For many creatives, talking about rates and figures is a cringe-inducing subject. Not only do we sometimes feel uncomfortable talking about our rates, but we often have no idea what they should be, or where we should position ourselves in the market.
But knowing your rates is important, especially if you are running your own photography business. Rather than pulling a random number out of the air every time someone asks you to quote for a job, take a look at the tips below to help you work out what you should be charging for your work.
What To Do First
Consider Your Target Audience: What you photograph or who you shoot for will heavily influence your rates. A family portrait photographer, for example, will charge very differently from a fashion photographer. The intended use of the images is a major factor in calculating this figure. For example, a high-end fashion image used on billboards, magazines, and online will be seen by many people and is used to sell a product. This naturally warrants a higher fee than a family portrait displayed on the fridge of a suburban mum. An advertising agency's photography budget will be higher than that of a young couple. Know your target audience and consider both their budgets and intended use for the images.
Work Out How Much You Need To Make To Pay Yourself: If photography is your main source of income, your rates will probably need to be higher than if it is just a hobby. This is simply because you need to be able to live off your earnings. To work out how much you need to make, you need to sit down and work out your living expenses, as well as your goals for profit. This means working out how much you need to make to cover expenses such as rent, car insurance, utilities, food, and other day to day expenses. Once you have this figure, add to it your 'salary', or how much profit you would like to make. Roughly dividing this by the amount of jobs you hope to win, or the amount of hours you intend to work should help you reach a ball park figure. Of course, this is slightly different if photography is not your main source of income.
Research Your Competitors: Find out how much other photographers with a similar target audience or skill set are charging. This will help you get a better sense of the competition, and the average market costs. You do not have to charge the same as other photographers, but having a rough idea of what they do charge will help you to align yourself within your chosen niche. If a photographer's rates or packages are not displayed online, you can pose as a potential customer to enquire about them.
Price Models For Charging
Charge By The Hour: Charging by the hour is common for event photographers, especially if there is no outlined image count. Don’t forget to factor in post production time, as processing can often take longer than the actual shooting.
Offer A Set Package: Particularly common for portrait and wedding photographers, set packages let you outline exactly what a client will receive, for a set price. Additional expenses are sometimes added onto packages (additional prints or images, for example.)
Half And Full Days: To simplify things, many photographers charge either a half or a full day rate, depending on how many hours they will be shooting. A half day is typically up to 4 hours, with a full day being 5 hours. Post production may be included, or separate to this rate.
Things To Consider
How Often You Will Work: Unless you work for a high-volume studio, or are on a specific contract, photography is not your usual 9-5 job. Due to the irregular nature of work, photographers generally charge more than the 'average working wage,' because they are not working all the time. For example, new photographers may shoot only a few jobs per week, or only find themselves shooting for a few hours a day. Factor this in if you are considering an hourly rate. For example, a 2 hour event may be your only job for the day. If you charge an average hourly rate (say, $25), then you are only making $50 for the entire day. A higher rate, (such as $150) is a more feasible income.
Remember, photography work generally comes in bursts, so you need to make a higher amount (albeit less often) if you want to support yourself.
How Experienced You Are: It makes sense that a photographer with more experience will charge more for their services than someone who is just starting out. As you complete more jobs, you will refine not only your skills and technique, but also your workflow and the way that you interact with clients. A professional who has been in the industry for 10 years would be expected to charge more for a similar job than a student or newbie photographer.
Editing And Processing Time: Unless you have someone doing your processing and retouching for you, the time you spend actually taking photographs will probably be far less than the time you spend in post production. Importing, sorting, processing, retouching, naming and outputting are all tasks that can really add on hours. You need to factor this into your costing when deciding how much to charge a client, as you are still investing your time. It may only take you an hour to shoot an event, but there might be 3 hours of file management afterwards, turning the job into a 4 hour project.
Expenses: This will vary depending on the job, but don't forget to factor in the cost of expenses. Some photographers like to charge a set fee, and absorb the cost of expenses, whilst others prefer to charge a base rate and add expense costs on top of that as needed. Expenses can be anything from materials (the cost of paper for prints, USB sticks, postage, etc), to services (studio hire, the fee of a makeup artist, travel time, or equipment hire).
If you have any tips about pricing yourself in the photography industry, feel free to share them on our Facebook page.