Photography Pricing Guide

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This is a complete guide discussing photography pricing.

We’ll be covering the following topics (click on a topic to jump to that section):

Average Photographer Cost Per Hour

Before setting the price, you must know how others do photography pricing. A rough estimate of the average cost per hour is $100 to $250.

This $250 price tag includes various fees such as equipment, supplies, insurance, traveling, and others.

Freelance photographers can also charge an extra 20%-ish if they have proficiency in Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom.

Their location and level of expertise will influence the prices.

photographer corporate image
photographer

Average Photographer Cost by City (Hourly)

  1. New York: New York City, Averaging at $508.
  2. California: Los Angeles, Averaging $578
  3. Illinois: Chicago, Averaging at $362
  4. Texas: Houston, averaging at $300
  5. Arizona: Phoenix, Averaging at $324
  6. Pennsylvania: Philadelphia, Averaging at $387
photography cost per hour by city
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How Much Do Photographers Charge?

Photographers’ rate also depends heavily on the experience and knowledge they have accumulated.

You can quickly assess the level of skill and experience a photographer has with a quick glance at their portfolio. Extensive portfolios focused on a specific niche are valued higher than a “jack of all trades, master of none”.

Someone with years of education and experience would make more than someone who sees photography as a hobby, right? We decided to split it into three categories for convenience’s sake.

We are starting from the rates of professionals, freelancers, and beginners.

1. Professional Prices

The photography pricing for people of this caliber is pretty high, averaging $100 to $500+ per hour. Depending on their experience and education, these people could charge you $75 to $1000+ for each image.

Professionals are equipped with an extensive portfolio of their work, accompanied by their skills and multiple years of experience and education.

We divide them into professionals and top photographers. Although they may sound similar, they operate differently.

For us, professionals are people who depend on photography as their full-time job. They have a commitment to their specialization that is reflected in their portfolio.

In between those professionals lie an elite group of photographers, let us say the top 5% of all the professionals. Only the “top” photographers would charge a fortune for each photo, and we mean a serious fortune.

Elites can make $10,000 or more in a single day; images that they take can even be sold for $5,000 each.

photographer with two cameras

2. Freelance Rates

Sitting in the middle of the hierarchy are the freelancers. They charge around $25 to $150 for each photo, depending on the difficulty.

With hourly rates of $100 to $250 depending on their experience. Their photography pricing is much more flexible, giving them the option to provide discounts to their clients.

Freelancers vary in portfolio, experience, and education. But people who fit this category would usually take photography classes (online or in college) and already have an existing portfolio based on their expertise. These part-time photographers generally have more than one year of experience in their field.

They are also called “semi-pros” because they are in this transition phase from their old job to photography. You can call them people who are still using photography as their side hustle and continuously honing their skills before ultimately joining the professionals.

freelance photographer

3. Beginner Prices

Amateurs, beginners, and hobby photographers start from here. Their photography pricing starts at $25 to $100 per hour based on their location.

Although they are still building a reputation online and skills, they could even charge $80 hourly (If they are located in New York).

These people have limited experience and education in photography, hence the name beginner.

Photography students also fit into this category, but they should still be filtered based on their portfolios. Photography school graduates do have an edge over people who exclusively learn photography online or are self-taught.

As mentioned above, we recommend using these categories when figuring out “how much should I charge for photos?” Then you compare it to the average photography rates to get a better view of your competitor’s fee.

Different prices will apply according to your current location and expertise. Photographers specializing in portraits will have a different rate than photographers specializing in product photos.

freelance photographer

What are Common Photography Rates

Photography rates depend on the services available. There will be hourly, day, packages, and even rates for each photo.

Under ordinary circumstances, the average hourly rate is $50 to $200, and day rates would be $300 to $2000 upwards.

The photo sessions and the various packages would typically cost you $100 and scales upwards. While the per photo prices are from a low $25 and could reach $250 or more!

1. Hourly Rates

The hourly rate of your general photographer will start from $100 to $250 hourly. This price is based on the location’s distance, the various themes/venues, supplies, maintenance, and even editing.

With this price point, you will be able to profit by $50 each hour, but you can charge more on your per photo rate.

