If you're starting out as a professional photographer, you're probably asking yourself these questions- "How much does a photographer make?" or "How do I price my photography services?". We have put together this comprehensive photography pricing guide to help you answer precisely these questions. This guide will assist you in determining a competitive and winning pricing strategy for your photography services.
Like all entrepreneurs, photographers struggle with getting the pricing of their photography services right. With so many photography services one can offer to clients, it is even more complex to arrive at a photography pricing model that is suitable for specialties such as wedding photography prices. It can be a challenge for beginner photographers to figure out how much to charge for photography. If you under-price, you may end up leaving money on the table or, worse still, come off as a low-quality provider. Over-pricing photography might lead to loss of business as clients review many photographers and choose based on photographer prices.
As with any industry, there are standard professional photography prices that have been prevalent. But with the advent of digital photography, new software, and social media, the business of photography is rapidly transforming. Photography services which were earlier a preserve of professional photographers are now readily available at much lower prices from amateur or hobbyist photographers. This phenomenon has driven the price of photography services down, and professional photographers need to re-evaluate how to price their photography services by adding a lot more value.
As a professional photographer, you must offer services that stand out and charge prices that justify your work – based on your knowledge and your talent.
As a professional photographer, you'll want to set your professional photography prices to best represent your brand, your specialty, knowledge, experience, and many other factors. When you are starting out, a cost-plus-profit model can be a good starting point. As you grow and establish yourself, you can start charging premium pricing for photography services to reflect your increased market value and talent.
Factors to Consider When Developing Your Photography Pricing Model:
A lot of different factors influence how much do photographers make. These include the type of work performed, the number of sessions required, or even the number of prints and touch-ups. There are multiple ways to figure out how much to charge for photography based on the output that you are delivering to the client. However, make sure that you factor in your base costs and expenses and make sure that your photography pricing plan is profitable post accounting.
The basic premise of figuring your photography pricing is:
Cost of running your photography business + Cost of goods + Cost of your time and labor + Profit + Taxes
Cost of running your photography business:
Figure out all your input costs. Before answering the question - How much to charge for photography services; make sure you have put together a cost blueprint. From fixed expenses to variable costs – document everything.
The cost of running your photography business will include:
- Equipment costs - cameras, lenses, lighting equipment. Be sure to factor in wear and tear and repair/replacement costs.
- Office/studio costs -You need a place to work and depending on where you are based, and it can add up to be a high cost. If you are working from home, assign a rental value to that space, and make sure that your business earns and pays for that.
- Marketing costs -You need to exhibit your work, network with clients, take part in photography contests, advertise, create a great portfolio website and undertake digital marketing activities - these costs add up and are essential to growing your businesses.
- Fees of professionals - These include accountant, assistants, etc.
- Any other general expenses associated with your photography business
Calculate Your Cost-of-Goods-Sold (COGS)
COGS is the total cost of production of a good or service, which includes its labor and material cost as well. If you are providing your client with an 8×10 print, the COGS isn't merely the cost of the print itself. The cost should also include post-production charges, packaging, and shipping charges.
If you work with photo retouching or photo manipulation services, mention these expenses in your photography pricing sheet too. The same if about batch photo editing or high-end photo retouching. The rates can vary greatly, depending on the time required, the quality of picture retouching, and the type of photo. Many companies offer photo retouching services for photographers. Check out FixThePhoto and OffshoreClippingPath, they both provide a very detailed photography pricing list with all services described, so you can factor in the costs when building your photo editing pricing.
Make sure that you include all hidden costs associated with the final deliverables that you are selling to your clients. For example, even client proofing, storing, and delivering digital files have a charge associated with them.
Cost of Your Time and Labor
Remember what Benjamin Franklin said – 'Time is money!' Many photographers do not factor in the value of the time and labor they would invest in an assignment and hence fail to earn adequately. For example, to determine your wedding photography prices, you would need to factor in the time you would spend in pre-production, traveling and meeting up with the client, setting up equipment, the actual shoot time and the post-production time. Be realistic and factor in delays and overages that are bound to happen.
Adding Your Profit Margin
Once you have figured out the cost of running your photography business, the cost of goods sold, and the cost of your time and labor, you need to decide on your profit margins. Your profit margin will determine your take-home income and may differ from project to project.
While assigning a profit margin is highly subjective, our guide will help you determine how much do photographers make and outline factors that will help you in arriving at the “right figure.”
Review Your Competition
Before finalizing your photography pricing, research photographers working locally in your area, especially in your specialty niche (weddings, portraits, commercial). Make sure you charge competitively as clients do shop around locally and compare pricing before they finalize on a photographer. Avoid lowering your prices too much to win business. Underpricing can set your standards low, while over-pricing may deprive you of genuine prospective clients. An excellent way to go about pricing is to keep a pricing range. This approach gives flexibility to clients and keeps you well within your profit margin as well.
