“How much should photographers charge?” Questions about photography pricing can be both reasonable and complicated to answer. A good answer might be $100-300 per hour or $75-350 per image for professional photographers in the United States. But photography pricing is a bit more complicated than that.
First of all, it depends on what kind of photography you’re talking about. Also, how much experience do you have, what are your expenses, and how much time are you working? Let’s take a look at these questions and more!
Note: All pricing in this article is in USD.
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Photography Pricing for a Successful Photography Business
First, more people are taking pictures with cameras and smartphones. And there are so many professional photography services out there. So it’s harder for professional photographers to make a living.
As such, we have to diversify our sources of income. Personally, I’ve tried pushing at quite a few different doors to see which ones would open:
- Photography lessons
- Framed prints
- Stock photo websites
- Books and articles (like this one!)
- Talks and podcasts
- Affiliate earnings
- Greetings cards
- Wallpapers (for iPhones, iPads, and computers)
- Equipment rentals
But for this guide, we will focus on pricing for photoshoots.
Photoshoot Pricing Model for Photographers
Pricing can vary from one location to another and between different types of photography. But the first task is to estimate the market rate and what your annual operating costs will be.
After that, you can divide your costs by the number of weeks you intend to work. Then you can determine how much money you need to earn every week to make a profit.
If you then make a few assumptions about the number and value of jobs you get at your chosen rate, you have the beginnings of a business plan. Let’s have a look at all that in more detail.
How to Estimate the Market Rate
A quick Google search for photographers in your area will yield many results. But be sure to look for those who offer the same type of service.
Each genre also has different photography prices, so it pays to be specific. For example, if you live in Los Angeles and photograph families, search for “Los Angeles family portrait photographers.” Or, if you want to get into wedding photography, look for “local wedding photographers.”
Be aware that it can be challenging to find photography prices online. Many professional photographers don’t show their rates on their websites.
In most cases, it’s not that they want to keep everything a secret from other businesses. In general, the needs of their clients vary a lot. It makes sense for them to set their fees according to the particular services people need.
The good news is that many photographers share their starting rates. That will at least let you know where you should start your pricing.
Experienced Photographers Can Charge More
Your experience in the field also vastly affects your rates. What if you only have one year of experience as a professional photographer? You can’t compare your photography prices to someone with ten years of experience.
Professional photographers can charge way more than amateur photographers. But if you set your pricing to student rates, it can be challenging to earn a living.
How much should you charge for photos if you don’t have any experience at all? Set your pricing closest to the lowest rates. Doing so will allow you to attract customers in the early days.
It will also allow you to expand your photography portfolio. You can then show your work to future clients. As you get more experienced, you can increase your rates accordingly.
Useful Websites to Establish Photography Pricing
What if you still don’t get much information about the photographers in your area? Consider looking at a paid website like Payscale (you can price one job for free). Simply type in “photographer,” and you see an income scale in your area.
Apart from that, free recruiting sites such as Glassdoor and Indeed also offer pricing information. Plus, you could always search online for a “photography pricing calculator.” The National Press Photographer’s Association has a helpful calculator to input expenses and desired income.
As a go-between business for clients and customers, Fash.com questioned many photographers in the States. They came up with the following pricing model for hourly rate and price per image. You can use this photography pricing list as a guide to beginner and professional photography prices.
|Level||Per Hour (USD)||Per Image (USD)|
|Top professional photographers||200-500+||400-1,000+|
How to Determine Operating Costs
Remember that setting your prices to match your competitors isn’t enough. You should also consider your operating costs, both fixed and variable. These should include everything you can think of:
- Cameras, lenses, and other equipment costs
- Salaries (including your own!)
- Monthly rent for your photography studio (or home office if applicable)
- Subscriptions for editing software, your website, email hosting, etc.
- Travel expenses
- Advertising costs
- Debt repayments
Besides your operating costs, look at how many hours you invest in each job. Include time communicating with clients before the shoot.
You should also consider location scouting and commuting to and from the location. Furthermore, you need to factor in your photo editing time after the shoot.
Finally, don’t forget to account for taxes when setting your photography pricing. The percentage will vary based on where you live. Be sure to check your local and federal tax rates. For example, there’s a self-employment tax besides the standard income taxes in the US. We recommend putting aside 25-30% of your income for tax purposes.
Your tax will also vary depending on your type of business. Sole proprietors typically pay the highest percentage. To make sure you’re clear on your area’s requirements, you can always speak to a tax specialist for guidance.
Karl Taylor provides the following example*. It’s how much you need to earn every week to cover the typical costs of running a successful photography business. You can adjust the numbers to suit your particular business model.
