One of the biggest struggles as a freelancer is to price your services. Photography is no exception.
There’s a huge variation in photography prices from one location to another and across different types of photography work. But there are some general things you can do and consider when deciding on your rates.
Let’s look at what to keep in mind while setting prices for your photography business.
Find Out What Other Photographers in Your Area Are Getting Paid
So just how much does a photographer make? It’s never a good idea to make a business decision blindly. Research should be your first step when starting to find your photography price rates.
A quick Google search for photographers in your area will yield loads of results. B, but be sure to look for photographers who offer the same type of photography service that you offer.
If you live in Los Angeles and photograph families, search for “Los Angeles family portrait photographer”.
Each genre of photography work is priced differently. Don’t leave that part out of your online search!
Once you have some local photographers to select from, take a look at their work. Try to compare your work to theirs. The purpose of this is to find local photographers who offer a comparable final product as you.
Likewise, don’t use rates from someone who is just starting as a student as a comparable business.
With time and experience, your work will improve. As your work improves your rates will rise to match the value you deliver.
Look for local photographers who do the same type of work and are delivering similar value to get a clear vision of rate ranges.
The final step to your research will be to find the rates for your chosen photographers. Many photographers have a tendency to not want to show their rates on their website.
Be prepared to have to eliminate several comparables because they don’t give any indication of their prices.
Others may have a starting rate. This will at least let you know a ballpark idea of what the rest of their pricing is.
Factors to Consider Before Setting Your Rates
Now you have an idea of what others in your area who offer similar value are charging. It’s time to look at what YOU will charge!
Since you’re doing this as a small business, that means you need to make sure that you’re making money. Sounds simple, but many overlook this part.
When considering prices for your different services, consider your costs to operate. This includes any subscriptions for things like editing software, website, and email hosting, and gallery provider.
In addition to your actual costs of operating, you also want to take into account your time. Take a look at how many hours you invest in each job.
Don’t forget to include time communicating with clients before the shoot, any location scouting needed, the commute to and from the location, and all your editing time after the shoot.
If you have an idea of how many hours are involved, you can figure out what you’re making as an hourly rate. Knowing your hourly rate can be a great point of reference.
Many other professions charge based on hourly rates, so you can make sure that you’re making a living wage.
Finally, don’t forget to add a cushion in your rates to account for taxes. The percentage you want to add will vary based on where you live. Be sure to check your local and federal tax rates.
For example, in the U.S. there’s a self-employment tax that’s in addition to the standard income taxes. It’s recommended to put aside 25-30% of your income for tax purposes.
This will also vary depending on the type of business entity that you are. Sole proprietors typically pay the highest percentage.
To make sure you’re clear on what your area calls for, consider speaking to a tax specialist or accountant for guidance.
How to Structure Your Rates
Depending on what type of photography services you offer, there are different ways to structure your rates. Let’s look at some examples for the most common types of photography.
For event photographers, having an hourly rate is standard. Rates can vary, from at least $150 per hour to $500 per hour. This depends on experience, location, type of event, and any special requests that may require assistance or additional setups.
Event rates include editing. Make sure that your hourly coverage rate leaves room to allow for editing time. Also, there is a minimum number of hours required or the rate goes up when it’s for a few hours.
You may charge $300 per hour if it’s less than 5 hours coverage, but for 5 hours or more it’s $200 per hour. The reason for this is to help make sure that you’re not taking an event job for only $200. It also encourages clients to go with a bit more coverage time.
The number of photos included with your rate can vary. Some event photographers include all photos that turn out well in their hourly rate.
Others will put a limit on how many photos they turn over for each hour of coverage.
Wedding Photography Rates
For wedding photography, you’ll want to have some sort of packages created. These should work well with the wedding planning process and day of.
Couples are looking for exceptional photos that are above and beyond standard event photos. You’ll be using your expertise for posing, running around the venue to cover all aspects needed, lighting in dark situations, creating dramatic lighting for the couple’s portraits. And you’ll spend much more time editing the photos in their gallery than a typical event job.
You are creating keepsake photos that will become part of their family legacy. The rates need to reflect this process.
Packages for weddings include a set number of hours of coverage, up to a set number of photos in a gallery, and either a product credit or a specific final product such as an album or canvas print.
Additional things to consider are whether to include an engagement session, location restrictions or travel fees, and including additional items like album design services or Save The Date cards.
For wedding photographers, starting out packages may be as low as $500. But rates for wedding photography can go as high up as $20,000.
Your local market and the quality of your work are the two main factors that determine your rates.
Portrait Photography Rates
Portrait photography packages need to consider how long the session is, up to how many people can be in the session, and how many photos are included.
If you serve families often, consider having a limit to the number of people that can participate in the session. Otherwise, a one-hour session can turn into three hours!
The number of photos included is also a major factor, as well as specifying if these are digital files or prints.
These days, most people want digital copies for their social media posts. You may want to offer print products as well.
Portrait session rates vary, but most professionals will start at no less than $250 for a session that includes some photos.
Rates for portraits can go into the many thousands, again depending on your market and skill level.
Real Estate Photography Rates
Real estate photography is always in demand and offers opportunities for entry-level photographers. Rates are a set fee per listing and include 20-25 photos that are edited.
There is some sort of limitation on the size of the house. If it’s a larger property you can charge additional for the extra time, effort, and photos required.
The number of photos is dictated by the platforms used for home listings. In the U.S., these allow up to 25 photos. Turnaround does need to be very quick for real estate clients – within 24 hours. Account for that in your rate calculations.
Most markets will have real estate photographers that begin at $125 per listing. Rates can go up to about $500 for more experienced photographers in higher-priced markets.
Luxury properties and large properties are, of course, additional.
The toughest type of work to set rates to is commercial work. This is because the needs of the clients can vary so widely!
There is often a breakdown of costs with list items identifying each charge incurred. This begins with an hourly rate for the photoshoot portions and a lower hourly rate for the non-shooting time such as travel or location scouting.
The other format used may be a day rate. This is a flat rate per day that includes a set number of final images. You’ll also want to add any extra fees needed. These include gear rentals, travel expenses, assistant wages, location rental costs, and taxes.
Since this category can vary so widely, there’s no set start rate or limit. Small jobs for new photographers may be quoted as low as $500. And large commercial campaigns by experienced photographers going into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
When to Re-Evaluate Your Rates
Once you’ve got your rates established, you want to make sure to reevaluate on a regular basis.
Your photography service rates should grow with you. Make sure that they always reflect your level of expertise and quality of work delivered!
Early on, you may want to review your rates and consider price hikes every 3 months. As you become more experienced, the rate changes may only happen every 9-12 months.
As creative business owners, we often find it challenging to set a price to our talents. We also have very subjective views of our photos, and often those views are not the same as what our clients’!
Doing research, considering costs, and finding a rate structure that feels like a good fit will support whatever rates you do set to your photography services.
As you grow, though, don’t forget to let those rates grow with you!