Evaluate your perceived value
Evaluate and know the quality of your product or service. Experience undoubtedly entitles you to good remuneration, but even if you're a beginner, don’t opt for very meager prices. Charging too low from the start can decrease the perceived value of your product and services in the market.
Tip: Never work free of charge. Keep a fair price, and you could run a special portfolio building discount for your clients. You can even offer up to 100% off in exceptional cases that add a lot of value to your portfolio
Work Quality and Professionalism
When setting your photography prices, you should consider the additional benefits that you bring to the table as a well-trained professional, the type of equipment you use, as well as the proper pre and post-production work that you provide. Because of your training, you can provide needed assurance to your clients – especially when you’ve only got one chance to do a perfect job. As a trained photographer, your experience allows you to utilize your one opportunity to capture those once in a lifetime moments. Your skills also allow you to create memories that last a lifetime.
Photographers that use professional equipment such as top-of-the-line industry-based cameras, lighting, software, and other tools of the trade may create higher perceived value. Photographers who also have studios, an impressive portfolio, and a professional portfolio website, also suggest a commitment to their craft. All of these indicators justify charging premium pricing for photography.
A well-made portfolio website that showcases your work professionally is the single biggest contributor to building your market value.
Clients will judge you from the quality of your website. Make sure that you regularly update your portfolio website to project that you are doing well professionally and are a committed professional.
Pricing Factors of Copyrights and Usage
While arriving at a price, it is imperative to factor in what are the rights you are handing over to your clients. As a wedding photographer, you may choose to charge more if your client wants full copyright to their images and does not wish to feature their photographs in your portfolio. You can charge slightly less if the pictures help you build your body of work or if you are giving out a print for single-time use.
The pricing of images also depends on their usage. For example, an image shot for an advertisement to be run in a small local magazine will be less expensive than if the same image is used in an ad in a national daily.
Collect Appropriate Taxes
Make sure you are charging appropriate taxes on top of your pricing to your clients. If you are providing all-inclusive pricing, make sure that your calculations include taxes that you will pay on the total price. You don't want to end up paying taxes from your pocket and wipe away your profits when filing the annual tax return.
Check out this tax guide for photographers. Do take advice from a qualified CPA to understand and calculate your taxes.
Determining the Scope of Work Before Quoting a Price
Photographers need to have contract agreements in place that includes a scope of work section. A contract allows you to identify all aspects of the services that need to be provided and calculate the associated cost and expenses before determining the price. For example, a client may prefer hard copies or a photo book as their finished product, whereas others may be happy with a digital version. Nonetheless, there is some direct cost involved that should be factored into the total price that photographers should pass along to their clients. Otherwise, they will be paying for those items out of their pockets, which will eat into their profits. Having a contract in place allows photographers to factor in all costs and expenses prior to preparing and sending out photography price quotes and before performing the work.
Well-structured pricing practices for photographers are crucial to success for a photography business. We hope that the insights in this guide have helped you figure out your pricing model based on these considerations:
- What's your business model
- What are your reasons for pricing the way you do?
- What's the perceived value that you are projecting?
- What are the add-ons that you are offering to increase revenue?
- What are your competitors charging?
- Are you going to charge based on images or based on your time?
Here are some of the approaches you can take to build your photography pricing model:
Rates Based on Use of Images
Image-based rates work well for photography of products, interiors, food, architecture, or corporate portraits. Premium image-based rates are the perfect pricing model when clients are expecting extremely high caliber work reflected in a few images of their subject. It's also pretty standard to charge a premium image-based rate based on the use of your work. For example, if you take a photograph to be used on a website or in a local newspaper, it's not as compelling as it would be if it were to be taken for a television ad, a billboard, or a national campaign. Premium prices are charged for images that you use in more prominent campaigns.
Check out this photography pricing calculator by the Association of Photographers, which can calculate each image rate.
Also, see this rights-managed image pricing calculator by Getty Images.
Hourly or Flat Rates
You can charge an hourly or flat rate for events photography such as weddings, corporate meets, birthdays, college/school events, etc., where you are investing a lot of time shooting the event. Make sure that you factor in costs associated with traveling and meeting the clients, pre-production, the shoot itself, post-production, and cost of creating the deliverables like prints, frames, etc.
Portrait Photographers often have flat portrait photography session prices as well. These usually consist of various packages that are priced based on volume - the number of images that are included in the package and retouches. Photography session prices may also include alternative themes and backdrops, prints or digital downloads, editing, touchups, and other services.
Rates Based on Level of Experience
Experience is a significant factor in deciding how much does a photographer makes. Photography prices are typically based on the level of knowledge and experience, as indicated below.
