Commercial photography is an awesome way to make money as a photographer—all kinds of businesses and organizations need your skills. Figuring out commercial photography pricing, however, can be challenging at first. If you’ve tried looking into how much to charge for commercial photography, you might find all the different price ranges out there a little confusing and overwhelming. That’s because the term “commercial photography” covers a huge range of potential photo gigs, from corporate headshots to editorial spreads and tons of things in between.
Most commercial portfolios don’t include a commercial photography price list, since there are so many variables to consider before giving a quote. But it’s super-important to learn how to put together commercial photography rates so that you can clearly and professionally explain to your client exactly what they’re paying for and what to expect. Being able to justify your commercial photography pricing will help you land those high-paying gigs, so you can keep building that amazing online photography portfolio.
The key to commercial photography pricing is understanding everything that goes into a commercial photography job, and how much it’s worth. Once you know what these different inputs are, you’ll have a much easier time figuring out what your commercial photography rates should be. We’ve put together this guide to pricing commercial photography to help you do just that!
First Off—What Is Commercial Photography?
The key thing that differentiates a commercial photo from other types of photos is its intended use. Commercial photography is photography that will be used for some sort of commercial purpose, like generating money or publicity for a client. That’s different from something like family portraits or wedding photography, which is intended for private use.
How to Price Commercial Photography
The key pieces of information you should consider in your commercial photography pricing guide are the amount of time you’ll spend on the shoot, including pre-shoot activities and post-shoot editing and file prep; the number of photos your client needs; the size of your client; and the intended use of the files. Let’s look at these one by one:
Your Photographer Hourly Rate
Photographer prices per hour are just one part of the equation when it comes to commercial photography rates. You should base your hourly rate on your own experience, your geographical location (for example, the average hourly rate in New York will probably be higher than the average hourly rate in Portland), and your target annual income.
There are some good guides out there to get you started, like this one. Your hourly commercial photography rate should stay the same no matter who your client is. Even if you’re shooting for a smaller mom-and-pop business, it’s not a good idea to drop this part of your overall professional photo shoot price per hour, since you still need to make a living wage. Don’t worry—there’s plenty of room to adjust your overall quote depending on the size and budget of your client, but the hourly commercial photography rate should be consistent across all your quotes.
Another important thing to consider when you’re putting together a quote for a client is how many hours you expect to spend on the project before and after the actual shoot. While you may be actively taking pictures for four hours, maybe they have a complicated concept in mind that requires some planning, or you’re doing a fashion shoot that will take a while to set up for. You’ll want to apply your hourly rate to the hours you expect to spend on planning as well.
The same goes for time spent on editing and file prep once the shoot is done. If you’re shooting a glossy magazine ad, you’ll probably need to spend more time editing that photo than if you were shooting a headshot for website staff page. If you break down the amount of time that you’ll spend actively working on this project from start to finish, you’ll be able to get a good estimate of how many billable hours the project will take.
Number of Commercial Photos Needed
Prices for your commercial photography jobs should also take into account how many images you’re expected to deliver. This is related to billable hours, because it will, of course, take more time to shoot and edit 100 photos than it would take to shoot and edit 10.
Many of the best commercial photographers include a price per photo in their quote. This will vary depending on the type of photography you’re working on. For example, maybe you’re a product photographer and you need to take a ton of standard product photos for an e-commerce website. You most likely won’t have to do a ton of editing once you’ve finished shooting, because you can probably apply the same edit to the whole batch of photos. The commercial photography price per image for this type of job shouldn’t be as high as, say, the cost per image to deliver five highly edited, large, print-ready files.
A good way to be prepared the next time a potential project comes your way is to have a ballpark price per image worked out based on the different types of commercial photography that you do. For example, you can have a price per image range for e-commerce product photography and a different range for advertising photography. That way, you’ll have a commercial photography pricing guide already worked out and you can get a quote to your client faster!
This is where you can really adjust your quote based on who exactly the client is, and how they plan to use the photos. Maybe you’re a food photographer and you really want to work with that cool startup brand, but you know they don’t have the commercial photography budget of, say, McDonald’s. As long as you’re not selling yourself short and you’re making sure that your hourly rate is covered, there’s no reason not to take into account the client’s size and budget.
If your images will be in print—like in magazines, flyers, billboards or bus shelters—get a sense from your client of how many copies of the image will be distributed. If they’re planning on running a huge national campaign, the images should be more expensive to license than if they’re just going in a few small local newsletters. Similarly, if you know the images are going to be used in a big-name publication, you can charge a higher commercial photography rate for licensing.
The client’s timeline for using the images should also factor into your commercial photography rates. Most professional photographer rates include licensing for the images, not actual transfer of ownership. That way, you still own the images and the client can use them as outlined in your contract. If they want to use the images for five years, your commercial photography pricing should be higher than if they were to only use them for one year.
Finally, you can also refer to online calculators to get a rough estimate of what your commercial photography rates should look like. However, these are only a rough guide, and experience is definitely the best teacher when it comes to figuring out what professional photographer prices are going to work best for you and your business.
Prove Your Worth
It’s super important that you can back up your commercial photography rates with quality work and a professional experience, and having a great website is one of the best things you can do to show off your commercial photography work and let your potential clients know that they’re dealing with a serious professional. You can bet your clients are going to be looking through the online portfolios of all the photographers they contact, so you want to make sure that yours stands out!
If you don’t have a website yet, don’t worry. They are easier than ever to create if you choose a website builder that can do all the heavy lifting for you. You’ll want to choose one with beautiful themes that you can customize to fit your own brand identity and aesthetic. It’s also a good idea to look for a website builder with client proofing functionality—your commercial photography clients will love being able to see image proofs and communicate with you easily all in one place.
If you’re not totally ready commit, go for an online portfolio option that lets you start with a free trial so that you can play around with it and make sure it’s a good fit for you. Looking for more tips on how to build an awesome online photography portfolio? Check out our guide for everything you need to get started.
Now that you’re armed with all the info you need to set your commercial photography rates, it’s time to get out there and land some gigs!