How Much Should I Charge?

- - Pricing & Negotiating

Good advice for people making the jump to pro and trying to figure out what to charge for photography.

My best advice for finding a licensing fee is to use photoquote and then price out a similar license on Corbis or Getty. There’s also blink bid which I hear works really well when you get into a bidding situation.

Also, many of the photography consultants will help you price out jobs (list of consultants here), some even specialize in this. Finally, there’s Wonderful Machine, our Real World Estimates columnist who has an estimating service.

Leave any other tips you have in the comments.

There Are 26 Comments On This Article.

  1. This video has the same failings as every other “how much should I charge” discussion…and maybe not necessarily his fault. People want to know what the market will bear. The things he is illustrating are pretty simple and even if you don’t know them specifically will make themselves evident really quickly when the mortgage is due.

    First, he expects to work 250 days a year when they are starting out. Must be nice. Beginners want to know realistically how much they can expect to work. And two, he never mentions that the fee has one more element (perhaps the most important) that needs to be accounted for. The value of the project. I know he discusses the value in terms of media buy (good luck trying to get that info now days…now much is web usage again?) but the fee should reflect that also. Example, the media buy for my shoot will be $1,000,000 but I can get the shot done in a half day. I’m only going to charge $40 for the fee (yes I know there is licensing attached)? I’m going to take on that kind of responsibility for $40?

    What about asking about their budget? I know it’s slightly advanced practice but really important IMHO.

    The most valuable lessons in ‘what to charge’ is to see what others are charging like the Wonderful Machine examples here.

    • Richard Melanson

      These comments are a gold mine of info for someone like me trying to make the jump. Many thanks to you and everyone.

      Your work is stellar by the way Lincoln.

  2. I’m not a fan of day rates. I always charge per image.

    What if you charge a day rate, do a great job and get done by noon. Since you based your rate on time the client wants a discount. If you tell them – well sorry it’s in the contract. You just lost future business.

    If you price based on per image, they are just excited you got done early.

    If you base on time – they will want everything you shot. If you price per image your are rewarded for your productivity and good work if you sell more images than originally requested.

    My two cents.

    Rosh

    • I totally agree with you. I use the CODB to figure out how much I need to make in one day shoot. Then I divide that number by 4 to get my base per shot rate. Then I apply a sliding scale so the more shots the client gets, the less per shot the client pays.

      • And new-to-business photographers aren’t exactly working on million dollar ad campaigns and agencies.

        It’s important for them to understand what usage is and why it exists, but for these young photographers whose ‘client base’ is small and local, even getting CODB covered can be a challenge. Plus there’s the added difficulty of not working with an experienced media buyer on the client end. Life is much easier when working with a knowledgeable producer/art buyer.

  3. you should notice in the NPPA spreadsheet that it covers fixed costs, the costs you incur whether you work or not. In the video he listed fixed and variable costs and said to use that total- I don’t believe that is correct. Variable costs are costs incurred shooting jobs and don’t get added into codb. also agreed that 250 is likely way too high, if you could get past 100 billable days you’d be doing well.

  4. Rosh – you have a point. When clients get things early, many aren’t thinking how great you are, more likely that it wasn’t as difficult as you thought and come to expect more work in less time in the future.

  5. +1 @ shane – “People want to know what the market will bear. The things he is illustrating are pretty simple and even if you don’t know them specifically will make themselves evident really quickly when the mortgage is due.”

    There is a mountain of difference between the top and the bottom as far as charging for photography. The real question is not “how much SHOULD I charge”, but “how much CAN I charge”… You can’t run that one through a spreadsheet. You have to know your market and your ability.

  6. Great points raised by those who have found some success. I think the idea is that you have a foundational understanding of what it costs to do business. Variable costs will get added into CDB for the year because you can average those costs. IF your CDB is $50 you can market to local clients, however if your cost is $115 then you better be marketing to regional clients, and so on.