How to Structure Freelance Photography Rates
Depending on your photography business, there are different ways to structure your pricing. First, let’s discuss what the types of photography are.
There are plenty of genres and businesses connected to photography. We’ll talk about events, portraits, real estate photography, commercial photography, product, and food photography.
Photography Rates Per Hour at a Glance
Photography rates per hour vary enormously in different photography services. High-end photographers charge far more than amateur photographers, for instance. But this quick guide will show you the average price ranges per hour.
- Event Photography—Rates range between $150-500 per hour.
- Wedding Photography—Rates range between $50-250 per hour. Packages range between $2,000-5,000.
- Portrait Photography—Rates range between $150-350 per hour. Packages range between $250-1,500.
- Real Estate Photography—Listing rates range between $150-500.
- Commercial Photography—Day rates range between $800-5,000. Licensing fees range between $250- 10,000.
- Product Photography—Rates vary between $35-175 per image.
- Food Photography—Rates range from $50-500 per project.
Apart from the prices stated above, there are other variables to consider. For instance, the pricing for a group portrait per hour may be different from a portrait photography photoshoot for one person. And in commercial photography, there are licensing fees to consider apart from your day rate.
How to Price Your Photography in Each Genre
As you can see, it’s difficult to be too specific about a photography pricing template. Pricing varies too much to create an accurate guide.
So let’s look at a breakdown of various photography businesses. That way, we better understand each niche’s typical photography pricing model.
Event Photography Pricing Guide
For event photographers, having an hourly rate is standard. Prices vary from at least $150-$500 per hour.
Many photographers require a minimum number of hours for a session. If the client doesn’t meet that limit, they may have to pay more. The reason for this is to ensure they’re not taking an event job for only $200. It also encourages clients to go with a bit more session time.
You might charge $300 per hour if it’s less than five hours. But for five hours or more, you might be a lower rate of $200 per hour.
Hourly rates also depend on the location and type of event. Plus, you can include other fees for any special requests from clients.
The number of images you can include with your hourly rate may vary. Some event photographers have all their best pictures included in their hourly rate. Others limit how many photos they provide for each hour.
Photographers may also offer packages that include physical copies of the images. And remember, event rates include editing. So make sure that your hourly rate leaves room to allow for editing time.
Wedding Photography Pricing Guide
Couples want memorable photos from their wedding photographer above and beyond standard event photos. In most cases, they ask for special requests that vary by client.
Some may like large prints, while others only need a single album. Some may want to include engagement photos, while others want you to focus on the wedding. Whatever requests they make will affect your wedding photography prices.
Wedding photography contracts often include the number of hours you need to cover the event. Furthermore, you have the option to set the number of photos you give your clients.
Do you want to send them everything you took for the entire event? Or would you instead select the best ones yourself?
As mentioned, your local market and the quality of your work are the two main factors that determine your rates. To help set your price structure, look at what the other photographers around you offer.
Setting Prices for Wedding Packages
Specifically, do your research on other photographers’ packages. What do they include? How much do they charge? Can you provide the same services competitively?
Of course, you shouldn’t copy other people’s packages. Instead, figure out what a wedding photographer may lack and fill that void with your service. That way, you can offer your customers a complete, unique experience.
If you create pricing packages, you can tailor your rates according to the services your clients may need. Your photography prices should include physical products such as albums and prints. Combining these items with your package creates a personal touch. Not to mention that you can earn more if you offer such add-ons.
But pricing shouldn’t end there. You should also consider other photography opportunities, such as engagement photoshoots. After all, why should a couple hire another wedding photographer for those events when you could do them yourself?
The more you provide at a much friendlier price, the more likely you get clients. Of course, you also shouldn’t go too low on your pricing. Stay competitive!
Beginner wedding photographers may price their packages as low as $500. In general, many businesses charge up to $5,000. But rates can be as high as $20,000 for professional photographers. (These higher rates tend to be from renowned professional photographers.)
Portrait Photography Pricing Guide
Portrait photographers offer packages like wedding photographers. So, what are the factors you need to consider when setting your portrait photography pricing?
In most cases, you need to know how long the session will be. Then you need to find out how many people will be in it.
Remember that time is money. So setting limits to your session will help you earn more. The longer they want to pose in front of the camera, the more they have to pay.
The same goes for the number of people they can include in group sessions. Working with large groups takes a lot longer. If even one person blinks at the wrong time, you have to take the shot all over again!
Including Extras In the Pricing
Your photography pricing should also include a set number of photos you can deliver. To make your business more lucrative, give them access to digital images and prints.
