Commercial Photography Pricing

There’s quite a bit of information here on the Blog about photography pricing. After all, it’s something that many new photographers struggle with and all too often they will base their own pricing upon that of their competitors – usually with unfortunate consequences when it comes to balancing the books at the end of the year. But in general social photography pricing (that is wedding and portraiture fees) is not difficult to determine, partly because most of your assignments will be very similar indeed. For example, a normal family location session will usually last around two hours, it will generate a similar quantity of images and most of your sessions will take the same amount of time to process and proof. The same can be said for weddings, give or take the odd couple of hours here and there.

But commercial photography pricing is an area where many of us can come unstuck, mostly because each commercial job will be radically different to the next. What do I mean by commercial photography? This is photography relating to businesses, their products and services. In other words commercial photography is a marketing aid, enabling a company or venture to promote and sell their offerings using visual media. We’re all familiar with photography in advertising and it remains the most potent driving force behind most successful businesses. Therefore it makes sense that commercial photography pricing will not follow that of private and domestic pricing. Commercial photographs are sold via Licensing. We’ve already touched on this briefly in previous articles about Copyright, and the two are inextricably linked. If you’ve read some of our earlier posts you’ll already understand that Copyright always remains with the originator (unless you are employed as an in-house photographer or are under a specific contract of employment) and the client purchases the rights to use the images according to an agreement with their photographer. The value of the Licence depends on the number of times the images will be used, at what size, and in what medium. Generally larger resolution images will be more expensive than low resolution files and images used in print at a quarter page and above will attract a considerable premium, often dependent on the print run of the magazine or journal and its global distribution.

Any commercial photography quotation must take into account a number of factors such as the time it will take you to complete the preparations, the photography, and the editing and postproduction. There may be additional expenses such as travel, accommodation, and the hiring of equipment or models. You will then normally add to this the cost of the Licence depending on the client’s proposed usage schedule. For smaller commercial jobs it often makes sense to include the licensing fee in the overall quotation, offering perhaps a standard usage fee and an extended usage fee. This is very much how I approach my own commercial photography pricing because it’s pretty simple to apply and is easy for most clients to understand. But what if you suddenly land a large lucrative assignment for a well-known brand? There appears to be no standard set “across-the-board” commercial pricing tables and one photographer may quote very differently to the next. This is where additional determining factors come into play, such as the photographer’s existing track record and desirability. With this in mind I read a fascinating article recently, written by acclaimed commercial photographer Ming Thien: The Pricing Game

Why am I talking about commercial photography when I’m a portrait photographer? Because I think it makes sense to diversify as your skill set improves. I know that I would never be content photographing only people and I’m interested in many different genres of photography. If your understanding of lighting and composition is strong and if you have good spatial awareness skills than I would encourage you to think beyond the bread and butter of your business. If you fancy photographing food, or hotels, then some relevant training and study followed by a few no obligation shoots for local businesses can be a great way to get started. You may even find that you discover your true leanings in the process. I must admit I dream of photographing beautiful plates of food and one of these days I hope to progress part of the business in that direction. The main problem we have of course is the fact that we have only one pair of hands and a finite number of hours in any given day. But with a bit of juggling, we can usually introduce new income streams which can add real variety to the working week.

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