    A lot of people gloss of the business plan which is the road map to success, the CDB is how much gas it is going to take to get there. Market burden is part of the business plan. It is filled with hours of research to find out how many competitors there are, what their revenue is. How many clients do you have within you geographic area/region, what their revenue is, if they are public you can see how much they spend in advertising, and a bunch of other pertinent data. The resulting data placed in the proper spreadsheet or ever data base can produce a very accurate CDB outside of licensing fees. That comes down to the individuals level of expertise and the size of the client. If you access previous years corporate annual reports you have more information to base you percentage rate for that sliding scale. This is the TOC for TW Inc. Annual report for 2010.
    Company Description . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
    Risk Factors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
    Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Results of Operations and Financial Condition . . . . . . . . . . . 20
    Consolidated Financial Statements:
    Consolidated Balance Sheet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54
    Consolidated Statement of Operations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55
    Consolidated Statement of Cash Flows . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56
    Consolidated Statement of Equity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57
    Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
    Management’s Report on Internal Control Over Financial Reporting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 109
    Reports of Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 110
    Selected Financial Information . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 112
    Quarterly Financial Information . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113
    Comparison of Cumulative Total Returns . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 114

    The information is there and it took me two minutes to get the last three years. I think what often is lost in educational tools like this video, definitely geared toward newbies, is valuable. I’d say to the other readers is how did you learn, where did you learn it, from who, and what mistakes did you make?

    My mistake was really not knowing what I wanted to shoot. It cost me about two years in defining my real target client. That is half the battle. JMHO

  7. Learning CODB is like learning how f-stops and shutter speeds work. It’s good to know, but it doesn’t really get you very far. The trick is in understanding the value to the client, knowing when you can justify losing money and when you have an opportunity make a lot of money.

  8. One thing that I didn’t mention in this video is that we always list the day or half day rate as a “Creative Fee” on the invoice. The day/half day calculation is internal only. Listing charges as a creative fee protects us from what others have mentioned in comments here; charging for a day and finishing early could cause issues with your client.

    However charging a creative fee also holds you responsible, if you only estimated a day of work and it takes three then you’re losing money. This penalty really helps manage scope creep because you know that agreeing to something just to be nice will cost you in the long run. But it may also help you make a client happy which is going to help you profit in the long run.

    I agree with Bill Cramer, knowing your client is very important.

  9. As with all things in business, marketing is the key.
    It is very important to establish yourself as a personality rather than a commodity, what do you offer that is different, do you listen to your customer and make him / her feel like a long lost friend? A someone that they want to have shoot for them.
    A brand that they can feel proud to be associated with.

  10. I think you have a lot of good stuff here. I do find it hard that you are shooting 250 days a year and are booked 8 – 10 hours a day. You would be the most successful photographer I have ever heard of.

    Anyone starting out will have a hard time getting 30 assignments that first year and when they are successful 100 days would be great.

    You need to figure out what is a realistic number of days to get a better idea of what the basic rate that needs to be covered ON AVERAGE for each job you do.

    You may need to have a base of $600 average but you cannot get that for a headshot, but you could get $2,000 or more for an advertising shot.

    Once you establish prices with a client it is difficult to raise these prices. Cost of living will work, but major hikes just don’t work that well. When you need to makeajumb because you feel you now offer more to your clients, then you often have to find new clients that will pay for the added service.

    I just felt these points need to be here for those who visit.

    I do think you are raising many issues one must consider about the business side of photography.

  11. Great resource here. I’ll add that if you haven’t checked out NPPA reource section or http://www.shakodo.com it’s great and if you haven’t read any of the photo business books by John Harrington you should.

    From all of that I’ve gleaned a few standard questions I approach a client with:
    Never quote over the phone, get information and get back to them!
    Ask: Do you have a budget for this?
    What’s the media buy?
    Size and usage?
    How many photos would you like delivered?
    Include an admin fee that’s deducted for “early”/on-time payment.
    Include processing time?
    Avoid half day rates ESPECIALLY hourly….why should you be penalized for doing a 4 hour job in an hour?

    And do yourself and the business a favor and try to budget in an assistant whenever you can.

    In Good Business and happy shooting!
    Nathan

  12. Mark

    I like your creative fee idea, and as you say you have to pick up the loss if you have an overrun. Therefore if forces everyone to be more business like.
    You need to capture your own business metrics in a database system.
    Hey “Open office” works for me as the files work on both mac and pc.
    Then you need to provide detailed contracts (“Just like builders”) covering the task.
    That way if your estimate is accurate your are protected from “scope creep” on the client side.

  13. Great Video but I never really got the answer I was looking for. I had recently posted a pic of a simple Birds of paradise plant. Someone inquired about how much will a framed print costs. I asked what size does she want and she then replied, depends on the cost. How much should I charge for 5×7 and/or 8×10???

    Thank you