While some people simply like to post their images on social media, others love to have physical copies of their portraits. Diversify your services and offer them different options. That way, you earn from digital copies and the albums you create from prints.
Like most photography businesses, portrait photography session prices vary. But most professional portrait photographers start at no less than $250 for a basic package. For that, they may offer up to three hours of work plus digital files of all the pictures.
Pricing for corporate portraits can be in the thousands. Again, it all depends on your market and skill level. As always, look around on the internet and see what rates other portrait photographers offer.
Pricing for Social Media Portraits and Ads
One popular kind of portrait is the one destined for social media. It has become more and more popular in the past couple of years. So, if you’re a photographer getting into this business, how much should you charge for Instagram pictures?
Pricing varies depending on the type of photography business you run. In general, photographers send image files to clients and let them decide what to do.
Typically, photographers only charge clients if they want prints and other physical images. But people can use digital photos in almost any manner they want without fees.
This pricing model is acceptable for most photography businesses. But pricing for social media is entirely different than commercial photography.
Since companies will use the images for marketing, they have to pay for licensing. The only difference is that the rates for an Instagram campaign are often significantly lower than a print ad.
The pricing for social media also varies a lot. It can be a few hundred dollars for one small company ad. But it can reach up to $10,000 or even $20,000 for some high-profile Instagram campaigns!
Real Estate Photography Pricing Guide
Real estate photography is always in demand and offers opportunities for entry-level photographers. It’s easier to start here than in other businesses.
So what makes real estate photography attractive to entry-level photographers? It’s the fact that you don’t need to have an extensive portfolio to start. And it’s easy to learn and doesn’t need a long list of equipment.
Many real estate businesses hire new people all the time and train them. Some only require a camera, a wide-angle lens, and a computer. That’s it! But, that’s not to say it doesn’t have its own set of challenges.
Unlike other businesses, the pricing for real estate photography isn’t per hour. Instead, you get paid per house listing. And in most cases, clients expect you to deliver 20-25 photos.
The size of the property also determines photography pricing. If it’s a larger house, you need to charge more. Why? Mainly because you have a bigger area to photograph.
It would take you more time to take pictures of every building feature. Furthermore, you may also have to deliver more than 30 images to make sure you include every room and facility.
Real estate photographers in most markets begin at $125 per listing. It can go up to $250 or more for more prominent properties. Because you’re dealing with flat rates, it doesn’t matter if you’re new in the field for the most part. Clients will give you the same amount they pay veteran photographers as long as you can prove your skills.
But the pricing can go up to about $500 for more experienced professional photographers in higher-priced markets. Clients need the quality of the photographs to reflect the property’s value if they have a multi-million dollar home. So, most of these real estate brokers may prefer hiring veterans in the business instead of beginner photographers.
Online Platforms and Growing a Business
Online platforms for home listings dictate the number of files you need to deliver. In the US, they allow up to 25 photos.
Turnaround needs to be quick for real estate clients. In most cases, you need to deliver the files within 24 hours. So you need to account for that in your rate calculations as well.
With so many online opportunities, starting in the real estate photography business can be easy. Still, it’s essential you build your online portfolio as you gain experience.
You should also invest in better equipment, including lighting, as you grow. That way, the quality of your real estate photos also improves. If you’re an employee with a real estate company, you can eventually transition to a full-time business owner or contractor.
Commercial Photography Pricing Guide
Commercial photographers work for companies rather than individuals. It is one of the most challenging niches. It requires years of training and experience before you get any acknowledgment in the industry. But once people recognize your work, you have a chance to earn a lot of money.
Commercial photographers often get the highest salaries when it comes to photography businesses. Most of them get hundreds if not thousands of dollars per hour.
Apart from that, they also earn from licensing their photos for commercial use. Licensing can yield tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. So, it’s tough to set pricing for commercial work.
Questions to Ask Beforehand
You need to ask many questions before you can even determine the costs. For instance, is the project for a small or international brand? Is it for social media or a billboard campaign? How much is the budget?
Those are some questions and a few factors you need to consider. Then, of course, you should also think about hiring a crew, necessary equipment, and production costs.
Pre-production alone may take weeks or months. Then the photo session itself can vary from one day to a few weeks. After that, you need to set aside time and money for post-production.
Standard Commercial Pricing
A standard pricing model for commercial photography pricing is the day rate. But some people charge per hour or project. The fee often includes a set number of final images.
As we mentioned, there are also licensing fees for the photos on top of the day rate. Even though companies pay top dollar for the photoshoots, the photographers still own the pictures. The clients need permission to use those files for marketing.
