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What You Need to Know About Event Photography Rates & Pricing

Hiring an event photographer is one of the most important choices you’ll make in planning your event. While it can be a big investment, it’s well worth it on many levels, whether it’s to give souvenirs to attendees to remember the experience by, or to having marketing materials to advertise future events. An experienced photographer can mean the difference between having a few blurry selfies at the end of the day and having a spread of professional photographs of all your speakers and VIPs enjoying themselves at a gala.

But how do you go about hiring a photographer? How do you know if the rate they quote you is reasonable? Will they include photo retouching or will you have to do that yourself? Let’s look at a few of the most important things you need to know about event photography pricing and how to negotiate a fair price with a photographer.

What makes event photography unique?

First, what sets event photography apart from regular photography? Can’t you just hire the guy who takes photos of your family for the holidays?

Probably not. Typically, event photography refers to photographers who specialize in corporate events. They have experience working in high-pressure environments with a lot of moving parts. It’s very different from, say, landscape or wildlife photography, which requires a whole different set of skills and equipment. Event photographers know how to navigate large crowds and deal professionally with executives and corporate employees.

When you hire an event photographer, you’re getting a whole package of things, including:

  • Time and labor during your event
  • Specialized knowledge and equipment
  • Post-production (photo editing) time

All of these factors must be taken into account when negotiating event photography pricing. If the hourly rate that your photographer quotes sounds high to you, remember all of the additional work that goes on behind the scenes. In addition to renting office space, they may also be on the hook for travel expenses, self-employment taxes, and potentially hiring an assistant.

How much does event photography cost?

Event photography pricing depends on the scale of your event and the experience level of your photographer. Here are some standard photography rates based on experience, as designated by PetaPixel’s recent industry assessment:

Student

$50-100/hr

Amateur/entry-level

$50-150

Professional

$75-250

Expert

$200-500+

As you can see, the amount you can expect to pay will vary widely, and if you need someone on hand for several hours or the entire day, their fee can reach upwards of $1,000-2,000. However, there are a few factors that can influence the rate, such as the number of pictures you want, how quickly you want them, and how much you want them retouched.

Since retouching adds a significant amount of time to the project, a photographer may charge less if you only want a handful of photos, or if you agree to do the retouching yourself. Some photographers, however, will never give a client the unfinished images, so make sure you’re both in agreement on this before your shoot.

Always sign a contract before making a payment, and be clear on what that contract includes. According to U.S. copyright law, the photographer retains the rights to the images unless you explicitly purchase them. This means that, while you can use them for personal use, you can’t sell them or use them commercially without purchasing a license. If you want to own the photos outright, your photographer may agree to per-image pricing rather than an hourly rate.

Most professional photographers will have their rates listed on their website, along with what services that rate includes, but be sure to request a quote for any custom services that might entail extra responsibilities. Do you want a photobooth? Behind-the-scenes shots? Someone to live-tweet pictures from your event in real time? In that case, you may want to hire a second photographer or ask your photographer to bring an assistant.

It’s standard for photographers to ask for a 50% deposit when you make a booking, which is non-refundable if you cancel too close to the event.

How to find a photographer

There are many ways that you can look for a photographer, from word of mouth to a good, old-fashioned Internet search. Since it’s important to choose one who’s the right fit for your project, you should ideally look for someone who has plenty of references and a portfolio of their previous work.

You’ll want a photographer who is comfortable shooting events of the same type and size as your own, and who has a look and feel that fits your event’s focus. Keep an eye on brochures for similar events and look up the names of any photographers who are credited.

If you have friends or colleagues who have hosted a similar event, ask around and see which photographer they would recommend. If you’re searching online, try Yelp or Thumbtack. A Google search can work too, but you may have to try a little harder to narrow it down.

If a professional photographer is out of your budget, consider hiring a student from a local film school. While their work may not be quite as up to the same standards as a professional, they will likely have access to the same equipment and have most of the same skills.

Once you’ve found a photographer you like, call them up for a quote and discuss the project with them. This is a good chance to get a sense of their personality and see if they’d be easy to work with. It’s also an opportunity to discuss what services are included in their rate.

Remember, you can negotiate some details, such as how many photos you’ll receive and if you’ll own the copyright to them. But don’t negotiate just for the sake of getting a bargain. As with any industry, there are certain standards for event photography pricing, and photographers who accept below-market rates may not be as reliable as more expensive options.

Respect your photographer for the working professional they are, and they’ll go above and beyond to make your corporate event shoot the best it can be.

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