photographer marc neal edmonton

Photography Pricing

The many years of my Accounting and business background are coming out today as I speak to you about how the pricing for a photographers time and how it can be developed.  There are many things to consider.  Generally photographers are artistic people and would rather not be concerned with this topic, but it is one that should be considered none the less, at least so that you can  earn a living doing the thing that you love.

Things to Consider

Have you sat down and figured out what are all the things you do when you engage in a photo assignment, lets do it here for argument sake.

Time Considerations

  • Selling time/consultation with client (Getting the contract)
  • Actual photo session time spent taking the photos
  • Post production screening
  • Proof review and selection of final photos with the client
  • Photo editing, resizing, conversion etc
  • Burning images to a CD
  • Print production
  • Final delivery
  • Billing and collection

Equipment Considerations

  • Your photo equipment cost you a lot of money and requires maintenance and will not last forever .
  • Studio set-up, props, backdrops, lighting, etc
  •  Computer hardware and data storage
  • Software such as Photoshop ,Lightroom etc

Business Expenses

  • Time spent on administration, billing,  paying bills, …
  • Travel costs, yes even in town, you need to get to the clients location so you will have automobile expenses
  • You must work from someplace, so there are costs for heating, utilities, insurance, and communications costs(telephone, internet etc) rent etc.
  •  Marketing Expenses, website, advertisements, brochures, and portfolio

All these items have impact on how much you will be able to put in your pocket at the end of the day.

Developing the Pricing

What I like to do is work backwards from a target income, how much you want or need to have in your pocket at the end of the day.  Lets say that you want to have a in your pocket income of 3000 per month to cover all your living costs and leave you with some goof around money.   Lets make a some assumptions :

  • There are around 2000 available working hours in a year.
  • The taxman will want a cut of 30% on everything you make after your costs
  • We expect to devote 35% of our time to actually taking pictures
  • 5% of our  time is spent getting around
  • 25% of our time will spent on post processing
  •  20 % of our time spent on finding new business
  • 10% of our time spent doing the administration stuff
  •  Lets assume that your photo session pricing needs to cover all the addition costs of editing, meetings, travel, administration and  selling
  •   All your equipment and software has a value of 25,000 and will need to be replaced in 5 years

Let’s build our pricing

Money I want to take home in my pocket(net income after tax) 3000x12 36,000

Stuff to add to get to our full costs

  • 36,000 + taxman cut of 30% after expenses which comes to about 15,465
  • rent and utilities @12,000/year 
  • taking care of equipment 1,200 per year
  • marketing costs at 2,400 per year
  • equipment depreciation 5000 per year


By adding this all up we get  to total amount we need to make in a year(Target Revenue)72,065

Now our pricing is based on the number of hours we spend taking pictures which represents 35% of 2000 hours or 700 hours for billing. 

Calculating our hourly rate we take your target revenue  72,065 divided by the billing hours 700 which translates to about 100 per hour.    

Now you need to determine if the 700 hours is realistic and what is the probability that you can get that many hours of shooting time.  say it is 50-50 proposition you may want to increase the price to 200 an hour to make sure that you are able to pay the personal bills and are able to eat.

Summing it all up

Many clients complain about the cost of photography but when you put it into the perspective what it really costs to be a full time photographer, the rates are really a bargain.  Photographers who work for free or for less than cost are there for fun hobbyists, but if you want to make a living at it you need to look at it like a business.   I hope this is helpful and gives you some food for thought.

Marc