographers. Depending on which one of these categories you fall into, the way you structure your pricing may vary. A commercial product photographer, for example, may get fewer jobs per year and therefore charge more than, say, a social portrait photographer. Commercial photographers may also require more equipment than social photographers, but they may travel less.
What is commercial photography?
Commercial photographers, such as myself, take photos purely for commercial purposes; we deal with business to business relationships and don’t generally do work for individuals. Commercial photography covers everything from fashion photography to product photography and is used for advertising purposes, editorials, yearly reports etc.
Commercial photographers generally charge day (or half day) rates or per project.
What is social photography?
Unlike commercial photographers, social photographers deal with business to consumer relationships. This means they work directly with individuals and the general public. Social photography includes things like weddings, events, portraits, family or couples photography.
Some social photographers charge per hour, but day rates or project rates are also common. Up-selling is a big part of social photographer’s work. They rely on additional income from selling extra prints, frames, albums etc.
Due to the nature of photography, each photographer will have their own needs (equipment, studio space, travel expenses etc) and the costs associated with those needs will vary. This is part of the reason why so many people find it difficult to price their work — there’s no easy, straightforward answer. It requires a tailored approach for each photographer.
Photography pricing guide
Regardless of whether you’re a commercial or social photographer, your aim, as a business owner, should be the same — to make a profit.
This may sound obvious, but this is where many photographers fall short. Too often they think the only thing they need is skill, but in reality good business sense is equally (if not more) important.
Put simply, to work out your pricing you need to consider how much you’d like to make per year and then factor in how much work you’re willing/able to do in that year. The basic formula below provides a further guideline for calculating your pricing.
Business costs (including outside services) + Your earnings + Profit + Taxes
= Total revenue needed
Business costs are the costs of running your business. This includes:
- Studio rent
- Annual rates
- Advertising/marketing expenditure
To calculate your business costs, try creating a detailed spreadsheet with any and all costs associated with running your business. This will provide an accurate account of all the costs.
Outside services are services that you don’t provide yourself and can be considered part of your business costs. For example, retouching, CGI, models, stylists, printing etc. Keeping track of all of this can be done using a job sheet, which is included in our Business section.
Click below to download an example of a photography studio job sheet.
This is what you would like to earn for your work and is very important. This is what will make the six-day weeks, 12-hour days and day-to-day stresses worth it.
Nobody goes into business just to break even. Think about how much you’d like to make and try add this into the equation.
Remember: turnover is vanity, profit is sanity.
Unfortunately, these need to be accounted for too.
Let’s consider this example (please note the figures supplied are for example purposes only):
Business costs: £58,500
Your earnings: £60,000
Total revenue needed: £150,500
To calculate your project pricing, divide the total by the number of working weeks in a year. If we assume you take three weeks holiday, that would take you to 49 weeks in a year.
£150,500 / 49 = £3,071
This is what you need to make in sales per week to cover your costs.
From this point, you would need to consider how many jobs you can get per week. A portrait photographer, for example, may have to undertake three or four shoots to cover this, while a commercial product photographer may only have to do one or two.
There are a few things worth noting here. The first is the importance of your personal earnings. It’s important to include these as this is what makes all your hard work, time and sacrifice worth it. This serves as a sort of motivation, in addition to your profit.
Another thing to mention is debt repayments. You’ll see in the example above that it’s at zero, however, if you’re just starting your business it’s likely that you’ll have taken some sort of loan to get you started (as I did when I started my business 20 plus years ago).
Photography pricing calculator
For a detailed breakdown of photography pricing, including examples of what I charge, what other advertising, wedding and portrait photographers charge, visit our business section and go to the Usage Fee Calculator.
The formula above, along with the example, should give you a good idea of how to start calculating your pricing. If you’re still not sure, it’s also worth considering what your competitors are charging as this should give you an idea of whether you’re over or under-charging (but keep in mind their costs may be different to yours).
Your level of experience is also something to think about. If you’re an experienced photographer, you may be able to charge higher prices than someone just starting out. Chances are you’ll have more equipment, maybe a studio of your own, an assistant, not to mention greater knowledge, all of which clients will (generally) be willing to pay for.
Once you’ve determined how much you should be charging, you need to think about how you’ll present that to the client.
The most common method among professional photographers is to charge a day rate, but there are a few other options.
Day rate: Day rates, or half-day rates, are the preferred method of charging for many professional photographers, including myself. A day rate covers the cost of your time for that day’s (or half day’s) work; however, it does not account for additional costs such as assistant fees, additional images, post production time, usage fees or other services.
Per job: Suitable for larger projects, quoting per job takes into consideration how many hours or days it will take to complete the job and includes any additional costs that may be incurred. This allows you to put forward one fixed price for the overall task.
Hourly: This method of pricing is more common among student or amateur photographers, though some portrait and event photographers may also charge per hour. Charging for your time per hour, photographers generally add the additional costs separately afterwards.
Per image: This is commonly used when shooting things like pack shots and charges per picture. For example, a product photographer may charge £5 an image for 100 images or £2 for 500.
Usage fees: Usage fees, also known as licensing fees, are what a client pays to use your image and they’re based on the amount of use or exposure an image is going to get and how long the images are going to be used for. Usage fees are usually only applicable for bigger jobs as adding them to work done for smaller clients will only create confusion and it isn’t usually worth the hassle.
See also: Invoice example (Download)
What do professional photographers charge
As I mentioned earlier, when working out your pricing it’s worth taking the time to find out what other photographers are charging. However, you need to be realistic with this. Keep in mind their location, specialisation and level of experience as these will all have an impact on their pricing.
Below I’ve outlined some general rates for professional photographers:
Product photographer (commercial - day rate): Top product photographers can charge up to £3000 a day. Prices for high-end product photographers, such as Jonathan Knowles or Peter Lippmann, are usually even higher than this and will have additional usage fees applied.
Wedding photographer (social - package prices): High-quality wedding photographers can cost up to £2000 per day with award winning wedding photographers charging up to £5000.
Portrait photographer (social - hourly rates): Portrait photographers can charge up to £2000 and the top portrait photographers, such as celebrity photographers, can command even higher rates — anywhere up to £8000 a day.
You can find more details about this, including starting prices and rates for beginners versus experienced photographers, in our Business classes.
Take the time to go through the costs of running your business and think (objectively) about your level of experience and what you have to offer the client. Don’t allow yourself to make the common mistake of undervaluing your work or your time and make sure to consider all the costs associated with the job.
It’s also worth reconsidering your pricing from time to time, and not just to account for inflation. As the years go on, your skills as a photographer should (hopefully) improve. As your technique improves and your knowledge grows, so you’ll be able to offer more to your clients. As photographers, we never know everything and it’s important that we keep learning and improving. Taking the time to invest in yourself as a photographer will pay off in the future and you’ll find your confidence and skills growing.
Remember, if you’re looking for ways to practice and improve, our classes offer a wide selection of topics suitable for any skill level. They offer an opportunity to follow along and understand the techniques, which you can then put into practice.
Developing your skills is also important if you want to make a success of your business. To help with this, visit our Lighting Theory & Equipment section. Here you'll find all the essential knowledge you need to take your photography to new heights.