Editing skills on Lightroom and Photoshop is highly appreciated in the industry, allowing you to charge an extra 20%

2. Day Rates

Your daily rates will hover between the $250 and $3000 price mark, depending on the required number of hours, effort, setup, and key shots required.

Small venues will be $140 for the first hour and $100 for each additional hour. In comparison, more significant events such as weddings would average around a whopping $2000. But you should keep in mind that you would need more than yourself for large events.

We recommend inviting additional photographers and carrying additional pieces of equipment (such as lighting) for events with over 50 guests. A clear explanation would help first-time clients when reading your services/consulting.

The seasoned photographer will recognize that these events will be time-consuming because they need to choose, edit, and process photos individually. If you are fast enough, you will only need half the duration of your event.

But there is no shame if you take your time to finish it. There is always a first-time, right?

In some instances, you can include the option for the client to see every photo taken and choose the best pictures from the shoot for additional prints.

photographer in front of camera

3. Per Photo

For a single photo, you could charge a minimum of $25 or $75 if they want the picture to be edited. The price starts from there and climbs upwards depending on your experience and editing skills.

Yes, this fee includes meeting the client, setting the location for photography, doing the actual photoshoot, commuting, editing, and finally presenting it to the client through the preferred platform.

4. Packages

“How much should I charge for a headshot photoshoot?” Photoshoots refer to packages, which vary from portrait or headshot photoshoots to small birthday parties or events.

These event packages include a 2-4 hour shooting session depending on the size of the event and the photographer’s level of craft.

Packages for each type of photo shoot would have different prices and contents. A family photo package will include location and wardrobe change, various lighting, and commonly uses hourly rates.

On the other hand, wedding packages typically use day rates and do not include a location change. But they do provide an adequate amount of lighting and staff according to the event.

Packages generally include the number of times spent and photos, but sometimes the options can be purchased separately.

Popular moments where clients often “customize” their packages are family shoots, wedding shoots, and headshot photos printed in the extra small ones to fit in a wallet.

As a photographer, you have the opportunity to add more options to your potential client to give them a perfect package.

You can even provide them with a discount to encourage them to become “repeat order” clients.

photography package

5. Mini Sessions

These sessions will only take a brief moment, hence the name “mini-sessions.”. These life-saving sessions generally cost $100 to $175 for a 40-minute session, resulting in 20 edited images.

Faster sessions have a cheaper rate, but the price will keep adding up if the client opts for an additional hour, prints, or specific editing.

A mini session is not at all cheap photography. It will not damage your reputation/brand and will positively impact your business. It is like entering a new ice cream shop, but you need that one scoop that will ultimately lead you to buy the three-stacked ice cream or a trip home.

Perfect for the client who does not want to commit to a couple of hours of photography fully but wants to “test the waters”. Surprisingly, these sessions can quickly fill your empty calendars with gigs.

It keeps the money and clients flowing in. Many successful photographers started off giving mini sessions to clients. Try it and see how it turns out.

How Much Do Photographers Make

Well, photographers make various amounts of money. Depending on their niche, reputation, skills, and those other factors we have talked about multiple times in this article.

If you were a wildlife photographer for National Geographic, you could potentially make a 4.3-million-dollar piece like Andreas Gursky.

Each industry has its own set of rules and technical aspects. Make sure to consider that.

Did you know that National Geographic Photographers are independent contractors? Essentially, there is no contract, no work, no paycheck. You just submit a work/story and get money if you meet their requirements and standards.

Average Salary

To make it easier for you to solve the “how much should I charge for photos”, we also searched for photographers’ general salary to use as a reference.

The average salary for freelance photographers would be $42,000. Commercial photographers would earn better wages ranging from $46,000 to $77,000.

On the other hand, self-employed freelancers start from $17,000 up to $78,000. These self-employed photographers have their photography pricing based on skills, experience, number of projects, and location.

I am sure that it will not come as a surprise if I told you that most professional photographers generally work for leading magazines, such as Vogue.

Photographers based in large cities such as Texas, New Jersey, and New York have a higher chance of finding a gig than photographers living in rural areas.

salary

Monthly Salary

Equipped with minimal experience, a freelance photographer can make $3,500 each month. Top photographers can receive more than $6,000 every month, especially wedding photographers. People that specialize in Wedding photography rake in a serious amount of money and also effort.

