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How much to charge for photography

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Charging for your photography – how much?

Some of the steps needed to work out how much to charge

A question Keith is asked about quite often. In this short note he looks at what you need to consider for you photography charges.

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How to work out what to charge for your photography services – are your rates high enough?

Serving food at an event

Photography – your only job?

I’ll keep this one short and simple.  I often get asked about what to charge as a professional photographer by other photographers.

Indeed, I can spot fake ‘work enquiries’ from other photographers a mile off. Our prices are published on the Northlight site, but are aimed at helping potential clients and ourselves, not our competitors ;-)

Other photographers are the ones who ask for all the details about licensing and rates up front. This is something we discuss with clients merely as part of the process of ensuring we can meet their needs and help solve their problems.

I know from experience that potential clients who instantly concentrate on price are unlikely to become long term clients (see why this is not good at ‘Expanding your photo business‘)

The basics – much simplified, but it works

  • Work out how much money you need to live on for the year [M] – Remember taxes, and in some parts of the world, the need to worry about health insurance and the like.
  • This money comes from the profit that your business will make.
  • Add business costs [C] to [M] to get your turnover [T], the total amount of money the business needs to bring in for the year – Be thorough with costs – travel, cameras, lenses, software, more taxes …anything that the business has to pay to function.
  • How many jobs do you think you can average per week?
  • How many weeks a year will you be working ? – Note that if this figure is anywhere near 52, then get real and allow for some holidays! Mine is 40
  • Multiply the jobs per week, by the number of working weeks to get a total number for a year [J]
  • T divided by J gives the average rate/price/fee you need to charge per job [R] to get the value of T you have picked.
  • Remember that the money in your pocket [M] comes from the profit that the business makes and is turnover [T] minus costs [C]

Now comes the awkward bit…

A lot of would-be photographers, and those recently started, don’t like these numbers.

Well that’s fine, go back and refine the inputs.  Just remember that if you want to eat, then the figure [M] can’t go too low.

  • Maybe you can live on savings for a while, or another job?
  • Maybe you should look for work in a more profitable area?
  • Maybe you can cut costs?
  • Maybe you can price low to try raise the number of jobs? (bad move for lots of reasons…) Not for very long for most people, and hardly conducive to a long term profitable business.  Remember that one job that makes £200 profit is worth twenty jobs that make £10.

That’s it – if these numbers don’t stack up, then you’ve at best got a paid hobby or a relatively short career in professional photography ahead of you.

These numbers don’t care if you like them or what you competitors are charging – they give you a simple estimate of what you need to do to earn a living.

But it can still work

It took about 15 months to get Northlight Images into profit (i.e to get [M] at a level I was happy with)

Photography is a fast changing business, but that doesn’t change those numbers…

I’ve written lots of other short articles about the business side of being a photographer, covering many of the things I’ve learnt and discovered over the years.

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  • Adee | Jul 21, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    You are awsome. Your articles help me a lot to think and setup my photography business. I am planning to apply all your described method into my business. I am sure they will work here as well as they worked for you.

    Thank you.

  • Per Stymne | Feb 5, 2012 at 12:06 am

    It is very easy, and convenient, to disregard investments in equipment, software and time – as you stress in “The basics…”, especially if your photography work isn’t standalone, but only part of some other work you do. My own business is documentation of old industrial plants, and while photography is an integrated and most important part of my work it is quite difficult to estimate pay-offs and write-offs of photography equipment. My own rule of thumb is to be selective when it comes to your accepting jobs, or rather of choosing customers.

    I agree fully with your advice “one job that makes £200 profit is worth twenty jobs that make £10.” – but not only for the money, but also for only customers with a critical and professional attitude.

  • bycostello | Feb 2, 2012 at 10:25 am

    some good advice there

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