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How Much Should I Charge for a Photoshoot?

In 2019, we’re living in a world full of images, and someone is getting paid to take them. So why not get a piece of the action? You’re ready to take the leap into the domain of professional photography and to begin marketing your services, but it’s difficult to know what rates to charge. Asking yourself, “How much should I charge for a photoshoot?” is a common question when you’re starting out. After all, it’s easy to undervalue your work and end up undercutting yourself and other photographers in the area. Therefore, here are some considerations for preparing to charge for your work and the best way to set your fees.

Prepare your brand

Before you decide to take the leap into the professional world, be sure you’re prepared to present yourself as a brand. It’s essential to put together a portfolio of your best work and to display it on a website associated with your self-brand. The portfolio needs to not only showcase your best work, but it also must represent the sort of images you can consistently make. Prospective clients need to understand exactly what they’re paying for, and it’s essential that you manage their expectations.

A web-based portfolio shows clients that they aren’t just paying for a photographer — they’re paying for your specific vision. Your portfolio therefore must be an accurate picture of the work you’ll be providing. Take advantage of social media as well. A strong online presence is a great way to generate leads in 2019.

Research your market

Take a look at the websites of other photographers’ in your area in order to get an idea of what common local rates look like. Keep in mind that you probably can’t charge full prices when you just get started, but don’t sell yourself short either. You don’t want to devalue the work of other professional photographers and make it harder for yourself to raise rates later on.

On the other hand, you should also fairly evaluate the quality of your work and service. As you book more work and gain more experience, you can raise your rates to reflect this. Also, consider the market saturation in your area for a given type of photography. It’s much more difficult to break into competitive markets than those with fewer working photographers. Your city may have plenty of wedding photographers but very few fashion photographers, for example. Look for opportunities that align with your skill set.

Consider the costs

As you are setting your initial prices, remember that you’re running a small business as a professional photographer. Your prices should reflect the costs of running a business, such as the space you use, equipment fees and rentals, marketing, travel time, gear insurance, and taxes. These costs can accumulate quickly, and if you don’t prepare for them now, it will hurt your earning potential. You should also consider the amount of time you’re asked to shoot, as well as your editing time. These considerations will vary widely across the genre of photography, location, and clientele. At a minimum, you need to cover costs for the appropriate camera and lenses for a job, a computer, software to edit images, and your time investment.

Per job, per hour, per photo

Consider whether you want to offer your services as a flat fee for an individual job, break it down by the hour, or charge for the number of photos delivered. It’s best to find out which structure is most often used by other professionals in your field of photographic experience and price your services accordingly.

However, you may find that one client will hire you for a specific job, regardless of how long it will take, while others will offer you an hourly fee. For example, commercial photography jobs are generally priced per image in the project, while event photographers are paid by the hour. Be flexible when looking for work, and consider what your product is worth in each of these pricing structures. If you don’t have a perfect sense of the time investment necessary for a given job at this point, don’t worry — you’ll better calibrate your own estimates as you get more experience.

Arriving at a rough figure

Once you’ve done your market research, give yourself an hourly rate and factor in any expenses you expect to incur at any given job (location and equipment rental fees, travel time, etc.) Estimate how many hours you expect a given job to take. (This will depend on what you are shooting. Working a day at a wedding is a significantly larger investment of time than a single architectural shoot.)

When you have a rough idea of how much you can make per job, multiply that by the number of jobs you expect to be able to do in a year and you’ll have your projected annual income. From there, tinker with the numbers until you arrive at an acceptable ratio of time, expenses, and income. You may need to adjust your pricing or go out for more jobs. But at the beginning, this at least gives you an idea of how much you’ll need to charge to sustain a business.

In conclusion

Unfortunately, there’s no straight answer when it comes to determining how much you should charge for a photoshoot. The final costs will ultimately depend on a variety of factors, such as the value for a specific service in your area, client budgets and expectations, and the total time involved in each shoot. You may find yourself needing to change your prices each year as well as your local market evolves.

Be prepared to be flexible with each job you take on. Clients are not just paying for images: they’re paying for your images. Market yourself competitively, but stay true to your personal vision. And while your rates won’t be astronomical when you begin charging for your work, don’t undervalue yourself either. It’ll hurt your bottom line, and other photographers making their living behind a camera.

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