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Why Knowing Your Photographer Hourly Rate Is Imperative To Your Success


Bryony Edwards

This article is an extract from Issue 86 of Photography Masterclass Magazine
image of brown wooden tabletop with laptop and notepad on it, with phone and pen lying on top of notepad
Photo by: Jessica Lewis
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Knowing your photographer hourly rate is imperative to your success.

It’s something that you come across a lot on photography networking pages. We often assume that it’s only newbies that aren’t sure what they should be charging. Or if they should be charging for their services at all.

However, even many established photographers haven’t used any calculations for their rates, and it’s just a finger in the air.

Here is a quick run-down of the what, why and when of charging for photography.

Photo by: Andrew Neel

You Deserve to be Compensated for your Work

If you have provided a service and you have done a satisfactory job then you deserve to be compensated for this. Full Stop.

Whether you are a hobbyist or a seasoned pro should not matter. If you have performed a job, then you should be paid.

I would argue that there are very few moments where you should not be compensated in a monetary sense. Here they are:

  • You have provided a below-par product/service, and therefore should offer a refund or be resigned to a non-payment situation.
  • You have pre-agreed a contra-deal whereby the payment for your services is non-monetary, be it in the form of products, return services or promotion.
  • It is a passion project, whereby you are in creative control or it is your concept.

Examples of these could be:

  • Shooting some products in return for keeping the products. But you must be sure you want the products in the first place.
  • A submission project whereby you are increasing your notability and authority by submitting images to a magazine.

If you are doing work for your own portfolio, then do not expect to get paid.

The key here is the concept of providing a service. If someone contacts you asking you to take photos of their child, as a birthday present for their husband, you should get paid. If you want to work with a child model to get great portrait images for your portfolio, then sure, you can do this for free.

Photo by: Javon Swaby

Be Sceptical of Photography in Return for Exposure

As a freelancer in any creative field, be it photography, retouching, design or video you will be inundated with offers from people asking you to work in return for ‘Exposure’. Now, I am not saying you should give a blanket “No” to all offers of this kind. But it is worth being wary and leading with common sense.

Treat “exposure” as an investment, and do as much due diligence with investing your time, as you would if you were investing your money. What will the ROI be on this investment? Insist on complete clarity as to what is being offered from their end. You need to know reach, engagement, how and where you will be credited, the limits of the asset usage. Be very clear that Exposure can only be used as a form of payment if it is as quantifiable as USD. Remember I'm taking here about someone approaching you to provide a service - not a project you've done for your own portfolio / a passion project.

Photographer Hourly Rate: How Much Should I Charge for Photography?

Many people find it difficult to quote for projects. Even some experienced photographers still just use the ‘wild stab in the dark’ method for calculating how much a project should cost.

Photo by: Jess Bailey

This is not the optimum way to calculate how much you should be charging for your time, because you will inevitably under or overcharge, either committing to work for way less than you should, or scaring away potential clients with prices outside of your skillset.

Also, if you are just spitballing prices, then you are more likely to move on price to win the client. If you use the method below to calculate a photographer hourly rate then you will never need to move on price again (unless you want to), because you be 100% justified in EXACTLY how much you are charging.

How to Work out your Required Salary

Now, I personally have a spreadsheet where I keep all my rates and project costs on so it’s easy to quote for jobs in minutes – however, even if you just work out your daily rate as guidance it will help you enormously to inform your quotes.

First off, work out how much you need to earn as a salary. If you are a beginner, then consider the low end of salary expectations, and if you are a seasoned pro, then consider earning a management level of salary. Or if you are completely unsure of your required salary (aside from being slightly worried about your financial health) then you can work out monthly outgoings plus your expendable income and times it by 12, that’s your required salary (Don’t forget to add your Income Tax). For now, let’s say hypothetically it’s the US national average of $65k inc. tax.

Photo by: Galymzhan Abdugalimov

Then you need to add on your incidentals for the year, how much do you spend per annum on equipment, software, hardware, memberships etc. Add all this onto your total. I’m going to put a guesstimate of $13k, to make our total $78k.

How to Breakdown a Salary into a Photographer Hourly Rate

Now you have your total Salary requirement, it is very simple to work out your daily rate. There are 52 weeks in the year, how many of these will you be working? How many weeks of holiday will you want? For the purposes of this, let’s say you’re going to have 5 weeks off. Leaving you with a total of 47 working weeks which puts your weekly amount at $1,659.

Now you need to work out how many days you’re going to be working each week. For the purpose of this, I’m going to say 4 days working, with the 5th day as your admin time bringing your total daily rate in at $415.

In Conclusion

There you go, now you have a bulletproof way of quoting for projects based on how long it will take.

Remember though, never accept an hourly project unless you can fill the rest of the hours with other work. A lot of freelancers only take work on full day/half day terms because it is nearly impossible to do multiple separate projects on the same day.

About The Author:

Bryony Edwards

Bryony is a U.K. based Professional Photographer Retoucher specialising in Fashion and Product Photography, with a dash of Beauty photography thrown in there for good measure.

After spending 10 years in the role of photography manager for the U.Ks largest Sports Retailer; managing high volume e-commerce studios globally along with marketing shoots for brand campaigns, social and corporate, She made the leap into pursuing a freelance career and is enjoying the wild ride.

Contact her if you're in need of high end photography or retouching

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