How To Solve The Biggest Problem With Pricing Photography 

 December 10, 2017

By  Pascal Depuhl

Pricing your photography (or any service or product for that matter) can be tricky. I'm not talking about understanding the cost of doing business (CoDB), where you know how much it costs you to produce what you sell - that needs to be understood before you can see how you break down your pricing. NPPA has an online calculator that is a tremendous tool to help you figure this out.

Many other factors that go into determining what you should charge (CoDB plus profit plus production specific costs), what everyone else charges, how what you bring to the table impacts your pricing and why some photographers can charge less than others and make a larger profit (while delivering superior images) if they are smart about keeping their overhead low. 

Last week Rosh Sillars (@RoshSillars) invited me to be a guest on his photography pricing channel and talk about how I structure my pricing - not that this is anything new, I've been talking about using this pricing strategy for years - but you can watch our discussion here:

Problematic pricing perceptions

The biggest problem I've consistently seen in pricing is based on a perception on the side of the client and the photographer. 

There are two common pricing philosophies in professional photography: either you charge a day rate or bill by the shot. Both of these are charged in addition to the fixed expenses of a shoot, such as locations, assistants, crew, models, etc. (Read more about how to estimate an advertising photoshoot in this post.)

Day rate pricing disasters

Day rate: charging a set fee for a specified length of time, usually 8 - 10 hours, regardless of how many images are created in that time.

I don't know if you've ever experienced this, but I have: 

A clients has been talking about a certain amount of shots when we were estimating the production and we've been anticipating to shoot lets say 20 shots. But those twenty shots magically turn into 25, 30 or more shots.

I don't mind shooting a few extra shots in a day, but at some point the quality of the images will suffer, when you've planned to create 20 and you end up shooting 50 in the same time. 

Per shot pricing problems

Per shot: charging a set fee for each image, regardless of how much time it takes to produce.

I see the most potential problems with this pricing strategy: on the one extreme the client will want to spend as much time on each shot, while the other extreme is the photographer who wants to shoot as many images as possible. At least that can become the perception.

If we stick with the example above let's take the same production that should take one day to create 20 images. If you take either extreme to the absurd you'll see my problem. Image a client insisting on you spending one day on each photograph for 20 days or a photographer that wants to bang out the 20 images in an hour. 

Here's how I have been successfully pricing my work for the past 2 decades:


A better way of pricing your work

Why not use both pricing models to come up with a fair way to price your work. When I estimate a job, I look at what the client is looking to have produced and come up with an estimation of how much time I will take to create those images. (Again lets stick with 20 images that will take a day to create.)

I build my estimate based on this, but it includes two line items: my day rate AND a per shot fee. So if the client shows up with 40 images that need to be produced it's a simple explanation that if 20 take one day, 40 will take 2 days. If they show up with 18, my day rate stays the same, but the per shot charge is only applied to 18 images, saving the client the cost of the 2 that weren't realized. 

It is always important to manage expectations and to define the scope of work, before you get started (Read why the fine print in the agreements we create with our clients are so important.)

One last word about getting paid

OK, now that you've figured out how to price your work, the next question is how do you get paid, well that's another story for another time, fortunately you can read all about 2 sure fire tips to get paid here.

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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.