About Photography Pricing

(an explanation for new clients & new photographers)


Most photographers are grossly under-charging and do not have a business model to sustain operation in the long term.  Photographers spend many extra hours or days working on a photography assignment in addition to the time spent with a camera in hand, and therefore must factor the time spent doing work that is not actual photography into their billable hours.  

In addition to the time spend doing the shoot, the related tasks, and the additional business activities, there are ongoing expenses for equipment, insurance, software, supplies, travel, administration, accounting, legal fees, marketing and advertising, and in some cases, studio and staff overhead.  

It should be noted as well that independent business people pay social security, income tax on their earnings like salaried employees, as well as paying into their extended medical and retirement plan. However, freelancers do not pay the full amount rather than having their employer paying a portion of the contributions on their behalf.  Depending on their business structure, freelancers also sometimes pay various forms of business tax.

This explanation does not touch on usage license fees for commercial photography, which often apply.  Some photographers include them in their daily or hourly rate, and others charge them separately.  Some do either, and some do neither, depending on the type of assignment.

Here is a partial list of additional business tasks and expenses that clients may not have considered (if you are a photographer and you would like to suggest an addition to this list, feel free to submit it using the contact form):


Time spent on activities other than shooting:

Preparation for a shoot

  • Consultations with the client (phone calls, emails, meetings)
  • Researching production costs
  • Creating the estimate
  • Organising camera gear for the shoot
  • Booking and picking up equipment rentals
  • Charging batteries & clearing flash cards
  • Making a shot list
  • Booking extra crew (hair & make-up, assistant etc)
  • Managing model releases, property releases and location shooting permits
  • Scouting locations
  • Booking locations or studios
  • Creative research
  • Client education (explaining license & usage fees to commercial clients unaccustomed to them)

Travel to/from/between shoot locations


  • Image capture into editing software
  • Image processing & editing (culling through captures, adjusting RAW files for tone/colour cropping etc)
  • Exporting to JPEG or other file format for client
  • Upload or delivery of proofs
  • Retouching of images in Photoshop
  • Back-ups at various stages to external drives and/or the cloud
  • Invoicing

Marketing & Advertising

  • Updating website, blog, social media accounts
  • Key-wording images
  • Organising & maintenance of photo libraries and archives
  • Researching potential collaborators or new markets
  • Researching potential commercial clients
  • Conceiving and managing online ads
  • Designing and managing mailers
  • Writing & scheduling email marketing campaigns
  • In person meetings and book showings
  • Networking events


  • Estimating and Invoicing
  • Tracking expenses
  • Preparing & filing monthly or quarterly tax & social security remittances

Professional Development

  • Seminars
  • Web training
  • Workshops
  • Test shoots
  • Portfolio development
  • Learning new software
  • Learning new lighting techniques
  • Learning new accounting systems
  • Learning video/audio/editing


Hardware & technology expenses

  • A professional camera body without a lens costs approximately $3,750 -  $7,500 USD
  • A kit of pro lenses covering standard focal lengths of 14 - 200mm typically costs $8150 
  • A professional grade photography tripod typically costs $500 - $1,000 
  • A professional quality studio flash system typically used by professional studios (a two-light kit starts around $5,000 without modifiers and goes upward to tens of thousands of dollars depending on the number of lights and the format)
  • A pair of professional speedlights with wireless triggers and basic modifiers costs approximately $1,750 
  • A basic kit of studio light modifiers, stands, filters, remote shutter release, reflectors, backgrounds, extension cords and expendable studio supplies costs $1,000 - $5,000 
  • Equipment bags and cases: typically add up to $250 - $1,000 
  • Computer, monitor, hard drives (in constant renewal): $10,000
  • Tablet & stylus for retouching $250 - $500 
  • Colour calibration software and hardware $250 - $500
  • Portfolio (ipad or printed book) $500 - $1500
  • Photo editing software (Photoshop, Lightroom, Capture One etc) $15 - $30 per month
  • Websites (portfolio, proofing, blog) $10 - $30 per month each site
  • Accounting software $10 - $20 per month


Administrative & other expenses

  • Accounting fees (vary widely depending on the studio & business structure)
  • Advertising fees (vary widely)
  • Networking expenses 
  • Insurance fees (equipment and in some cases professional liability and location insurance)
  • Legal fees (for preparing contracts & releases)
  • Professional development, training & education
  • Equipment repair & maintenance 
  • Studio overhead (in some cases)
  • Staff overhead (in some cases)