Photography Pricing Guide: Determining Your Rates
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 9 min read


  1. Consider Your Costs
  2. Understand Your Market
  3. Determine Your Profit Margin
  4. Choose a Pricing Structure
  5. Set Your Rates
  6. Revisit and Adjust Your Pricing
  7. Communicate Your Prices Clearly
  8. How to Handle Price Negotiation
  9. When to Offer Discounts
  10. Tips for Getting Paid on Time

Setting the right price for your photography work can sometimes feel like navigating a maze. But don't worry! This guide will help you answer the question "how much should I charge for photography?" in a way that considers your costs, suits your market, and makes your business profitable. Let's get started.

Consider Your Costs

Before you can figure out how much to charge for photography, you need to know what it costs you to do business. This isn't just about how much you spent on your camera. It's about all the nitty-gritty details that add up in the background.

  • Equipment: This isn't a one-time cost. Cameras, lenses, tripods, lighting gear, memory cards—these all wear out over time and need replacing. And let's not forget the costs of software like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop for editing.
  • Overhead: If you have a studio, you've got rent, utilities, and maintenance. Even if you work from home, you have expenses like internet and phone bills, office supplies, and maybe even a portion of your rent or mortgage.
  • Travel: Whether you're going across town or across the country, getting to your photo shoot isn't free. You've got gas, vehicle wear and tear, maybe airfare and hotels, and don't forget meals on the road.
  • Time: This one's easy to overlook, but it's probably your biggest cost. Every hour you spend shooting is an hour you aren't doing something else. So, how much is your time worth?
  • Marketing: Whether it's business cards, a website, ads, or social media management, getting the word out about your business costs money.

Adding up these costs gives you a starting point. It tells you how much you need to make just to break even. But remember, you're not in this just to break even. Next, we'll look at understanding your market, to make sure you're charging a price that's competitive and profitable.

Understand Your Market

Now that you know your costs, it's time to look at the other half of the equation—your market. Understanding your market is all about knowing who your customers are and what they're willing to pay. Here's what you need to consider:

  • Competition: Who else is offering photography services in your area? And more importantly, what are they charging? This isn't about undercutting the competition, but about making sure your prices are in the same ballpark. If you charge too much more, potential customers might go elsewhere; charge too little, and they might question your quality.
  • Target audience: Are you aiming for budget-conscious families looking for affordable, high-quality portraits, or businesses needing professional product shots? Maybe you're targeting brides-to-be with a taste for luxury? Each audience has different expectations, and will be willing to pay different rates.
  • Location: The cost of living varies greatly from city to city and region to region. A photographer in San Francisco or New York can charge more than one in a small Midwestern town. Make sure your rates reflect the market you're in.
  • Specialization: If you specialize in a field that requires specific skills or equipment—like underwater photography or aerial drone shots—you can charge more. Specialization can help you stand out from the competition and justify higher rates.

Understanding your market isn't a one-time exercise. It's something you need to keep an eye on regularly. As you gain more experience, upgrade your equipment, or expand your services, you'll need to adjust your rates to reflect these changes. So, now you're probably wondering, "how much should I charge for photography?" Let's find out in the next section.

Determine Your Profit Margin

With a clear understanding of your costs and market, it's time to tackle the next step: calculating your profit margin. Remember, this isn't just about covering your costs—it's about making a living. So, how much should you charge for photography to ensure you're not just surviving, but thriving? Here's a simple way to approach it:

  1. Start with your desired annual income: Let's say you want to make $50,000 a year. That's your end goal. But don't forget, this isn't the amount you need to earn from each shoot—it's the total you aim to earn in a year.
  2. Estimate the number of jobs you'll do in a year: Be realistic. If you're just starting out, you might not have a full calendar. Let's say you can land 20 jobs in your first year.
  3. Divide your desired income by the number of jobs: This will give you a rough idea of how much you should charge per job to meet your income goal. In this case, $50,000 divided by 20 jobs is $2,500 per job.

Now, remember this is a rough calculation. Each job might not take the same amount of time or require the same resources. Some jobs might be more profitable than others. But this gives you a ballpark figure to start with. Also, don't forget to factor in your costs when determining your final pricing.

Calculating your profit margin isn't rocket science, but it does require some careful thought and planning. It's all part of figuring out the answer to that all-important question: "how much should I charge for photography?"

Choose a Pricing Structure

Having a clear profit margin goal is a solid start. But, how do you structure your pricing to meet that goal? Here are a few common structures that photographers use:

  1. Hourly Rate: Some photographers charge by the hour. It's straightforward and easy to calculate. If you go this route, ensure your hourly rate covers your costs and aligns with your profit margin goal.
  2. Per Image Rate: A per image rate can work well for some types of photography, like product or real estate photography. You charge for each image you deliver. It encourages clients to value each shot.
  3. Package Rates: Package pricing bundles a set number of hours or images together at a lower rate than if purchased separately. It's a way to offer more value to clients and increase your booking potential.

There's no one-size-fits-all answer to which pricing structure works best. It depends on your style of shooting, your market, and your personal preference. The key is to choose a structure that's transparent, fair, and aligns with your business goals.

Don't be afraid to experiment with different structures until you find one that fits. Ultimately, the right pricing structure will help answer the question: "how much should I charge for photography?"

Set Your Rates

Now that you've done your homework—understood your costs, studied your market, decided on a profit margin, and chosen a pricing structure—it's time to set your rates. This can seem like a big step, but remember, it's not set in stone. You can adjust as needed.

First, calculate your base rate. This is what you need to cover your costs and make a profit. If you're charging hourly, this is your hourly rate. If you're charging per image, this is your per-image rate. If you're offering packages, this is your lowest package price.

