Best Pricing Strategy for photographers 

 April 1, 2015

By  Pascal Depuhl

What pricing model do you use for your photography?

What’s your day rate?” “How much do you charge per photo?” or my personal favorite “How much does a photoshoot cost?” The last request is usually the only information a potential client is giving me, making it rather difficult to provide an estimate. And you cant have a pricing strategy, without having all the details on what’s required for a shoot. On the one hand, I’m surprised by the last question, since I am the first professional photographer many of my clients have ever worked with. 

Ok, so right of the bat, I’m gonna assume that you understand, that your creative fee has to cover your cost of doing business (CDB) in addition to your income. If you don’t know how to calculate this annual cost, check out the CDB calculator after the jump.

It’s also my experience that clients understand the ‘hard costs’ of a photo shoot or a video production: location fees, talent & crew, hotel, equipment rental, usage, ect. but when it comes to what you get paid (and why), how do you explain your creative fee to your clients?

I don’t like per day pricing.

If you sell your services to your client based on a day (or hourly) rate, your client is going to want to see as many photos created in that length of time and the photographer will want to spend as much time perfecting the image, as he needs. See a potential conflict here? You may get rushed through the images or questioned why your taking so long to get the shot. What happens when the client shows up the day of the shoot, with twice the amount of products and expect you to shoot it in the same amount of time discussed? (I know thats NEVER happened to you.)

I don’t like per shot pricing.

If you sell your services to your client based on a per image fee, your client is going to want to see you spend as much time as possible in crafting the shot and the photographer will want to be as efficient as possible in creating the photographs. The danger with this approach is that you may lose control of your time or that your client might think you don’t spend enough time on each shot. What do you say to a client who wants you to spend hours on each shot, especially if that detail was not part of the discussion? How do you get across to a client that it takes just as much time to set up for one to create one image on a white background as it does for 100?

Pricing must include the Cost of Doing Business

PROTIP: Photoshelter just included FotoQuote in the web hosting solution that they offer photographers, where you can set your pricing with the help of this industry-standard pricing tool.

(NPPA has a great online calculator to help figure out what your CDB is). There are many pricing strategies: some photographers charge by the shot others charge by the day. Check out why I don’t like per day pricing and why I don't like per shot pricing either.)

I charge by the day AND by the shot.

Here’s my pricing strategy: I charge for both. If a client asks me how much it would cost to photography 100 widgets, I get all the details of the project (are they shot on white? on figure? in studio? on location? …) and come back to the client with an estimate that has two line items my day rate and a per shot cost in addition to all the fixed expenses of the production.

Per day pricing

If you’ve shot for a few years you know how long it takes you to produce ‘x’ photographs. I take my clients shot count and calculate the number of days I plan to shoot based on my experience. Here’s the formula for figuring that out:

Number of images my client needs divided by the number of those types of shots I can create in a day equals how many days I estimate the job will take me.

That takes care of the time factor. Should the client come in with 200 widgets to photograph, it’s an easy explanation that 100 widgets are ‘x’ days, 200 widgets take twice that amount of time and will be billed at ‘2x’ Since we’ve already agreed what my time is worth, it’s not a subjective discussion.

Per shot pricing

Then it’s time to calculate the per shot price and since I have to convert each image from a RAW file to my deliverable files, draw paths, retouch, color correct, archive, upload, etc. every image, it’s simple to explain to clients that it costs me ‘y’ per image to furnish finished files to them. See the benefit of having this pricing strategy? Now a client won’t see it as a bad thing that you are taking ‘extra’ time on one specific shot or that you’re very efficient on another one.

An easy way to encourage timely payment in full.

Make sure you have the conversation about any pricing adjustment with your client, when you see that there will be a significant change. That way there will be no surprises when they cut you the check for the final balance (you are asking for a 50% deposit before the shoot, right?)

Lastly I upload the completed images of a job onto a password protected web gallery where I allow my client to view the images, but they can only download the high res files when the final payment has been made.

What’s your pricing strategy?

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Pascal Depuhl

Miami product photographer, video producer, cinematographer and chief mindchanger at Photography by Depuhl I love to share the knowledge I've gained over the past two decades. Catching light in motion.