Keep in mind that most photographers are seasonal workers, meaning they will often have a tight schedule in a specific period.

The salary of a freelancer is determined by the number of gigs they receive. Not every freelancer will have a constant stream of clients lining up for their turn. Nowadays, it is the photographer’s turn to approach potential clients and find the business, which is easier said than done.

You can even increase your monthly salary by filling your calendars with mini sessions. They bring a lot of profits and increase your client base. Either filling in your portfolio or bringing in new clients, mini sessions are pretty good to fill your empty days.

Photography Pricing

Even the best headshot photographers ask the question, “how much should I charge for a headshot photoshoot?”

Regardless of your status as a photographer, you will always need to research the local market. This makes your photography pricing more reasonable and competitive against other people in the market.

There is no perfect formula when it comes to photography. You will always need to adjust your prices accordingly. Unless you are still a beginner, then you could use the Cost + Profit to temporarily help you when pricing.

Always consider maintenance for your equipment and supplies first before the location and other aspects because your job would be impossible without a properly working camera.

Average Wedding Photography Rates

Wedding photography is known for the sheer amount of profit and effort that it offers. Starting from a generous $1,500 and averaging around $2,500. Beginners in this industry would typically start at $300-$500 for their packages.

The big professionals would then start from a massive $10,000 and only upwards with the many modifications towards the packages.

Luckily, these packages already include the necessary equipment to achieve the most flattering images. Rest assured that you will have the best experience and result.

Every photographer has their market, skill set, and experience. On big lengthy days like these, photographers will take their time to sort flattering pictures from the flat ones. Then they will continue to edit those photos optimally to achieve the best results.

Because the margins are very tight for these photographers, a discount or bargaining would be a once-in-a-blue-moon situation. Especially with the higher-end luxury services, you could try adding towards your package, but not the opposite.

But they will always pay off. It is an important and memorable day. It only makes sense to hire a photographer that will give you no regrets.

wedding photography
wedding photography

Average Engagement Photography Rates

This type of photography has a rate starting from $250 to $350 if done by professionals. Freelancers would generally charge you $90 to $150. Sometimes they offer physical copies but typically, just digital copies.

Charging clients above $500 will require you to hand over the rights to the photos, prints, and even copies. They will also offer discounts if you add this engagement photo session to your wedding package.

The photography rate should also take these factors into account:

  • Style of the photos and edits:
  • The number of wardrobe changes
  • Printing rights
  • The involvement of a second shooter: Second shooters are photographers tasked to take candid moments and take pictures from different angles.

Average Event Photography Rates

Event photography has a minimum requirement of 2 hours. This event will cost $150 up to $250 hourly, and around $100 for every other hour after that.

Small events like anniversaries or birthday parties would be around $500. More significant events in the capital cities are usually about $500 to $1000 depending on the scale of the event.

These rates usually include photo editing, set up, and the session’s basic needs. The higher the rate is, the more complete the services become.

event photography
event photography

Average Family Photography Rates

Family packages will often allow you to change locations along with your wardrobe options.

Cheap packages offer brief sessions accompanied by ten to 20 edited digital photos. Packages costing $145 will provide a 30-minute session at only one location with limited digital images. On the other hand, expensive options that are more than $1000 offer multiple locations to shoot at, unlimited digital photos, and even a large print.

The largest factor is location. Metropolitan areas will usually charge twice or even three times the average price.

Average Senior Photography Rates

Senior photography has been quite a tradition in the world of education and across the nation. These are commonly presented as portraits that are posted on their yearbook and social media accounts.

People have mixed opinions on senior photography as its steep price and the value they get from it. But considering that almost every school will annually need this service, it is pretty profitable.

Prices for these photoshoots are quite friendly, ranging from $130 to $350. These services contain similar contents as the family photoshoot packages. The pricing depends on the locations, the number of photos that the client requests, and the number of wardrobe changes you plan to have.

Average Portrait Photography Rates

We did not forget to add this hot category, as many beginners would wonder, “How much should I charge for a portrait photography photoshoot?”

Typically lasting over an hour, average rates are around $125 or $250 depending on the settings and package options. Clients that choose to shoot inside the studio will get their rates cheaper, as the equipment is already set up and ready to be used.