Next, consider adding a little extra to your base rate. Why? This gives you some wiggle room for things like price negotiations and discounts. Plus, it can boost your perceived value. If clients see you're not the cheapest option, they might assume you offer better quality or service.

Finally, remember to value your time and talent. Don't undersell yourself. If you're asking "how much should I charge for photography?" remember that the answer should reflect not just your costs and market rates, but also your skill and experience.

Take a deep breath and set your rates. Remember, it's not a life sentence. It's a starting point that you can adjust as you learn more about your business and your clients' needs.

Revisit and Adjust Your Pricing

Setting your rates is not a one-and-done deal. In the world of photography, things change — market trends shift, your skills improve, and your business grows. As a result, it's important to revisit and adjust your pricing periodically.

So, how often should you review your rates? A good rule of thumb is to do it at least once a year. However, if you see a significant change in your business or the market, don't wait. Adjust your rates as needed.

Reviewing your rates doesn't necessarily mean raising them, though. If your skills have improved significantly or you've invested in high-end equipment, a price increase might be in order. But if the market is saturated or clients are balking at your prices, you might need to consider a price drop.

Remember, revisiting your pricing isn't a sign of failure or uncertainty. It's a sign of a healthy, adaptive business. So, don't shy away from asking yourself, "how much should I charge for photography now?" Your answer today might be different from your answer six months or a year from now — and that's okay.

Communicate Your Prices Clearly

Once you've determined your rates, it's time to let your clients know. But how can you do this in a way that's clear and doesn't lead to misunderstandings down the line?

First, be upfront about your prices. Don't hide them or make potential clients jump through hoops to find out "how much should I charge for photography?". Consider including a pricing page on your website or a detailed rate card in your initial client consultations.

Second, explain what's included in your prices. If you charge per session, let clients know how long the session lasts, how many photos they'll receive, and whether retouching is included. This will help prevent sticker shock and ensure clients understand the value they're getting.

Finally, be prepared to answer questions about your prices. Clients might want to know why you charge more than other photographers or why a particular package costs what it does. Be ready with clear, concise explanations that highlight your skills, experience, and the quality of your work.

Remember, clear communication about your prices can help build trust with your clients. And trust is key to a successful photography business.

How to Handle Price Negotiation

It's a common scenario for photographers. A client approaches you, loves your work but then says: "Your price is a bit high. Can we negotiate?" The question of "how much should I charge for photography?" now takes a twist. How do you handle this situation?

Firstly, remember that negotiation is part of business. It's not a reflection on your worth or the quality of your work. Some clients have budgets, and they're trying to work within them.

Be firm but fair. While flexibility can help you win business, too much can undermine your profitability. It's okay to say no if a client's proposed price doesn't meet your minimum rate. However, do it in a friendly and professional manner.

Offer alternatives. If your client can't afford your premium package, suggest a lower-priced option. Perhaps a shorter session or fewer final images would bring the price within their budget.

Lastly, consider the long-term value of the client. Is this a one-off job, or could it lead to future work or referrals? Sometimes, it may be worth accepting a lower price now for potential future gains.

Remember, negotiation is a skill. Like all skills, it gets better with practice. So don't shy away from it. Instead, see it as an opportunity to improve your business acumen.

When to Offer Discounts

Offering discounts can be a powerful tool to attract new clients or reward loyal ones. But the question is, when should you cut your photography prices?

One strategy is to offer discounts during slow periods. Let's say your business is often quiet in the winter months. You might choose to offer a winter special to attract more bookings. This approach can also help you fill up your calendar during weekdays or other less popular times.

Another good time to offer a discount is when launching a new service. Maybe you've just started offering drone photography, and you want to drum up some interest. A discount can attract clients who might not have considered this service before.

Lastly, consider offering discounts to repeat clients. This not only rewards them for their loyalty but also encourages them to keep coming back. It's a win-win.

However, be mindful not to undercut your value. Remember, you're offering a specialized service, and you should be fairly compensated for your skills, time, and effort. Also, make sure your discounted rate still covers your costs and leaves room for a reasonable profit. Otherwise, you may find yourself working hard while barely breaking even.

So, when thinking "how much should I charge for photography?", remember that discounts are a tool. Use them wisely to balance attracting clients and maintaining profitability.

Tips for Getting Paid on Time

Getting paid on time is vital to keep your photography business running smoothly. But how can you ensure this happens consistently? Here are a few practical tips:

Firstly, set clear payment terms. Make sure your clients know when and how they should pay you. Whether it's 50% upfront and 50% upon delivery, or a full payment before the shoot, outline your terms in a contract and have your clients sign it. This way, there's no room for confusion or delay.

Secondly, consider offering various payment options. These days, people are used to having multiple ways to pay, whether it's by credit card, bank transfer, or mobile payment apps. By making it easy for your clients to pay you, you increase the likelihood of getting paid promptly.

Thirdly, send invoices promptly. Don't wait for weeks after the job is done to send your invoice. The quicker you invoice, the quicker you'll likely get paid.

Finally, follow up on late payments. If a payment is overdue, don’t hesitate to remind your client. Be polite but firm. After all, you've provided a valuable service and you deserve to be paid in a timely manner.

In the end, determining "how much should I charge for photography?" is just one piece of the puzzle. Ensuring you get paid on time is equally important. Remember, your skills are valuable, and you deserve to be compensated fairly and promptly.

If you're looking to gain a deeper understanding of pricing your photography services, don't miss the workshop 'How to Price Your Photography' by Kayleigh June. This workshop will provide you with valuable tips and strategies to help you confidently determine your rates and grow your photography business.