Licensing is a way for photographers to ensure their clients can only use the photos for a specified period. It can be as short as one season—like a few months—or last for a few years. Then clients have the option to stop or extend it for an extra fee when their license expires.
Since commercial projects can vary so widely, photographers often don’t create set pricing at all. Small jobs for new photographers may be as low as $500 per project. But a large business can easily charge hundreds of thousands of dollars for a campaign.
Product or E-Commerce Photography Pricing Guide
One form of commercial photography that deserves a separate mention is product photography. It’s also known as e-commerce photography. It is generally priced on a per-image basis. Typical rates can range between $35-170.
Again, it’s essential to be aware of all your cost drivers. Details like how long does it take to set up each product? Is special lighting needed? How much post-processing is expected?
Food Photography Pricing
Food photographers generally charge from $150-500 and more for jobs. But the work can vary enormously. It can be a handheld shot of a beef wellington to a comprehensive catalog of everything on the menu. There’s no such thing as an “average” job.
You can do some jobs on your own in less than an hour. Others might need a whole day’s work in a professional studio with an assistant and the cooperation of the entire kitchen staff!
That makes setting your photography prices a bit tricky. You need to know all the details. That includes the location, the shot list, and third-party costs such as studio hires and assistants.
You also need to agree on the output format—whether digital images or prints—and how much photo retouching they expect.
Once you’ve done a few of these sorts of jobs, the pricing should get a bit easier. In the meantime, you need to make sure to think of as many costs as possible upfront.
Plus, do some research online to find out your competitors’ pricing policies. As long as you’re in the ballpark, you should get a few gigs that allow you to build up your food portfolio.
When to Reevaluate Your Rates
It’s not enough to decide on your photography rates. You also need to reevaluate them regularly. They should always reflect your level of expertise and quality of work.
Early on, you may want to review your rates and consider price hikes every three months. As you become more experienced, you may change your rates only once per year.
One issue that many photography businesses have is caused by having set increases. In other words, they always add a certain amount without figuring out how much they truly need.
Don’t increase your photography pricing using an arbitrary amount. You can’t say you’re adding $100 to your fees without a good reason. You need to know where every penny of the money goes. That way, you see what you need to charge.
So before you set new photography rates, calculate your costs. Then come up with a number that you think will sustain your income and allow growth. But at the same time, you should also remain competitive with other businesses. If your fees are too high, you’ll probably lose customers.
Seek Professional Business Advice
So, how much should photographers charge for their services? As a freelance photographer, it’s understandable your business knowledge is limited.
As you gain more clients, consider hiring a financial consultant. They can help you make sound decisions as you earn more money. Of course, it’s not fun that you have to pay for it. But at least you get a better handle on your business resources in the long run.
And sometimes, internet research isn’t enough. In most cases, it’s way too hard to see your competitors’ photography rates. If that’s the case, consider business coaching from professionals.
Business coaching is a relatively new trend among photography businesses. But it’s pretty valuable, especially if you’re just starting. You can begin by searching for coaching in your particular niche. It could be anything from newborn photography to portrait photography.
Once you find an excellent coaching service, consider booking a session. Although you pay a fee, you get professional advice on anything about your business. That includes setting photography rates. Apart from that, you can also ask how to deal with invoicing and other financial matters.
Coaching can sometimes be expensive. But it’s a good option if you want to know the specifics of running a thriving photography business. So if you’re stuck for reliable feedback, give it a try.
Self-Study and Learning
If you think you have an entrepreneurial spirit, consider studying the ins and outs of your business yourself. After all, no one knows what you do better than you do yourself.
Most photographers choose this route. Student photographers take marketing courses along with photo courses. The only problem is that not everyone is very good at running a business!
But if managing money is your talent, then this is your opportunity. Manage everything yourself. It may be tiring. But at least you don’t have to hire a consultant. Plus, you gain total control over your photography business. And there’s nothing like seeing your earnings grow through your work.
As creatives, we often find it challenging to price our talents. But as photography business owners, our rates must sustain our business and our lives.
So do your research. Find out if your photography pricing is on par with the rest of the industry. Always increase them as your reputation grows. That way you can develop a thriving photography business as a freelance photographer.
It’s also essential to figure out a pricing model that’s easy to understand. That means your clients should know what they have to pay and what they get for it. Do you charge per hour, per day, or per project? It helps to be transparent so that people can trust you—and avoid arguments with angry clients!
Setting photography pricing can be intimidating. But as you gain experience, you begin to understand how it all works. So, be patient. Everything will come more easily as you learn more about your business and how much photographers make.
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