Amateurs and Hobbyists - Amateurs and hobbyists commonly charge $25-$75 an hour for images normally used on blogs, small websites, or for local advertising. The fee is generally under $100. However, they may not follow standard photography practices and have other lines of work.
Student Photographers - Students typically have more experience than amateurs and hobbyists in that they've received some form of training. Their typical hourly rate is $50 - $100 per hour. Prices of student photographers can vary based several factors - the school that they are studying in, the stage of their education, whether they have worked with and assisted other professional photographers, and, last but not least, their photography portfolio. Students with brilliant student photography portfolios can command the same rates as professional photographers.
Entry-Level Photographers - The entry-level or semi-professional photographers charge $50-$150 per hour or $25-$125 per image. They're not as committed and often have other lines of work that they rely on.
Professional Photographers with experience - Professional, experienced photographers usually charge $75 - $250 per hour or per image. They rely solely on their photography work to make a living and typically have invested a lot in their equipment, and have more experience in both the pre-production and post-production stages of photography.
Top Professional Photographers - Top professional photographers, known as high-end photographers, charge $250 - $500 per hour or $200 -$1200 per image. This elite group of photographers command top dollar for their work and can even be paid up to $10,000 per day depending on their area of specialty. They cover areas such as sports, fashion, entertainment, film, documentaries for TV, movies, billboards or magazines.
Rates Based Areas of Specialty
Some professional photography prices are based on the areas of specialty. When a photographer focuses on a specific area, they increase their expertise, and thus the value of their work increases. This niche artistry drives the rates higher than non-specialized photographers.
Some examples of photography specialty areas are:
Portrait Photography Pricing – Photographers that specialize in senior portraits may charge rates on the lower – midrange. Still, they could potentially have steady work during a specific season and more steady commercial clients. Portrait photography pricing usually varies between $150 - $300 for each session.
Wedding Photography Pricing - Wedding photographers perform seasonal work and take up high-pressure photography assignments. They only have one opportunity to capture the moment and take images that create lasting memories. Wedding photography pricing can range from $1500 - $3500. Again, as with anything else, wedding photography packages can vary based on experience, your wedding photography portfolio, and the nature of the wedding. Some top-shot photographers can charge more than $15,000 for covering destination weddings.
Website Photography Pricing - Photographers that specialize in creating images for local websites charge $25-$150 per copy. They usually provide work for small businesses in the local area. Many photographers consider the traffic your site is getting before quoting a price.
Product Photography Pricing - Product photographers focus on images for smaller products that are used online or offline for independent websites or for sites such as Walmart, Amazon, eBay, or major department stores. However, more substantial ticket items such as automobiles, boats, or planes may be used for magazines or in major campaigns. The product photography pricing starts from $25-$150 per image but varies based on the nature of the product and usage of images.
Event Photography Pricing - Professional photographers do the event shoot mainly to add an extra source of income. Events can be anything from birthdays, family function, corporate events, or any event in your society. The event photography pricing is generally low and bigger your client and more the work they ask you to do, more are your chances to earn. Event photographers typically can charge anywhere from $50 to $300 an hour.
Newborn Photography Pricing - The newborn photography sector is another niche area that can give you good returns. Newborn photography pricing can be done on a higher-end due to the efforts and risks involved. Not every photographer can do newborn photography, but those who are into it can charge somewhere around $500 for a full session.
No matter which photography pricing template you use to calculate, make sure that you have factored in all the variables that we had discussed above.
Pro tip: Download fully customizable and free Photography Pricing List Templates that look professional and clean.
If you are a full-time photographer, you will need to price your services so that you can make a living from your photography business. You also need to consider that you may not be occupied full-time, all the time.
An easy way to save costs on expensive office rentals is by investing in an online portfolio. Instagram or 500px profiles are savvy. However, if you're really serious about running a business, make your own impressive portfolio website. Pixpa offers great deals on stunning portfolio websites for budding photographers and creatives. You can get a digital storefront up and running within minutes without any coding knowledge at all. Start your Free Trial.
Do keep in mind the industry price fluctuations, any seasonal factors that might affect your pricing, and rework your pricing plans. Eventually, having photography pricing plans can only take you so far. A sound approach to photography pricing would also entail 'going with the flow' and being dynamic in your pricing your photography services at all times.
Hopefully, this step-by-step guide outlining how much does a photographer make would have given you a structure to determine your photography pricing. Just to sum things up, start by identifying all costs, consider the factors that influence the pricing, and make sure you add an adequate profit margin to arrive at your photography prices. The ultimate goal of this photography pricing guide is to ensure that you're running a successful photography business and making a profit.
Wishing you the best of luck!