How to charge for your photo and video work
Not knowing how to properly charge could be costing you a lot of money. It’s important that you maximize your earning potential with each and every shoot. This can be a very confusing process for a lot of photographers and videographers. It becomes even more difficult when you have tons of “gurus” telling you a million different things. In this article, I’ll be clarifying the correct pricing structure and showing you how the pro’s price their photo and video work.
When pricing your work, there are 3 elements you have to consider when determining how much to charge a client. The first thing is “Shooting Time”.
You know what shooting time is. It’s the actual amount of time that you will be spending on that specific photo or video shoot. So, what are things you should consider when you think about shooting time? Well, first and foremost, EVERY photographer and videographer needs to determine their typical hourly rate. So, how do you know what is the appropriate hourly rate? This is normally determined by skill, experience, and what part of the country you are in. But, I’m gonna give you a window of what you will typically see in the industry. Normally you will see a range between $75 to $200 dollars per hour. You may be thinking “woe, Tyler, I’m new at this. Can I already be charging $75 an hour for my work?”. The answer is, that’s actually not very much. $75 is typically the bottom of the barrel. So, I would start here. If you don’t think you are at the $75 mark yet, then what we are going to go over in the next couple minutes is really going to help you be more comfortable with charging that amount.
So back to shooting time. How long is it going to take you to shoot and how long is it going to take you to travel to the shoot? Some people question “should I charge based on mileage” or “Should I charge like a cab and just start the meter as soon as I begin driving”? Well, sometimes traffic is backed up and it may take you longer to get somewhere. If you’re charging based on mileage, then the sitting in traffic costs you more than it costs the client. The only thing they aren’t making more of these days is time and we know time is money. So, charge based on your hourly rate. If it takes you 30 minutes to drive there, then you would charge $37.50 if your normal hourly rate is $75.
How long does it take you to edit a shoot? You need to know these numbers. If you don’t have a lot of experience then I know its hard to know your times when you’re still in the learning phase. When you’re newer, it’s almost like editing for the first time each time you open up your adobe software. Over time you will figure out a style and a way you like to edit photos. Each time you edit will get faster because you will know what settings you typically like to use. If you need more guidance on editing, you can find it HERE. If you want to cut down on your editing time, because we know time is money, then you need to create presets. When I say presets, I’m not talking about batch editing and just clicking “apply to all” and boom you’re done. No, I’m talking about presets based on settings we use every time we open our editing workstation. For example. If you like the contrast of your photos to normally be at 10% or 40%, or you like to crush the highlights, or whatever it is that you like in your style, you need to already have those options pre set up as a jump off point for each editing session. If you don’t have presets of your own, you can download mine HERE. It takes time and effort to build presets and edit photos, so it’s important that you are charging for how long this takes you.
When I first started, it would take me 4 or 5 hours to edit a simple family photoshoot. But now, I’ve developed a process and it takes me 45 minutes to an hour to edit a family session because I already know what I’m going to do. Right now, we have photographers and videographers out there who aren’t charging based on time, they are charging based on “project”. They are saying things like “my senior photo shoots normally run about $150, my family shoots are about $300, and my weddings are somewhere between $1,200 and $1,500. But, that’s bad practice and we shouldn’t do that anymore. We should charge based on the time we spend. The shooting time, the editing time, and the 3rd thing, which is possibly the most important metric of all, is Equipment Cost.
So, what do I mean by equipment cost? At one point in time you had to pay a full price for all of your equipment whether you bought it new or used. As you know, gear is very expensive. You need to recover this cost and have it redeemed back to you. Equipment cost for a photographer or videographer is considered an “Expense”. So, how do you pay for that expense? You’re going to do it by charging the client a depreciated value based on the full value of your original purchase. Let me show you how this works. If you were shooting on a 5D Mark IV that you paid $2,400 for, overtime of using that camera on every shoot it will start to ware out and not work as well anymore. Think of the shutter in your camera like the transmission in your car. After about 250,000 miles, your transmission begins to act up and will need to be replaced. In the same way, the shutter of your camera has a life expectancy. This is different for each model of camera, but the typical life expectancy for a shutter is 250,000 actuations or clicks. So what we want to do is depreciate the value of our camera based on shutter actuations. We need to know how much it costs for every time you press the shutter button. Then we need to figure out on every shoot, how many shutter clicks are we typically using. Thats kind of a tuff number to figure out if you haven’t had hundreds of shoots, but, don’t worry because I’ve done the math for you. I started tracking shutter clicks over the course of hundreds of shoots. Each time I finished a shoot, I went to my computer, I opened the card, I highlighted all of the photos, clicked info, and boom, I figured out how many clicks were used on average and for what types of shoots. This is how I developed the model for pricing based on the depreciated value of your cameras shutter clicks. At the end of this article you will be able to use my photo/video pricing calculator that will do all of this math for you. So, let’s look at this from a birds eye view.
You have a 5D Mark IV that cost you $2,400, you depreciate the value based on 250,000 shutter actuations, and then you get a number that will be your rental fee for that piece of gear. Let’s say for a family shoot that takes you 2 hours, it ends up being a rental fee of $35. You want to eventually be able to replace your camera after it poops out on you at 250,000 clicks. But, where does the money come from to pay for it? Does it come directly out of your pocket? No, it comes from the money you set back from all the rental fees you charged your clients over many shoots. You could say this seems ridiculous, but this is how the pros do it. Imagine what it’s like making a Hollywood movie. Do you think when someone calls up universal studios and says “uh yeah, I have a script that I want to make a movie for, how much will it cost?”, and universal replies “normally for a movie that size, we charge around 1 Million dollars”….. Ummmm… No… They will say this is the equipment we will use on that shoot, this is how much it costs operators to run that equipment, this is how much it is for casting, costume design, etc etc. They will give you an itemized list of all of the things it will take to create that film. You need to do the same thing for your photo shoots and your video shoots. You should be giving your clients and itemized invoice outlining all of the charges for the equipment you used on their particular shoot. Have you ever heard someone say “why did it cost me $400 for you to stand there and just click a button for an hour?”. If you have, it’s because they couldn’t see where every dollar was going so they could justify the cost in their mind. It may seem like there is a lot of math involved, but DONT WORRY! I said I had you covered.
Photography/Videography Pricing Calculator
I’ve created a photo/video pricing calculator that will do all of the math for you. You enter in your hourly rate and the cost you paid retail for all of your gear. The calculator will do its magic in the background and deliver you a total price for you to charge the client. You can even print itemized invoices from the calculator to give to your clients. The calculator will also break down how much money you should set back in an expense account to replace your gear when it wares out on you. Click the link below and download the calculator now.