How Much Does a Commercial Photographer Charge?
If you are looking to get an answer to how much a commercial photographer costs, you are likely getting started with managing a new marketing or sales project. So, it will be important to understand the costs of commercial photography.
First, what is the difference between a commercial photographer and all other photographers? First, is the “commercial” part in that the images the photographer produces will be used for some commercial application. This can range across many spectrums. More on this in a bit.
More important you a person looking to hire a commercial photographer is their skill level. A commercial photographer will be very skilled in using full-frame or medium format camera equipment, a variety of lenses, studio strobe and continuous lighting, and post-production software applications.
More important, they will fully understand how to use them in concert. This is central to the difference between a commercial and amateur photographer. In addition, because their livelihood is dependent on it, you can expect a commercial photographer to be professional, including being punctual, responsive, and more. An amateur photographer does not have their livelihood at stake and can easily break away from such business expectations.
To this end, it is estimated commercial photography rates can range from $100 to $400 per hour. Some industry-famous photographers can command much more.
Commercial Photography Categories
How much a commercial photographer charges often depends on the category they are shooting in. A fashion photographer, lifestyle photographer or product photographer are likely to have different rates for these different shoots.
Fashion photographers tend to command much more than product photographers. This is often because fashion photography shoots are usually more elaborate than a product photography shoot.
A fashion shoot might involve many outfits, many locations, and many models all coordinated by a creative director. A product photography shoot can be as simple as a basic product photographed against an all-white background.
On the one hand, it can take days to weeks of planning to pull off a fashion shoot, even for a single item. A small product photography shoot for a single item can be done in an hour or less. Other shoots, such as lifestyle, editorial, and so on, can range above what product photography shoots cost.
It is important to note, not all product photography shoots are low-cost either. Sellers on Amazon.com understand the requirements that eCommerce site has for their basic images. But product photography can become quite elaborate and thus, much more costly.
Pricing by Hour or Project
Generally, pricing for commercial photography work will fall into by the hour or by project. For hourly rates, it is important to understand this does not just include the time a photographer picks up their camera.
It can include time for planning, time for setup of equipment, time to accomplish administrative tasks like providing quotes and invoices, time for traveling to and from locations, time for post-production work, and so on.
Project-based rates are usually founded on a concept for how much a photographer needs to make for that project to profit from the time they will spend on it. Foundationally, this is often based on an idea of how many hours it will take.
Some hybrid approaches might include pricing by a set number of photos. Or, they might have a base rate for all projects and then a per-image fee. For example, a photographer might have a base fee of $500 just to book them and then an image fee of $100 per image, with a minimum image count of two images. In this way, they can ensure for any job they do, they will receive at least $700 in compensation, or whatever number they arrived at needing to make at a minimum per photo shoot.
Locations & Expenses
Often, photo shoots will have various expenses. These can include location fees, mailing fees, travel costs, and so on. Let us look at one example even a very small business might like to pursue for a photo shoot, the example being a new swimsuit.
In this case, the new business owner would like her newly designed swimsuit photographed on a model. A beach shoot in Malibu is preferred – nothing else will do. It will take two hours to do. That is it. Simple, right.
Currently, Malibu requires a permit fee of $158 for this. In addition, the model can cost from around $150 to $500 or more for this. Let us say the average is $300. Then there is the parking fee for you, the photographer, and the model to cover, another $60 or so. That is already more than $500 and the photographer has not even provided their rate. And there are probably other expenses that might be required to factor in.
It is commonly thought that when a commercial photographer will deliver photos that the person hiring the photographer is free to do whatever they want with the photos. However, U.S. copyright law establishes that the photographer maintains copyright of said photos, even after death. Their family could pursue legal action. So, it is common practice that a commercial photographer licenses the photos to the hiring person for a specific purpose.
Licensing can vary widely. It can be for specific use on social media or for a sales listing. It might be only for billboards. It might expire after one year or two, and so on. Therefore, it is important to get clarification on licensing as part of the quote.
It is likely a photographer will require a business to process and sign a commercial contract or agreement. This is common practice. If you work with models, you will also need a commercial model release. Even if the photographer grants licensing use of images they took of a model, the model still owns their likeness. You need a release to license photos from the photographer and to use the photos of the model’s likeness. A commercial photographer can often take care of model releases as part of their service.
Businesses pay for commercial photography because we live in a highly visual world. Consumers are bombarded with images and only the ones that stand apart get their attention. Commercial photography is what affords businesses a competitive differentiating opportunity. They understand it is worth every penny.
For an additional in-depth perspective on how muck photographers make, check out Pixpa’s article.