And as expected, choosing multiple locations will also add to the hourly rates. For a rough estimate, the price tag of $350 can fetch your client a 2-hour session with around 10 to 20 highly edited photos.

portrait photography
portrait photograph

Average Maternity & Newborn Photography Rates

An hour of maternity photoshoots would cost you around $500. This $500 price tag a pre-shoot consultation, the photo session, 10 to 15 high-resolution images, various wardrobe options, and the choice to shoot inside or outside the studio.

Newborn photography… is not cheap either.

Babies are not the best models, and they are quite “new” to the subject. The extra time invested when getting involved with a baby bumps the rate quite a bit. Clients tend to take newborn photos with babies between 7-10 days old to avoid this problem.

Babies around this age are relatively calm and sleepy. But hey, it is never too late to take a newborn photo.

Packages start from $300 and above. Details about each package are different between each photographer, but they commonly include the features that maternity photoshoots offer.

Average Real Estate Photography Rates

Real estate photography comes at various price points, starting from 150 to 400 per shoot (excluding videos). High-end architectural photography will charge an even higher number, reaching $1,500 for day rates.

These packages will include extra lighting, assistants, and post-production edits. Do expect to pay more if your photographer might need to rent, travel far, require a considerable amount of time to set up, and others.

With the many preparations that will be considered when calculating the expenses, real estate photographers typically set a minimum number of photos. This gives the client additional high-resolution images and financially helps the photographer.

real estate photography
real estate photography

Average Commercial Photography Rates

Commercial photography is taking pictures of products or anything else that will be used for a commercial. This section of the market is very diverse.

It offers the photography of various objects, starting from fashion, food, headshots, and many others.

A brand/company usually employs commercial photographers to promote its services and items. Commercial photos are intended to sell the picture or service related to it. The commercial market is very welcoming with the abundance of local businesses that sell their products.

The hourly rate ranges from $200 to $300 each hour, with images priced at $150 to $200 each. For product items and works of craftsmanship, they give a rate between $30 to $180 for each image.

Each picture’s price will rise depending on the amount of time to set up and special lighting. Concepts and items that demand considerable time to adjust and retouch will cost extra.

The purchase of these images includes the licensing rights, with it being the main reason the prices are so high.

How Much Should You Charge for Photography Prints (Average Rates)?

For reference, professional photographers would typically charge $25 to $75 for a high-quality 20cm x 25cm physical copy. But if you want to be detailed in pricing your prints, you should calculate these aspects:

Photo Lab Printing Fee

Printing on a C-type mini lab using the 20cm x 25cm dimension would typically cost you $5.56 per print. The prices will change depending on the machine, size, and quality.

Time Spent to Select and Edit the Images

Typically, you should charge 20%-50% of your hourly rate.

Fee for Image Framing

20cm x25cm frames typically cost $80 for a simple custom frame. Custom picture framing will never be cheap. It depends on the material used, dimensions, labor, and shipping fees.

It roughly means, that the better the material, the larger the image, and the bigger the fee. We recommend staying away from shops like Target and choosing local or big framers that can ensure your frames’ quality.

Charges for Packing and Shipping Your Physical Products

Various methods include their level of complexity in figuring out the price of shipping. Try charging a percentage of your cost and adjusting for every order to make sure you are not paying extra to ship the products.

Fees for Credit Card Processing

In general, it starts at 3.5% for keyed-in transactions and 1.5%-2.9% for swiped cards.

photo print
prints

How Much Should You Charge for Digital Files (Average Rates)?

Selling digital files will involve licensing and copyright, which makes them a pricy purchase. A single digital file for one-time use will cost you $200 to $1500. The price tag of a digital file is affected by the number of usages, traffic on a website, and copyright ownership.

With a single photo usage costing $1500, you can imagine how expensive it will be if a business requests unlimited use and full copyright.

Consider the amount of traffic a website has, the number of prints that will be made with it, licensing, and copyright. Giving someone the copyrights to your image (based on the Copyright Law of USA) means that the person is allowed to:

  • Reproduce that photo
  • Prepare derivative work based on the photo
  • Selling, renting, leasing, or lending your photo
  • Publicly displaying your photography

This means that someone who buys the copyright to your image can sell it, print it on shirts, make profits, and many others. Which explains the seemingly ridiculous price for it.

