How To Price Commercial Photography

August 08, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

As photographers we need to get to the point where our efforts and investments start to make money.  I call this "ramen" profitable.  What that means is, we are selling our work and the work we sell pays for shooting but we are eating ramen noodles.  :-)  Sound familiar?  This is the first step in being successful (considering you measure success with earning) with photography.  Not easy to do! 

So, the question becomes How do we get to "ramen" profitable?  The short answer is by knowing how to price your work.  

Let's say you have a small business that is interested in having you shoot products for an advertising campaign, and they want to use your photos on their commerce website or in a small local newspaper ad.  How do you price this?  The answer is simple, you use a sliding scale between 1 percent and 15 percent standard.  It wouldn't make sense to charge the local mom and pop business the same price you would charge a large brand name because the total buy out of the advertising budget isn't the same and you want to work with as many clients as you can, right?  Considering the client is right for your business (more on this in a different blog post) and you work well together. 

So, we use a sliding scale.  When someone approaches me about shooting for commercial purposes here are the questions I ask:

  1. What is the total buyout or cost for the campaign?
  2. How many different mediums will you be using?  (print, billboard, digital, etc.)
  3. What is the length of the campaign?  (years? days? months?)
  4. Do you want exclusive rights to the images?  

This approach will work well regardless of the size of the client.  Here's an example how to apply the sliding scale to two totally different clients. 

Client A:  Small local business wanting product shots of their widgets to display on their web site, social media, and commerce shopping cart.  Total campaign buy out is $10,000 dollars.  The term "buy out" refers to the amount of capital they plan to spend pushing your photos and marketing them.  For this sized project you would want to charge between 10-15 percent for your work, plus production costs (more on production costs in a minute) so that would be $1,000-$1,500.00 dollars for the term of the agreement.  

Client B: Large name brand wants the same services but their budget total for the campaign buy out is $500,000.00 dollars and it will run nationally or even internationally for a certain length of time.  You can't charge the same rate (percentage) as Client A because who in their right mind would spend that proportion of their advertising budget just on photos?  An idiot, that's who.  So, you charge Client B 1-2 percent plus production costs for the life of the campaign.  That puts your income from the photos you took at 5-10K dollars.  Not bad, eh?  

Using a sliding scale to price your work offers you flexibility in working with different sized clients and creates opportunity for referrals as a photographer and let's face it, word of mouth and referrals are what you should be focusing on to gain work.  

Now, let's back up a minute and talk about production costs.  What are they you ask?  You probably have a good idea that they are the cost of having you physically shoot the photos.  If this is studio work, then you have lighting, rent, your time, etc. involved in shooting and don't think for a minute just because you are making money off the sliding scale pricing that you should not have production costs.  Production costs should be considered the minimum cost of your time doing business.  The licensing of your photos is the residual product of your time and efforts. 

So, now you have a solid start and something to marinate on for how to price your work.  In future posts, I'll discuss how to price your production costs, what's considered a professional photographer and more.  

Until Next Time, 







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