There are also licensing fees that are just as important. The average is 10% to 20% of the total cost of creating and editing the photo. A photography license allows multiple companies or even advertisers to use your image, depending on the agreement.

Suppose your client wants to buy exclusive rights. In that case, they should be ready to pay an extra 50%-100% of the actual photography production and editing cost. It is pretty expensive, but it is what it is.

digital fire
memory cards

How Much Should You Charge for a Travel Fee in Photography (Average Rates)?

If you drive a lot, you will quickly realize that gas is expensive. There are two schools of thought when calculating travel fees.

One side uses a mileage allowance. Allowances for business travel may differ depending on your location. Still, the last time we checked, it was around $0.50/mile, which means that photographers will charge jobs 50 miles away for $25. This method does not look beneficial for most photographers, causing them to choose the dark side hourly method.

You will charge the clients an additional 50-100% of your hourly fee. This means the time needed to arrive and depart from the job location. This method is acceptable, especially for clients outside your local metropolitan area.

Suppose your hourly rate is $150, and your total time elapsed to arrive at the gig location is 1 hour. In that case, you can charge an additional $75-$150 to cover travel expenses.

photography travel fee
traveling

How Much Should You Charge for a Retainer Fee (Average Rates)?

A Retainer or Sitting or booking fee is the money you get upfront for a photoshoot.

This money will be used to set up the whole photoshoot, starting from booking the place, consultation service for your client, and paying your trouble for preparing the equipment. These fees play a huge role for photographers.

This prevents you from losing money if your client randomly vanishes into thin air or cancels the appointment.

Photographers commonly charge 50% of the bill upfront to the client. Photographers will charge clients non-refundable retainers if the clients have high demands.

All of this information should be made crystal clear for your clients in the contracts. By nature, retainer fees are non-refundable. If you allow them to refund the upfront payment, refer to it as a “deposit” instead.

photography assistant
setting up for photoshoot

How Much Should You Charge for Photography Editing (Average Rates)?

For most photographers, the fees for photo editing would be around 50% of their hourly rate. You should ask your client about the final effects that they expect and how much money they are willing to pay for more detailed pricing.

Finding a sweet spot between their expectations and the amount of money they want to spend will motivate them to use your services again. You can even exceed their expectations as a beginner photographer for a chance to boost your portfolio and reputation.

Also, note that professional photographers will never give their unprocessed images to their clients, except if they are forced/requested to do so. These unedited images do not always match their expectation of a perfect picture, and preserving their high hopes is also a crucial part of your job.

You could sneak them a peek of a sample after educating them about how pictures would look unedited. The significant difference will help them understand the time and effort involved in every polished image.

This also helps them to justify your photography pricing, even encouraging them to give a tip.

photo editing
photo editing

Why is Pricing Photography So Important for Your Overall Business?

Now, you know the answers to “how much should I charge for a headshot photoshoot” and “how much should I charge for a portrait photoshoot.”

Prices and the customer’s perception of its value are already a make-or-break situation. It is forcing photographers to amass a surprisingly large amount of thought into photography pricing.

If you were a professional photographer but offered an amazingly cheap package, new customers would be suspicious, thinking of it as a scam despite your divine intentions.

Even if you were the best photographer and price your services at a ridiculous price but do not offer more than the competitor right behind you, you will just dissuade future clients from choosing your services.

It is not all about profit. It is also about the relationship and value of the benefits that your client will receive. Offering your services at a reasonable price should be your primary goal when starting.

Pricing also directly affects your market and marketing. Suppose you price lower than your competitor’s. In that case, potential customers will become interested in your services and see what is to offer. If they see your package as a great deal, then congratulations, you just landed your client.

There are undoubtedly many marketing strategies out there, but we recommend focusing on pricing first.

Final Remarks

We know that it does seem daunting to tackle photography pricing. Try and sort everything out slowly, or even be accompanied by a senior/mentor in your niche. Assess and evaluate your skills, and portfolio, and finally make your dreams come true!

As long as you start working on it, you will finish it eventually. Good luck!